The maker of some of our favourite cases goes ultra-cheap – cause for celebration or concern?
We make no bones about the fact that Coolermaster is one of our favourite case brands. We’ve reviewed, loved and, in some cases, continue to use models like the HAF series, and the various CM 690s. Even the Sniper and Scout cases are not without their charms. So, of course we were curious about what kind of case Coolermaster might deliver to the lower end of the market. That’s where the Elite comes in - it’s a sub-hundred case which promises all kinds of awesome on its box… but delivers almost nothing to make us think of looking at it twice.
The feeling of hardware ennui begins at first glance. The bulk of the case is made from the same thin, textured steel that cases have been made from since time immemorial, but in this incarnation it’s even lighter and flimsier. In all seriousness, a stiff breeze could make the case move – especially with the seemingly frictionless feet keeping the case only roughly upright.
There’s a cheap side-panel secured to the right-hand panel by plastic rivets (shudder...), a very plain rear panel, a fairly standard mesh-covered fascia, and a grilled upper mount for two 120mm fans.
Coolermaster claims all these panels are filtered to protect your machine’s precious innards from dust, but that’s mostly a porky. In reality, the upper mount is only protected by a flimsy plastic grill that’s merely going to trap larger dust while letting smaller particles frolic on into the case. On the front panel, only some of the grill inserts have actual filter material – the rest feature only the lame plastic stuff. It’s even worse on the lower PSU grill, where there are two grill mounts, only one of which has a filter, and even then it’s that same useless plastic.
Of course, with just one fan included in the case as standard, you’re not going to get that much dust sucked in here at all. That said, it is mounted where there’s no actual filter material…
Taking off the side panel for closer inspection just makes us feel even more glum. The black interior is nice enough, but it’s the details that depress. For instance, the promise of tool-less drive bays is only true of five of the available bays – the rest are very much tool-intensive. And those tool-less bays use arguably the most rickety mechanics we’ve yet seen. There’s also not a hint or even attempt at vibration dampening. We know this is a cheap case, but when you think of its overall lightness, the flimsy enclosures, and the lack of soundproofing, it’s going to roar like a tiger in operation.
And not in a good way.
Finally, there are the expansions brackets. Both these and the so-called water cooling retainers are stamped into the case’s shell. You’ll need to punch them out with a screw-driver or your sense of rage before use, and they’re not replaceable. And when we consider the wear this kind of behaviour would have on an external cooling loop… *shudder*.
At least there’s a CPU cutout on the motherboard tray, but that’s small beer at
All things considered, you’re getting what you pay for. We’d be much less cranky about the Elite, however, if Coolermaster hadn’t tried to talk up the cooling and filtering options so much – it’s just outright wrong-headed marketing. And more’s the pity if some upcoming enthusiast listens to their claims.