Page 2 - Physical Look - Outside
The external design of the Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus is quite well done. Since this case would fall under the category of 'budget-enthusiast', it certainly looks the part. The front bezel includes the aggressive armor-like designs integrated with a mix of mesh seen on many cases nowadays. In fact, the bottom half of the front bezel looks much like a design we would seen from the hit box-office movie series Transformers. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the case looks spectacular, but it can stand apart from your average run-of-the-mill mid-tower. In terms of material composition, we aren't surprised to see the front bezel is comprised mainly of ABS plastic, while the rest of the chassis features heavier steel, electrogalvanized, cold-rolled, coil (SECC) panels.
Looking to the left side is a side panel that simply is, for lack of a better word, perfect. That is right. Nowadays, many manufacturers design side panels with a host of nifty features like fan mounts, mesh, grills, and a host of other addons I found to be quite useless and ugly to look at. Some individuals may find that a side fan may be a healthy addition to your cooling setup, but let me be the first -- and definitely not the last -- to tell you that side fans and/or vents will just disrupt the push-pull air setup most cases utilize, while providing another means for dust to enter your system. I do understand the expression "the more, the merrier", but in this case, efficiency takes precedence. Also, by not having a fan on the side panel means the window as large as the one on this case will make your internals look spectacular, granted your cabling job is up to par (And your components spectacular as well). In fact, now that I think about it, it has been a very long time since we have touched a case with a near-perfect side panel!
The Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus measures at 192mm in width, 427mm in height, and 499mm length, which is considered average among mid-tower chassis. The net weight of the case is around 5.0 kg, which is actually very light for something with a steel frame.
Once the front panel is removed, we can see the external drive bay options on the Elite 431 Plus. There are a total of two 5.25" bays that can be used. Below the second 5.25" drive bay is a single external SATA 3.5" X-dock. This is quite surprising to see for a budget case, and it is quite a nice touch in regards to the overall functionality of the case. The SATA dock includes a clip-on cover that keeps dust out when not in use. I do wish, however, that the cover was not a clip-on clip-off design, since loose objects like this will definitely end up being misplaced. Also, you can't use it with 2.5" HDDs or SSDs as it is in the Silencio 550, which is rather unfortunate. Below the SATA dock are two 3.5" bays for the user to utilize 3.5" floppy drives, if you still have them for some reason. In order to utilize the optical or floppy drive bays, one will need to remove the mesh covers from the back of the front bezel. Also, the user will need to remove the metal plate frame behind the 5.25" optical bay slots. According to my measurements, as well as the information provided in the specifications, the front can utilize one 120mm or one 140mm fan. There is already one pre-installed blue LED fan to feed air through the front of the chassis.
One small issue I have found with the front bezel is the mesh surrounding the Cooler Master logo has no air filters. As aforementioned, all the optical and floppy bay covers include a layer of foam mesh, but the front intake is missing an air filter. Not having an air filter on the front intake fan will undoubtedly feed dust into the system, so I am left a little puzzled as to why Cooler Master did not implement something in this location.
One thing that I pay particular attention to when reviewing a case are the front panel I/O connectors. The reason is because the front panel connections on a chassis provide a host of daily applicable features. First off, we see that the connections are intelligently placed at the top of the front bezel, rather than on the top bezel. Since the Elite 431 Plus is relatively small in dimensions, many users will find themselves placing their system on top of their desk. Therefore, having the I/O connectors at the front of the case is the preferable option. Looking at the image above, I will go through the connections from the left side to the right. Starting us off is a small reset button, single USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port, 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks, another USB 2.0 port, HDD activity light, and lastly, a large power button with the power indicator LED in the middle. Overall, the Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus covers most conventional connections on the front panel. What is surprising here is definitely the USB 3.0 support. Users with newer components can certainly be looking forward to utilize the additional speed.
Like most cases, the Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus features a bottom mounted power supply bay. Above the power supply bay are seven expansion card slots -- the slots do not feature any sort of ventilation. The standard 120mm exhaust is found at the top with circular stamped honeycomb ventilation array. Just above that are two pre-drilled and pre-fitted water cooling holes. Since the case features an internal USB 3.0 header, the user will not need to use these water cooling holes for routing the USB 3.0 cable through; more on this later. To the left of the back exhaust opening is the I/O shield space. In regards to the overall back, the Elite 431 Plus is as simple and as bare as it gets, which is to be expected. Towards the very edge is a locking feature that the user may utilize. The lock mechanism is found within the accessories box, and can be screwed onto the chassis, where a third-party lock will secure the side panel, discouraging theft of your expensive internals components during LAN events.
Looking to the left of the back side on the picture above is the back side panel. This side panel also does not feature any extra cooling options. Since the motherboard backplate needs no cooling, and a system has no reason to attract more dust, this side panel is as perfect as it gets as well; not to mention a clean appearance is much more attractive than a circular or hexagonal stamped fan mesh.
The last photo included in this section focuses on the bottom part of the Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus. In this case, the bottom has four plastic mounted feet that are used to dampen the vibrations of the case, while protecting the surface the case sits on. Comparatively speaking, the LanCool PC-K9 takes on a less expensive feet design, as it uses a cheap material. However, the plastic on the Elite 431 Plus is very soft, and is unlikely to damage any surfaces. The bottom also features two grilles. The first grille is accompanied with a fiber-based filter used for power supply air intake. The second grille is without a filter. Users will generally need to stay away from mounting fans at the bottom of the case, since the wires from the PSU will usually occupy the area.
Overall, the exterior of the Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus is very well designed. The chassis exhibits a very durable feel, and has some cool features here and there that set it apart from other cases in its class. Of course, there can be additional refinements here and there, but it is something definitely not expected and not required in the given price range.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Outside
3. Physical Look - Inside
4. Installation and Conclusion