I am sort of ashamed to say it, but I missed out on grabbing a CM 690 the first time they released onto the market. At that time I had still to figure out that a case really can be more than a place to house components. From what I can gather from hanging out around forums is that the original version was a highly rated addition by most people who owned them. Personally, looking back on it now, it doesn't offer too much as far as options and any sort of wire management thoughts. To be fair, it has been some time since that case was designed and it is well worth of another go.
Cooler Master did just that, not that long ago. They brought us the CM 690 II. With this version, Cooler Master brought things that have made a lot of the other chassis' we have seen from them have, and it had made them a success. So why not implement those same things here along with the typical "gamer" chassis want and needs; such as wire management, water cooling ability, great air flow and being completely black, inside and out. Cooler Master didn't stop there, though; they kept on adding ideas and implemented them at their will, resulting in something I think you might like if you haven't already seen this chassis.
Taking it a step further, Cooler Master adds yet another chassis to the lineup. With the addition of a VGA fan assembly and dual GPU spacing and support system, they bring us the CM 690 II Advanced chassis. Since the CM 690 II is reasonably priced already, I really hope this rather handy, yet simple addition doesn't change that fact. Let's have a closer look at the CM 690 II Advanced and see if it has lost its bang for the buck status or if it might just be the solution you were looking for.
Specifications, Availability and PricingSpecifications, Availability and Pricing
The CM 690 II Advanced is an all steel mid tower chassis that has been finished inside and out with a matte black paint on all the main chassis and doors. The front, however, is covered in steel mesh over a plastic bezel. Capable of handling mini ITX, micro ATX and ATX motherboards offers a lot of users a new home to think about. This chassis can hold up to four 5.25" devices and even offers a cover to adapt it to a floppy disc drive if needed, taking the 5.25" devices down to three. Inside are six slides for holding 3.5" drives, two of which have an adapter system to accept 2.5" drives as well. Moving to the back, the CM 690 II Advanced supports a 7 + 1 expansion slot setup; seven of them are aligned as usual, vertically next to them is the "+ 1" for fan or lighting control. While there is a windowed door panel available for this case, our sample was shipped with the solid panel with dual fan holes.
Cooling out of the box is handled with three fans placed inside the chassis. The top has room for two 140mm fans, but the chassis only ships with one running 1200 RPM at 19 dBA. The front houses a blue LED 140mm that also runs at 1200 RPM and offers the same noise level acting as the intake. The rear of the CM 690 II Advanced has the last fan supplied from Cooler Master and that is a 120 mm, 1200 RPM fan, but this time only at 17 dBA. Moving on to the optional fans! There is room for a 140mm up top, two 120mm fans at the bottom, two 120mm or 140mm fans in the right side, an 80mm in the left side, a 120 for the HDD cage, as well as an 80mm for the VGA cooler. That's eight fans! Now, I am not saying you need to fill every one, but that does leave some optional cooling opportunity to be had.
The Advanced version of the CM 690 II is widely available. Getting one is not the issue here. Since there aren't many differences between the two CM 690 II's, I will start there. Newegg is asking $79.99 for the CM 690 II, which already is a lot of case for the dollar. As I mentioned, there is an added GPU cooler in this version. With the new Fermi's being bought, the fan, even if 80mm can be greatly appreciated. With the revision the price didn't change all that much, as it lists for $89.99 at Newegg and currently comes with free shipping as well. That really makes the deal that much more appealing to just go ahead and grab the Advanced over the "base design" CM 690 II.
Since the chassis inside is black, it only makes sense to go with black on the packaging. On the front the CM 690 II Advanced appears to be moving as the image blurs out to the right, under the case logo ghosted over it.
Another image of the CM 690 II is on this side and at the bottom it tells you that you are in fact holding a case, in many languages.
On the back Cooler Master opened the chassis to get a look at the main features the CM 690 II Advanced offers. Twelve of them are highlighted here, everything from wire management to optional radiator placement.
Here, over the black packaging, the specifications chart is written in white text and large enough to easily see what's inside at a glance.
Along with about 80% of the cases on the market today, they go with this simple, yet effective way of shipping and protecting the chassis. Styrofoam end caps over a plastic inner liner has been tried and used for years and with the amount of cases I see, it rarely fails.
The Cooler Master CM 690 II Advanced Mid Tower CaseThe Cooler Master CM 690 II Advanced Mid Tower Case
Two chrome strips accent all the black on the front and surround the mesh middle section. The entire section under the Cooler Master logo is well ventilated behind it and hides a 140mm blue LED fan working as the only intake to the chassis. At the top, the same mesh is used, but this time for removable covers, just to make installation easy and keep things well ventilated.
The "right" side panel, as Cooler Master called it, has no window. It offers ventilation via mesh passively, or with any fans, 80mm, 92mm, 120mm or 140mm to aid in the intake. The fans are optional, however.
The rear of the chassis is topped with two holes to allow for the passing of water tubing. Just below is a 120mm fan for exhaust taking up the room next to the rear I/O shield hole. Moving down you run into the 7 + 1 arrangement of expansion slots, while there are seven as they are typically found, the eighth is positioned next to them for additional controllers. This leaves us with the large hole at the bottom for the power supply.
Typically this panel is just flat without anything to highlight in most cases. Here I get to point out the CM 690 II Advanced has room for a fan to cool the back of the CPU socket. It only allows for an 80 X 15mm fan, but any air flow is better than none.
On the top you will find the front I/O first. This consists of a light power switch, e-SATA, two USB 2.0 port on either side of the MIC and audio jacks and the reset and power buttons. Just above the reset button there are two tiny LEDs for power and HDD activity. Just behind these, there is a removable cover for the HDD dock. Going a bit further, you run into mesh again. Underneath this is room for two 140mm fans and Cooler Master has filled one, the other is optional.
With the case spun around and the cover removed, you can see the hot swappable ports that are in the bottom of the angled depression. This allows for easy access to booting an extra hard drive, and the angle helps keep it in place.
Underneath the chassis you will find large, chunky, rubber feet in the rear and pads of rubber under plastic feet in the front. The rear feet surround a ventilated area for the fan on the power supply to breathe through. There is a screen covering the area for two 120mm fans in the middle and front of the floor. This plastic screen will need removal for access to the holes.
Inside the Cooler Master CM 690 II Advanced Mid Tower CaseInside the Cooler Master CM 690 II Advanced Mid Tower Case
Taking the panel off, we are greeted with a hardware box strapped to the HDD rack, a bundle of wires or three, and a bunch of black.
All the drives can be used tool-less. Cooler Master does offer screws for a more secure fit, too, but honestly, they aren't needed. The four 5.25" bays work with a simple switch, flip it like a light switch in either the open or lock positions. The six bay 3.5" drive rack uses locking "sleds" to hold the hard drives in place; again, no screws needed.
The motherboard area is labeled for easy installation of the risers for each type of board. There is a large cut out for CPU cooler back plate access and six well placed holes for wiring. At various places Cooler Master has punched out tabs; these will come into play later when we actually wire the back side.
Inside we see that the eight expansion slot coves are held in with thumbscrews and are not vented. I would have loved to have seen a tool-less mechanism here, but hey, we can't have everything for a hundred dollars, can we?
Wiring from the front I/O is plenty long enough to get them where they need to go. The rainbow of colors makes the cables easy to trace, but in an all black chassis they tend to really stick out.
With the left door panel off it leaves a gap of about an inch to hide wiring behind the tray, there should be no issues fitting a 24-pin cable through here. The front I/O wiring comes all tied up, but you may need to undo it as I will to make thing go smoothly.
To remove the hard drive assembly or to install any fans, you need to first remove the plastic screen. I simply got a fingernail under a corner and started to persuade it off.
After removal of four screws underneath and three in the back, the rails on each side slide forward and can be taken out. This leaves enough room for two 3.5" sleds and offers room for a radiator or two fans by themselves.
With the I/O up top, the front bezel comes free with no wiring attached. Simply tug it at the bottom and the tabs will release. I did find on the inside of the front bezel that the steel mesh is backed with another layer of screen; this can be removed and rinsed off for easy clean up.
Accessories and DocumentationAccessories and Documentation
Shipped inside of the brown box that was tied to the drive bays, you will find all the goodies included. For starters, I found the screen that goes under the power supply as a dust filter, along with the adapters to install a floppy drive and the external 5.25" to 3.5" vented cover.
Also included are ten wire ties and a motherboard speaker. In between them there are the risers and motherboard mounting screws and in the other bag are screws for the power supply and drives. On both sides there are two, push-pin style, fan mounting locks. Just under the two on the right there is an optional case lock loop that can be screwed into the back of the case.
In the Advanced version, a VGA cooler is included. On the opposite side you mount a 80 X 15mm fan and the whole system gets screwed into the rear of the chassis, The plastic to the right spaces and supports cards in a dual GPU situation and add air flow, of course. Separate instructions were tucked inside of it, so if you run into an issue, they will explain everything.
The hard drive sleds are usually like the one on the right. Simply flex it over your favorite hard drive and make sure the four pins hit the four holes. The one on the left has a nice added feature. There is an adapter in it that will allow you to also mount 2.5" laptop drives or SSDs in here as well.
With this chassis I am glad I got a manual. Everything was pretty easy, but removing those rails of the HDD assembly took a glance in the book to see how it all comes apart. Looking briefly inside, well drawn images and very explanatory text got me right through it.
The Build and Finished ProductThe Build and Finished Product
Adding a drive or two in the front is easy enough. Slide the drive in and set the lock, remove the appropriate slot cover or covers and snap the front bezel back in. The drive detracts from the cleaner front that I saw out of the box, but I have to have a way to load discs.
It takes a bit of time to get the chassis to look this clean, but the management holes worked like a charm. I was able to hide most of the cabling, but this is where I would have appreciated a black covering on the USB and audio wires; they are unsightly in beige to say the least. Oh well, the door will cover them!
I didn't rig this up with SLI, but I did want to highlight how the fan system worked. Using a mATX, I had to "rig" the fan into place; it isn't meant to sit this high. Be aware of that if your dual GPU setup is in fact on a smaller board. With a full ATX this won't be an issue and the fan can be mounted as specified in the instructions.
The back has a lot less holes in it now since the components were all installed. Honestly, at this point I don't see much use for the holes at the top. With the possibility of two internal radiators, what tubing would need to go through here? The option is nice to have, though, if you plan to hang a radiator outside anyways.
If you plan to water cool in this chassis, I strongly suggest using a modular power supply. I was able to hide quite a bit in the unused bottom hard drive racks, but if they were gone I would really be at a loss for room to do it cleanly. The spacing behind the panel is nice and allowed me to run quite thick wires anywhere I wanted and the punched out tie downs really came in handy and were placed well.
If your buddies come over and they happen to have an issue with a hard drive, or you simply want to quickly back something up, simply slide the SATA hard drive into place and wait for Windows to recognize what you did.
All closed up and powered, the CM 690 II Advanced is almost dead silent during operation. With the push of a switch, there is an option to turn on the front blue LED, or leave it off if lighting isn't your thing. As far as lighting goes, with all the optional fan holes, it can be as bright or as plain as you want it. I for one am pleased with both the looks of the finished product and the utter silence when powered up.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
So is it worth $100 of your hard earned money? I have to say yes. Are the options inside endless? Pretty much that's an astounding yes as well. What you have here is a mid tower chassis designed for not only those who are in it for looks, but this chassis is full of function. It ships with only three fans, with potential of up to twelve more still yet to be added at your leisure. I really don't think air flow inside this chassis will be an issue, as it does quite well out of the box. Adding the optional areas for two radiators to be placed internally; yes that's right, I said two. A double 120mm can go on the floor and a double 120 or 140mm radiator can go up top. A dual loop solution of cooling has met its match in chassis design!
Problems? Well, to be honest, there aren't any. Pick at it as I may about non-vented expansion slot covers, a lack of a tool-less GPU mechanism, or the fact the wires aren't black, they honestly aren't needed. Time with cases has lead me to just pick things apart based on what I would prefer, but those things usually come with an increase in costs and none of us want that when we are looking to buy anything. Features such as the removable rack and the VGA cooler, once referenced in the manual were simple to figure out and remove or install. There is plenty of hardware for any configuration of setups, water cooling and optional fans excluded. When I got done with this case build the thoughts just started rolling through on how to accomplish and hide components of a dual loop water cooling setup!
In today's economy $100 doesn't get you very far. Dinner and a movie with your significant other, a night out with friends, one hundred lottery tickets, or in this case, one feature rich chassis that will satisfy even the toughest of customers. The CM 690 II Advanced is just a complete package, that even under my personal scrutiny really has not one thing out of place or any thoughts of cooling solutions overlooked. As you know, I am a fan of black; it cools the components well as-is and things can only get better. I really don't see how you could go wrong, even if you don't have plans on water cooling. With free shipping currently and listing at $89.99 at Newegg and being the same price, relatively, as the non-Advanced model, I bet there will be a lot of mid tower users adding this Cooler Master chassis to their cart.
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