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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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • thok - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Without 5.25” and front connectors but therefore cleaner looking Fractal Design Array 2 =>
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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:
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    They have 4 hot-swap SATA bays, btw.

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