Thursday, September 4, 2014

MicroReview - Cooler Master Elite 343 Mini Tower Case

Disclaimer / warning: This review contains opinions. Also, if you're looking for a technical specification or unbiased information on how this piece of hardware actually fulfills it's duty, you won't likely find it here. But, if you are a system builder and would like a second opinion or hints on what to keep in mind when working with this specific component, look no further. :)

The Cooler Master Elite 343 is a lightweight aluminum mini-tower case that fits a microATX motherboard, all up to the maximum 244 mm depth. When unpacked, this is what the case looks like:
As additional packaging material, there are three small bags of screws included: 
  • M3 screws (the ones with a tighter thread) - 16 pcs,
  • 6-32 screws (round head) - 16 pcs, and
  • 6-32-6 screws (hex head) - 17 pcs, 
plus a handful of cable ties and nine motherboard stand-offs. Also, a small buzzer (PC speaker) and a manual are included.

The front panel fingerprint-magnets are nicely covered with thin transparent film. The film is not in one piece, but rather in separate bits for each (re)movable surface it covers. This means that you can avoid removing the film until the last moment when your system is finished.
From behind, the case looks like this:
Pretty much a standard case layout, with a top-mounted power supply (not included). Both side panels are fixed with thumbscrews that are easy to remove. The side panels themselves are a bit tricky to fasten to the sides - as is often the case with softer panels - need to take care to make sure both the top and the bottom edge are properly fastened from each fastening point. On the back and the left side panel, there are mounting points for additional fans. Only the topmost cover for extension cards (the main PCIe slot, usually) is removable and re-attachable using a screw.
On the inside (at least in my case), the wiring for the front panel fan was really well hidden. Had to remove the motherboard-side panel to get to the wiring. Also, there's an interesting thumbscrew to fix the drive bay. As it turns out, the drive bay is removable - but to remove it, you would also need to unscrew four additional screws on the bottom of the case. Wouldn't recommend keeping them unscrewed though for convenience, since the drive bay adds a reasonable amount of strength to the otherwise soft aluminum case.

The front panel wiring does not have a universal plug and is provided as separate wires. In addition to the usual LEDs and switches, there are also a plug for HD audio, an AC'97 connector and one USB connector for the front-panel USB ports.
As mentioned before, the front panel features a case fan, with both a 4-pin HDD connector and a 3-pin fan connector available.

Installing the motherboard and a PSU to the case was a breeze, no problems encountered. The 5.25'' drives are made especially simple to install, with quick fasteners.

Installing a graphics card required a little bit of additional effort - some physical force was needed to fasten the metal panel of the extension card to the back-panel of the case. This was mostly due to the motherboard being mounted very closely to the edge of the case, which left not much room for maneuvering with the card itself.

All-in-all, a solid case with a reasonably small price tag. Not much to look at, but also not something you would need to hide from your friends and family. Easy to use and assemble if you're looking to build a simple microATX system.