Cooler Master Unveils the CM 690 III
I’m just going to put this out there: I am a CM 690 fan. It might be because the outgoing CM 690 II was the first “real” top end case I was able to afford (and still use to this day), where it blew me away with its amazing build quality, feature set, modular upgradeability and simple down-to-earth elegance it embodied. It would be fair to say that I am a tad excited for this rendition of the CM 690, and the details made me even more excited!
This article serves as my impressions and is not a review, but I can still determine that there are one or two things I noticed that are a tad saddening compared to its predecessor. However, on the whole it seems that the CM 690 III is a clear and fitting successor to the CM 690 II and will be a popular case for a while to come. As of yet we are still awaiting confirmation of price and availability of the case in South Africa.
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Updating an Icon
The CM 690 series has held sway over many gamers hearts. The CM 690–and especially the CM 690 II–appealed to mainstream gamers as well as the tough-to-please enthusiast PC crowd simultaneously. Simply put, the case included exactly what gamers needed support for but also the finer things that enthusiasts come to expect, such as space for water cooling, access to many fan ports, dust filters, removable HDD cages and a tool-less design. This rendition encompasses these features and adds some exciting extras to the mix as well.
Cooling, the CM 690 way: Lots of fans, lots of Radiators
The CM 690 and the CM 690 II were quite similar in shape and dimensions, where the CM 690 III departs somewhat from its “thinner” brethren in both width and height, however it is shorter than the previous editions. The case still embodies the elegant and smooth curvature of the “CM 690” brand, but the changes do have some practical applications. The new width means CPU coolers up to 171mm are fully supported. The CM 690 III also includes the fan and water cooling focused ethos of its predecessor, and that means support for lots of them.
A total of 9 fans are supported, or 7 if you choose the Perspex side panel edition. Additional support for two 240 mm water cooling radiators can be made at the top and front, with a further allowance for a 120mm water cooling solution on the rear of the case. Importantly, with the design change to increase the width and height, the CM 690 III is able to support three massive and quieter 200mm fans; one on the top, side panel and front panel. The case comes included with a 200mm front fan and one 120mm rear fan. To ensure that the case fans get plenty of airflow, the tried and tested application of decent looking meshed covers on the front and top will make sure there is sufficient airflow within the case. Easily removable dust filters are also provided on the front, bottom and top panels.
Design and New Features
The top of the chassis has two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports, followed by the usual headphone and microphone ports. Continuing with the previous design there is a top storage compartment area that can store personal belongings. Sadly this feature, if you can call it that, is lacking compared to the 3-year-old CM 690 II Advanced which had a similar “compartment” feature that doubled as a hard drive dock. A hard drive dock is somewhat becoming a standard for the mainstream enthusiast chassis, so it’s a shame that it is not included, however I am inclined to think that may change in a future revision of the case.
A nice feature is the “popped” out right side panel which will allow for easier cable management, something I feel–that although not bad–was an area for improvement in the CM 690 II. It is here that another issue arises which, somewhat ironically, goes against the cable neatness touted by the popped out right side panel: the absence of rubber grommets covering the wiring holes on the motherboard tray. Definitely not a make or break feature, but a slip up considering the supposed attention to cable management and the fact that the now 2-year-old USB 3.0 revision of the CM 690 II had this feature.
Hard Drive combo cage
The removable and tool-less HDD setup has been a big selling point of the CM 690 series. The CM 690 III has advanced this feature admirably in designing an innovative combo HDD/SSD cage and tray setup with support for both 2.5″ and 3.5″ HDDs and SSDs. Additionally you can fit three extra 2.5″ drives as well–one the on motherboard tray, one on the bottom of the case and one under the ODD cage. The ODD also improves upon previous cases by offering a new tool-less design in its new EZ-Tray ODD system, allowing for quick and easy installation. Now it’s not really the supported number of 2.5″ HDD/SSD’s I am impressed with, but rather the way that Cooler Master have designed the HDD/SSD combo cage and mounting sleds. The modular and removable HDD cage means that with a few thumb screw replacements you can alter your HDD cages to support both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives. The cages are also coupled with 7 really slick looking 2.5″ to 3.5″ convertible HDD/SSD combo trays. If Hard drives aren’t your thing, you can remove the combo cage all together, allowing for graphics cards up to 423mm to be installed. Following that, the removal of the cages will also allow for obstruction free airflow from the front fan.
New Case, Old Tricks
The HDD/SSD cage and tray design, the case dimension changes, front and top mesh, massive cooling options. All of these features included in the CM 690 III encompass the central ethos of the CM 690 brand: the effective use and interplay of space, cooling, aesthetics and smart design.