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Cooler Master CM690 Cooler Master CM690: This offering from Cooler Master doesn't break the bank and looks pretty swank to boot.
Date: April 1, 2008
Manufacturer:
Written By:
Price:

Nothing is more easily discernable and personal in your computer as your case. It's the external representation of the internal components, and everyone has their own tastes. Some like a clean minimalistic look, with clean lines and subtle features. Others like a flashier look, with moulded pieces, flashing lights and customizations. A lot of times it's hard to find something that will not only suit your needs but also you taste. Cooler Master has long been a case maker, with a multitude of products to feet most anybody's needs and personal preferences, from the flashy to the understated. The CM690 is a new case in their line of mid-towers that will fall more under the clean understated category.

The CM690 is mainly made up of black mesh with subtle chrome accents. It features a mostly tool-less design and has enough cooling fan mounts to nearly create a wind storm inside the tower. So let's take a closer look.

Specifications

Available Color

Black

Dimension (W / H / D)

(W)213 X (H)482 x (D)524.5 mm

Weight

9.8 kg

Material

Chassis: SECC, Bezel: Metal mesh+ABS

Motherboards

ATX, Micro-ATX

5.25" Drive Bay

5 Exposed (without the use of exposed 3.5 inch Drive Bay)
4 Exposed (with the use of 3.5 inch Drive Bay)

3.5" Drive Bay

1 Exposed (converted from one 5.25 inch Drive Bay)

I/O Panel

USB 2.0x2, IEEE 1394 x1, MIC x1, eSATA x 1, SPK x1 (support HD Audio)

Cooling System

Front :120 mm Blue LED fan x 1, 1200 rpm, 21 dBA
Rear : 120 mm standard fan, 1200 rpm, 21 dBA
Top : 120 or 140 mm fan x 2 (optional)
Bottom : 120 mm fan x 1 (optional)
Left: 120mm fan x 2 (one is optional)-up to 140mm fans

Expansion Slots

7

Power Supply

Standard ATX PS2/ EPS 12V (optional)

Certification

nVIDIA SLI

Cooler Master CM690

The CM690 is quite a good looking case. Cooler Master has used a speaker grill like material to cover the front and top of the case. This open mesh should help the cooling potential (and dust collection) aspect of the case. The front of the case contains five 5.25'drive slots. For those that still use a floppy or need a 3.5'device, cooler master includes an adapter plate to convert over to the smaller size. The lower front of the case contains the Cooler Master logo, behind which is a blue LED 120mm fan. The right front of the case holds the power switches and activity lights. I like the side mount aspect, as the switches are still accessible but not an eyesore on the front of the case. The silver buttons match up to the vertical silver accents that run up the front and across the top of the case, making for an overall clean look. The top panel of the CM690 is also made of mesh, and contains two fan mounts (for fans up to 140mm) as well as the top mount ports. The CM690 has 2 USB, 2 Audio, 1 Firewire and one SATA connector on the top panel. The ports are slightly recessed into the top panel, keeping to the clean lines.

The right side of the case contains a single fan grill for a 80mm fan. The motherboard tray behind the panel integrates a small fan mount and grill, directing the airflow right to the underside of your motherboard. The CM690 utilizes a power supply on the bottom layout which is supposed to help with cooling and cable layout. The rear of the case holds the second included 120mm fan. Also visible is the included pass through ports for your water cooling lines if your system uses external components. Under the power supply is another integrated fan grill which is designed to aid in power supply cooling. The left side of the CM690 has two integrated fan grills allowing for fans upto 140mm to be mounted. Cooler Master includes one 120mm fan mounted to the lower fan grill, which is directly above where the expansion cards will be.

The inside of the CM690 is nice and roomy. All the edges are rolled to prevent any metal to skin mishaps. The hard drives are mounted perpendicular to their traditional location. Five hard drives can be mounted into the integrated removable hard drive trays. The layout of the mounts forces the cables to exit to the rear of the hard drive trays, which should help in cable management. The 5.25'devices are mounted using another tool-free device (see a pattern yet?). The clips for the 5.25'devices are very nice to use, and lock the drives in fairly securely without any screws. On the topic of screws, the CM690 has the best screw holder I have seen yet. Where the hardware for a case would normally be put in a plastic bag, only to be lost in the future, Cooler Master has drilled and tapped the 5.25'bays and has screwed in all the needed hardware (besides motherboard standoffs) in. This is an awesome idea, as it prevents the loss of hardware in the future. Just behind the drive trays is a cable management system. A series of plastic arms runs down the length of the case and curves toward the power supply at the bottom.

The power supply mount on the left is lined with foam tape to help prevent unneeded vibrations. The bottom of the case has 4 small foam padded stands to add additional support to the power supply. The bottom of the case also has two integrated fan grills. The left one is to supply the power supply with fresh air. The right side fan grill includes a tool-less fan mount. One thing that may be a problem with the fan mount is the position in regards to the power supply. It may be tight if you have a larger power supply, I didn't run into a problem, but it is close enough that it could cause issues for some. The top of the case contains another two fan mounts (for fans up to 140mm). There is plenty of clearance included between the motherboard mounts and the fans to allow for the usage of top fans and larger CPU coolers.

The bottom of the case is based off of three large rubber feet, 2 on each side at the rear and one across the front. These feet are nice and soft to prevent any scratches to your desk or floor and should help with any vibrations. They also help lift the case up a bit to allow for adequate airflow to the integrated fan grills. The fan grills are a honeycomb pattern and should allow for adequate airflow.

The hard drive trays are made of plastic and integrate some rubber shock absorbers into the side. I found the trays to be a bit flimsy for my taste. I would have rather seen a metal tray, not only for the strength, but also the heat transport properties. The plastic trays partition off each drive from the case, trapping any heat from directly transferring into the body of the case. To install a hard drive into the tray you simply slide the drive into one side, and then flex the tray around the drive until the last two holes line up.

The front panel of the case is removable by means of six clips. The inner side of the panel is lined with more foam. The foam not only makes the front panel more opaque, but also should help keep the dust down inside the case. Mounted behind the front panel is the included front fan. Cooler Master has included a 120mm blue LED fan in the CM690 which adds just a little bit of contrast to the front panel.

There were a couple issues that came to light while installing my components into the CM690. The major problem I ran into was with the hard drive mounting system. As already stated, the hard drive trays only allow mounting the hard drive so the cables exit to the rear of the trays. The problem comes when you try and use an IDE hard drive. In my case, the rear folded over edge of the cage which holds the hard drive trays hit the cables of my drive. This caused the hard drive to not fully click in. The IDE cable was slightly out and the power cable was out even more. I had to actually bend the edge up to allow the tray to fully slide into place. Another problem area was the integrated cable management. The plastic arms are mounted a bit too close to the motherboard. One of the IDE ports on my board was blocked by the arm, preventing the board from sitting down properly. The plastic arms are removable for this reason, but if it was mounted slightly further forward this could be avoided. The final problem, which occurred in a previous Cooler Master case as well, is the power LED connector. Cooler Master includes a two pin connector, where most motherboards use a three pin connector. I had to switch the connector out for one from my previous case, which solved the problem, but for a new user this would not be a solution. Cooler Master really should switch the connectors out for either a three pin, or a split two pin connector.

Other than the issues listed above the install went smooth. The case was large enough to easily mount all of my hardware. The built in cable management tracks defiantly help with the cable mess. Keeping the cables together not only alleviates the visual mess but also with cooling performance. The hard drive trays worked well and pushing the cables out the back kept the cable mess down even further. All the included cables for the switches and top mount ports were long enough to reach all the required spots on my hardware. As mentioned earlier, spacing at the top of the case left enough room between the large Zalman heat sink and potentially two fans.

Performance
The CM690 was tested with the following hardware:
Asus A8V
AMD Athlon 64 3700+ w/Zalman CNPS7700-CU
ATI Radeon X800
Ultra X-Connect 550W
2x Seagate 250GB SATA
Seagate 200GB SATA
WD 250GB IDE

Temperatures were collected using PC Wizard 2008 at two stages, idle (system idling for at least 30 minutes) and full load (Folding@Home and a movie playing for at least 30 minutes). Room temperature was kept at a constant 22.5 C (72.5 F). Shown below are the results:

As shown in the results the CM690 is quite a performer in the cooling department. Especially good were the hard drive temperatures, really show how well the mesh front grill works. As we all know, cooler temperatures equals better performance and longer component life. Noise levels at this level of cooling do deteriorate a bit. The fans in the system are noticeable, but not overly loud. If noise is an issue for you, the case offers enough fan configurations that you could balance the noise and cooling levels out.

Final Words
Cooler Master has been known for making good quality cases, and the CM690 is not one to break that reputation. The CM690 is a great looking case. The overall style of the case is clean and subtle, with just enough chrome accents. The mesh front and top panels not only look classy but allow for better cooling. Size wise the case was near perfect, storing enough drives to meet my needs as well as leave some room for upgrades. The inside of the case was roomy and easy to work with, and all of the edges were nicely rolled over. The integrated hardware holder is an awesome idea, one that I hope the industry will take notice of. The included cable management helped keep the clutter down and help with the air flow. On the topic of air flow, the CM690 certainly has the potential for a lot. With eight fan mounts total, seven of which are 120mm or larger, it is quite capable in the air flow department. Even with the stock three fans installed the cooling performance of the case was excellent, especially in the hard drive area.

The CM690 is not without its faults though. The hard drive mounts were a major disappointment. Flimsy trays aside, the inability to mount an IDE hard drive is a problem. You should never have to forcefully bend a component of a case just to mount a standard hard drive. The cable management was a small issue, if Cooler Master just bumped it out slightly it would not have even come up. The final problem was the power LED connector. A three pin connector is standard; a two pin just will not work, so why include a two pin connector?

Overall the CM690 is a nice case. Its classy looks and excellent cooling performance make it a top contender in the stream. Cooler Master just needs to fix the issue with the hard drive mounts and finally includes the proper LED connector.

If you have any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.

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