Assembling the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced

Putting together a system in any Mini-ITX enclosure is going to be more difficult than in larger cases, that's a given. Yet with the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced, I often found my fingers didn't need to be as spidery as they were to get the job done, and an end user who takes proper care to plan out the assembly isn't going to have much trouble getting everything together. The worst part of just about any Mini-ITX build is getting the power supply in, but if you use a modular PSU, you can ameliorate a lot of that difficulty by connecting all of your leads to the components first and then connecting and installing the PSU last.

Truthfully I was a little disappointed Cooler Master didn't include the motherboard standoffs pre-installed or at least extrude the bottom of the case enough that standoffs wouldn't be necessary (as Corsair did in the 300R). There's only one form factor of motherboard that fits into the Elite 120, and the screws are only ever going to go in the same four places. Given how cramped our testbed motherboard is, though, I opted to connect all of the case headers prior to installing the board and thankfully those cables were long enough to make this relatively easy. The side intake fan, however, does cramp things a bit and no one would fault you for removing it.

Installing 5.25", 3.5", and 2.5" drives was incredibly simple. For the 5.25" bay, you need to remove the front fascia (which snaps off easily, if maybe a little too easily), then remove the bay shield; it's impossible to remove without damaging something otherwise. The toolless locking mechanism for the 5.25" bay is excellent, though, and easy to use. There's a single lever in the center and "Open" and "Lock" etched into the plastic on either side of it. It's a small touch but appreciated.

The adaptor for the 2.5" drives is made of firm plastic and the two come preinstalled with the rails snapped into the sides; a third set of rails for a separate 3.5" drive is included with the screws. The rails snap into the adaptor and 3.5" drives with ease and they feel remarkably secure. I don't think they'll be stellar for absorbing vibration, but certainly they'll do in a pinch and they're a nice convenience.

Where things get hinky is the same place they always do and the same place I mentioned before: cabling the power supply. Installing an expansion card has more to do with delicately moving and cramming cables into whatever nooks and crannies you can find for them rather than any kind of real clearance issue. There's definitely enough height and width for all but the biggest of video cards, but cramming cables can be a nuisance. Thankfully, the power supply bracket is easy to remove, with four standard screws holding it in place. Provided your PSU is short enough you could theoretically even install it without actually removing the bracket, but removing the bracket will make your life easier.

All told the Elite 120 is remarkably easy to assemble given the circumstances and I didn't have any major complaints with how it came together. Even gently tucking the cables and getting the shroud back on the sides and top of the case was fairly simple. As I mentioned before, my primary concerns lie more with actual performance than with aesthetics or ease of assembly. I don't see a Mini-ITX case, especially one that supports full size ATX components, getting a whole lot easier to assemble while staying this small.

In and Around the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Testing Methodology


View All Comments

  • Guspaz - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    It might be nice to see a review of the Shuttle XPC SZ77R5. I'll admit it won't drive a purchase decision (I've already got one), but it's a pretty impressive piece of kit. Somewhat similar in size to the case reviewed here, but with a better use of space due to a custom-sized PSU and motherboard, but at the same time, it still officially takes third-party mini-itx motherboards, unusual for a Shuttle.

    It's not perfect. Top-mounted videocard power plugs and the drive bay assembly require some effort to fit in the case, and there is a BIOS bug that causes the default "smart fan" to fail on the i7-3770k (despite a recent BIOS promising to fix this), but it does seem to be quite an improvement over the case reviewed here in many respects.
  • philipma1957 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    To follow up on the review.

    the 1 usb 3 vs 2 usb3 was a dumb move.

    the review called that correct.

    the case is very nice for 2.5 inch drives.

    the small trays are good.

    I am going to put a fan based psu in it .

    then play with the small side fan. it is really too loud.
  • Termie - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks for taking a closer look at the mini-ITX designs out there. This is a nice one, at a fantastic price point. Looks a whole lot like a Silverstone Sugo knockoff, but that's ok - I love my Silverstone Temjin TJ08-E, but I know that SS sometimes gets away with charging a lot (too much?) due to the lack of competition. It's just a shame that CM didn't replicate SS's excellent thermal design. Seems like a silly design flaw that could have been avoided with better intake air flow.

    Two corrections: you say that the Elite 360 was one of your favorite micro-ATX cases. I actually use it as my HTPC case, and it is indeed a very novel case, but mostly because it is ATX, not mATX. Just thought you might want to update that. Also, you inadvertently left in some text from your GD-07 review in the testing methodology section.
  • nubian1 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Can't really say I like the look of this case and it has a big issue for me, It is not water cooling friendly. My main desktop is ITX based using the Silverstone SG05-450 with a corsair H60 in push/pull. The only advantage I see for the Elite 120 is that you can use a full sized power supply. Reply
  • thok - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Without 5.25” and front connectors but therefore cleaner looking Fractal Design Array 2 => Reply
  • philipma1957 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    The entire point of this case is it uses full size parts.

    many people want the dvd/blu ray and the full size atx. No logo in a rack and the face looks fine.
  • Grok42 - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Very sweet looking case and on my short list for my next build. I'd love to see it compared to the Lian Li PC-Q16B which I can't find any reviews of at all. These are the only two cases on the market that don't have 5.25" bays.

    Who uses low density optical media anymore except maybe to install the OS once. With OSx, Linux and Win8 USB flash drives take care of that as well.
  • Solandri - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I was shopping around last year for a SFF mini-itx case which could take 3 HDDs minimum, preferably 4 for use as my home RAID file server / virtual machine host. The only cases on the market which fit were pre-made NASes (e.g. Synology, QNAP, HP) which don't have the CPU power I wanted. I couldn't figure out why nobody seemed to make such a case. There were multiple cases which looked like they could take 3-4 drives if the manufacturer had made it just a little taller or just a little longer. But most of them seemed designed for single- or dual-drive desktop use as a primary computer. Why limit your case to only desktop use to save a half inch in height or length?

    I ended up buying a Shuttle case and wedging in a 4-drive tray in the empty space suspended by velcro cable ties. It works but I have to be careful moving it. I would've preferred something more like this Cooler Master - with an integrated 3-4 drive rack and something which could take my motherboard of choice (I wanted ECC RAM and a 5th SATA port for a small SSD boot drive).
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Chenbro has made 3 cases like that. My friend has one of the earlier models; he had a SATA backplane fail but it's otherwise been OK as a NAS server for the last few years.
    Most vendors are showing the first 2 models as discontinued, but the 3rd is available on Amazon and other sites for under $150:
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    They have 4 hot-swap SATA bays, btw. Reply

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