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 For a long time, my go-to was the now-outdated Elite 360, a small but efficient and easy-to-use Micro-ATX case at a very competitive price (typically around $40).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
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • philipma1957 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    The case looks decent in a htpc rack.

    problem is it is noisy.

    I use a sapphire hd 6670 ultimate video card. it is passive. = silent

    I use a seasonic 400 watt fanless psu = silent

    i use an asrock itx board = not cheap

    i use an intel i5 2500t cpu = low power runs cool

    i use an ssd = silent

    i use a 500gb 2.5 inch 5400 rpm hitachi = very quiet

    i use a samsung blu ray drive.

    this would have been a nice htpc machine in a rack ,but the stock fans are noisy.

    I need to play with it some more.

    the small 80 mm fan on one side is the problem very noisy.

    also using a low cpu cooler heatsink is a must.

    the cpu cooler blows right into the psu.

    I think if i had a psu with a fan and let it pull hot air out of the machine

    i could keep the machine cooler. maybe then i can lower the fan speed on the small fan.

    as for ugly the cooler master label is flat out not needed and is truly the worst part of its looks.
  • lwatcdr - Monday, July 30, 2012 - link

    Why an i-5 and an external graphics card for an HTPC? A Celeron or I3 T would be more than good enough for for an HTPC with a GPU. Or you could use an Ivy-Bridge i5 with the onboard GPU for lower cost and thermals. The only good reason to have an i5 and a GPU would be gaming. Also you might want to consider dumping the HD and using a NAS for media storage. That can be in another room and you can put as many big cheap drives as you want on one. Even something like PoGo plug will work for serving media.
  • flparula - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I've built 2 mini-itx systems. I used one of the older Lian cases. The case uses a full sized ATX power supply; but I only have used modular cable-ling. The last build used a all-in-one water cooler. Is there enough room to put a water cooler, e.g. Corsar H60 or Antec 620. Water coolers also fix a problem that low-profile fans run into with all of the cables (usual power supplies have too long of cables) a fan can hit the cable and stop cooling. No such problem with the water cooler.
  • ggathagan - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Water cooling in this case would require some cutting and would almost certainly require you to mount both the fan and the radiator on top of the case.
    It would be possible to snake the coolant lines between the PSU and the GPU, but the length of the coolant lines might be an issue.

    All in all, you'd be better served with a different case.
  • cjs150 - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Whilst I agree a different case would be better I think this case is capable of supporting water cooling, just a little imagination is needed. Remove the drive cage and use a slim line optical drive with room for one or 2 2.5 drives beneath it (or drop the optical drive). Take a 120mm radiator (140 may fit) and turn it 90 degrees so barbs are on the side. Use the new swiftech apogee drive and you have a watercooling system that can cope with the CPU and (probably) a low heat GPU. You can also use the water cooling hole at the back as a fill port so not entirely wasted.

    Personally I think it is all a bit too cramped for that but it is certainly plausible
  • KasiorMC - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    on forums someone posted one of these:

    is there any chance of you testing it in near future?
    it's roughly the same size, same price... only with different (better?) layout
  • adboelens - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I have owned two mini ITX cases that had SFX power supplies. Both I found too noisy, while an entry level 300 ATX one can be almost completely quiet. I now have a Lian Li one and very happy with performance and noise level.
  • Metaluna - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Yes it's a problem of trying to cram too much power dissipation into too small a space. There's only so much you can do with forced airflow before the fans get too noisy. Using standard modular components makes things worse as they aren't going to be tailored to match the case's layout and airflow (the author touched on this a bit talking about the chore of trying to cram ridiculously long PSU cables designed for a tower case into a mini-ITX case.)
  • Guspaz - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Well, when you try to remove all the heat dissipated in a computer using 300-400 watts with a single 92mm fan (what the Shuttle SZ77R5 uses, because that's as big as they could possibly fit on the rear), you're going to have to spin that fan pretty fast to exhaust all that heat. And when you spin a fan at 3000+ RPM, it's going to get loud no matter how fancy your fan gets.

    I think they could have designed the SZ77R5 (and other similar SFF cases) a bit differently, though. For clarification, in the SZ77R5, the CPU's cooler is just a plate attached to heatpipes that connect to a heatsink that mounts to the rear of the case, and a single 92mm fan blows air through that, acting as both a CPU and case fan. If, instead, a 92mm fan was placed on the top of the case, a 120mm or even larger fan could be used, which would allow the same amount of air to be moved while spinning at a much lower speed.
  • PyroHoltz - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Get rid of the massive logo on the front. I'm not in the market to advertise for the companies I buy from.

    If people want the Cooler Master logo, give them a sticker.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now