We will be talking about two system cases of the midi tower format in this review. Being versatile, such system cases are the preferred choice for most home computers as they allow to easily organize proper cooling, install multiple expansion cards and connect many hard disk drives for our ever-growing multimedia collections. Even though for many configurations midi towers are going to have a redundant interior volume, they are often bought as future-proof enclosures so that the user could easily add a couple of HDDs more, or even build a RAID array, without bothering with the limitations typical of compact computer cases.
Cooler Master 690 II Advanced (RC-692)
Cooler Master’s products are popular due to their appealing price/functionality ratio. The 690 II Advanced model is new exactly new. It is a restyled version of a successful older model. This restyling is meant to boost user interest (and sales) through small improvements, changes and additions.
The exterior design has not changed, though. This is yet another model of a system case whose front panel is just a large metallic mesh. The designers have somewhat enlivened the appearance of the black box by introducing small embellishments like the two slim shiny strips that go around the entire case, the cute rough pattern on the rounded-off junctions of the panels, and the figured meshed surfaces.
The coating of the metal is matte rather than glossy. After all the shiny and glossy system cases, this one is a real treat to the eye. You shouldn’t think that this coating is going to be less susceptible to dirt and dust, however. The overall design does not look purely utilitarian, yet the functionality of the system case has not been diminished.
There are two fan seats on the side panel supporting 80, 92 and 120mm fans. There are no fans or dust filters in the default configuration although the meshes in the front and top panels are equipped with such filters.
There are buttons and connectors at the very edge of the top panel. The buttons are neat and different size. There are as many as three of them here: besides the traditional Power and Reset buttons, there is a third one for turning on the highlighting.
We’ve got a standard selection of connectors here: two USB ports placed far apart from each other, one eSATA connector and two audio sockets.
The back of the top panel is covered with metallic mesh underneath which there is finer mesh serving as a dust filter. The top and front panels can be removed for cleaning.
There is a depression in the front part of the top panel. Let’s have a different view of it.
The manufacturer calls this X-dock. In fact, this is a couple of SATA connectors (interface and power ones) in a special external bay. It is a kind of eSATA for people who want to connect hard disk drives quickly without opening the system case up. We like this idea, especially as its implementation is very cheap. It is going to be appreciated by people who prefer to store their data on HDDs heaped on a shelf. HDD testers will find this feature handy, too.
The implementation is not perfect, though. We guess it would be better if the depression was designed in such a way that you moved the HDD back rather than towards yourself. This would also make it easier to unplug the HDD without damaging its connector (but we must acknowledge that we tried a few HDDs with this X-dock and did not break anything). Besides, HDD manufacturers recommend installing their products either vertically or horizontally and don’t like such oblique positions as potentially increasing the amount of errors.
Anyway, this solution is indeed good and will remain the handiest until the eSATA interface begins to power HDDs up via the interface cable.
If the buttons were on the front panel and the X-dock were horizontal, the exterior of the Cooler Master 690 II Advanced would be just perfect!
If you don’t need the X-dock, you can cover it with a translucent plastic panel. Unfortunately, even a 2.5-inch HDD cannot be accommodated in the X-dock so that the panel could cover it.
The photo of the back panel shows the bottom position of the PSU compartment. At the top of the back panel there are two rather large rubberized openings for the pipes of a liquid cooling system. A 120mm fan (A12025-12CB-3BN-F1) resides just where you might expect it. It is included into the default configuration of the system case. Like the rest of the system fans, it has a 3-pin power connector for the mainboard together with an adapter for a 4-pin PSU connector.
There is an extra bracket positioned vertically next to the expansion slot brackets. You can replace it with any bracket with I/O ports. That’s handy if you’ve got a lot of expansion cards in your computer.
There is a seat for an 80mm fan on the right panel, roughly opposite the back of the mainboard’s CPU socket. We really wonder if anybody will install a fan in there. Anyway, that’s going to be complicated: the space for cables behind the mainboard’s mounting plate is rather small and a standard fan won’t fit in. You will have to look for a slim model (you can hang a fan on the outside of the panel, of course, but that wouldn’t be aesthetic).
The supports this system case stands on differ from the usual circular feet of other products. In the front part, there is a large support with two rubber pads. At the back, there are two sturdy feet made from rather soft rubber and placed in the corners of the bottom panel. There is a vent grid between the hind feet which is obviously meant for power supplies with a horizontal cooling fan.
The front part of the bottom panel is meshed. There are two meshes, actually. The molded mesh is covered with a removable and finer one. You have to put the system case on its side to do the cleaning, though.
There is a lot of interesting peculiarities inside. We’ve got an original and handy screw-less mechanism for fastening devices in the 5.25-inch bays (by moving a lever), a transverse rack for six HDDs, and a mainboard mounting plate with lots of stiffening ribs. Everything is black. Every edge is neatly finished. The steel is 0.7 millimeters thick in each detail. That’s enough to make the system case rigid, but the side panels are somewhat wobbly when you take them in your hands.