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
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  • bobbozzo - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Hi Dustin,
    for your case reviews, could you please add a "removable filter / unfiltered" description to the Specifications matrix on your case reviews? Maybe in the 'cooling' section (or clone that section since some cases have filters where there are no fans).

    Thanks for the great reviews!

    Bob
    Reply
  • zorky9 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    You're wrong. The Elite 360 could fit an ATX. Reply
  • mgl888 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    The assembly picture gallery is not working for me.! Reply
  • CosmoGeek - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    I'm thinking about using this with a single SSD drive.

    I was wonderring if the side fan bracket could be modified to hold an SSD instead of a fan. then the entire drive cage could be removed to improve airflow. Also, it seems like the airflow might be better if the PSU were not mounted upside down.

    I think I would use the COOLER MASTER GeminII M4 RR-GMM4-16PK-R2 CPU cooler. One of the Newegg reviewers said it fits.

    With these mods, an i7-3770s (65W) CPU, and no video card, it seems like there shouldn't be a thermal problem.
    Reply
  • ypsylon - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Do we need it? I guess not. Certainly going back to the original question mATX is more flexible option. mITX is mostly for low level HTPC, primitive home servers (if there is enough space for more than 1 hdd), etc. mATX offers much more without ridiculously cramped boards/cases. There is a niche part of the market for mITX, but from my point of view I can't see me choosing mITX over mATX any time soon. In truth I believe in large boards XL-ATX, EATX, it is my bread and butter, but for a server builds in confined spaces mATX trumps mITX in every way. Reply
  • philipma1957 - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    having built some very nice mATX cases and just finishing this build. I Agree.
    An Asus maximus v gene mobo in a good mATX case is better in every way but one; Size
    Reply
  • just4U - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    I am a fan of those gene boards and recently had a oportunity to build a setup with the new Gigabyte M3s (the gene competition) Very nice boards. I'd pick either or over an itx option anyday. Reply
  • 7amood - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    hey dustin
    I want to know your thoughts on this
    http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=317&...
    Reply
  • 7amood - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    in combination with this... if possible

    http://www.amazon.com/Noctua-Sockets-Heatpipe-2x14...
    Reply
  • CosmoGeek - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Wish you could put your own PSU in that thing. I think the PSU up front makes for the most space efficiency. 180mm case fan in a mini-ITX case, nice! Reply

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