Cooler Master 690 II Advanced Review

Author: Pier-Luc Gendreau
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/cm_690_ii_advanced/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Over the years, Coolermaster has become a respected name among computer builders. One of their more notable successes is the original CM 690. Introduced just over two years ago, this mid tower was (and is) generally liked for its great balance of aesthetics, build quality and features, all for a reasonable price. Time has passed and now Coolermaster kicks off 2010 with a refreshed version -- the CM 690 II Advanced.

Visually, the CM 690 II is very similar to the original. Coolermaster kept the classic looking matte black and the new design is also primarily a steel chassis with only the front and top framing made out of plastic. It ships with three fans, room for eight more and makes possible the installation of two, yes two, radiators for water cooling. The company took the best of the original CM 690 and improved upon it, making the second edition very promising. Without any further ado, lets see how it stacks up!

The CM 690 II Advanced ships in a pretty neat looking black box with the model name clearly displayed. As you can see, the box took quite a hit during shipping and, as a result, the case unfortunately suffered a slight dent on the side panel.

On the back side, Cooler Master shows off their brand new case under a few more angles and also highlighted some of the enclosure's main features. It definitely seems like Cooler Master has cooked up some interesting stuff for us to enjoy.

With the packaging out the way, the steel case comes in at rather heavy 22 pounds, significantly more than most mid towers out there. On the main side panel, Cooler Master made two openings that can accommodate 80, 92, 120 or 140 millimeter fans. The other panel also has room to install an 80mm fan right behind the processor's socket. However, those three intake fans are optional so you will have to buy them separately.

The front's framing consists of good quality plastic pillars separated from the central part by a neat looking chrome lining. The rest of the facade is entirely made out of steel mesh and leaves you with four 5.25" drive bays, a 140mm intake fan and Cooler Master's logo. On the back, you'll find a slightly different layout than other mid towers,but first of all, noticed how there's nothing but steel back there. The power supply is located at the bottom and there's also a vertical PCI brackets on the right which we will look into in the coming pages. Additionally, they also drilled a couple holes at the top for water cooling tubing.

The power and reset buttons are located on top along with power on and drive activity LEDs. There's also an eSATA ports, a couple USB 2.0 ports as well as an audio input and output. Right behind is a really neat feature only found on the Advanced version of the CM 690 II.

Using it is as easy as it seems; simply slide in a SATA drive and you're good to go. However, in order to use it as a hot swap bay, there are a few rules to follow. Your SATA controller must be set in AHCI mode and follow the proper procedure within your operating system before removing it. In Windows, it's the same steps as ejecting a USB drive. If your SATA controller cannot be set to AHCI, you should only install and remove a drive when the computer is turned off.

Finally, at the bottom, Cooler Master installed a mesh filter to keep dust out. It's pretty good, but the holes are fairly large so it's not likely to catch the smaller dust particles like a cloth filter would. Also, the filter is held by tabs so you have to lightly squeeze it to take it on and off. Unfortunately, that means it is not possible to do it blindly so you'll have to turn the case over to clean it which is annoying and actually impossible if you have a water cooling setup.

Now that we've gone around the outside, it's time to take the side panels off and take a peek inside. They each are held by two thumbscrews and simply have to be slided towards the back in order to release them. The panels are surprisingly heavy, but it's understandable considering they are made out of 0.7mm steel.

The inside of the CM 690 II is pretty roomy for a mid tower and Cooler Master had the great idea to paint the whole thing in black. It supports micro ATX and ATX motherboards, up to eleven fans, four 5.25" drives and six 3.25" drives. They has also cut holes in the motherboard tray to neatly route cables.

All the drive bays are equipped with a tool-less system, making installation totally painless. For the 5.25" bays, simply pull the lever in "open" position, slide the drive in and push the lever back to "lock." The system feels solid unlike others I have run into which often feel flimsy. For hard drives, once you pulled the caddy out, it's just a matter of aligning the drive's holes with the caddy's pins. The topmost caddy can be used to attach two 2.5" drives, the form factor used by most solid state drives. You'll need a screwdriver for this one though.

There are holes to attach an optional 120mm fan on the drive bays and the bottom four bays can also be removed to make room for a second watercooling radiator, long video cards or simply for improving airflow. To take it off, you'll first have to remove four screws on the bottom and one on the back.

Once that is done, the sides will be loose and all that's left to do is pull them out. They are tight and require some prying the first few times, but they quickly loosen up. With this drive cage out of the way, the case now has much more room to breathe, but only a couple hard drive bays.

The case is designed to house the power supply at the bottom and sits on rubber grommets to keep vibrations at a minimum. With this configuration, the power supply will draw fresh air from the bottom and push it right back out instead of being fed with pre-heated air coming from the processor.

The top panel is held by six tabs which have to pushed inwards before you can pull it up. Be careful and take it slow when doing this as the cables going to the front panel are tightly routed and you don't want to accidentally knock one of the connectors off. The top has room to welcome a pair of 120 or 140mm fans or a radiator. The front panel is also held by six clips and has the necessary holes to install a single 120 or 140mm fans. Cooler Master drilled two sets of holes so the fan can be attached higher or lower depending on your setup.

With the CM 690 II Advanced, Cooler Master includes a complete accessory set. The manual does a good job at explaining how to install hardware in the case and there is plenty of screws -- in fact way more than you'll need. There's also a 5.25" to 3.25" adapter for floppy drives or card readers, a dozen of zip ties, an internal speaker and an odd looking piece of steel used to support large video cards.

On the motherboard tray, there's a chart that shows where to install standoffs depending on your board's form factor. The hole cut out behind the processor's socket is generously large and lets you install a heatsink with a backplate without having to remove the motherboard. Very handy!

That vertical PCI bracket is very clever, making it possible to install a bracket with extra USB, eSATA or perhaps FireWire ports. There's one rather large caveat to this great idea though -- none of the brackets I had on hand had long enough cables to reach the motherboard connectors, thus rendering this neat feature pretty much useless.

With everything installed, the CM 690 II Advanced features make it relatively easy to do a good cable management job. The cut-outs done in the tray as well as the space left between the tray and the side panel made it possible to route cables neatly for optimal airflow. I used the Noctua NH-U12P heatsink and while it did fit without issues, it's about as big as you can go in this case. It also made it impossible to install a fan in the top opening on the inside of the side panel. Also shown is the video card support which can hold up to three dual slot video cards and take stress off the board. Speaking of video cards, the maximum length with the drive cage installed is 304mm or just a tad under 12".

In order to get representative results, I will test the Cooler Master 690 II Advanced as is -- no other fans will be added. I will mount an Intel Core i7 system in the case and record temperatures at both idle and load. Results will be compared with those of previously tested cases.

Testing Setup

Even though the CM 690 II Advanced is a mid tower, the good layout and cable management features lets it shine even against large full towers. The processor idled slightly warmer, but evened out under load. The video card was also kept on par with the ATCS 840, while it was able to keep the hard drive running cooler than all the others. The case also performed significantly better than the other mid tower -- the Antec Sonata.

The original CM 690 was a success and there is no doubt in my mind that this second iteration will also sell like hotcakes. Of course, there is no perfect product out there, but the CM 690 II Advanced isn't far from one. The case only has a few minor weak points so I'll get rid of them right away.

First, the drive cage could really use a couple more screws instead of the current system which seems like it will get flimsy after repeated use. Secondly, the vertical PCI bracket is hit or miss depending on the bracket's cable length that came with your motherboard. However, Cooler Master installed it as close as they could so it's a neat feature, but you may or may not be able to use it.

Other than these minor issues, the case is absolutely great. Their tool less system for drives works exceedingly well, is easy to use and holds drives nice and tight. It also feels like it's built to last, unlike many other tool free systems. Its layout is also well thought out, giving you ample room for cable management and even water cooling.

The CM 690 II Advanced is also graced with excellent build quality, thanks to all the steel used throughout the case. In fact, the only plastic you'll find are the tool less mechanism for drives and the outside framing. Fortunately, Cooler Master opted for good quality plastics which do not feel flimsy at all.

When it came to cooling, the case also performed well, especially considering it's a mid tower. It was able to keep every component running nice and cool while remaining quiet. The CM 690 II did all that carrying pretty good looks, more on the classy side rather than flashy. The front fan's blue LED can be turned on and off by the push of a button, which I found to be a neat addition.

Overall, the CM 690 II Advanced is an awesome enclosure. It's well built, looks great and it's priced right. Speaking of price, the Advanced version will be available for $100, but there will also be a cheaper regular edition for $80. The extra $20 you have to pony up for the Advanced gets you an additional 140mm fan, the video card retainer, the 2-in-1 2.5" drive bay and the very clever external hard drive dock. If any of these features appeal to you, it is well worth the slight premium. For me, the hard drive dock alone is worth it. The original 690 was a great case and Coolermaster has definitely stepped up and made the second one even better.

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