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

  • Grok42 - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    Great review. I'm really glad to see any and all reviews of mATX and mITX cases as I think they are the future of all my builds. As I said elsewhere in the posts, I would love to see any cases that don't have 5.25" bays reviewed as there are so few and no one reviews them.

    I think you were spot on that mATX has suplanted ATX and mITX has taken over as the board to buy if you want a small rig. USB2, USB3 and eATA along with a steady push to integrate graphics, network, sound and wireless onboard has killed any need for expansion slots. USB flash sticks and fast internet have killed the need for optical drives and therefore 5.25" bays. Finally, multi-core processors have removed the need for multiple sockets.
  • max347 - Sunday, July 29, 2012 - link

    Great cable management Reply
  • CosmoGeek - Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - link

    To Improve airflow, I would like to remove the HDD/SSD cage. However, I want to keep the 5.25 drive bay. Are these two rivited together? Is it all bent from one piece of metal? are they welded together? If the cage is removed, does the 5.25 drive bay enclosure still have sufficient support? If the cage were removed, could it be put back in later?

    I don't mind drilling out rivits, using a nibbler, or sawing, but my ability to do metal work is limited. I would appreciate any opinions on this from people that actuall have one of these cases. Thanks.
  • Cynold - Monday, August 13, 2012 - link

    Maybe my mod could give you idea on how to improve the airflow. I used a corsair H60 to cool my processor to take away the heat from a very confined CPU area on the board. I did mod the DVD drive bay as a mounting pad for the H60 radiator. I drilled holes on the drive bay plate for the fan to draw air from the intake fans below (I added one on the right side facing the HDDs) . I drilled another 120mm hole on top of the case cover to exhaust the hot air. You might wanna check these link of my system. I hope this would help you.
  • Cynold - Monday, August 13, 2012 - link

    Thde 5.25 drive bay is supported by the HDD/SSD Cage and also it hangs on the brace at the same time. It is riveted on the HDD cage and screwed on the braces on the upper part. You can remove and put it back together using rivets/screws Reply
  • Cynold - Friday, August 10, 2012 - link Reply
  • c-bi - Thursday, August 16, 2012 - link

    nice mod Cynold !!

    I searching a way to put a H2O 620 inside :)
    Did you put the H60 rad in place of the optical drive ?
  • MaromG - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    Hi! Could I install 3 HDDs inside?
    I only want to install 3.5 inch drives.
    Can I use the default 2x3.5 inch bays and instead of the CD-ROM drive, install a 3.5 inch HDD using an adapter? It's a crucial point for me in deciding if I want to buy this product of not.

  • Silenzio - Friday, December 14, 2012 - link

    "Whatever air that does get through seems like it may also be slamming up against the drive cage, at least if the abnormally high temperatures on the SSD during our GeForce GTX 560 Ti test are any indication."

    An additional cooler can be attached at the back of the drive cage making a fair air flow performance. Congratulations, dear Anandtech. This is the best miniITX case considering price/performance ratio and you failed to make a reasonable review of it because of this tiny - little issue...
  • nakabaka - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    I know this is an old link, but I've been looking for a good mini-ITX case for a decent enough build. Witht he new 65W quad-core i7's out these days, think that would fit with say, a low-profile nVidia 640? Also I am planning to use one of those mini-ITX boards with the mSATA feature to reduce cable clutter. Reply

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