Cooler Master Elite 130 Mini-ITX Case Review

Cooler Master is a well known name among the computer enthusiast crowd, and we have reviewed many of their products over the years. Whether it’s a PC case, PSU, CPU cooling device, or a gaming peripheral, chances are you have owned a Cooler Master product in the past. Today, we’ll be focusing on a chassis offering -  more specifically, a mini-ITX sized chassis. Looking to improve on their previously released Elite 120 mini-ITX case, Cooler Master sent along their new Elite 130 mini-ITX case for us to look at. With support for full size video cards, full size ATX PSUs, and water cooling, the Elite 130 certainly appears to offer what many computer enthusiasts are looking for. So, let’s get going and find out if good things really do come in small packages!

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Specifications and Features

Here are the specifications attached to the Elite 130, as provided by the Cooler Master website. Of note here is the slight reduction in length (377.5 mm vs. 401.4) when compared to the Elite 120. Even with the minor reduction in size, Cooler Master still managed to keep support for full sized components.

Cooler Master Elite 130 mini-ITX Specifications
Model Number RC-130-KKN1
Available Color Midnight Black
Materials Appearance: polymer front mesh panel
Case body: Steel alloy
Dimensions (W x H x D) 240 x 205 x 377.5 mm / 9.4 x 8.1 x 14.9 inch
Net Weight 3.1 kg / 6.8 lbs
M/B Type Mini-ITX
5.25″ Drive Bays 1
3.5″ Drive Bays 3 (1 from 5.25” drive bay)
2.5″ Drive Bays 5 (3 from 5.25″ drive bays, 1 from the side bracket, 1 from the bottom)
I/O Panel USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 1, Audio In & Out
Expansion Slots 2
Cooling System Front: 120mm fan x 1 (installed)
Side: 80x15mm fan x 1 (installed)
Power Supply Type Standard ATX PS2
Maximum Compatibility VGA card length: 343mm / 13.5 inch
CPU cooler height: 65mm / 2.5 inch
PSU length:
180mm/ 7.1 inch (w/ less cable management)
142mm / 5.6 inch (w/ full cable management)

There is a host of features Cooler Master would like you to know about, so let’s quickly go over those as well. All images and description below are provided by Cooler Master. First up is a bullet point list of the high-level features. Ample storage and another mention of full size component support are the highlights here.

  • Unprecedented airflow for a Mini-ITX case with front mesh panel and vents on the top and side panels
  • Dual Super Speed USB 3.0
  • Supports a 120mm radiator in the front
  • Supports standard length ATX PSU
  • Supports ultra high-end graphics card up to 343mm / 13.5 inch, such as AMD HD 7990 and NVIDIA GTX 690
  • Ample storage – up to 1 ODD / 3 HDDs / 5 SSDs:
    ODD x 1 + HDD x 2 + SSD x 1
    + HDD x 3 + SSD x 1
    + HDD x 2 + SSD x 3
    + HDD x 1 + SSD x 4
    ​+ SSD x 5

Of course, we have plenty of pictures to outline the features the Elite 130 mini-ITX case brings to the table. Most of these have been touched on above, but take note of the included front (120 mm) and side (80 mm) fans. We also see an airflow diagram for both air and water cooled setups.

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PSU Support cm_elite130 (2)
Storage Support cm_elite130 (3)
GPU Support cm_elite130 (4)
Front Design cm_elite130 (5)
Front Fan cm_elite130 (6)
Side Fan cm_elite130 (8)
Water Cooling Support cm_elite130 (7)
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The specifications and features sure make the Elite 130 look enticing… Let’s get it up on a bench for a closer look!

Packaging and First Look

It’s pretty much a no frills affair as far as the box goes. No fancy graphics here folks, but that’s not a bad thing at all in my eyes. There is a nice list of high-level features and a more detailed list of specifications printed on the box. There is also a sketch of the case on one side, which gives you a general idea of how the case looks. Top it off with additional “Cooler Master’ and ‘Elite 130′ branding, and you have the gist of the box presentation.

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Two Styrofoam blocks and a plastic bag are responsible for keeping the Elite 130 damage free during transportation. The case arrived in pristine condition, so apparently the method of packaging works quite well. Unwrapped, you can get your first bird’s eye view of the Elite 130.

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Inside the case, you’ll find a bag of accessories wire tied to the drive bays. There are five zip-ties, 12 HDD insulation washers, and a host of other screws and motherboard standoffs. There is plenty here to get you on your way to a system build.

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With the introduction out of the way, let’s forge ahead with our exterior and interior tours.

Exterior Tour

Both sides and the top make up one solid ‘cover’ assembly with both sides using the same ventilation scheme. The top ventilation area isn’t as big as what’s found on the sides, but it’s just there for PSU airflow. Under the top ventilation area is a screen type filter. The bottom of the Elite 130 has four hard plastic feet with no rubber pads. Rubber pads would have been nice to see for surface protection, anti-vibration, and to help keep the system from sliding. From the view of the bottom, you can also see some of the HDD mounting slots (more on this later).

Left Side Ventilation

Left Side Ventilation

Right Side Ventilation

Right Side Ventilation

Top Ventilation

Top Ventilation

Bottom Area

A view from the back of the Elite 130 shows a top mount PSU with a removable extension bracket. Just below that is a cutout for the motherboard’s I/O shield. Over to the right side, we can see two expansion slot covers and one rubber protected pass through hole. I don’t think a single pass through hole does much good for an external water cooling setup, but perhaps it’s intended for use as a cable pass through.

The front panel is largely made of a mesh finish that covers the front intake fan and 5.25″ drive bay. On the right side, we have a combination power/reset switch, power and HDD activity LEDs, and one USB 2.0 Port. The left side is where two USB 3.0 ports and the headphone and mic jacks are located.

Case Rear

Case Rear

Front Panel

Front Panel

Now that we have a good feeling for the external aesthetics and features, let’s open this little fella up and see what’s inside!

Interior Tour

There are three thumb screws at the back of the case that hold the cover on the Elite 130. Once those are removed, you simply slide the cover back a bit and lift it off. With the cover removed, we get our first glimpse of the Elite 130 interior. Everything is neatly arranged with all the cables secured with wire ties.

Cover Removed

Cover Removed

Interior - First Look

Interior – First Look

Interior View

Interior View

Interior View

Interior View

On the right side of the interior, we find a HDD mounting bracket and another bracket with the included 80 mm fan attached. Both of these brackets can be removed if needed. The bottom-front area is drilled to accept either a 3.5″ or 2.5″ drive, and the bottom-rear has the four holes for the motherboard standoffs.

Right Side HDD Bracket and Fan

Right Side HDD Bracket and Fan

Bottom-Front Area

Bottom-Front Area

Bottom-Rear Area

Bottom-Rear Area

The front bezel is easily removed by grasping it from the bottom and pulling it off. Behind the bottom mesh area and the drive bay cover is more of the same screen type filtration found under the top panel’s ventilation hole. With the bezel removed, we can see the included 120 mm front intake fan and another view of the 5.25″ drive bay. The front fan can be removed by taking out four push-pin type retainers, which will clear the way for installing a 120 mm radiator. Installing a 5.25″ drive couldn’t be any easier than what’s implemented here. Just release the lever, slide the drive in, and lock the lever… Done!

Front Bezel Removed

Front Bezel Removed

Front 120 mm Fan

Front 120 mm Fan

5.25" Lock Latch

5.25″ Drive Bay Lock Latch

One of the highlights of the Elite 130 interior is the myriad of available options for installing 3.5″ and 2.5″ HDDs. If you opt out of using a 5.25″ drive, you can use the bay for installing up to two 2.5″ drives or one 3.5″ drive. If a 5.25″ drive needs to be installed, you can still attach a 2.5″ drive under the bay.

SSD Left Side of 5.25" Bay

SSD Left Side of 5.25″ Bay

SSD Right Side of 5.25" Bay

SSD Right Side of 5.25″ Bay

3.5" HDD in 5.25" Bay

3.5″ HDD in 5.25″ Bay

SSD Under 5.25" Bay

SSD Under 5.25″ Bay

The side mounted HDD bracket and the bottom area can each hold a single 3.5″ HDD or 2.5″ drive. If you’re keeping score at home, that means up to three 3.5″ drives or up to five 2.5″ drives can be installed in the Elite 130. Of course, you can mix and match drives as you see fit for your own build.

3.5" HDD in Bottom Location

3.5″ HDD Installed at Bottom

SSD Installed at Bottom

SSD Installed at Bottom

3.5" HDD Installed on Side Bracket

3.5″ HDD Installed on Side Bracket

SSD Installed on Side Bracket

SSD Installed on Side Bracket

I really like the option to remove all the brackets and fans as it makes working inside much easier. If you’re the adventurous type, a little magic with a drill will allow you to remove the 5.25″ cage too. Here is a picture with the case free from all bracketry and fans.

Stripped Elite 130

Stripped Elite 130

The case wiring is pretty standard fare found on most modern cases.

Front Panel Audio and USB Cables

Front Panel Audio and USB Cables

Switch and LED Cables

Switch and LED Cables

Ok, it’s time to get a system installed in the Elite 130. Let’s see what we can come up with!

Putting it all Together

System components

Here is the list of items I’ve chosen to install in the Cooler Master Elite 130 mini-ITX.

Chassis Cooler Master Elite 130
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Impact
CPU Intel i7 4770K
Memory G.Skill 2×4 GB RipjawsZ DDR3-1866 MHz
GPU AMD R9 270X
SSD Kingston HyperX 3K SSD
ROM Drive Lite-On DH-16A3L DVD-R/W
PSU Thermaltake SmartM 750 Watt
CPU Cooling Zalman LQ320 AIO

As you can see by the component list above, I’ve got some rather large items to install in the Elite 130. The LQ320 AIO cooler was first on the list to be installed. Because of its oversized radiator design, it will prevent a 3.5″ HDD from being installed on the bottom. This won’t be a problem if an AIO unit with a standard sized radiator is used. At this point, I also went ahead and installed the optical drive and replaced the front bezel.

AIO Liquid Cooler Installed

AIO Liquid Cooler Installed

AIO Installed - Front View

AIO Installed – Front View

DVD Drive Installed

DVD Drive Installed

Front Bezel Installed

Front Bezel Installed

Next on the list was motherboard installation and to secure the LQ320′s block/pump assembly. Once that was completed, I installed the memory and plugged in all the case wiring.

Motherboard Installed

Motherboard Installed

LQ 320 Block/Pump and Memory Installed

LQ 320 Block/Pump and Memory Installed

Top View

Top View

Case Wiring Attached

Case Wiring Attached

When you get to the point of PSU installation, things will begin to get tight. Using a modular PSU can help matters immensely when working with the Elite 130 or any other mini-ITX case for that matter. Once the PSU was installed, I went about attaching power to the motherboard and other devices. Installing the SSD under the 5.25″ bay allowed just a single SATA power cable to be used to power both the SSD and optical drive.

PSU Installed

PSU Installed

PSU Wiring

PSU Wiring

Large Cables Tied Off

Large Cables Tied Off

The AMD R9 270X graphics card installed pretty easily, but anything longer would probably require flipping the radiator around so the hoses are on the opposite side. From here, I ran the PCI-E power cable from the PSU to the video card.

PCI-E Power Cable Installed

PCI-E Power Cable Installed

Graphics Card Installed

Graphics Card Installed

It’s a tight fit, but I managed to get it all installed. Once all the components were installed, I added the wireless antenna that comes with the M6I and took several pictures of the completed system. Enjoy!

Build Complete - Front View

Build Complete – Front View

Build Complete - Back View

Build Complete – Back View

Build Complete

Build Complete

Build Complete

Build Complete

Build Complete

Build Complete

Build Complete

Build Complete

Getting proper air flow through the Elite 130 can be a challenge when components such as I used are installed. Because of the M6I’s daughter board power section, I was unable to keep the side fan installed. Also of note is that the PSU can be mounted with the fan down, or on top. I chose the fan down method so the PSU would draw air from inside the case and and exhaust it our the back. If a standard design mITX motherboard is used with an air cooling setup, you’ll be able to take full advantage of all the airflow options. The point being, plan your build carefully and be prepared to make air flow sacrifices based on the type of components you decide on.

Conclusion

The only nitpicking I can do deals with the lack of rubber pads on the feet and the odd inclusion of a single pass through hole at the back. Obviously, neither of those two items are major concerns that would influence the overall usability of the Elite 130. The price is certainly not an issue, as the Elite 130 can be had for a mere $39.99 from Newegg. To say that’s an attractive price is an understatement of epic proportions. The Elite 130 offers many features that far out weigh its asking price, which makes it a viable option for anyone looking to build a mini-ITX system on a budget.

As witnessed by the components I installed, there is nothing to stop you from assembling a powerhouse system in the Elite 130. If building a HTPC is in your sights, this case would make a superb basis for getting started. The cooling options, storage capabilities, and support for large components certainly make a plethora of build options possible. If you have been looking at purchasing a mini-ITX chassis, then the Cooler Master Elite 130 should definitely be on your short list.

Overclockers_clear_approvedClick the stamp for an explanation of what this means

-Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)

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