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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  • 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.
  • max347 - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Great cable management
  • CosmoGeek - Tuesday, August 7, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Cynold - Friday, August 10, 2012 - link
  • 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 ?
  • MaromG - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    Hi! Could I install 3 HDDs inside?
    I only want to install 3.5 inch drives.
    Can I use the default 2x3.5 inch bays and instead of the CD-ROM drive, install a 3.5 inch HDD using an adapter? It's a crucial point for me in deciding if I want to buy this product of not.

  • 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...
  • 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.

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