As we begin our tour with the front bezel area, the first thing we can see is the lack of an exterior door panel. This used to be almost mandatory with high-end enclosures, but with most peripherals being offered in black the need for a door to hide the off-colored peripherals is becoming a moot point. The panel area is also covered in a mesh type material to aid in the overall cooling of the enclosure. After all, we certainly want to protect those components that we have invested so much time and money into don't we?
As to the construction of the CM690, the folks at Cooler Master have decided to stick with the heavy duty steel structure. Aluminum is great if you just have to have a lightweight case, but steel tends to be sturdier and generally lasts longer as well.
It never fails that when I get a case that I love, the I/O ports will almost always be on the opposite side from where I really want them. The CM690 takes care of this issue by putting them on the top of the case toward the front so they are accessible no matter which side you want to place against the inside of your desk. Not only that, but they have also included a nice eSATA port to go along with the pair of USB ports, the single Firewire port and the headphone and microphone jacks.
A quick glance also shows that the rear portion of the top panel is also covered with that mesh material for optimal airflow. While the base configuration does not include them, there are built-in mounts for a pair of 120mm fans to work as exhaust ports in this top panel.
Moving to the side shows a clean look that is ripe for your imagination. While this model does not offer a side window, it shouldn't be too difficult for the industrious among us to fix that little issue. Of course, the lack of a window and the sleek appearance works quite well too.
In its standard packaging, the CM690 will include a side fan (120mm of course) and mounting holes for another. The one we received for testing had the fan mounted over where the graphics card will generally be located, bit you can move it to the top bracket to aid the HSF. Better yet, install a second fan and have all your bases covered.
While the cooling intake ports on the side panel are very good, there is one thing lacking; filtration. All intake ports should be filtered to help you keep your system running clean. Without any filter in place, you will want to make sure that you clean up every now and again to ensure everything runs at peak performance levels.
As with several other quality builds lately, the CM690 has moved the power supply to the lower area of the enclosure. This moves everything else up a notch and actually makes it easier to install your system. To make sure that the cooling needs are still being taken care of, there is a 120mm fan installed in the back panel to work as an exhaust.
It seems that the folks at Cooler Master have realized that there is a diehard group of enthusiasts who simply must have water cooling. To help cater to this market segment, the CM690 includes two protected holes on the back of the enclosure for the intake and return water tubes. The rubber grommets will protect the tubing and also take care of any vibration in the hoses. Additionally, the flaps will make sure that no matter what size tuning you use, the hoses will remain secure and not move around. I love it when a company realizes the needs of its users and adjusts their product line to accommodate those needs.