Conclusion: For a Specific Purpose

My experiences with the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced remain largely positive despite the test results; end users who need an inexpensive Mini-ITX case with stellar acoustic and thermal performance are probably going to have to spend the extra $30 for the BitFenix Prodigy and suffer with the larger size and slightly wonky stand. That doesn't mean the Elite 120 is a bust, far from it actually, but it does mean that you need to adjust your expectations of this case accordingly. Cooler Master is happy to market the case to you as being something more than it really is.

What is it, really? Fundamentally the Elite 120 is going to best serve a more modest system. In terms of performance hardware I don't think you would want to use a 95W quad core at anything higher than stock speeds, and I probably wouldn't consider a video card that requires an external power lead. The problem is the cooling system is just inadequate; for how beautiful the front design is, I get the sense that intake fan is either starving for air or just plain chintzy. 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.

Don't think I'm not incredibly fond of the Elite 120, though. This is one of the more attractive Mini-ITX cases, heck one of the more attractive cases in general that I've seen in some time. The brushed aluminum fascia is beautiful, and the assembly is easy enough to make me wonder if a good, quiet system can't be built inside it. I think some real sacrifices were made to make sure the case could fit all ATX scale components (outside of the motherboard), but the flipside of that is that you don't wind up blowing all the money you saved on the case getting a slimline optical drive and a decent SFX power supply.

And you did save a decent chunk of change. What impressed me most about the Elite 120 was just how much Cooler Master crammed into the package for the price. Performance isn't going to blow anyone's minds, but at $49 it really doesn't have to. A visit to NewEgg reveals pickings around this price that are fairly slim in comparison, none of which sport at least a single USB 3.0 port. Bottom line: if you modulate your expectations accordingly, you can get a fine Mini-ITX case for not much money with the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced.

Noise and Thermal Testing, Dedicated GPU
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  • Beaver M. - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Gigabyte and MSI still havent released new ITX boards, so I dont know how you can say that ITX is going anywhere...
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Asrock, Asus, Zotac and Intel all have ITX mainboards with 1155 socket. You can choose from a total of 8 boards.
  • Beaver M. - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    You dont get what Im saying.
    There are 2 big manufacturers that dont have ANY recent ITX boards and have actually discontinued all or almost all of their old ones. Remember how much ITX boards there were last year at this time? FAR more. Even Intel had several H67s and H61s. Asus had 2 H67, H61s, Biostar, Foxconn, Gigabyte, MSI, etc, etc.

    Last year I would have agreed on a phrase like this, but not anymore.
    Hell, they even offer more high end mainboards for $300+, that nobody buys, than ITX boards.
  • robinthakur - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I'm also waiting on a decent gigabyte ITX to use for a Hackintosh, so would like to know when they are going to release one!
  • Jeppeth - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Did you really mount the PSU with the fan facing up? The PSU fan has to fight natural convection and can't really help in evacuating hot air from the case. Maybe this could explain why the case did so poorly.
  • Menty - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I have to agree with this :/ surely the fan in the PSU is better off pulling warm air from around the motherboard rather than staring into the sky?
  • JPForums - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Fighting natural convection isn't really a big deal with forced airflow. The air is cool going in and by the time it is heated, the high pressure from the intake fan is far more influential than natural convection. Just don't put it in a place where it is likely to suck in its own exhaust. Given a 120mm + 80mm intake and no forced exhaust, it is possible that pulling from the inside of the case may facilitate better airflow and lower case temperatures. However, the 80mm side fan provides fresh air directly (if less than ideally) to the CPU. The PSU fan may actually harm CPU temperatures by pulling air away from the CPU. The video card would have even less air directed at it. Ironically, it may actually work better in such a setup to cover most of the exhaust holes on the sides such that airflow is forced towards the GPU and PSU. It doesn't look like the case facilitates it, but moving the 80mm to the other side might actually be an overall improvement for setups with a PSU pulling from the inside. Fans wouldn't fight (as much), it would keep dGPUs cooler when present, and I can't see it being any worse on the CPU when a dGPU isn't present. Of course, the PSU's temperatures will undoubtedly rise in any setup pulling hotter air from inside the case, but it may not be that bad if the case temperatures drop significantly as a result.
  • Nukemaster - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    I would tend to agree with this, My SG05 temps are better with the PSU fan facing down.

    Even got a cpu heatsink the blows up towards the psu later.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    JPForums actually has it right on the mark, you grossly overestimate the importance of natural convection. If you look at SilverStone's rotated enclosure designs, they'll advertise that natural convection is part of what makes them work but testing on other sites has essentially debunked that: what makes them work is the fact that the fans (at least in the FT02) have a straight shot into the hardware. SilverStone's Temjin TJ08-E operates with the PSU flipped at the top in the same fashion, and it works just fine.
  • Iketh - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Natural convection... you don't realize how minor that force is...

    And why would you want 2 fans fighting for the same air?

    That being said, I'd buy this case only to have the PSU sucking air from inside with a fanless CPU cooler...

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