Introducing the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced

At the risk of sounding foolish, more and more it seems that Mini-ITX is very much becoming the new Micro-ATX. Each subsequent hardware generation crams a little more performance and flexibility into the form factor, and Intel's Z77 chipset complete with USB 3.0 makes it that much easier. With Intel's 8 series chipset rumored to halve the power consumption of Z77 while bumping up the number of USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps ports, one has to wonder just how much we'll even need Micro-ATX (let alone ATX) at that point. With all that said, Intel and AMD's advances aren't the only things helping drive forward the adoption of the Mini-ITX form factor.

What used to be the province of specialty motherboards (typically from Zotac) is now a market that enjoys entries from most major motherboard manufacturers, and while cases supporting this form factor used to be moderately expensive oddballs, we now have beefy enclosures like BitFenix's Prodigy going for reasonable prices. Yet the Prodigy is still on the large side; what if we want to build a good-looking Mini-ITX box on the cheap? For that, we turn to today's entrant, the newly released Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced.

Before being a case reviewer gave me the opportunity to check out inexpensive enclosures I might have otherwise missed entirely (including BitFenix's vast line), I was a pretty big fan of Cooler Master's budget cases. For a long time, my go-to was the now-outdated Elite 360, a small but efficient and easy-to-use Micro-ATX case at a very competitive price (typically around $40). When I saw the press release for the Elite 120 Advanced, I knew I had to get it in and get it tested. As I said before, Micro-ATX is the new ATX, and Mini-ITX is becoming the new Micro-ATX. That means we need a good, cheap Mini-ITX case for good, cheap Mini-ITX boards.

Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor Mini-ITX
Drive Bays External 1x 5.25”
Internal 3x 3.5" (two 3.5"-to-2x2.5" brackets included)
Cooling Front 1x 120mm intake fan, 1x 120mm fan mount behind drive cage
Rear -
Top -
Side 1x 80mm intake fan
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 2
I/O Port 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Headphone, 1x Mic
Power Supply Size Standard ATX
Clearances HSF 65mm
PSU 180mm
GPU 13.5"/343mm
Dimensions 9.4" x 8.2" x 15.8"
240mm x 207.4mm x 401.4mm
Weight 7.3 lbs. / 3.3kg
Special Features USB 3.0 connectivity via internal header
Removable 80mm side intake fan mount
Drive trays for converting 3.5" bays into dual 2.5" bays
Price $49

When I unboxed and began testing the Elite 120 (Elite 120 Advanced is a bit of a mouthful) I had no idea what the price was; I was interested in examining it strictly as an arguably "true" Mini-ITX case (the BitFenix Prodigy, however fantastic, does approach Micro-ATX enclosure sizes) and to me, the initial look and feel put it in price competition with BitFenix's design. For such a small case it's remarkably feature rich; I could install my home file server into the Elite 120 without having to really sacrifice anything.

Where I do think Cooler Master made a minor mistake was in including only one USB 3.0 port, but needing the full motherboard header to do it. At this point I'm wondering whether it might've made sense to simply eschew having the third front port and just include two USB 3.0 ports in the front of the case. Cooler Master also theoretically supports video cards like the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 and AMD Radeon HD 6990 inside the Elite 120, but unfortunately I don't have either of these 300+ watt behemoths on hand and honestly, I think that'd really be pushing your luck with this case.

In and Around the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced
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  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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