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 For a long time, my go-to was the now-outdated Elite 360, a small but efficient and easy-to-use Micro-ATX case at a very competitive price (typically around $40).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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  • Guspaz - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    It might be nice to see a review of the Shuttle XPC SZ77R5. I'll admit it won't drive a purchase decision (I've already got one), but it's a pretty impressive piece of kit. Somewhat similar in size to the case reviewed here, but with a better use of space due to a custom-sized PSU and motherboard, but at the same time, it still officially takes third-party mini-itx motherboards, unusual for a Shuttle.

    It's not perfect. Top-mounted videocard power plugs and the drive bay assembly require some effort to fit in the case, and there is a BIOS bug that causes the default "smart fan" to fail on the i7-3770k (despite a recent BIOS promising to fix this), but it does seem to be quite an improvement over the case reviewed here in many respects.
  • philipma1957 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    To follow up on the review.

    the 1 usb 3 vs 2 usb3 was a dumb move.

    the review called that correct.

    the case is very nice for 2.5 inch drives.

    the small trays are good.

    I am going to put a fan based psu in it .

    then play with the small side fan. it is really too loud.
  • Termie - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks for taking a closer look at the mini-ITX designs out there. This is a nice one, at a fantastic price point. Looks a whole lot like a Silverstone Sugo knockoff, but that's ok - I love my Silverstone Temjin TJ08-E, but I know that SS sometimes gets away with charging a lot (too much?) due to the lack of competition. It's just a shame that CM didn't replicate SS's excellent thermal design. Seems like a silly design flaw that could have been avoided with better intake air flow.

    Two corrections: you say that the Elite 360 was one of your favorite micro-ATX cases. I actually use it as my HTPC case, and it is indeed a very novel case, but mostly because it is ATX, not mATX. Just thought you might want to update that. Also, you inadvertently left in some text from your GD-07 review in the testing methodology section.
  • nubian1 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Can't really say I like the look of this case and it has a big issue for me, It is not water cooling friendly. My main desktop is ITX based using the Silverstone SG05-450 with a corsair H60 in push/pull. The only advantage I see for the Elite 120 is that you can use a full sized power supply.
  • thok - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Without 5.25” and front connectors but therefore cleaner looking Fractal Design Array 2 =>
  • philipma1957 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    The entire point of this case is it uses full size parts.

    many people want the dvd/blu ray and the full size atx. No logo in a rack and the face looks fine.
  • Grok42 - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Very sweet looking case and on my short list for my next build. I'd love to see it compared to the Lian Li PC-Q16B which I can't find any reviews of at all. These are the only two cases on the market that don't have 5.25" bays.

    Who uses low density optical media anymore except maybe to install the OS once. With OSx, Linux and Win8 USB flash drives take care of that as well.
  • Solandri - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    I was shopping around last year for a SFF mini-itx case which could take 3 HDDs minimum, preferably 4 for use as my home RAID file server / virtual machine host. The only cases on the market which fit were pre-made NASes (e.g. Synology, QNAP, HP) which don't have the CPU power I wanted. I couldn't figure out why nobody seemed to make such a case. There were multiple cases which looked like they could take 3-4 drives if the manufacturer had made it just a little taller or just a little longer. But most of them seemed designed for single- or dual-drive desktop use as a primary computer. Why limit your case to only desktop use to save a half inch in height or length?

    I ended up buying a Shuttle case and wedging in a 4-drive tray in the empty space suspended by velcro cable ties. It works but I have to be careful moving it. I would've preferred something more like this Cooler Master - with an integrated 3-4 drive rack and something which could take my motherboard of choice (I wanted ECC RAM and a 5th SATA port for a small SSD boot drive).
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Chenbro has made 3 cases like that. My friend has one of the earlier models; he had a SATA backplane fail but it's otherwise been OK as a NAS server for the last few years.
    Most vendors are showing the first 2 models as discontinued, but the 3rd is available on Amazon and other sites for under $150:
  • bobbozzo - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    They have 4 hot-swap SATA bays, btw.

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