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 For a long time, my go-to was the now-outdated Elite 360, a small but efficient and easy-to-use Micro-ATX case at a very competitive price (typically around $40).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

    Hi Dustin,
    for your case reviews, could you please add a "removable filter / unfiltered" description to the Specifications matrix on your case reviews? Maybe in the 'cooling' section (or clone that section since some cases have filters where there are no fans).

    Thanks for the great reviews!

  • zorky9 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    You're wrong. The Elite 360 could fit an ATX.
  • mgl888 - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    The assembly picture gallery is not working for me.!
  • CosmoGeek - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    I'm thinking about using this with a single SSD drive.

    I was wonderring if the side fan bracket could be modified to hold an SSD instead of a fan. then the entire drive cage could be removed to improve airflow. Also, it seems like the airflow might be better if the PSU were not mounted upside down.

    I think I would use the COOLER MASTER GeminII M4 RR-GMM4-16PK-R2 CPU cooler. One of the Newegg reviewers said it fits.

    With these mods, an i7-3770s (65W) CPU, and no video card, it seems like there shouldn't be a thermal problem.
  • ypsylon - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Do we need it? I guess not. Certainly going back to the original question mATX is more flexible option. mITX is mostly for low level HTPC, primitive home servers (if there is enough space for more than 1 hdd), etc. mATX offers much more without ridiculously cramped boards/cases. There is a niche part of the market for mITX, but from my point of view I can't see me choosing mITX over mATX any time soon. In truth I believe in large boards XL-ATX, EATX, it is my bread and butter, but for a server builds in confined spaces mATX trumps mITX in every way.
  • philipma1957 - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    having built some very nice mATX cases and just finishing this build. I Agree.
    An Asus maximus v gene mobo in a good mATX case is better in every way but one; Size
  • just4U - Saturday, July 28, 2012 - link

    I am a fan of those gene boards and recently had a oportunity to build a setup with the new Gigabyte M3s (the gene competition) Very nice boards. I'd pick either or over an itx option anyday.
  • 7amood - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    hey dustin
    I want to know your thoughts on this
  • 7amood - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    in combination with this... if possible
  • CosmoGeek - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Wish you could put your own PSU in that thing. I think the PSU up front makes for the most space efficiency. 180mm case fan in a mini-ITX case, nice!

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