Cooler Master Elite TV Media Player Review
The talk around the water cooler at work the other day focused on TV media players. A colleague recently purchased one, which got others who already had HD media players to express their love of them, but wishing they could add more capacity to do additional functions, like gaming. One of the IT folks happened to be passing by and overhead the conversation. He casually said, “Why not just build your own?” He enlightened us to form factor or barebone systems that allow people, even those who know nothing about electronics, to build their own media player.That evening, I decided to do some online research into these barebone systems and discovered that there are quite a few products on the market today that offer the ability to build your own HD media player. I also found that you can build much more than a media box with these form factors. You can actually build a home theater PC that handles all types of functions, like media streaming, viewing, media storage or organizing, gaming and even computing.The next day at work, I asked the IT guy about some recommendations of good barebone systems. Among the ones he mentioned was the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced mini-ITX computer case. He liked the size, especially for beginner level builders, the design of the different bays, the quality of the housing, the included fan for cooling and the price for the value. I decided to look further into his recommendation and found that it was the perfect match for me as a gaming unit and media player.
Great Step-by-Step Setup and Support Resources
If building electronics isn’t exactly your thing, Cooler Master has provided lots of resources that support its Elite 120. Before you begin customizing your form factor media player PC, I definitely recommend reading the installation guide that is included in the packaging or available online (http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/upload/download/355/files/Elite%20120%20Advanced%20-%20Manual.pdf). You especially need to be sure the connectors of the motherboard you are installing match up with the front panel cables of the Cooler Master case. You should also plan out your cable routing by identifying the locations of cable holes and bridges before installing system components. A smart addition to the chassis is the cable management path along the top frame for hiding the cables.When beginning your customized build, you first need to remove the top case cover to expose the interior. The installation guide does a really good job guiding you through equipping the Elite 120 Advanced to meet your desired functions. Not knowing very much about the innards of computers or electronics, I found the visual pictures in the guide extremely helpful. The step-by-step drawings show you how to install the 5.25-inch drive, case fans, the motherboard, add-on cards, the power supply and hard disk drive, and how to complete installation by closing up the box.Building your media player or home entertainment center is really just a matter of installing the necessary components in the slots and spaces provided within the chassis. If you want to install an optical drive, you’ll find housing for it on the front of the panel. If you need help, I found the Elite 120 Advanced Overview with Steve and Steve and the Elite 120 Advanced How-To System Installation videos on the Cooler Master website (http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?product_id=3102&product_name=Elite%20120%20Advanced) very helpful.
One advantage to building your own media player is that you can make use of components in devices that you are no longer using. For instance, if you updated your computer with a new one, you can use the power supply, motherboard, video card, or other components from it to equip your home theater PC (HTPC) and save some money in buying the needed components.
Once you finish installing components in the Cooler Master Elite to perform whatever media or computing needs you choose, plug it in and press the on/off button found on the front panel. Also on the front panel is the reset button, headset and microphone jacks, and USB ports.
Using the TV Media Player
What’s great about building your own TV media player is that you can use it for whatever function(s) you actually need and equip it with the capability and power you need for these functions. For example, I have a lot of videos, music and photo files stored on numerous external drives, so when I built my media player, I equipped it with more storage potential.These types of form factor units can be built to your own specifications. If you want a combined media player and PC, you can build that. If you want a media streamer and storage, you can customize it that way. If you want something for gaming, you can install the required components to create it. With just the chassis, you really have the freedom to decide how you want to use the device and build it accordingly. Plus, if your needs change down the road, you can uninstall components and rebuild it.
In general, the components you’re going to need to utilize your media device to its fullest are a motherboard, a processor, a CPU cooler, a hard drive, RAM memory, a video card and a power supply. If you plan to use the 120 Elite as a computer as well, you’ll also need to add an operating system.
The Elite 120 mini-ITX is manufactured by Cooler Master, a leading creator and manufacturer of desktop components, enclosures, peripherals, power supplies, cooling products and more. The Elite 120 Advanced comes with two front panel options: aluminum and plastic, or mesh. The case body is steel alloy. The chassis measures 15.8 inches in length, 8.2 inches wide and 9.4 inches in height and weighs 7.3 pounds.
The Elite HTPC comes equipped with one 5.25-inch drive bay and three 3.5-inch drive bays, or you can convert two 3.5-inch bays into four 2.5-inch bays. The I/O panel supports one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0 and audio in and out. There are two expansion slots. The M/B type is a mini-ITX.
The Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced – Mini-ITX computer case also has long graphics card support, with 13.5 inches the maximum compatibility for the VGA card length. The cooling system supports one 120mm fan in the front with 1200RPM, one 8015mm fan on the side with 2000RPM and one optional HDD fan of 12025mm. Maximum compatibility for the CPU cooler height is 2.5 inches. The power supply is the standard ATX PS2.
Compact, But Supports Full-Size Components
The Elite 120 Advanced offers several features that typically aren’t found in other barebone systems, particularly small-sized ones. Right off the bat, I noticed how compact the chassis is, yet it supports full-size desktop components. I would say it’s about 1/3 the size of a standard case. It actually supports full-size ATX PSUs, large, high-end VGAs, a 5.25-inch optical drive, a full size 5.25-inch drive bay and up to five HDDs or SSDs, which is unusual for a case this compact. But if you’re looking to build a gaming system, this enclosure will serve you well.I also found the airflow system rather extensive for a mini-ITX enclosure, offering three fans and a large venting area. Despite this large airflow system, it still runs quietly and keeps the system adequately cooled.The Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced was created as an attractive space saver and its clever design accommodates full features, so you get the best of both worlds with this product.
When purchasing the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced mini-ITX computer case, you will receive the following in the box:
- One Chassis, which comes with a removable 80mm fan and fan bracket.
- One Fittings Pack that includes the following hardware for securing the components you add to the chassis: four stand-off screws for the M/B tray and a stand-off socket for affixing them; eight #6 screws for the M/B tray and PSU; 20 #5 screws for the ODD and 2.5-inch/1.8-inch HDD; 10 cable ties; two HDD tool frees for the 3.5-inch HDD; 1 buzzer for the motherboard speaker; and four rivets for the fan.
- An installation manual.
What Others Are Saying
Here’s a capsule of what others are saying about the Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced media player and mini ITX computer:
- “What I love about it is that although not tiny by any means, it’s small enough and attractive enough to put within eyesight of my TV which I’m using as the computer’s monitor, but it also provides two case fans to add to the CPU cooler fan and power supply fan for a total of 4 fans keeping my computer cool and hopefully free of heat fatalities. There are a couple of issues though. First, the rubber feet don’t grip well enough so that plugging anything into the front of the case or pushing a little too hard on the power button moves the whole computer. The other issue is even more annoying and I see it on so many new electronics – laser beam like blue LED lights on the front of the case! At first I was fixing this by draping a neatly folded piece of toilet paper over the lights, but later realized there’s a much better way to fix it. The front panel comes off just like any other computer case I’ve seen. So, I just took the front panel off, attached yellow stickers over the annoying blue lights, put the panel back on, and Voila! Lovely soft turquoise lights instead of blue lasers. It’s wonderful and I can’t imagine why the manufacturer didn’t do something like that in the first place.”
- “To be honest the case was bigger than I was expecting, it is the same size as an ATX case sawed in half. But it’s not intended to be as small as other ITX cases. This case can fit a dual slot GPU, an Optical drive and several HDDs/SSDs. My only issue is lack of airflow options. The fans are virtually silent, but very little air is pushed. The case does have plenty of vents to passively eject hot air. I am just used to having multiple fans running to keep ambient case temps only slightly different than room temp. The full size ATX PSU support is a bonus as you get to pick your own PSU from a reliable provider, many ITX cases either require an external PSU or are of questionable quality. I’d much rather have a slightly bigger case than a smaller one with a no-name PSU that I might not be able to replace or have problems replacing it if it failed. Yes, there are smaller ITX cases. If you want a tiny computer case as small as possible, get those. If you want an ITX case that’s smaller than an ATX case but big enough to hold a full-fledged gaming PC, or want to be able to use whatever PSU you want…get this.”
- “At first I did not like the size of this case. Then after building my PC, I realized it would have been a pain to have built it with a smaller case. The design could have been better. Front panel is the major flaw in this design. It restricts too much air flow. Plastic leg pegs don’t do anything. This thing slides all over the place. Rubber legs would have worked better. Cheap, affordable, does its job, lots of modifying you could do. Even has enough room for liquid cooling, if you’re into that kind of stuff.”
- “Seriously, this is a great case. If the dimensions appeal to you and you don’t need it to hold more than it can, you’ll love it. Everything about this case, inside and out, was well thought out and well built. My only problem was that the place for plugging in the front panel stuff (power switch, etc.) was on the opposite side on my motherboard from where they put the cables. However, rerouting them to the other side wasn’t even close to a challenge. You do have to be a bit careful about the order in which you put the parts in (power supply should go in last and should be plugged in before you screw it in, for example).”
- “This Box is the best for everyday users, but for gamers that want all the bells and then some, you need to look somewhere else. I love this box for the price and for the way it came out. It was perfect. Buy it to build a cool mini itx system for you and you will be the one putting five stars on it. Good Luck.”
- “There is plenty of room to organize cables, additional video cards, drives. It is easy to open and replace all parts. Fans can be added with little effort.”
- “It is small, not tiny. It feels solid. All the edges are taken good care of. And the design is great for HTPC build.”
- “Compared to other small profile cases, this one is priced right, metal throughout, and well thought out. Built a fan-less ATX in this case and everything worked perfectly. The directions tell you to think about your cable routing, and you MUST do that, especially if you place an additional 120mm fan in the case (it comes with a 120 fan behind the front panel and a 92mm fan next to the board. You have plenty of room for HD’s and even have room for up to 2 additional cards (depending on MOBO). In short, nice fit, runs great, and small profile perfect for an uncluttered office.”
- “This case is awesome to make a small media PC for a TV. The thing I liked about this case is that it has enough room for my 9800 GTX. I made a decent small gaming media PC with this case. However the power supply placement makes it very difficult to find a compatible CPU fan that will actually fit as well as have enough air flow to keep my CPU cool. I am running a core 2 quad and it was heating up to 80 degrees in this case. After getting a small lower profile fan, it became a great PC. This case also has room for a Blu-ray player as well as 3 USB ports in the fronts one being a USB 3.0. I couldn’t use it however and had to use a USB 2.0 converter cable to make the port work. Another problem the confined space made cable managing nearly impossible, but overall this is a great small, sleek ITX case.”
- “Nice little/medium size case that gets the job done. Really like that I can use any ATX power supply with it. Good features and options for drive storage (full size HDD and the SSD size options). Using a CD ROM and three drives makes it pretty tight inside this little case but it is still reasonable. Good number of USB/USB3 ports on the front face. Decent build quality with no sharp edges but does not “feel” high end. One negative so far is the little feet on the bottom are made up of a hard smooth plastic so it slides around really easily; they should have been made out of rubber. Overall this case has a good mix of function, size and price.”
- “So I had bought this case to build my gaming PC and it was the perfect size. I like that it had a bay for a 5.25″ DVD drive which most mini-itx cases don’t have. It is sturdy, not that cheap thin metal that some cases come with. The only problem I had was the screws it came with to secure the motherboard to the case, a couple of them where loose , they would not tighten up.”
- “This case has good things and bad things. I will start with the bad things. There is not much room for cable management, so you will have to shove your cables somewhere where they will not mess with airflow. If you can skip a drive in the 5.25″ bay then you can just toss all your cables in there (which is what I do). Also, the outer shell is not that very well ventilated along the sides (the holes are rather small), so things will get a bit warmer in there. I personally cut out more holes into the side. There should be many more larger holes on the side of the case. The good things about this case is that it is rather compact, so you can fit it in more places, however it is still quite large. There are two slots available which you can use for two expansion cards or a single double slot GPU.”
- “I wanted a PC in the bedroom for light gaming and movies. When this came it was a little bigger than I expected. However I’ve come to realize I wouldn’t want any smaller. I can basically get as much stuff as I can attach to the motherboard into this thing. Great case for the price.”
Where Can I Buy the TV Media Player?
You can purchases the Elite 120 media box directly from the Cooler Master store (http://www.cmstore-usa.com/elite-120-advanced-steel-alloy-mini-itx-tower/), but you need to open an account before you can view the selling price. The Cooler Master website (http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?product_id=3102&product_name=Elite%20120%20Advanced) also includes a Where to Buy section where you can use an interactive map to find resellers in your particular area. Among them are: CompUSA, J&R, Micro Center, Computer Central, Computer Sonics, Computer Geeks, Fry’s Electronics, Software & More, and SuperBiiz.The Where to Buy section also lists online stores that carry the Elite Advanced series, among them Amazon, Newegg, TigerDirect, Walmart.com, 3DCool.com, Electronic Inventory Online, GamerKnight.com and DirectTron.com, just to name a few.
Where Can I Read More Reviews for the TV Media Player?
There is a review section on the Cooler Master website (http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?product_id=3102&product_name=Elite%20120%20Advanced), but keep in mind that these are written by professional reviewers, not consumers who actually purchased the item. Some of these reviewers may have gotten the Elite 120 for free from Cooler Master in exchange for a review, so the reviews might not be impartial.If you’re looking for reviews from actual consumers who purchased the product, I would use Amazon.com. Here you’re getting actual experiences of regular people who built an HTPC using the Elite 120 enclosure and the issues they may have encountered. You can also check the online stores that sell the Cooler Master 120 Elite. Often times, they have a section for customer reviews.