Cooler Master Elite 310 Review

airman - 2009-08-18 09:23:42 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: September 1, 2009
Cooler Master
Price: $39.99

Introduction:

Buying a low cost computer case can sometimes be a gamble. There are so many places manufacturers can cut costs and sometimes the end product can be a flimsy, low quality mess. Cooler Master is a highly regarded manufacturer of computer cases, and its Elite 310 mid tower is an affordable option for someone who wants a good looking case without breaking the bank. Available at some vendors for less than $40, the Elite 310 definitely falls into the low cost category and I was anxious to see how it holds up.

 

Closer Look:

The Elite 310 is packaged in a plain, brown box with the Cooler Master logo at the top and its model number and the specifications printed across the middle. Both the front and the side are identical to their opposite end, which is why there is only one picture of the box show below. Picking the box up and moving it made a curious noise; somewhat of a sloshing sound. Somehow the bag of screws inside the case had torn open, leaving screws all over the inside of the case. It certainly was not fun finding them all before picture taking, nor later finding some in my feet because a few escaped.  I'm not entirely sure how the bag tore while it was inside the case, as it was taped to the 3.5" drive bays, but nonetheless, it did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the box offers no surprises, just a simple view of the usual styrofoam blocks on either end of the case, with the case wrapped in a plastic bag. The case seemed to be unscathed, altough there may have been an impact where the front of the case was, since some of the drive covers had been detached. Regardless, there was no damage.

 

 

I can't say much more about it so far, but I'll be taking a closer look on the next page.

Closer Look:

 

The case features a Plexiglas side panel with a cutout for an optional 120mm fan, and additional screw holes for a 92mm fan, as well as an 80mm fan. The front is accented with an attractive blue border with a high gloss, pearlescent paint and is vented with metal mesh. The front I/O panel for the Elite 310 is found at the very bottom. The standard ports are included; two USB ports, headphone and microphone, as well as a cutout for an optional Firewire port.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front panel comes off easily by pinching the inside tabs one at a time and pulling the bezel off further and further each time. I was able to remove the front bezel by only popping out the tabs on one side without having to touch the others. Once a few were popped, the front rotates out of the way and tabs on the other side pull out easily.

 

 

So far, the case looks good. It’s lightweight, but sturdy, has an attractive look, and the textured paint has a nice finish that completely eliminates fingerprint marks. The case doesn't have the cheap look that some budget cases do, and a few of my roommates commented on how good it looks. The case is supported by four hard plastic feet. The hard plastic doesn't offer a lot of friction for hard surfaces as opposed to rubber, but if it is sitting on carpet or secured in a desk then there is no worry of it sliding around.

 

 

Closer Look:

Opening the Elite 310 is easy, thanks to the included thumb screws on the side panels. Once inside, a clean and simple interior presents itself. The optical drive bays and the PCI slot covers are the tear out type, which means they’re held in by a little leftover metal from the cutting process and only requires a little bit of wiggling to get them out. Once they’re out, they don’t go back in. This is common for the optical drives, but I haven’t seen this as much for the PCI slot covers anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the Elite 310 is room for four 5.25" bays, two external 3.5" bays and five internal 3.5" drive bays. Included is a rear 120mm exhaust fan above the PCI slots. The fan has a 3-pin header and includes a 4-pin adapter. The area beside the PCI slots is perforated, which allows for additional passive airflow, although the small holes do seem restrictive and not as effective as they could be. I like to turn my hard drives around in order to have less wires showing. This is achievable in this case, but without right angle SATA power and signal cables, it’s impossible to slide the drives far enough back to allow the screw holes to line up. I tucked the wires as best as I could, but the case itself had nothing in place to help with wire management. There is only about an inch between the stock heatsink and the power supply, which doesn’t leave much room for some of the enormous coolers on the market today. To narrow it down, any coolers that extend more than half an inch past the top of the motherboard will not fit.

 

 

 

Included accessories are pretty slim; one bag of screws, one bag of zip ties, and the rear 120mm fan, which is factory-installed as an exhaust fan. It runs off of 12v and has a 0.16A current draw. The fan includes a directly attached 3-pin connector, as well as a 3-pin to 4-pin molex adapter. The case includes a small tab of metal that sticks out through the side panel in the rear that you can put a lock through. This is useful for the LAN party goers, because when the lock is in place, the side panel cannot be removed.

   

 

The construction has impressed me so far, considering the price. I feel that Cooler Master hasn't taken the inexpensive route to save a buck anywhere on this case, but coming up, the case will be tested where it counts the most - temperature.

Specifications:

Model
RC-310-BWN1-GP
Color

Black with blue front panel

Dimension

191 x 437 x 468 mm / 7.5 x 17.2 x 18.4 inches

Weight

Net Weight: 5.8kg / 12.8 lb ; Gross Weight: 6.9 kg / 15.2 lb

Material

Steel Body ; ABS plastic front bezel

Motherboards

ATX /Micro-ATX

5.25” Drive Bay

4 Exposed

3.5” Drive bay

6 Hidden
1 Exposed

I/O Panel

USB 2.0 x 2, Mic x 1, Audio x 1 (support HD audio), IEEE 1394a (optional)

Cooling System

Rear: 120 x 25mm fan x 1 / 1200 RPM / 17 dBA (pre-installed) 80mm / 90mm (optional)
Front: 120 x 25 mm fan x 1(optional)
Side: 80 / 90 / 120 mm fan x 1 (optional)

Expansion Slots

x 7


Features

 

 

 

 

Information courtesy of Coolermaster @ http://coolermaster-usa.com/product.php?category_id=19&product_id=2920

 

Testing:

Now it’s time to find out how well the Cooler Master Elite 310 performs under the extreme heat that the latest hardware can put out. To test the Elite 310, temperatures will be recorded of the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and the overall system temperature during load and idle phases. Load will be simulated by Prime95 small FFTs and HD tune for 1 hour with maximum temperatures recorded by RealTemp, and the GPU load will be the maximum value recorded by Rivatuner after five loops of 3DMark06’s Canyon Flight test. Fan configuration is front and side (bottom position) 120mm intakes and a rear exhaust. The data collected from the other cases will have the same fan configuration and top exhaust if applicable.

 

Testing Setup:

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These results where right where I expected them, with a little surprise on the hard drive temperature, where it outperformed both comparison cases. I didn't expect this due to the appearance of the front bezel; there isn't any perforations in the plastic and only a little bit of perforation between the blue accent and the plastic area, as noted in the Closer Look pages. I didn't expect a lot of air to flow through the small surface area of the opening for the front 120mm intake. The higher chipset temperatures are most likely due to the lower position of the side panel fan, which didn't push enough air over the chipset heatsink.

Conclusion

For the sub $40 price tag, the Elite 310 is great for the gamer on a budget. The thickness of the sheet metal dialed in at about 0.71mm according to my caliper, which is definitely acceptable for the price. I have seen plenty of cases marked at the same price that were obviously lower quality and used thinner metal construction. The paint is durable, the case is lightweight, but rigid, it's attractive, and comes with a pre-installed Plexiglas window. Replaceable PCI slots and a little more room at the top would have been nice, but it’s hard to argue that those things should be included for the price. Although all the interior edges were rolled, I did cut myself picking it up by the rear hole that the power supply shows through. This is how I’ve handled all my cases, and this is the first one that cut me by carrying it that way. The one edge Cooler Master did not roll for safety is the one that ended up showing me to be more careful. That aside, the case is a worthy purchase, especially for its small dip into the wallet.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: