Page 4 - Installation and Conclusion
The installation process for the Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus is a relatively straightforward and easy procedure. I started off by installing my Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD5-B3 motherboard before moving on to the Cooler Master GX 450W power supply unit. One quick thing to note here is that you will not be able to install a bottom intake fan into this case if you have a long power supply, such as the Seasonic Platinum 1000W. For shorter PSUs like the one I have used, installing a bottom intake fan will be quite easy.
I had already pre-installed the Thermaltake Jing aftermarket CPU heatsink onto the motherboard, as it is customary for me to do so. I would not advise buying a taller CPU cooler than this. Just for your reference, the Thermaltake Jing is 162mm in height, making it mere millimeters away from touching the side panel.
The number of front panel connection wires was quite small in quantity, so routing the wires to the motherboard did not take too much effort. Seeing an internal USB 3.0 header is a very nice touch, since newer generation motherboards will support this interface. The rest of the cables will have to come through the larger opening at the right side of the motherboard tray. This is pretty much standard design.
One thing I need to mention would be to first remove the number of expansion slot covers you intend to use before installing the motherboard. This is because in order for someone to snap the metal braces off of the expansion slots, you will need to bend the cover towards the inside, in which the motherboard might get in the way. After I have removed the expansion slot covers, I installed my Gigabyte Radeon HD 6850 1GB OC next. It is no doubt that the Elite 431 Plus has a lot of room for video cards, other than the fact that inwards facing hard drives will charge you some 'space tax'. Do keep in mind that once the metal braces are snapped off, they will not be able to be put back on.
Wiring for this case can be quite troubling -- or, in nicer terms, very "traditional" -- like it is 2003 all over again. Behind the internal hard drive rack is enough room to place a huge amount of messy wires that can be zip tied using the holes provided on the rack. However, the motherboard tray itself provides no cabling holes or wiring features, and does not have enough room between the back of the tray and the side panel for any cables. If you are one of those individual that strive for near-perfect cabling, I believe this chassis is not for you.
Lastly, I am not a fan of the HDD installation system. Although the mounting method is tool-free, the hard drives are orientated towards the inside of the case; again, making cabling much harder. As well, being able to only mount two internal HDDs is quite limiting. To add salt to the wound, having no support for 2.5" laptop or solid state drives is quite a bummer -- especially since I strongly believe this case is marketed for gamers; albeit people on a budget. One final issue I have with this case is not being equipped with a back exhaust fan out of the box. The front LED fan is definitely a nice touch, but it is obvious that cooling for the CPU, motherboard, and video card is much more important than cooling a couple of hard drives. Of course, you can always move the LED fan to the back, but you will lose out on the cool front glow effect.
Once it was all setup and plugged in, I pushed the power button, and everything came to life. I was greeted with an ambient blue light from the front mesh, which simply looks quite amazing. I then tested the overall sound produced from the case. On the APH Networks standard of subjective sound testing on scale from 0.0 to 10.0, where 0.0 is silent and 10.0 is the loudest, the Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus would come in at 3.0/10 in my personal opinion. This is mainly because it comes with only one pre-installed fan at the front, but does not have any sound insulation material (Not that we would expect any for a case in this market niche, anyway).
On paper, the Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus is quite the chassis. Listing all the features, we can really see that the chassis brings a lot to the table, especially for the price. First off, I must commend the perfect acrylic windowed side panel. It is able to show all the internals off, while not disrupting the airflow or the looks. Secondly, having internal USB 3.0 in a budget case is quite rare at this stage, which shows that Cooler Master is not playing around. Lastly, this chassis includes a host of capable features like the X-dock (Despite the fact it is not the best solution around, we will forgive them in a budget case), an all black painted interior, tool-free optical and HDD mounting solution, LED intake fan, several mountable grills for optional cooling solutions, included lock mechanism for added security, and much more. However, although the Elite 431 Plus gives us so much, it tends to drag behind in certain areas. The lack of a front intake filter, not having an included exhaust fan, lack of cable management features, no solid state drive support, and the such are the small issues that really add up. As a budget gaming case, it is no doubt that this chassis will give a lot for your money. However, it leaves out quite a bit at the same time. Depending on what your priorities are and what your perspective is, the Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus can both be amazing and a bit lacking all at the same time.
Cooler Master provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
6/10 means A product with its advantages, but drawbacks should not be ignored before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 6.8/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
Don't get us wrong, the Cooler Master Elite 431 Plus is a pretty darn good case, offering an amazing amount of features for the price. But the small drawbacks here and there can really add up.
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1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Outside
3. Physical Look - Inside
4. Installation and Conclusion