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CM Elite 120 Build

Discussion in 'Cases, Modding & Electronics' started by Xenturion, Dec 31, 2012.

  1. Xenturion

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    Background: Well, I got a little envious of the Prodigy build I gave my brother for Christmas, so I decided to use some of his old computer to assemble my own SFF build. I wanted to do it as cheaply as possible, but also wanted a smaller case. (The Prodigy is great if you've got serious cooling demands, a bit excessive if you don't plan on installing a lot of drives or a closed-loop water cooler) Had 2x 4GB G.Skill 1333, Phenom II X3, a 6870, and a 250GB HDD. Very quickly I realized that Mini ITX boards for the AM3 socket are few and far between. Zotacs got one without a PCIe x16 and ASUS has one with laptop DIMMs. mATX was an option, but if I was going to go that route, I wanted the option of crossfire in the future. No mATX AM3 boards with two PCIe x16 slots it would seem. So, I ditched the idea of using much from the old system, opting instead to keep it operational. I took 1 4GB stick and the 6870. Purchased an open-box Gigabyte H61 ITX board that was missing the IO Plate for $50. The Pentium G645(?) that was just used in the Tom's Hardware System Builder Marathon for $50. A "refurbished" modular 550W PSU from Kingwin. (I know, sketch, but it does have 80Plus and Active PFC, kinda redeeming. If it takes my system out, though, I certainly won't complain.) Finally, I got the Cooler Master Elite 120 and a $15 LG DVD-RW drive. For storage, I'm using a 640GB WD Black Drive from my main system.

    First Impressions: The case isn't as small as I'd hoped, but I've got unrealistic expectations. The Node 304 would've been a tiny bit smaller, but it comes with a higher price tag and lacks the option for an optical drive. It's got a good design for a small case that really minimizes the number of headaches that might arise. The shell comes clean away, leaving the supporting frame. It gives you a lot more room to work and, god forbid you need to make a modification after it's complete, it does allow you that option.

    Installation: Installation is pretty straight forward. You pop the shell off, fasten the motherboard down, install the optical drive in its bay and any storage drives in theirs, connect the motherboard headers and SATA cables, connect the power supply connections, install the power supply into its bracket and then into the case, and then install and connect the video card. The front panel cables are very long. I had to bundle them up and zip tie them to make them more manageable. The second internal fan which can be installed to the inner-side of the hard drive cage via push-pins should be installed before the motherboard if you intend to use it. I had to take this fan out because it was using vital room for the PSU cables. Ideally, pick a power supply with as short of cables as possible. Obviously, modifying your power supply to fit your needs would be the best option. The power supply can be installed vent up or vent down. Vent down may be a good option as I suspect it would improve overall system airflow more than it would burden the PSU. I ended up taking the 80mm side fan out of the case because I really needed the space. I think I could probably install it again, but currently, the Pentium doesn't need its services.

    Cooling: This is the biggest potential issue I see with the case. The cooling is simply very limited. The Power Supply sits directly above the CPU socket so nothing much taller than the stock cooler can be used. There is only one true intake fan, which is the 80mm fan on the right side toward the back of the case. While there is a front 120MM fan, it is behind the front fascia with no obvious source of fresh air. If you took the hard drive cages out, used a MATX or SFX PSU, and/or remove/modified the optical drive bay, you could pull off a water cooling system. My suggestion for a standard build would be to stick with Ivy Bridge for the reduced power envelope if you're planning on using a quad core processor and would have realistic expectations for OC numbers. Prodigy or something a little larger would be much, much better suited for really high performance builds. The vents on the left side for the video card aren't too substantial, but I think they'd do the job for just about any card under 300W or so. In the little testing I've done on the 6870 so far it seems to be running well within acceptable bounds.

    Build Quality: Definitely solid for a $50 case. The shell itself seems to be made of thin steel. The frame is a little thicker. The front of the case is plastic but it's nicely finished and doesn't feel cheap. The front plate around the Cooler Master logo is metal. The case feels sturdy and I'm not concerned about it's structural integrity even if you're a little careless with it.

    Conclusion: If you want a small, cheap case that is mobile and isn't a nightmare to put together, then this is an excellent choice. But you have to think and plan ahead. If you're using a full size PSU it'd better be modular or have limited cables. Check clearances with the ITX board you have when considering using a CPU cooler other than the stock. There is significant potential for modding this case and I've seen some fairly radical water cooling builds on various websites, mostly using thick, 120mm radiators. Overall, it'd make a good media server, HTPC, or mobile single-monitor gamer.
  2. Xenturion

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    Left:
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    Rear:
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    Right:
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    Size Comparison:
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    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012

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