Introducing the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced

At the risk of sounding foolish, more and more it seems that Mini-ITX is very much becoming the new Micro-ATX. Each subsequent hardware generation crams a little more performance and flexibility into the form factor, and Intel's Z77 chipset complete with USB 3.0 makes it that much easier. With Intel's 8 series chipset rumored to halve the power consumption of Z77 while bumping up the number of USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps ports, one has to wonder just how much we'll even need Micro-ATX (let alone ATX) at that point. With all that said, Intel and AMD's advances aren't the only things helping drive forward the adoption of the Mini-ITX form factor.

What used to be the province of specialty motherboards (typically from Zotac) is now a market that enjoys entries from most major motherboard manufacturers, and while cases supporting this form factor used to be moderately expensive oddballs, we now have beefy enclosures like BitFenix's Prodigy going for reasonable prices. Yet the Prodigy is still on the large side; what if we want to build a good-looking Mini-ITX box on the cheap? For that, we turn to today's entrant, the newly released Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced.

Before being a case reviewer gave me the opportunity to check out inexpensive enclosures I might have otherwise missed entirely (including BitFenix's vast line), I was a pretty big fan of Cooler Master's budget cases. For a long time, my go-to was the now-outdated Elite 360, a small but efficient and easy-to-use Micro-ATX case at a very competitive price (typically around $40). When I saw the press release for the Elite 120 Advanced, I knew I had to get it in and get it tested. As I said before, Micro-ATX is the new ATX, and Mini-ITX is becoming the new Micro-ATX. That means we need a good, cheap Mini-ITX case for good, cheap Mini-ITX boards.

Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX
Drive Bays External 1x 5.25”
Internal 3x 3.5" (two 3.5"-to-2x2.5" brackets included)
Cooling Front 1x 120mm intake fan, 1x 120mm fan mount behind drive cage
Rear -
Top -
Side 1x 80mm intake fan
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 2
I/O Port 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearances HSF 65mm
PSU 180mm
GPU 13.5"/343mm
Dimensions 9.4" x 8.2" x 15.8"
240mm x 207.4mm x 401.4mm
Weight 7.3 lbs. / 3.3kg
Special Features USB 3.0 connectivity via internal header
Removable 80mm side intake fan mount
Drive trays for converting 3.5" bays into dual 2.5" bays
Price $49

When I unboxed and began testing the Elite 120 (Elite 120 Advanced is a bit of a mouthful) I had no idea what the price was; I was interested in examining it strictly as an arguably "true" Mini-ITX case (the BitFenix Prodigy, however fantastic, does approach Micro-ATX enclosure sizes) and to me, the initial look and feel put it in price competition with BitFenix's design. For such a small case it's remarkably feature rich; I could install my home file server into the Elite 120 without having to really sacrifice anything.

Where I do think Cooler Master made a minor mistake was in including only one USB 3.0 port, but needing the full motherboard header to do it. At this point I'm wondering whether it might've made sense to simply eschew having the third front port and just include two USB 3.0 ports in the front of the case. Cooler Master also theoretically supports video cards like the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 and AMD Radeon HD 6990 inside the Elite 120, but unfortunately I don't have either of these 300+ watt behemoths on hand and honestly, I think that'd really be pushing your luck with this case.

In and Around the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced
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  • Grok42 - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    Great review. I'm really glad to see any and all reviews of mATX and mITX cases as I think they are the future of all my builds. As I said elsewhere in the posts, I would love to see any cases that don't have 5.25" bays reviewed as there are so few and no one reviews them.

    I think you were spot on that mATX has suplanted ATX and mITX has taken over as the board to buy if you want a small rig. USB2, USB3 and eATA along with a steady push to integrate graphics, network, sound and wireless onboard has killed any need for expansion slots. USB flash sticks and fast internet have killed the need for optical drives and therefore 5.25" bays. Finally, multi-core processors have removed the need for multiple sockets.
    Reply
  • max347 - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Great cable management Reply
  • CosmoGeek - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    To Improve airflow, I would like to remove the HDD/SSD cage. However, I want to keep the 5.25 drive bay. Are these two rivited together? Is it all bent from one piece of metal? are they welded together? If the cage is removed, does the 5.25 drive bay enclosure still have sufficient support? If the cage were removed, could it be put back in later?

    I don't mind drilling out rivits, using a nibbler, or sawing, but my ability to do metal work is limited. I would appreciate any opinions on this from people that actuall have one of these cases. Thanks.
    Reply
  • Cynold - Monday, August 13, 2012 - link

    Maybe my mod could give you idea on how to improve the airflow. I used a corsair H60 to cool my processor to take away the heat from a very confined CPU area on the board. I did mod the DVD drive bay as a mounting pad for the H60 radiator. I drilled holes on the drive bay plate for the fan to draw air from the intake fans below (I added one on the right side facing the HDDs) . I drilled another 120mm hole on top of the case cover to exhaust the hot air. You might wanna check these link of my system. I hope this would help you.
    http://s1265.photobucket.com/albums/jj506/Cynold/
    Reply
  • Cynold - Monday, August 13, 2012 - link

    Thde 5.25 drive bay is supported by the HDD/SSD Cage and also it hangs on the brace at the same time. It is riveted on the HDD cage and screwed on the braces on the upper part. You can remove and put it back together using rivets/screws Reply
  • Cynold - Friday, August 10, 2012 - link

    http://i1265.photobucket.com/albums/jj506/Cynold/4... Reply
  • c-bi - Thursday, August 16, 2012 - link

    nice mod Cynold !!

    I searching a way to put a H2O 620 inside :)
    Did you put the H60 rad in place of the optical drive ?
    Reply
  • Silenzio - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    "Whatever air that does get through seems like it may also be slamming up against the drive cage, at least if the abnormally high temperatures on the SSD during our GeForce GTX 560 Ti test are any indication."

    An additional cooler can be attached at the back of the drive cage making a fair air flow performance. Congratulations, dear Anandtech. This is the best miniITX case considering price/performance ratio and you failed to make a reasonable review of it because of this tiny - little issue...
    Reply
  • nakabaka - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    I know this is an old link, but I've been looking for a good mini-ITX case for a decent enough build. Witht he new 65W quad-core i7's out these days, think that would fit with say, a low-profile nVidia 640? Also I am planning to use one of those mini-ITX boards with the mSATA feature to reduce cable clutter. Reply
  • nakabaka - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Oh, and in addition to that comment I just posted, MY favorite mATX case of all time was that sweet little Elite 341. True it doesn't have much room in liu of hard drive bays, but I really only use 1 SDD these days, used to only use 1 HDD for my needs. The four 120mm fans without a drive cage to block intake flow from the front was beastly, and I still have two of those cases around. Reply

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