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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  • bobbozzo - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Hi Dustin,
    for your case reviews, could you please add a "removable filter / unfiltered" description to the Specifications matrix on your case reviews? Maybe in the 'cooling' section (or clone that section since some cases have filters where there are no fans).

    Thanks for the great reviews!

    Bob
    Reply
  • zorky9 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    You're wrong. The Elite 360 could fit an ATX. Reply
  • mgl888 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    The assembly picture gallery is not working for me.! Reply
  • CosmoGeek - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    I'm thinking about using this with a single SSD drive.

    I was wonderring if the side fan bracket could be modified to hold an SSD instead of a fan. then the entire drive cage could be removed to improve airflow. Also, it seems like the airflow might be better if the PSU were not mounted upside down.

    I think I would use the COOLER MASTER GeminII M4 RR-GMM4-16PK-R2 CPU cooler. One of the Newegg reviewers said it fits.

    With these mods, an i7-3770s (65W) CPU, and no video card, it seems like there shouldn't be a thermal problem.
    Reply
  • ypsylon - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Do we need it? I guess not. Certainly going back to the original question mATX is more flexible option. mITX is mostly for low level HTPC, primitive home servers (if there is enough space for more than 1 hdd), etc. mATX offers much more without ridiculously cramped boards/cases. There is a niche part of the market for mITX, but from my point of view I can't see me choosing mITX over mATX any time soon. In truth I believe in large boards XL-ATX, EATX, it is my bread and butter, but for a server builds in confined spaces mATX trumps mITX in every way. Reply
  • philipma1957 - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    having built some very nice mATX cases and just finishing this build. I Agree.
    An Asus maximus v gene mobo in a good mATX case is better in every way but one; Size
    Reply
  • just4U - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    I am a fan of those gene boards and recently had a oportunity to build a setup with the new Gigabyte M3s (the gene competition) Very nice boards. I'd pick either or over an itx option anyday. Reply
  • 7amood - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    hey dustin
    I want to know your thoughts on this
    http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=317&...
    Reply
  • 7amood - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    in combination with this... if possible

    http://www.amazon.com/Noctua-Sockets-Heatpipe-2x14...
    Reply
  • CosmoGeek - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Wish you could put your own PSU in that thing. I think the PSU up front makes for the most space efficiency. 180mm case fan in a mini-ITX case, nice! Reply

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