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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  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    http://s1265.photobucket.com/albums/jj506/Cynold/
    Reply
  • 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

    http://i1265.photobucket.com/albums/jj506/Cynold/4... 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 ?
    Reply
  • 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.

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • 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...
    Reply
  • 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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