Cooler Master is a great company for cases in my opinion because it covers a very wide range of prices and needs. There’s the Praetorian for the old-schoolers, the 832 for those who want buttons shaped like Optimus Prime and the Cosmos for those who want a case which doubles as a bodybuilding weight.
Whatever your tastes, chances are that Cooler Master has got you covered.
The new Cooler Master CM 690, which we’re looking at today, is no radical change from this trend and is aimed clearly at system-builders who want to walk the tightrope between a flashy design and a bargain price-point.
Of course, trying to give good performance and a sense of style at an affordable price is something which many companies have tried, but most of the time they end up slipping over and siding with one or the other. Is the CM 690 any different, or does it just end up hurting itself in its attempt to straddle the line?
That’s what we’re here to find out, so we may as well get started.
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So, the first thing to judge is always the same. How does the case look and is my girlfriend/boyfriend likely to murder me if I put this metal box in the living room?
My first impressions of the case were surprisingly good. Before it arrived in the office, I hadn’t seen the case properly and was familiar only with its low price and technical specs. I was frankly expecting something an awful lot uglier and it was a nice surprise to get unbox something which had a sleeker feel to it.
The case has a slightly futuristic feel to it, but the overall design is very clean and simple. The case is black all over with the exception of the silver Cooler Master badge, buttons and the lines which run up the front. These lines stand about half a centimetre proud of the rest of the case at their highest point, which is at the top-front of the case, but the slope away until flush with the rest of the structure at either end.
The front buttons for the case are very good, among my favourite case buttons ever. Most people don’t have a favourite button design on a case, which is a crying shame because these wobble-free, oversized buttons are excellent. They click audibly and mesh well with the overall design.
The only problem with them in fact is that they sit at the bottom of the near the bottom of the case, which means you’ll have to touch your toes every time you turn the PC on if you choose to put it on the floor next to your desk.
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The front-centre of the case has room for five 5.25” drives, though the case does come with a single drive adapter so that one of these can become a 3.5” drive. The bottom section of the cases front also recesses oddly into the main body, as you can see in the picture. It looks weird and we couldn’t really figure out a reason for it other than as a style choice, but it is an excellent place to store paperclips.
There are a few other things to note about the case in terms of ventilation. Before you even open the case it's clear that ventilation was the major concern when this case was being built. The whole case is raised off the floor by about two centimetres to allow air to circulate underneath. Even before I took the side panels off, it was pretty clear why this was important, but I’ll let you wait until the next page to find out. Oh, the suspense...
A large portion of the top of the case is made of mesh, and just at a glance it's clear that there’s room for two fans in the top of the case. There’s also a side fan in the left-hand panel and another ventilation grille. There’s another, smaller grille on the right-hand panel too, but for all the really interesting details we’re going to have look inside the box.