Let’s get back to the drives, though. The abundantly perforated mounting plate offers broad installation opportunities. You can install one 3.5-inch drive and two 2.5-inch ones (there are two SSDs from Intel in the photos installed for the sake of illustration). The large drive can be replaced with a 2.5-inch one, too. The only small problem is the order of installation. It looks like you should first attach the bottom small drive, then the top one, then the second bottom drive (a 3.5-inch or a 2.5-inch one), and finally the optical drive. If you follow any other order, some mounting holes are going to be blocked.
Three disk drives, even of 2.5-inch form-factor, is quite a lot for such a small enclosure!
The component layout is indeed amazing as the tiny Elite 100 can accommodate not only a mini-ITX but even a micro-ATX mainboard! You can see this as soon as you remove the power supply (one of the mainboard’s mounting screws is right below the latter). A large part of a micro-ATX mainboard, where expansion slots are usually located, just hides beneath the power supply. This is especially valuable as mini-ITX mainboards are scanty and more expensive than their micro-ATX counterparts. Of course, there are a lot of various micro-ATX cases but the Elite 100 is smaller. Indeed, it is hard to suspect when you are looking at this tiny thing that it can accommodate something as large as a micro-ATX mainboard.
This opportunity is provided by means of an elegant trick. The power supply is fastened to the bottom panel of the case by means of composite poles.
You take the power supply off together with the top, longer, part of the poles with nuts. Then you place your mainboard down on the bottom parts of the poles, fasten it with the top part of the poles (without the nut as the mainboard’s PCB will serve instead it), and you have your micro-ATX mainboard installed into this very compact system enclosure! Cooler Master’s engineers should be praised for coming up with such an effective and ingenious component layout.
Unfortunately, some mainboards may prove incompatible with the Elite 100 as the photo above suggests. The mainboard’s memory slots are too close to the mounting hole and will be right beneath the power supply in this system case. As the result, you won’t be able to lock the memory modules in the slots. On the other hand, it is quite easy to select an appropriate mainboard. You just have to visually check out the position of memory slots and other elements that might prevent you from installing the power supply in the Elite 100.
Another downside of your installing a micro-ATX mainboard is that you won’t be able to use a 3.5-inch hard disk. Micro-ATX mainboards are not only wider but also longer than mini-ITX ones, so the hard disk will hang above the mainboard where the latter’s 24-pin power connector is usually found. There just won’t be enough room for the power cord. You’ll have to put up with 2.5-inch drives then.
As our test session is dedicated to mini-ITX systems, we fitted a mini-ITX mainboard and a 3.5-inch hard disk into this system case (but an author of this review eventually assembled a PC in a Cooler Master Elite 100 using a micro-ATX mainboard Gigabyte GA-73PVM-S2H and was perfectly happy with the result).
The seven centimeters of height present a serious problem when it comes to choosing a CPU cooler. Subtracting about 1.5 centimeters for the mainboard’s poles and the CPU with its socket, we end up with a mere 5.5 centimeters of space. Even the popular low-profile Scythe Shuriken we had initially wanted to use is 6.5 centimeters tall and does not fit into this enclosure.
Perhaps Cooler Master should have done like GMC that includes a special cooler as an accessory to its AVC S-7 that has a comparable height. Anyway, we took an ordinary boxed cooler from Intel supplied with junior CPU models. It is rather quiet at a maximum speed of 1700rpm.
Otherwise, we had no problems assembling our test configuration. The cables are small and short. We only wished we had had SATA cables as short as 5-10 centimeters. Standard SATA cables are exceedingly long for such enclosures as the Elite 100.