Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced Mini-ITX Case

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Comparison vs. SilverStone Sugo SG07:


Our SilverStone SG07 test system layout (2010).

Of the cases we've examined in the past, the Sugo SG07 comes closest to the Elite 120 Advanced in size. It was tested using components with a similar total power draw, though the parts are dated by today's standards, a low power Core 2 Quad processor and an HD 4870. The SG07 was also equipped with only a single massive down-blowing intake fan and the components included a larger CPU cooler, the Scythe Samurai ZZ — the power supply being positioned at the front of the case freed up plenty of room above the CPU socket.

System Measurements vs. SilverStone Sugo SG07
(Core 2 Q8200S + Scythe Samurai ZZ + Radeon HD 4870)
Case
CM Elite 120 Advanced
SilverStone Sugo SG07
System State
Idle
Load
Idle
Load
CPU Temp
40°C
89°C
34°C
37°C
GPU Temp
40°C
90°C
74°C
84°C
GPU Fan
1620 RPM
2700 RPM*
960 RPM
2080 RPM
System Power (AC)
63W
281W
115W
270W
SPL@1m
24~25 dBA
32 dBA
21~22 dBA
35 dBA
*GPU fan speed set manually to achieve a GPU temperature of ~90°C
Ambient temperature: 21°C.

On load, both cases had difficulty keeping their respective GPUs cool without producing an inordinate level of noise, but the difference in CPU cooling was staggering. The less demanding processor deserves some credit for the difference but the much taller heatsink and superior airflow obviously had a lot to do with it. Working with roughly the same dimensions, the SG07's unique layout makes all the difference, though it does limit drive support (the SG07 can house only a slim 5.25 inch optical drive and single 3.5 inch or dual 2.5 inch hard/solid-state drives).

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 10 second segments of product at various states. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It's apparent that Cooler Master designed the Elite 120 Advanced to be as affordable and compact as possible while offering enough space for housing a fairly powerful mini-ITX system. While it is a rather small case, it's overly large for a basic Atom or Fusion based media PC, considering the power requirements these types of machines require. A full-sized ATX power supply, reasonable CPU heatsink clearance, and support for long graphics cards are all requirements for a LAN gaming box. The Elite 120 Advanced offers all this, plus accommodations for cable management which is something always overlooked in budget mini-ITX cases. The build quality is solid also when you consider its US$45 street price — for value, it's pretty much unbeatable.

If you're not constrained by cost, the SilverStone Sugo SG07 has similar dimensions but a much smarter design. You do lose support for extra hard drives and a full-sized optical drive as well as power supply choice (a 600W unit is included with the case) but it might be worth it for the superior cooling — the Elite 120 Advanced is completely outclassed in this regard. The Elite's 120 mm intake fan is handicapped by the tiny slit at the bottom of the front bezel that passes for an intake vent, and the side fan is undersized and has lousy acoustics. They would've done well to shift the motherboard tray position toward the left side of the case or simply make the whole chassis a little wider so a proper 120 mm fan could be placed there instead. As it stands, the stock fan combination doesn't even come close to matching the prowess of the SG07's strategically placed single 180 mm ceiling fan.

The poor airflow scheme was at least partially blame for our inability to keep our Core i5-2500K CPU from throttling while attempting to achieve a reasonable noise level. The other culprit was the petite cooler we utilized, the Noctua NH-L9i, which was selected due to compatibility concerns. The Elite 120 Advanced would have probably performed much better with a superior heatsink; a good sized CPU cooler is critical for a quiet SFF gaming machine. The underlying issue is that most so-called "low profile" heatsinks extend over the PCI-E slot on the majority of mini-ITX boards for LGA1155, the most popular platform for these types of systems. To avoid this problem, we advise selecting a motherboard with ample clearance between the CPU socket and PCI-E slot such as the ASUS P8Z77-I series, EVGA 111-IB-E692-KR, and Foxconn H67S and H61S.

Our thanks to Cooler Master for the Elite 120 Advanced case sample.

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