In and Around the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced

For their budget cases I've noticed Cooler Master offers a lot of options for people who want something flashy, but also for people who want something more functional and workaday. The Elite 120 definitely falls into the latter category; it has a very stylish aesthetic, but that style is smart and understated.

I actually find the front fascia of the Elite 120 amongst the most attractive of the cases I've tested. Gunmetal is, in my opinion, a shamefully underused color that fits in with most setups very nearly as well as basic black does. The cool, gunmetal-colored brushed aluminum finish covers the center of the fascia and continues to the 5.25" drive bay shield, and the accent is flanked by the ports, LEDs, and power and reset buttons. That recessed area around the aluminum plate has ventilation on the sides to allow the 120mm front fan to take in cool air, but I have some reservations as to how much air is really going to get into the case and how effective that fan is going to be.

The top and sides of the Elite 120 are a single piece and the joints are exactly flexible enough to make assembly fairly easy. Each side is ventilated where it needs to be; the extra ventilation is essentially a trade-off between acoustics and thermal performance. This panel is fastened to the back of the case with three thumbscrews: one on each side.

The watercooling port in the back is a cute idea but basically unnecessary; what's more interesting is the extrusion for the power supply. There's a power supply bracket held on with four screws, and the bracket in turn supports mounting the PSU with the fan intake facing the bottom (toward the CPU) or the top (toward the ventilation). This extra 30mm of space could very well wind up being an eyesore for some builders, but it does allow for using a standard ATX PSU, and our modular unit fit snugly without being too cramped. A shorter (say 140mm) power supply without modular cabling would probably fit beautifully. I'm also happy to see Cooler Master didn't even bother with a cover over the extruded expansion slots; my experience with these covers is almost universally negative, and generally I'd rather have that space just left open than have to fiddle with it.

The interior includes a remarkable amount of amenities. The cables all come bundled and tied to the bottom of the case, but I'm more impressed by the drive sleds. Cooler Master included something that's frankly so obvious that it makes other case designs feel silly by comparison: a pair of 3.5"-to-dual-2.5" bay adaptors. 3.5" drives (and the adaptors) have rails that snap securely into their sides (similar to the Antec Eleven Hundred's), and these simply plastic adaptors allow you to not only include two 2.5" drives instead of a single 3.5", they actually provide a healthy amount of space between them. They've also included a remarkably sturdy toolless locking mechanism for the 5.25" bay, and a single removable 80mm side intake fan that blows directly on to the CPU heatsink.

It should be obvious at this point that I'm pretty impressed with the amount of value Cooler Master has crammed into the Elite 120, at least in terms of features. What remains to be seen is how easy the Elite 120 will be to assemble, and just how well it will perform. We've tested a couple of Mini-ITX cases thus far, but this is among the smallest yet and I have concerns about just how effective that single 120mm intake fan will be with so much blocking it.

Introducing the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Assembling the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced


View All Comments

  • Beaver M. - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Gigabyte and MSI still havent released new ITX boards, so I dont know how you can say that ITX is going anywhere... Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Asrock, Asus, Zotac and Intel all have ITX mainboards with 1155 socket. You can choose from a total of 8 boards. Reply
  • Beaver M. - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    You dont get what Im saying.
    There are 2 big manufacturers that dont have ANY recent ITX boards and have actually discontinued all or almost all of their old ones. Remember how much ITX boards there were last year at this time? FAR more. Even Intel had several H67s and H61s. Asus had 2 H67, H61s, Biostar, Foxconn, Gigabyte, MSI, etc, etc.

    Last year I would have agreed on a phrase like this, but not anymore.
    Hell, they even offer more high end mainboards for $300+, that nobody buys, than ITX boards.
  • robinthakur - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I'm also waiting on a decent gigabyte ITX to use for a Hackintosh, so would like to know when they are going to release one! Reply
  • Jeppeth - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Did you really mount the PSU with the fan facing up? The PSU fan has to fight natural convection and can't really help in evacuating hot air from the case. Maybe this could explain why the case did so poorly. Reply
  • Menty - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I have to agree with this :/ surely the fan in the PSU is better off pulling warm air from around the motherboard rather than staring into the sky? Reply
  • JPForums - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Fighting natural convection isn't really a big deal with forced airflow. The air is cool going in and by the time it is heated, the high pressure from the intake fan is far more influential than natural convection. Just don't put it in a place where it is likely to suck in its own exhaust. Given a 120mm + 80mm intake and no forced exhaust, it is possible that pulling from the inside of the case may facilitate better airflow and lower case temperatures. However, the 80mm side fan provides fresh air directly (if less than ideally) to the CPU. The PSU fan may actually harm CPU temperatures by pulling air away from the CPU. The video card would have even less air directed at it. Ironically, it may actually work better in such a setup to cover most of the exhaust holes on the sides such that airflow is forced towards the GPU and PSU. It doesn't look like the case facilitates it, but moving the 80mm to the other side might actually be an overall improvement for setups with a PSU pulling from the inside. Fans wouldn't fight (as much), it would keep dGPUs cooler when present, and I can't see it being any worse on the CPU when a dGPU isn't present. Of course, the PSU's temperatures will undoubtedly rise in any setup pulling hotter air from inside the case, but it may not be that bad if the case temperatures drop significantly as a result. Reply
  • Nukemaster - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    I would tend to agree with this, My SG05 temps are better with the PSU fan facing down.

    Even got a cpu heatsink the blows up towards the psu later.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    JPForums actually has it right on the mark, you grossly overestimate the importance of natural convection. If you look at SilverStone's rotated enclosure designs, they'll advertise that natural convection is part of what makes them work but testing on other sites has essentially debunked that: what makes them work is the fact that the fans (at least in the FT02) have a straight shot into the hardware. SilverStone's Temjin TJ08-E operates with the PSU flipped at the top in the same fashion, and it works just fine. Reply
  • Iketh - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Natural convection... you don't realize how minor that force is...

    And why would you want 2 fans fighting for the same air?

    That being said, I'd buy this case only to have the PSU sucking air from inside with a fanless CPU cooler...

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