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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  • Guspaz - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    It might be nice to see a review of the Shuttle XPC SZ77R5. I'll admit it won't drive a purchase decision (I've already got one), but it's a pretty impressive piece of kit. Somewhat similar in size to the case reviewed here, but with a better use of space due to a custom-sized PSU and motherboard, but at the same time, it still officially takes third-party mini-itx motherboards, unusual for a Shuttle.

    It's not perfect. Top-mounted videocard power plugs and the drive bay assembly require some effort to fit in the case, and there is a BIOS bug that causes the default "smart fan" to fail on the i7-3770k (despite a recent BIOS promising to fix this), but it does seem to be quite an improvement over the case reviewed here in many respects.
    Reply
  • philipma1957 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    To follow up on the review.

    the 1 usb 3 vs 2 usb3 was a dumb move.

    the review called that correct.

    the case is very nice for 2.5 inch drives.

    the small trays are good.

    I am going to put a fan based psu in it .

    then play with the small side fan. it is really too loud.
    Reply
  • Termie - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks for taking a closer look at the mini-ITX designs out there. This is a nice one, at a fantastic price point. Looks a whole lot like a Silverstone Sugo knockoff, but that's ok - I love my Silverstone Temjin TJ08-E, but I know that SS sometimes gets away with charging a lot (too much?) due to the lack of competition. It's just a shame that CM didn't replicate SS's excellent thermal design. Seems like a silly design flaw that could have been avoided with better intake air flow.

    Two corrections: you say that the Elite 360 was one of your favorite micro-ATX cases. I actually use it as my HTPC case, and it is indeed a very novel case, but mostly because it is ATX, not mATX. Just thought you might want to update that. Also, you inadvertently left in some text from your GD-07 review in the testing methodology section.
    Reply
  • nubian1 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Can't really say I like the look of this case and it has a big issue for me, It is not water cooling friendly. My main desktop is ITX based using the Silverstone SG05-450 with a corsair H60 in push/pull. The only advantage I see for the Elite 120 is that you can use a full sized power supply. Reply
  • thok - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Without 5.25” and front connectors but therefore cleaner looking Fractal Design Array 2 => http://www.missingremote.com/sites/default/files/F... Reply
  • philipma1957 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    The entire point of this case is it uses full size parts.

    many people want the dvd/blu ray and the full size atx. No logo in a rack and the face looks fine.
    Reply
  • Grok42 - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Very sweet looking case and on my short list for my next build. I'd love to see it compared to the Lian Li PC-Q16B which I can't find any reviews of at all. These are the only two cases on the market that don't have 5.25" bays.

    Who uses low density optical media anymore except maybe to install the OS once. With OSx, Linux and Win8 USB flash drives take care of that as well.
    Reply
  • Solandri - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I was shopping around last year for a SFF mini-itx case which could take 3 HDDs minimum, preferably 4 for use as my home RAID file server / virtual machine host. The only cases on the market which fit were pre-made NASes (e.g. Synology, QNAP, HP) which don't have the CPU power I wanted. I couldn't figure out why nobody seemed to make such a case. There were multiple cases which looked like they could take 3-4 drives if the manufacturer had made it just a little taller or just a little longer. But most of them seemed designed for single- or dual-drive desktop use as a primary computer. Why limit your case to only desktop use to save a half inch in height or length?

    I ended up buying a Shuttle case and wedging in a 4-drive tray in the empty space suspended by velcro cable ties. It works but I have to be careful moving it. I would've preferred something more like this Cooler Master - with an integrated 3-4 drive rack and something which could take my motherboard of choice (I wanted ECC RAM and a 5th SATA port for a small SSD boot drive).
    Reply
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Chenbro has made 3 cases like that. My friend has one of the earlier models; he had a SATA backplane fail but it's otherwise been OK as a NAS server for the last few years.
    Most vendors are showing the first 2 models as discontinued, but the 3rd is available on Amazon and other sites for under $150:
    http://www.chenbro.com/corporatesite/products_cat....
    Reply
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    They have 4 hot-swap SATA bays, btw. Reply

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