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Cooler Master's Elite 110 mini-ITX case reviewed


Mini-ITX at a micro price
— 10:03 PM on August 17, 2014

Like most PC enthusiasts, I like power—and lots of it. It's especially cool when that power comes in a small package. While chipmakers are cramming more and more power into ever-smaller areas of silicon, though, the typical ATX PC case remains pretty darn big—especially considering most people may never use its copious expandability.

I recently reviewed Gigabyte's Brix Gaming BXi5-G760, a barebones mini-PC that packs a big punch. The Brix Gaming is expensive when fully loaded, and its tiny fans are quite noisy, but I was still impressed by the amount of computing power per cubic inch it offers. My daily driver PC resides in a Corsair Obsidian 450D mid-tower, and that case looked a little silly next to the diminutive Brix. Like Cyril in that blog post I linked, my experience with the Brix got me thinking about how big my PC really needed to be.

The mini-ITX form factor might be the answer. Mini-ITX cases are big enough to accommodate larger, quieter case fans and graphics cards with dual-slot coolers, but they usually take up much less space than the average tower. They can also be better deals than NUC-style barebones systems.

Today, I'm going to look at Cooler Master's Elite 110, a mini-ITX case that rings in at only $49.99. While it dwarfs the Brix Gaming, the Elite 110 is still much smaller than my Obsidian 450D. I'm hopeful that it represents a Goldilocks zone for small-form-factor computing. Is it just right? Let's find out.

First impressions
The Elite 110 is one of the most compact PC cases I've ever used. I daresay that it's cute, even. It's only 8.2" tall by 10.3" wide by 11.1" deep, or 208 x 260 x 280 mm.

In the design department, the Elite 110 flies under the radar. Its clean black exterior has only one flourish: a blue LED-backlit power button in the form of the Cooler Master logo. This blue LED is mercifully subdued, unlike many that I've come across in various cases and peripherals over recent years. The case is available in one finish, which Cooler Master calls "Midnight Black." Seems a bit redundant to me, but there you have it.

The outer cover and internals of the Elite 110 are steel, while the front panel is plastic covered with a metal mesh. The case is pretty hefty despite its size, weighing in at 5.9 lbs, or 2.65 kg.

The front panel is vented across its entire surface, which provides plenty of ingress for cooling air. The top and sides of the case are vented, as well. Save for a sheet of foam behind the front panel, the Elite 110 doesn't have any filters, so I would expect dust to accumulate inside. Keep some canned air handy.

On the left side of the front panel, there are two USB 3.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, a red drive activity LED, and a reset button.

At the rear of the case, you'll find cut-outs for the power supply and the motherboard's port cluster. The Elite 110 can handle ATX PSUs up to 7.1" (180 mm) in length, although Cooler Master recommends a standard 5.6" (142-mm) PSU length to allow room for cable routing. The case also has space for a dual-slot graphics card, as evidenced by the two expansion-slot covers.

Finally, the bottom of the case is dotted with four hard plastic feet.

As a whole, the design of the Elite 110 is what I like to see in a case: simple, understated, and purposeful. The only notable omission is a 5.25" optical drive bay, but I doubt most people will miss it these days. If you really need an optical drive, you'll have to grab an external one—or step up to the larger Elite 120 or Elite 130.

I've covered most of the Elite 110's specifications already, but here's a convenient table for comparison with our other case reviews:

  Cooler Master Elite 110
Dimensions (H x W x D) 8.2" x 10.3" x 11.1" (208 x 260 x 280 mm)
Weight 5.9 lbs (2.65 kg)
Supported motherboards Mini-ITX
Expansion slots 2
3.5"/2.5" drive mounts 3
2.5" drive mounts 1
Fan mounts 1x 120 mm (front) or 1x 140 mm (front), 2x 80 mm (side)
Included Fans 1 Cooler Master 120-mm front fan
Front panel I/O 2x USB 3.0
Headphone
Microphone
Max. graphics card length 8.3" (210 mm)
Max. CPU cooler height 3" (76 mm)

Now that I've toured the Elite 110's exterior and key specs, let's take a look inside.