Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Review
Mini-ITX gaming systems are becoming the hot thing these days. More and more people are building high-end gaming rigs in this form factor. Reasons? Well let’s see. For starters they’re smaller and generally lighter than your typical mid- or full-tower counterpart and thus easier to transport to LAN parties and the like. Mini-ITX systems have exploded in the modding world as of late as well. Let’s take a look at Cooler Master’s latest offering to the Mini-ITX scene – the Elite 120 Advanced.
One of the best parts about the CM Elite 120 Advanced is the price. You can find the CM Elite 120 Advanced online for $49.99 plus $9.99 shipping at Newegg or for $49.99 with free shipping at Amazon. Not a bad case for a Mini-ITX offering, let alone one that looks good! Let's move along and see what its got for goodies.
Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Features:
“The Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced is an ultra-compact case with support for full size high-end desktop components. Other than conventional Mini ITX cases, The Elite 120 Advanced supports more affordable, quiet, efficient and easily available Full Size ATX PSU’s. It can accommodate even the largest ultra-high-end VGAs, a 5.25” optical drive and up to 5 HDDs or SSDs. Thanks to a smart airflow system featuring 3 fans it manages to still keep the system cool and quiet. Topped off with a stylish brushed aluminum front, this is a compact case you don’t want to hide.” - CM
- Unprecedented airflow for a Mini-ITX case
- 1/3 the size of a standard case
- Supports standard length ATX PSU’s with innovative rear mount
- Supports ultra-high end VGA’s (HD7990/GTX690)
- Stylish aluminum front panel
- USB 3.0 super speed support
- Features a full-size 5.25” drive day
- Supports Up to 3 x 3.5” / 4 x 2.5” HDD/SSD (converted from 2 x 3.5" HDD bay)
|Material||Appearance: Aluminum & Polymer front
Case body: Steel Alloy
|Dimension (W / H / D)||240 x 207.4 x 401.4mm / 9.4 x 8.2 x 15.8 inch|
|5.25" Drive Bays||1|
|3.5" Drive Bays||3 (internal)|
|2.5" Drive Bays||4 (internal, converted from two 3.5” bays)|
|I/O Panel||USB 3.0 x 1 (internal), USB 2.0 x 2, Mic x 1,
Audio x 1 (supports AC97 / HD Audio)
|Cooling System||Front: 120mm fan x 1, 1200 RPM, 19dBA
Side: 80x15mm fan x 1, 2000 RPM, 20dBA
HDD: 120x25mm fan x 1 (optional)
|Power Supply Type||Standard ATX PS2|
|Maximum Compatibility||VGA card length:343.0mm / 13.5 inch
CPU cooler height: 65.0mm / 2.5 inch
Let's move along to unboxing and then we'll build a system inside the CM Elite 120 Advanced chassis!
Unboxing the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced
The Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced comes packaged in a fairly plain brown cardboard box with black ink used for the images and text. This side shows a picture of the case and gives a few basic specifications. You’ll also notice that they offer the Elite 120 Advanced with a PSU as well – as denoted by the checkboxes on the bottom.
The opposite side of the box lists the specifications of the enclosed case.
Each end of the box is identical and lists a few specifications in several different languages.
The case itself is wrapped in a plastic bag then enclosed in a pair of Styrofoam end caps to prevent damage during transit. This is pretty much the norm for 99% of cases these days.
Once the case is shed of its packing we finally get to take a look at it. The case is clean and simply styled. It looks nice without being too over the top or flashy. Let’s take a closer look at it now.
The Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced comes with a black and white owner’s manual and a small bag filled with accessories that is located inside the case.
The accessories bag contains a pair of tool-free HDD rails (the other 4 rails come pre-installed in the case with the 2 included 3.5” to 2.5” drive adapters), a bunch of small zip-ties, chassis speaker, 4 push-pins for installing a second 120mm fan on the inside of the HDD cage (makes trying to squeeze in a large Phillips head screwdriver unnecessary), 32 small screws for securing the 5.25” device, 4 brass motherboard standoffs with Cooler Master’s standoff installation tool and finally 8 coarse-thread screws – 4 for installing the motherboard and the other 4 for installing the PSU.
Looking Closer at the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced
The Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced is a nice looking case. Clean sharp lines and black powder coat topped off with subtle aluminum front panel accents.
The right side of the front panel houses the power and reset buttons, power and HDD LED’s and a single USB 3.0 port with an internal connector.
The left side of the front panel contains a headphone and microphone jack as well as a pair of USB 2.0 ports.
The rear of the case is simple as well. There’s the protruding PSU mount (more on that later), a single rubber grommet and a dual-slot expansion card opening to hold your monster GPU.
The left side of the case is simple, just a large meshed area for air intake. This area will help to supply adequate airflow to your hot graphics card.
The right side looks the same as the left. You’ll notice the small fan behind this side though, but more on that in a bit.
The top of the case features the same mesh cut into the panel itself with the addition of a removable mesh filter for the PSU air intake.
With the removal of 3 thumbscrews on the back panel the entire top cover slides back then lifts off in one piece, a-la mid-90’s horizontal desktops. Inside you’ll notice the accessories bag twist-tied against the HDD rack and all the internal cables twist-tied together on the floor of the case.
Looking over at the right hand side you’ll notice the 2 2.5” drive adapters nestled into the HDD cage and the 80x15mm fan and its associated bracket. This fan will provide intake airflow to cool your motherboard, CPU and chipset. This fan and its bracket can also be removed with a few screws if you so desire.
The front panel simply pops off with a tug from the bottom. Underneath you’ll find a 120mm 7-blade Cooler Master fan for the front air intake. Sadly there is no intake filter with this fan.
The bottom of the case has 4 hard plastic feet and lots of punched-through tabs for your cable management needs.
Now that you have checked out the inside and outside of the CM Elite 120 Advanced we can build in it!
Installing a system into the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced
One of the nicest features of the CM Elite 120 Advanced case is its ability to house a standard ATX power supply. The power supply we have installed here is an Ultra X3 800W fully modular unit. This PSU measures 197mm long, so it is by no means short. Just the fact that you can fit a PSU this big into a Mini-ITX case is impressive in itself. You have this sleek power supply adapter that comes with the case to thank for that.
With the system completely installed you’ll immediately see that it’s TIGHT. Tight, but it works. Everything fits as it should.
Looking from the opposite side you’ll notice that the video card takes up most of the space on the left side. My recommendation is to install the GPU last as you’ll likely need to remove it (like I did) several times to make all your connections. There’s still plenty of room as Cooler Master states you can fit a Radeon HD 7990 or a GTX690 (two of the biggest GPU’s available) into this case without hassle. This can make for a potent little gaming setup.
The rear of the case shows how well everything fits. The only issue I had here was installing the rear I/O plate. The metal on the back of the case is fairly thin so you need to support it with one hand to be able to apply enough force to get the plate to span into place. Try it without the support fingers and risk bending the rear panel.
As you can see here there isn’t much room at all between the end of the PSU and the ODD connections. If the PSU was any longer or the case didn’t have the special protruding PSU bracket you’d be limited on the PSU you can use.
You’ll notice here that the 65mm CPU cooler height limitation will severely limit your choice of coolers. Although working with a Mini-ITX board your choice of coolers is typically already limited due to RAM/PCI-E slot clearance issues. We used the stock Intel cooler here as it was all we had on hand that would fit. We tried to use the Zalman CNPS 8900 Extreme, but its width blocks the first RAM port and the PCI-E port on this particular motherboard. However, if you plan on using something this size for a HTPC or file server, you can use the on-board video (IGP) and get away with a single 4GB stick of RAM.
The power and HDD activity LED’s are both blue on the Elite 120 Advanced and they’re bright enough to be noticed without being too bright and being annoying for HTPC uses.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
All in all the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced is an awesome little Mini-ITX case. With features like being able to hold full ATX PSU’s and also hold the industry’s largest graphics cards it’s a feature-packed little case. Add to that the clean styling and you’ve got yourself a clear winner.
The Cooler master Elite 120 Advanced only has a few flaws that I could pick out. First there’s no filter on the front intake fan. Intake fan filters are pretty much standard issue on most PC cases today, and coming from Cooler Master it’s something I’d expect. Second there’s no support for water cooling without some serious modding.
Sure there’s a single grommet at the rear (one grommet won’t do you any good in a water cooling setup) but there’s no room at all for any kind of radiator without breaking out the power tools. This can limit your CPU choice as heat can be an issue with the stock cooler under overclocking or even heavy loads at stock clocks. I’m fairly certain that anyone who will stuff a GTX690 or Radeon HD7990 into this for a kick-ass gaming rig will want more than the stock CPU cooler.
Being able to fit a full-size 5.25” optical drive is a huge plus. You won’t have to search around for that special slimline notebook power adapter to get a small Optical Disk Drive (ODD) into this Mini-ITX case.
The Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced appears to be selling very well as it is often sold out on Newegg and right now it ships within 1-2 months at Amazon. As we mentioned in the introduction the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced is sold under part number RC-120A-KKN1 and is available for $49.99 plus $9.99 shipping at Newegg or $49.99 with free shipping at Amazon. The Cooler Master Elite 120 is backed by a 1 year warranty that covers parts and labor. At this price point we so no reason why not to recommend this case for your next mITX build if it has the features you require!
Legit Bottom Line: The Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced is one beast of a Mini-ITX case. With the growing popularity of Mini-ITX builds this case is a feature-filled surefire contender in the Mini-ITX case market.