Cooler Master CM 690 II Advanced Case Review

jlqrb - 2009-12-14 13:01:51 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: jlqrb   
Reviewed on: January 6, 2010
Price: $99.99

Introduction:

The Cooler Master CM 690 was released into the market in 2007 and has since become one of Cooler Master's more successful cases. The reason for this success was due to it being a case designed with enthusiasts in mind, but at the same time offer features, simplicity, and a low enough price to make it a good fit for users regardless of their computing needs. Even though it was commercially successful, the case was not without some criticism. Many did not like the cable management system, flimsy feeling power and reset switches, or the awkward placement of the front I/O ports. On top of this, the sub $100 dollar case market has become quite crowded in the last year and you really need to push the envelope to stand out in it and stay competitive. So, in the development of the CM 690 II Cooler Master not only turned to their development team, but also focus groups and end-user suggestions, to create a case that keeps the best aspects of its predecessor, but also adds features and innovations that will improve upon the original design.

Cooler Master is releasing the case as both the CM 690 II and CM 690 II Advanced. Each case will be a mid-sized steel chassis that is visually the same and have most of the same features, but the advanced model will include a few additional goodies and a higher price tag than the non-advanced model. The additional features of the Advanced version are a GPU retention bracket, 2-1 SSD bay and an external hard drive dock. These features will make it more appealing and should really increase the demand for the case in the enthusiast market. Also, there is no need for fans of original to worry about the CM 690 as it not going anywhere soon. The reason being is that the release of the CM 690 II will not phase it out, instead the new cases will become part of the existing CM line-up.

 

Closer Look:

The case comes packaged in an appealing high gloss black box. The front of the packaging has an angled image of the CM 690 II, with the name and company logo next to the image. The back of the box shows both internal and external views of the case from a few different angles, with a few smaller images below that show off some of the new features of the case. Turning the box to the sides, you see that one side has the listed specifications for the case and the other an image CM 690 II.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the box open, you can see that the CM 690 II is wrapped in a thin plastic layer and is secured into the packaging with two Styrofoam inserts on each side of the case. The accessories that are included consist of installation screws, motherboard stand-offs, 3.5" bracket, cable ties, 5.25" to 3.5" mesh panel, plastic rivets, a buzzer, and a VGA retention bracket; most of these accessories will be found in both the regular and advanced models except the VGA retention bracket. The bracket is for SLI and Crossfire users to reduce the amount of strain two or three large graphics cards can add to the motherboard. The bracket, when installed, sits next to your graphics cards and is secured in place by two screws through the back of the case that can be adjusted to fit different card set-ups or motherboards. The bracket also has the option to house a 80mm case fan for additional VGA cooling.

 

 

 

Now that we have looked packaging of the CM 690 II, we can move on and take a closer look at the case.

Closer Look:

Once unpacked, you can see that the CM 690 II has kept the overall look of the original case intact, but they have definitely made some refinements that help the case have a more modern and sleek look. The front bezel is a combination of plastic and steel mesh that has two chrome strips on each side that extend all the way throughout the front of the case and continue along top. The steel mesh design of the case, though pleasing to the eyes, is also an important part of the case's ventilation. The open nature of the mesh allows air to travel through it, creating better passageway for air entering and exiting the case. On the side panels of the CM 690 II there are ventilation holes that can fit additional case fans, but like its predecessor some, fans are included with the case. The side panel opposite of the motherboard tray has room for two case fans and can accommodate either 80, 92, 120 or 140mm fans. The other side panel has a much smaller fan opening which will fit a single 80mm case fan. All in all, the CM 690 II can support up to ten case fans throughout the chassis, with five of the areas having support for 140mm fans. The rear panel on the 690 II has been redone and now has a 7+1 expansion area, two top water cooling outlets that support 5/8" ID tubing and is black in color to match the rest of the case. Moving to the back of the the CM 690 II, you see, like most well designed cases, it has a bottom mounted power supply to reduce heat transfer between the CPU and PSU - which improves cooling in both areas. Also, on the back there is a rear 120mm exhaust fan above the expansion area with the motherboard I/O area next to the fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The control panel on the CM 690 II is located on the top bezel and it situated near the front. This is a big change from the original which had the I/O on the top, but the power and reset switches were on the side of the front bezel.  The panel includes a fan LED on/off switch, e-SATA, audio jacks, USB 2.0, a reset switch, and a power switch. Behind the panel is a protective cover for a feature that is another exclusive to the Advanced model and one that we will take a look at in the next segment. Behind the protective cover the mesh design continues and extends all the way to the top portion of the back of the case. The whole top mesh panel can be easily removed to allow access to the chassis below it. Here you can choose to install either dual exhaust fans or a water cooling set-up. The top of the chassis can support either a 280mm or 240mm radiator and has enough room for the fans on a 240mm radiator to be installed on the top of the chassis. The open design of the exhaust holes (which was developed from end-user feedback) lowers air restriction and reduce turbulence, which will allow air to travel more freely at lower noise levels. The cables coming from the control panel on the top bezel run through the rectangular opening near the front and extend down into the case.

 

 

Removing the cover that I mentioned in the segment before gives you access to an external HDD dock, which is one of the neater features of the CM 690 II Advanced case. This dock complies with SATA standards and is able to fit both 3.5" and 2.5" SATA drives. To install the drive into the bay, you simply angle your HDD and slide it into the SATA power and data connectors. The power and data for the dock is supplied from cables inside the case that are plug into the motherboard and a Molex power connector. It is extremely easy to set-up and it actually looked really cool when the drive was in place. This feature could come in handy for those that switch hard drives often, need fast data transfer and will really come in handy for my next hard drive review! You can also use the dock to run your Operating system or as hot swap. In order for it to properly be used, you will need to set the particular SATA port and hard drive in a certain mode. When you are not using the dock, you can slide the protective cover back over the opening which will protect the area from dust or accidental damage.

 

 

The front bezel on the chassis comes off quite easily and since there are no LEDs or power buttons on the front, there are no cables attached to the panel. There are four removable mesh covers that are placed in front of each ODD drive bay; these covers need to be removed before installing optical drives into place. The mesh covers over the drive bays have a thin inner screen that will help prevent dust from entering the case.  The front of the chassis, like the top, employs an open air design and houses a single 140mm LED case fan that brings air in though the front and moves it over the hard drive area. This fan can be adjusted and moved either up or down depending on the cooling needs of the user.

 

 

The bottom of the case is well ventilated and, as you can see, Cooler Master has kept the large rubber feet design introduced with the CM 690 - there are also rubber pads under the front feet. The rubber feet and pads, like those on the original, give the 690 II a rugged look, but also keep the case very sturdy and reduce vibration throughout.  The bottom of the chassis is well elevated and sits 0.5" from the ground.  This should allow for ample airflow to the power supply to aid in cooling.

 

Closer Look:

With the side panels off, you can see that internally the CM 690 II has had a major overhaul. The cable management system is greatly improved from the previously used clamp system and now has holes that run the cables behind the motherboard tray, to reduce cable clutter. Also, to aid in cable management, there are eleven anchor points for zip-ties to secure your cables to the back of the tray. Some of the other new visible features are a CPU back-plate access area, up-dated tool-less rails and the black paint job. As far as room goes, the 690 II appears to have plenty of it inside the case and Cooler Master's measurements give 11.96 inches from the back of the case to the hard drive bays. This should be more than enough space to house most graphics cards on the market, but unfortunately the HD5970 runs longer in length than most cards and it will not be able to fit. Other than that, the 690 II could accommodate a killer gaming setup. The motherboard tray has small screw holes throughout for installing the stand-offs, which can be placed to fit either ATX or Micro-ATX style motherboards. When removing the side panels they felt a little thin and flimsy. That is not to say they felt cheap, they just bent easier than I expected them to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The CM 690 II can support up to four 5.25" optical drives. To install these drives, the case uses a new toggle style tool-less rail that can install the drive without having to be removed from the case. This is done by moving the switch into the open position and then sliding the drive into the bay.  Once in, you simply flip the switch back into the lock position and that is it. It is extremely easy to use and one of the better tool-less rails I have used.

 

 

The CM 690 II can support up to six internal 3.5" drives in the hard drive cage located directly below the optical drive bays. The tool-less trays used in the CM 690 II are the same found in the popular HAF 932 case. They are easy to use and hold the hard drive securely into the cage. Also, each tray uses rubber anti-vibration mounts to reduce noise created from vibration. To install the drive, you bend it outward on the side of the tray and align the screw holes on the drive with the installation pins on the tray.  Once you have the drive on the tray, simply slide it back into the cage and lock it into place. The top HDD tray has an included adapter inside it that will allow you to install two 2.5" or 1.8" drives on to it and can then be placed into the hard drive cage. Most of the hard drive cage can be removed to allow for installation of a bottom mounted 240mm radiator. This is the second area that can house a radiator which is an impressive feat for a mid-sized $100 dollar case.

 

 

 

The back expansion access area has replaced the tool-less bracket with black thumb-screws for securing rear expansion cards. I prefer this method as it secures the expansion cards more securely and eliminates any issues the tool-less bracket might have fitting your cards properly. The CM 690 II has 7+1 expansion slots with the usual seven running horizontally down the back of the case, the other expansion slot is vertical and is located on the opposite side of the motherboard tray. The vertical slot on the back can be used for expansion brackets that plug into the headers on your motherboard, this could be beneficial to people that need large amounts of USB or Firewire brackets, but don't have room for them in the regular slots. Each slot has a removable black cover placed over it, which can be taken out by unscrewing the thumb-screw. Below the expansion slots is the power supply area. This area has a large ventilation hole below the power supply and four small rubber pads to hold the power supply off of the bottom of the case.

 

 

The back-plate access area is the smallest of any case I have reviewed so far. My AM3 motherboard did fit, but I am used to having a little more access room to work with here.  The CPU area is different from motherboard to motherboard so you just have to hope that Cooler Master tested the area thoroughly across multiple sockets in development. This feature is always a nice addition, though, and one that is quickly becoming a standard across all prices ranges.

 

 

Cooler Master has included one 120mm and two 140mm case fans. All are made by Cooler Master and have a 3-pin power connector with a dual headed power adapter attached to it. One of the 140mm fans is a clear fan with blue LED lighting; this fan sits in the front and the LED lights can be turned on or off with a button on the top bezel. The non-LED 140mm and 120mm fans are exhaust fans that are located at the back and top of the case. The 120mm case fan is rated at 1200RPM and pushes 44 CFM with a sound level of 19.8dBA, the two larger fans are 1200RPM and are rated at 17dBA. It is nice to see all of the fans rated under 20dBA.

 

 

During the installation I did not run into any issues and the updated cable management system worked great, which allowed me to easily hide all of my cables behind the motherboard tray. My graphics card fit easily in to place and left a little under a half inch of clearance. Once I had a few zip ties on, the side panel slid back in to place and I did not notice any bending due to the cables. With the case on, you can see the blue LED lighting in the front which is not too bright or flashy, but definitely adds to the appearance the case. The LED on the fan is turned on by default, but it is easily turned off on the top panel.

 

 

Now that we have had a good look at the case and new features, we can get on to testing the cooling performance of the CM 690 II.

Specifications:

 

Available Color Black
Material Steel body / Plastic + Mesh bezel
Dimensions (W/H/D) 214.5 x 511.8 x 528.8mm / 8.4 x 20.1 x 20.8 inches

Weight

Net Weight: 9.56kg / 21.08lbs

Gross Weight: 11.56kg / 25.49lbs

Motherboard Type
Micro-ATX / ATX
5.25" Drive Bay 4 (without the use of exposed 3.5" drive bay)

3.5" Drive Bay

6 Hidden

1 Exposed (Converted from one 5.25" drive bay

I/O Panel

USB 2.0 x 2, eSATA x 1, MIC x 1, Audio x 1

(supports HD / AC97 audio)

Expansion Slot 7 + 1

Cooling System

Front: 140 x 25mm Blue LED fan x 1 / 1200 RPM / 19dba

Rear: 120mm fan x 1 / 1200 RPM / 17dba

Top 140 x 25mm fan x 1 / 1200 RPM / 19dba

(supports 120 / 120mm fan x 2)

Bottom: 120mm fan x 2 (optional)

Right Side: 120 / 140mm fan x 2 (optional)

Left Side: 80 x 15mm x 1 (optional)

HDD Cage: 120mm fan x 1 (optional)

VGA Holder: 80 x 15mm fan x 1 (optional)

Power Supply Standard ATX PS2 / EPS 12v (optional)

 

 

 

Information courtesy of Cooler Master

Testing:

With three case fans all rated under 20dBA and no side intake fan, it will be interesting to see the cooling performance of the CM 690 II compared to other cases. One of the cases I will compare it to is the IN WIN Fanqua that I reviewed last month. The Fanqua has three case fans like the 690 II, but it also has an extra 220mm side intake fan that supplies addition cooling throughout the case. For testing, I will be running thirty minute long stress tests of each component and using HWMonitor to read each temperature. This should give an accurate reading of the load temperatures of the case. The comparison cases are IN WIN's Fanqua case, Antec's Three Hundred case and Tagan's A+ Black Pearl full size case. The IN WIN Fanqua and Antec Three Hundred both retail for under $100 dollars, which puts them in the same price range as the CM 690 II.

 

 

Testing System:

 

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The CM 690 II performed very well and managed to stay equal to or within a few degrees of the IN WIN Fanqua case even without addition of side cooling. The real surprise though was that the CM 690 II performed so well with fans that are barely audible and, in fact, the loudest fan I heard during the review was the one on my graphics card.

Conclusion:

The CM 690 II Advanced is an astounding case that met, and even managed to exceed, all of the expectations I had going into the review. During the cooling benchmarks, it performed very well and managed to keep each internal component cool and did so with fans that were extremely quiet. During the installation, the new cable management system worked very well, allowing the cables to run nicely behind the motherboard tray keeping them out of view and preventing any reduction in airflow. While not all ten fans are included, the latest revision of the CM 690 can be equipped with up to that amount. On top of that, Cooler Master really paid attention to the water cooling needs of the enthusiast market. The predecessor to the this case, the CM 690, was a popular case for water coolers, but it required quite a bit of modification to get the radiators to fit. Not any more! This is the only mid-tower chassis that can accommodate two radiators without modification to the case. If that's not a step forward, I really don't know what is. These are just a few of the positive aspects the CM 690 II brings to the table and I could go on and on about the case, but I will stop myself here and just say that all of the development time and feedback applied to the CM 690 II really paid off. Of course, as with all products there are some issues, but when the biggest of these issues was that the side panels felt a tad flimsy, you know there really is not very much to complain about.

With two versions being released, Cooler Master has really set up the 690 II to do very well in the sub $100 market. The CM 690 II Advanced will retail for $99.99 and give you looks, cooling performance, price, and features that would be hard to find on any case regardless of the price range. For 79.99, you can get the non-Advanced model which includes most of the same great characteristics that the Advanced has, but just loses a few of the more unique features. With all that these two cases offer, Cooler Master has really created a great product that is functional, economical, and will fit nicely in the CM line-up.

After using the case for some time now, I would highly recommend it to any mainstream user, gamer, enthusiast, or just about anyone in the market for a new computer case. Sadly, the only people that need not apply are users or future users of the ATI HD5970 graphics card, which is just too long to fit (without modification) in the supplied 11.96" of space. In the end, I liked the CM 690 II so much that it will be retiring my current computer case that has been in use for the last two years.

 

 

Pros:

 

Cons: