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Cooler Master Elite 430 ATX Case Review

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AkG

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These days, you can’t buy all that much for less than sixty bucks. Some games have topped $70 in some cases while memory, video card and even CPU prices seem to be rapidly spiralling out of control. Cooler Master on the other hand is looking to add a bit of sensibility to the proceedings by introducing a gully featured case featuring better than expected build quality for less than sixty dollars. Surprised? Well you shouldn’t be since this is one company that we have come to expect such things of.

The fact of the matter is for every person who is willing to spend $100+ on a “simple case” there are literally dozens of people who simply want a good, reliable product without any of the frivolity some include to help justify their inflated prices. In a market which is cluttered with either $150 and higher behemoths or cheaply made sub-$100 products, the Elite series from Cooler Master has always represented a means by which entry level buyers can purchase quality and features for a fair price. Unfortunately, the older Elite lineup was getting a bit long in the tooth and lagging behind in the feature department so a replacement was brewed. The new Elite 430 is supposed to continue the longstanding tradition of this line by throwing most of the inexpensive enclosure preconceptions out the window and blazing a new trail.

Luckily, since the Elite 430 is basically the bread and butter of Cooler Master’s lineup, finding it isn’t all that hard and its price is of course extremely competitive. If you happen to miss one of the sales that bring the 430’s price to slightly under $50 USD, expect to pay no more than $55 to $60 for it.

When you combine this good asking price with what on paper looks to be some great new features, this could be the case many will be looking at for their budget builds.

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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/cases/Elite430/specs.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/cases/Elite430/specs2.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/cases/Elite430/specs3.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/cases/Elite430/specs4.jpg" border="0" alt="" />

<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/cases/Elite430/specs5.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
 
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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


CoolerMaster_Elite430_box_f_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_box_b_sm.jpg

Unlike some past Elite’s which come in a more drab uncolored cardboard box, the Elite 430 comes in a full colour box done in classic Cooler Master purple and white. We like this colour scheme as while it is elegant and refined while still being flashy enough to attract attention in amongst other boxes in a typical retail environment.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_box_o_sm.jpg

As expected, the internal packaging scheme is more than adequate to protect its sturdy contents from harm. As with many computer cases we have received over the years, the Elite 430 is nestled in the center of the cardboard box with two large Styrofoam end caps to help keep it stable and safe. The computer case itself is also further protected from scratches and other assorted ills via a plastic bag.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_access_s,.jpg

The list of accessories is in keeping with the frugal philosophy which the Elite line is known for. Included is everything which you need to properly set up your system but if you are looking for frivolous things like case badges, Cooler Master branded lanyards or anything else that is not necessary to complete your install, you will be disappointed. We personally find this refreshing as we prefer to spend money on the case and not the accessories (which do add to the overall price one way or another).

You get a bag of screws and motherboard standoffs which are made from brass (not cheaper the steel like some value orientated cases include), some zip ties for tidying up your system, a small plug in speaker, various optical and hard drive tool-less mooting mechanisms and an installation pamphlet.
 
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AkG

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions


CoolerMaster_Elite430_ang_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_ang2_sm.jpg

Unlike many of the massive cases that have been released lately, the 430 is a standard ATX-sized affair which is clad in a wonderful all-black finish and features a single plexi window on one side. The overall style is one of simplicity with mainly graceful curves and ruler straight lines which doesn’t offend in any way. Usually, what you get in this price range is either ugly slab-sided affairs, garish “Transformers” plastic blobs or cases so boring that they could be lumps of silly putty for the all the emotions they produce.

Naturally, this case doesn’t exude sophistication and sexiness like an ATCS 840, or even elicit a strong response like a HAF 932 does. However it does look a lot better than something in this price range has any right to and that is high praise indeed.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_top_back_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_top_ports_sm.jpg

The top of the case shows us a pair of 120mm fan housings. We really like seeing top exhaust ports on a case in the 430’s price range since this is a feature that should help keep the interior cool yet is omitted by most other budget friendly products. These housings also have integrated mesh filters in case you decide to populate these two areas with intake fans as opposed to an exhaust-style setup.

Otherwise, there are no hidden departments, no integrated holder for odds and ends, no popup front panel or anything other than a flat all metal top with raised surfaces for the dual 120mm exhaust ports. All in all it is a simple yet effective design.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_front_on_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_ODD_bays_sm.jpg

We can clearly see that the front of the Elite 430 has a nice concave styling to it with a front 120mm intake fan and easily removable mesh-style drive bay covers. Unlike the previous 350 Elite which used four 5.25 bays, this new model “only” has room for three 5.25 devices as the top one has been given over to housing the newly located IO panel. There are also two floppy drive / external 3.5” bays which come in handy for things like internal lighting switches, flash drive readers, smaller water cooling reservoirs, and so on.

Meanwhile, the IO ports on the front of this case are rather on the anaemic side but offer more than is typical for a sub-$100 case. In grand total you get two USB 2.0 ports, a microphone and headphone jack. We just wish one or two more USB ports were included.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_leds2_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_leds_sm.jpg

The activity power and hard drive LEDs, reset and power buttons are located about half way down the front of the case and straddle the dual 3.5 exterior bays. The buttons are unfortunately on the small side, and are actually a little difficult to find without looking directly at the front of the case due to their black chrome finish and diminutive footprints. That being said we’re happy they don’t stick out like a sore thumb also have a nice reassuring feel to them without feeling mushy, cheap or brittle.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_front_OFF_sm.jpg

As with many cases in this price range the front fascia is one “top to bottom” plastic piece which is easily removed by gently yet firmly yanking it off as it is held in placed with small plastic clips. We have found that many budget case manufacturers “forget” to paint the actual chassis of the case and rather rely on the plastic front to keep the overall appearance clean so it is nice to see that Cooler Master did not take this cost cutting procedure.

Curiously, while all the 5.25” and 3.5” bays include foam dust filters, the intake area for the front fan is lacking any such system. It is meshed in order to keep large objects out of the case, but unfortunately dust can and will be sucked into the case due to this lack of filters.
 
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AkG

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Exterior Impressions p.2


Considering this case can be had for as little as fifty dollars we were quite impressed to see a nice big window taking up most of the right side panel. As you can see the window comes with a fan port consisting of longitudinal groves cut into the Plexiglas through which the air can be either sucked into or exhausted out of the case via an optional fan.

The only issue we have with this windowed side panel was the fact that it only has cutouts for one 120mm fan port yet the information on the box clearly states “two 120mm or 140mm fan ports”. Most likely the box ours came in was either the wrong or a future version of the Elite 430 will in fact come with dual 120/140mm fan capable ports. Nonetheless, this is a glaring error on Cooler Master’s part.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_screw_sm.jpg

Both side panels do not use complicated door locking mechanisms to secure them to the case. Rather, the Elite 430 uses the older and time proven method of multiple thumb screws on the back of the case (through the lip of the side panel) to attach the side panels. It is a cost effective method and effective method which provides more than enough support.


Moving our examination unto the back of the case we come to a sensible arrangement which has also been done in all black motif. As you can see the first thing which stands out is the bottom mounted PSU location.

At the top we have a decently ventilated 120mm fan exhaust (with holes for 80 and 92mm fans as well) next to the I/O panel where your motherboard would go. Further down we can see that this case is capable of handling the more typical seven slot motherboards. This is fairly par for the course and if you have more esoteric needs (such as 8 or 10 slots for Folding @ Home GPU farms) you are most likely going to have to go with a full tower case.

In a half-hearted move, Cooler Master also included two water cooling tube holes above the rear exhaust port but rubber grommets aren’t included.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_bottom_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_bottom_psu_sm.jpg

Since the Elite 430 is a bottom mounted power supply case, the design of its lower extremities is crucial. Luckily, Cooler Master designed it with a large power supply vent area which also comes with a mesh filter.

Directly in front of the PSU intake area is another fan port which is capable of 80mm, 92mm or 120mm mounting but unlike the designated PSU area, this one is not filtered. On the positive side, the feet that accompany the 430 are nice and large which allow for adequate air circulation underneath the chassis.
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions

InteriorImpressions


CoolerMaster_Elite430_side_off.jpg

As you can see Cooler Master took the time and effort to paint the interior a nice flat black to match the exterior. It should also be mentioned that the paint used is scratch resistant which is a great addition to a product in the 430’s price category.

On first glance it also appears that they did not try to get fancy with the interior layout. At the front bottom of the case you have a 5 bay hard drive cage with a 120mm cooling fan located directly in front of it. Above this you have the two external accessible 3.5” bays followed by the three 5.25” bays.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_front_fan_port2_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_fan_sm.jpg

As for the fan Cooler Master opted for, this 120mm x 25mm 7 bladed fan is made by XIN CHANGFENG ELECTRONICS CO. LTD who are better known as Martech and is labeled as a DF1202512SELN (or in Cooler Master nomenclature is “A12025-12CB-3BN-F1”). The same fan is used in the NZXT Panzerbox and its faster siblings the ‘RFLN is used in the NZXT Beta Evo (though NZXT opted for a rifle bearing version). While Cooler Master does not list the specification for this fan under the Elite 430 page, “CB” usually means sleeve bearing in Cooler Master nomenclature and it works at 1200RPM and approximately 44CFM.

On the positive side, it is extremely easy to remove the stock fan and replace is with a more high performance 120mm fan as it is only held in place with four long screws.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_hard_drive_cage_sm.jpg
fdd_sm.jpg

Directly behind the only stock cooling solution is the drive cage which features tool-less installation. Interestingly enough it does not rely on the plastic drive cage caddies seen on the 690 series, rather Cooler Master has opted to keep to the older Elite’s way doing things and using small tabs to create ledges where the hard drive will sit. The plastic twist and lock tool free retaining mechanism then locks the drive in position.

The use of these retaining mechanisms on both sides does make for a fairly fast and easy setup; one, which should make installing your hard drives a fairly painless experience. The only issues we have with these types of setups is the drive is not exactly locked in place (as only two small retaining pins per side keep it from moving) nor are there any vibration dampening abilities built in. On the positive side, Cooler Master did not opt for a 90° rotated cage that has once again come back into vogue. While rotated drive cages make installation slightly easier, many cheaply designed ones also block most of the front fans air from reaching the interior.

odd_sm.jpg

The 5.25” drive cage also uses a tool-less retention mechanism but unlike the 3.5” ones these are of the “lever to lock” variety and not the “twist to lock” style. They’re still blissfully simple to use though.
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions p.2

Interior Impressions Cont'd


chasm_sm.jpg

Unlike nearly all bottom mounted cases we have looked at in the past, Cooler Master’s Elite 430 doesn’t have a dedicated cut-out to help with cable routing. This is disappointing since several other cases in approximately the same price range do have this feature and it does help quite a bit when the time comes to tidy up an installation.

The design does however allow for a yawning space between the edge of the motherboard and the HDD cage which can be used for cable routing. Unfortunately, you’ll need tie-downs to ensure the cables don’t start wending their way in odd directions.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_tape2_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_legend_sm.jpg

On the positive side, the additional width this chasm opens up means that pretty darn long graphics cards will fit into the Elite 430. To be exact, a massive12.5 inches of room is given which is enough to swallow even an HD 5970 whole.

Cooler Master has also stamped a legend for the motherboard standoff locations directly into the motherboard tray. This should help with installation and eliminate a lot of guesswork that usually accompanies builds.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_psu_bay_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_psu_bay2_sm.jpg

As noted in previous section, this case is a bottom mounted PSU design that does come with a removable filter for the power supply air vent which is removable from the outside of the case.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_peripheral_slot_covers_sm.jpg

Unfortunately, the seven peripheral expansion slot covers are solid and not ventilated and for some reason Cooler Master did not even take the time to remove them and then reinstall them with screws. They are only partially stamped and you have to wiggle them just like the “optional” water cooling holes on the back of the 430.

Removing them isn’t easy either since the metal is quite thin while the tabs attaching them to the Elite are far too thick. Be prepared for some frustration here folks.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_side_off2_sm.jpg

The back of the motherboard tray shows us much of the same black paint as the rest of the case as well as the now-expected cut-out for a CPU cooler backplate.


Overall, we are quite happy with the features Cooler Master incorporated into the innards of their new budget case but there are still some areas in desperate need of improvement. We’re all for inexpensive but nickel and diming in some areas like dust filters and frustration-inducing expansion slot covers should have been avoided.
 
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AkG

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Installation

Installation


CoolerMaster_Elite430_psu_inst_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_psu_inst2_sm.jpg

As with any case, bottom mount or not, the very first thing we like to do is mount the power supply and get that detail out of the way. To do so, all that’s needed is to slide the power supply into position with the fan pointed towards the bottom air intake and secure it with four screws. There really weren’t any issues with this step and all of the screw holes aligned perfectly.

If you plan to use a non-modular PSU, you are going to have to tuck the unused ones to the side of the hard drive cage, or get similarly creative as this case has no cable routing features worth mentioning. One thing worth noting is if you plan on using a larger power supply such as the XFX 850 Black Edition like we did, you will not be able to mount a 120mm fan in the bottom of the case. The power supply area is simply too short but you will be able to mount a 92 or 80mm fan.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_ODD_bays_inst_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_odd_lock2_sm.jpg

To install your optical drive you first have to remove the front plastic fascia in order to remove the blanking panel. Once this is accomplished you then can reinstall the front plastic fascia and slide your drive into the chosen location. With the drive lined up, it is just a simple matter of locking it in place with the included retention bracket’s switch. This is a true tool-less installation process, which requires no screwdriver and is one of the few that we have come across in the Elite 430’s price range.


Installing a hard drive is very much akin to the installation process we covered above for optical drives. You just slide in the drive and twist the locking bracket to secure the retention mechanism in place. Both sides of the drive cage can use these nifty little retainers but you can also use screws if you want additional security.


CoolerMaster_Elite430_peripheral_slot_covers2_sm.jpg

The installation process quickly takes a turn for the worse when starting on the expansion slot covers. You will want to figure out which blanking plates needed to be removed and remove them BEFORE installing the motherboard. They are held in place with bits of metal instead of the usual screws and are a total pain in the ass to remove properly. We really wish Cooler Master had opted to take the time and effort to hold these things in place some other way before shipping the 430 out the door. Oh, and because of the flimsy metal the covers WILL bend when you try to remove them.
 
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AkG

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Installation pg.2

Installation cont.


CoolerMaster_Elite430_mobo_inst_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_backplate_sm.jpg

With the proper peripheral slot covers removed, the motherboard installation was a breeze. As you can see , heatsink installation is also made easy by the oversized cut-out in the back of the motherboard tray.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_gpu_inst_sm.jpg
CoolerMaster_Elite430_gpu_inst2_sm.jpg

Installing the video card just involved us screwing it into place. With a clear 12.5” of space, there was plenty of place for our smaller GPU.

One thing worth mentioning is while in theory you can mount five hard drives and a bunch of ultra long video cards in this case, if you try and mount any video card that is longer than the motherboard it will most likely block off at least one of your hard drive bays. This is for the simple fact that a standard length 3.5 hard drive overhangs the cage by a good amount. If you are lucky and have a video card with side mounted power ports, you can consider 10 – 10.5” the maximum length a video card can be without it interfering with a hard drive.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_hard_drive_cage2_sm.jpg

Turning our attention to installing the various wires and plug in all the power cables, there was once again no issues worth mentioning. Let’s just say that everything went fairly well but the lack of routing options did make things a lot less tidy than we are used to. However, while the 430 Elite has no dedicated cable routing features per say, there is enough room on the sides of the hard drive cage to tuck away unused cables.

CoolerMaster_Elite430_install.jpg

Overall the installation of components into the Cooler Master 430 is quite easy for a budget-minded case. There are no sharp edges anywhere and its tool-less installation process for 5.25 and 3.5 drives truly makes it a cut above its closest competitors If Cooler Master ever fixes the issue with the peripheral slot covers and water cooling holes, this will be a damn near perfect example of value engineering.
 
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AkG

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Testing Methodology

Testing Methodology


All comparison testing was done with a constant ambient temperature of 24°C. If at any time the room temperature increased or decreased by more than 1°C, testing was halted until the temperature constant was re-established.

All tests are run a minimum of three times and only the best results are represented.
To ensure test results from case to another, all budget orientated cases will be tested with a pair of 120mm Noctua NF-P12-1300 installed. One will populate the rear exhaust port and will be set to exhaust hot air out of the case. The second Noctua fan will be installed in the front intake port, located directly in front of the hard drive bay and will provide fresh air for the case.

CPU Testing


Recorded temps were as reported via the Real Temp plug-in for the RivaTuner monitor program.

Average load temps are based on 15 minutes of running Prime95 “small fft” and are taken directly from RivaTuner’s built in capabilities. While RivaTuner will display each core's average temperature it does not easily show the average of ALL the cores. To this end we will be simply taking the average of all the cores adding them together and then dividing by the number of cores.

If during any test temperatures of 90°C or more are displayed in RivaTuner (for any core) for more than 10 consecutive seconds the testing will be halted and that test run will be considered a "fail".

Idle temperatures are the lowest recorded temperature during idle period as recorded by the RealTemp Rivatuner monitoring program.

All CPU throttling technology was disabled in the BIOS; as was all CPU fan speed control. In addition, Turbo Mode was disabled and Hyperthreading was enabled.


GPU Testing


For this test we stressed the core of the GPUs with 3dMark06. This was accomplished by re-running it continuously for 30 minutes with resolution of 1600x1200 and 2xAA. For this series of tests an eVGA 7900GTX was used.

The 7900GTX is a dual slot cooling solution which sucks in air and ejects the hot outside the case. If during the 7900GTX testing temperatures of 95°C or more are displayed in Rivatuner for more than 10 consecutive seconds the testing will be halted and that test run will be considered a "fail".

Temperature readings were taken from Rivatuner.


System Used

Processor: Intel i7 920
Motherboard: Gigabyte X58-UD3R
Memory: 6GB Aneon Xtune DDR3-1600
Heatsink: Gelid Tranquillo w/ stock fan
Thermal Paste: Arctic Cooling MX-2
Fans: Two Noctua NF-P12-1300
Video Cards: eVGA 7900GTX
Optical Disk Drive: Benq 16x DVD Writer
Hard Drive: 1x WD 320GB Single Platter
Power Supply: XFX 850watt
 
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