It's been over four years since we saw the Cooler Master CM 690 II, but the company has since released a modernised version of its well received chassis, suitably named the CM 690 III. At £80, it's actually at a lower price point than that which the CM 690 II launched at too, which is always pleasing, and this price puts it firmly in the mid-range ATX mid-tower category. This is an incredibly overpopulated segment of the market, and standing out from the crowd is not easy. Nevertheless, it's in good standing to begin with, as its predecessor won an award on this very site.
The external styling is very much a repeat of previous iterations, though this is no bad thing. The front and roof are dominated by metal mesh sections and rounded off with curved plastic sides with a chrome-style edging. It's a sleek design that looks more interesting than your run-of-the-mill steel black box without being overdone.
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New to this edition is an extruded right-hand side panel, which also now forgoes the fan mount that previously sat behind the CPU socket. These mounts have largely been forgotten in recent years since there are many more effective places to put fans in a chassis. The left hand panel, meanwhile, is still flat, and still has multiple fan mounts and the ventilation that accompanies them. If this isn't to your fancy, Cooler Master offers a windowed version of the chassis instead, which is available in both black and black with green trimmings.
The plastic on the front and roof panels is has a matt finish and it's very rigid. The side panels, too, are very sturdy and overall the build quality is hard to fault, especially with the price in mind. This is something we praised Cooler Master for before, and it's good to see it holds true today. The CM 690 III also stays firmly planted on any surfaces thanks to four large rubber-coated feet which provide stability, grip and suitable clearance.
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The front I/O panel is once again found on the top of the chassis. It has what we now consider to be standard connectivity (two USB 3 ports plus audio jacks) with an extra two USB 2 ports just to be sure. There's also a small indented area that's the perfect place to rest a portable drive or mobile device – this case is very much designed to sit beneath you rather than to your side. The I/O panel and the space behind it are hidden from view by default thanks to a plastic panel, which slides open easily. As such, you could also use the space to store spare screws or other such titbits. There is no longer an eSATA connection, external drive mount or fan LED control (since the fans no longer have LEDs). These aren't massive omissions, but it's a shame not to see even a basic fan controller in their place.
Cooler Master has moved from a 4-bay to a 3-bay design for its external 5.25-inch bays. We feel it could've gone one or even two steps further, but as it stands there's plenty of room for optical drives and fan controllers. Beneath the bays is the case's primary air intake area, fitted with a single 200mm fan by default (two 140mm or 120mm fans can also be used). Previously, there was only room for one 140mm fan here, so the reduction of optical drive bays is a good move. This front intake is guarded by a dust filter, as are the protective covers for the external drive bays, but you need to remove the front panel to access them.
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At the rear is the case's second and final fan, a 120mm exhaust. There are also some firmly fitted grommets for external water-coolers and a 7+1 expansion slot arrangement.
Though there are just two default fans, there are many ways to expand upon this. Despite being empty, the dual roof fan mounts (a 200mm fan can also be fitted instead) are shielded by a dust filter, which is great to see. This filter is easily released and removed for cleaning using its single rear thumbscrew. Sadly, the side fan mounts are not afforded the same protection, so dust will find its way in here over time. Luckily, this is Cooler Master's only slip up in this regard, as there's a slide out bottom filter which protects both the PSU and the bottom 120mm mount, and it's easy enough to replace once you're done cleaning it.
Dimensions (mm) 230 x 502 x 507 (W x D x H)
Material Steel, plastic, metal mesh
Available colours Black, green
Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, stereo, microphone
Drive bays 3 x external 5.25in, 7 x internal 3.5in/2.5in, 3 x internal 2.5in
Form factor(s) ATX, micro-ATX
Cooling 1 x 200mm/180mm or 2 x 140mm/120mm front fan mounts (200mm fan included), 1 x 120mm rear fan mount (fan included), 1 x 200mm or 2 x 140mm/120mm roof fan mounts, 1 x 200mm/180mm or 2 x 120mm left side fan mounts, 1 x 120mm bottom fan mount, 1 x 120mm internal HDD cage mount (fans not included)
CPU cooler clearance 171mm
Maximum graphics card length 423mm; 312mm with 2.5-inch cage; 280mm with 3.5-inch cage
Extras Removable dust filters, anti-vibration fan pads