In and Around the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced

For their budget cases I've noticed Cooler Master offers a lot of options for people who want something flashy, but also for people who want something more functional and workaday. The Elite 120 definitely falls into the latter category; it has a very stylish aesthetic, but that style is smart and understated.

I actually find the front fascia of the Elite 120 amongst the most attractive of the cases I've tested. Gunmetal is, in my opinion, a shamefully underused color that fits in with most setups very nearly as well as basic black does. The cool, gunmetal-colored brushed aluminum finish covers the center of the fascia and continues to the 5.25" drive bay shield, and the accent is flanked by the ports, LEDs, and power and reset buttons. That recessed area around the aluminum plate has ventilation on the sides to allow the 120mm front fan to take in cool air, but I have some reservations as to how much air is really going to get into the case and how effective that fan is going to be.

The top and sides of the Elite 120 are a single piece and the joints are exactly flexible enough to make assembly fairly easy. Each side is ventilated where it needs to be; the extra ventilation is essentially a trade-off between acoustics and thermal performance. This panel is fastened to the back of the case with three thumbscrews: one on each side.

The watercooling port in the back is a cute idea but basically unnecessary; what's more interesting is the extrusion for the power supply. There's a power supply bracket held on with four screws, and the bracket in turn supports mounting the PSU with the fan intake facing the bottom (toward the CPU) or the top (toward the ventilation). This extra 30mm of space could very well wind up being an eyesore for some builders, but it does allow for using a standard ATX PSU, and our modular unit fit snugly without being too cramped. A shorter (say 140mm) power supply without modular cabling would probably fit beautifully. I'm also happy to see Cooler Master didn't even bother with a cover over the extruded expansion slots; my experience with these covers is almost universally negative, and generally I'd rather have that space just left open than have to fiddle with it.

The interior includes a remarkable amount of amenities. The cables all come bundled and tied to the bottom of the case, but I'm more impressed by the drive sleds. Cooler Master included something that's frankly so obvious that it makes other case designs feel silly by comparison: a pair of 3.5"-to-dual-2.5" bay adaptors. 3.5" drives (and the adaptors) have rails that snap securely into their sides (similar to the Antec Eleven Hundred's), and these simply plastic adaptors allow you to not only include two 2.5" drives instead of a single 3.5", they actually provide a healthy amount of space between them. They've also included a remarkably sturdy toolless locking mechanism for the 5.25" bay, and a single removable 80mm side intake fan that blows directly on to the CPU heatsink.

It should be obvious at this point that I'm pretty impressed with the amount of value Cooler Master has crammed into the Elite 120, at least in terms of features. What remains to be seen is how easy the Elite 120 will be to assemble, and just how well it will perform. We've tested a couple of Mini-ITX cases thus far, but this is among the smallest yet and I have concerns about just how effective that single 120mm intake fan will be with so much blocking it.

Introducing the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Assembling the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced
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  • philipma1957 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    The case looks decent in a htpc rack.

    problem is it is noisy.

    I use a sapphire hd 6670 ultimate video card. it is passive. = silent

    I use a seasonic 400 watt fanless psu = silent

    i use an asrock itx board = not cheap

    i use an intel i5 2500t cpu = low power runs cool

    i use an ssd = silent

    i use a 500gb 2.5 inch 5400 rpm hitachi = very quiet

    i use a samsung blu ray drive.

    this would have been a nice htpc machine in a rack ,but the stock fans are noisy.

    I need to play with it some more.

    the small 80 mm fan on one side is the problem very noisy.

    also using a low cpu cooler heatsink is a must.

    the cpu cooler blows right into the psu.

    I think if i had a psu with a fan and let it pull hot air out of the machine

    i could keep the machine cooler. maybe then i can lower the fan speed on the small fan.

    as for ugly the cooler master label is flat out not needed and is truly the worst part of its looks.
    Reply
  • lwatcdr - Monday, July 30, 2012 - link

    Why an i-5 and an external graphics card for an HTPC? A Celeron or I3 T would be more than good enough for for an HTPC with a GPU. Or you could use an Ivy-Bridge i5 with the onboard GPU for lower cost and thermals. The only good reason to have an i5 and a GPU would be gaming. Also you might want to consider dumping the HD and using a NAS for media storage. That can be in another room and you can put as many big cheap drives as you want on one. Even something like PoGo plug will work for serving media. Reply
  • flparula - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I've built 2 mini-itx systems. I used one of the older Lian cases. The case uses a full sized ATX power supply; but I only have used modular cable-ling. The last build used a all-in-one water cooler. Is there enough room to put a water cooler, e.g. Corsar H60 or Antec 620. Water coolers also fix a problem that low-profile fans run into with all of the cables (usual power supplies have too long of cables) a fan can hit the cable and stop cooling. No such problem with the water cooler. Reply
  • ggathagan - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Water cooling in this case would require some cutting and would almost certainly require you to mount both the fan and the radiator on top of the case.
    It would be possible to snake the coolant lines between the PSU and the GPU, but the length of the coolant lines might be an issue.

    All in all, you'd be better served with a different case.
    Reply
  • cjs150 - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Whilst I agree a different case would be better I think this case is capable of supporting water cooling, just a little imagination is needed. Remove the drive cage and use a slim line optical drive with room for one or 2 2.5 drives beneath it (or drop the optical drive). Take a 120mm radiator (140 may fit) and turn it 90 degrees so barbs are on the side. Use the new swiftech apogee drive and you have a watercooling system that can cope with the CPU and (probably) a low heat GPU. You can also use the water cooling hole at the back as a fill port so not entirely wasted.

    Personally I think it is all a bit too cramped for that but it is certainly plausible
    Reply
  • KasiorMC - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    on itxgamer.com forums someone posted one of these: http://www.amazon.co.uk/accommodate-supply-Optical...

    is there any chance of you testing it in near future?
    it's roughly the same size, same price... only with different (better?) layout
    Reply
  • adboelens - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I have owned two mini ITX cases that had SFX power supplies. Both I found too noisy, while an entry level 300 ATX one can be almost completely quiet. I now have a Lian Li one and very happy with performance and noise level. Reply
  • Metaluna - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Yes it's a problem of trying to cram too much power dissipation into too small a space. There's only so much you can do with forced airflow before the fans get too noisy. Using standard modular components makes things worse as they aren't going to be tailored to match the case's layout and airflow (the author touched on this a bit talking about the chore of trying to cram ridiculously long PSU cables designed for a tower case into a mini-ITX case.) Reply
  • Guspaz - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Well, when you try to remove all the heat dissipated in a computer using 300-400 watts with a single 92mm fan (what the Shuttle SZ77R5 uses, because that's as big as they could possibly fit on the rear), you're going to have to spin that fan pretty fast to exhaust all that heat. And when you spin a fan at 3000+ RPM, it's going to get loud no matter how fancy your fan gets.

    I think they could have designed the SZ77R5 (and other similar SFF cases) a bit differently, though. For clarification, in the SZ77R5, the CPU's cooler is just a plate attached to heatpipes that connect to a heatsink that mounts to the rear of the case, and a single 92mm fan blows air through that, acting as both a CPU and case fan. If, instead, a 92mm fan was placed on the top of the case, a 120mm or even larger fan could be used, which would allow the same amount of air to be moved while spinning at a much lower speed.
    Reply
  • PyroHoltz - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Get rid of the massive logo on the front. I'm not in the market to advertise for the companies I buy from.

    If people want the Cooler Master logo, give them a sticker.
    Reply

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