Cooler Master might not be a name many people associate with small form factors and compact cases. We've previously been impressed by its larger offerings in the shape of the ATCS 840 and the more recent CM Storm Trooper, and of course, Cooler Master's Stacker series still holds a special place in the heart of many a modder. Its latest mini-ITX offering, the Elite 120 Advanced, might seem like something of an oddball then, but it makes sense given the increasing interest surrounding this form factor in the enthusiast community.
Click to enlarge
Thanks to the flexibility and power efficiency of Intel's Z77 chipset, motherboard manufacturers are now able to produce fully featured mini-ITX boards that can handle decent overclocks and modern games. In turn, this has created a real drive for small systems that don't compromise on performance. Powerful systems are normally hot systems, however, and case manufacturers therefore now face the challenge of building cases that can not only house components in very tight spaces, but cool them effectively too.
We'll be adding more mini-ITX case reviews in the coming weeks, but recently we've seen the seriously impressive BitFenix Prodigy, which despite a few design flaws, is a stylish, reasonably priced chassis with excellent air cooling and great water-cooling support too. Despite having relatively few competitors at the moment then, the Elite 120 Advanced already faces some stiff competition.
Click to enlarge
Initial impressions aren't too bad – the black steel chassis and the faux brushed aluminium front panel lent the case a simple but smart appearance in our eyes. Given the metal used elsewhere, it's a shame to see a slightly tacky plastic front fascia, but given the incredibly low price of the case, such a niggle becomes essentially irrelevant. One criticism that has been levelled at the BitFenix Prodigy is that it's rather large for a mini-ITX case, but the same certainly cannot be said of this case, which is small and light (just under half the weight of the Prodigy) by anyone's standards, which should make transporting it to LAN parties a breeze.
The front panel is a pretty standard affair in terms of connections, although a second USB 3 port would have been a nice touch. The left and right side panels have long ventilated sections over the GPU and CPU areas respectively, and a similar, more meshed section is also found on the roof above the PSU's intake fan. Sadly, Cooler Master hasn't provided a single dust filter for any of these, which will prove to be a costly oversight after a few months of use. A random rubber grommet can be found on the rear of the case, and though it stayed firmly attached during our trusty finger poke test, we're still at a loss as to why it's there at all.
Click to enlarge
Out of the box, the Elite 120 Advanced comes equipped with a 120mm front intake fan, that blows air into the case across the drive cage. The lack of meshing on the front panel, however, restricts the air available to this fan. A side 80mm intake fan above the CPU completes the cooling that comes supplied with the Elite 120 Advanced. At first we thought we were missing something, but it seems Cooler Master have thrown their thermodynamics textbooks out of the window and decided instead not to provide an exhaust fan. Though an extra 120mm fan can be fitted to the rear of the drive cage to increase internal airflow, there's still no solution for directly removing hot air from the case, which left us a little less optimistic about the case's thermal performance.
Dimensions (mm) 240 x 401 x 207 (W x D x H)
Material Steel, plastic
Available colours Black
Front panel Power, reset, 1 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, stereo, microphone
Drive bays 1 x external 5.25in, 3 x internal 3.5in or 1 x internal 3.5in and 4 x internal 2.5in
Form factor(s) Mini-ITX
Cooling 1 x 120mm front mount (fan supplied), 1 x 80mm side fan mount (fan supplied), 1 x 120mm drive cage mount (fan not supplied)