Is there anyone left out there that's old enough to remember when buying a budget case meant buying a rectangular ivory box? Well, I do. If you wanted a custom box with any sort of styling, you were going to be out big money, or be really good with a skil saw, grinder, and can of spray paint. Things are a little different now. There's some variety in budget cases and they have some style. With the Elite 371, Cooler Master is aiming at that market. Let's take a look at it, and see how they did.
Product Name: Cooler Master Elite 371
Review Sample Provided by: Cooler Master
Review by: Shane Ede
Pictures by: Shane Ede
Steel Body, (0.5mm / SECC), HIPS Plastic
(W)7.5 x (H)16.7 x (D) 18.9 inch
(W)7.5 x (H)16.7 x (D) 19.6 inch
Micro-ATX / ATX
5.25” Drive Bay
3.5” Drive Bay
Top: 120mm fan x2 (optional)
Front: 120/140mm fan x1 (optional)
Rear: 120mm fan x1, 80/90mm (optional)
Bottom: 80/90/120mm fan x1 (optional)
Side: 120/140mm x2 (optional)
Accommodates to CoolerMaster Hyper 212 Plus Cooler
USB 2.0 x2, Mic x1, Audio x1, IEEE1394a x1 (optional)
CPU Cooler Height: 6.4-inch (163mm)
VGA Card Length: 12.4-inch (315mm) with HDD Cage
Standard ATX PS2 (optional)
To be honest, the packaging isn't going to excite too many people. It's a nice shade of cardboard brown with black lettering and graphics. But, none of you are going to build a computer with the box. Right? You'll find line drawing graphic of the case itself on one side with a (very) short list of the features and a much fuller list of features on the opposite side. The Cooler Master logo and the case model name are prominently featured on all four sides and the top. Inside, the case is well protected against shipping damage by the standard Styrofoam end caps. It's also wrapped in plastic. The box arrived slightly dented with one small puncture hole, but the case traveled well, and had no damage. The only other thing in the box was a multi-language folded instruction manual for installation. As any builder is likely to do, I didn't even notice that was there until much later. Also, inside the case, was the standard baggie of accessories; motherboard standoffs, cable adapters, and extra screws.
Overall, the design of the Elite 371 is pretty solid. It's painted black all around with silver accents running up the front corners. It's a budget case, so there aren't a lot of design frills. You've got a pretty basic box with plenty of openings for fans and a simple front bezel. All but two of the fan grills also have screens inserted. Why not the other two? I'm not sure, but have to assume cost savings. The front bezel is plastic, but it has a solid feel, and isn't likely to break after you take it off once or twice.
The front plates for the 5” expansion bays are the twist off, non-replaceable kind, but are hidden behind the bezel, so if you take one off and don't need the bay anymore, it's not going to be noticeable.· The card slots on the back are the same twist and remove type.· Not a huge deal, but inconvenient if you ever cut back on slot usage, or mistakenly take one out.
The setup, and installation of my kit turned out to be a bit of a challenge for the box. Well, more for me than the box, really. If you look closely at the install picture, you'll see a yellow/black cable that's stretched tightly across the board. Tight enough to strum, in fact. The kit I have is a top PSU, and the case is a bottom mount PSU. Which makes for some very interesting cable routing. Because of that one cable, I was not able to install the graphics card, and, if I were to use this box on a permanent basis, I'd have to upgrade the PSU to make it work. Again, not really a fault of the case, but something to keep in mind if you're looking at using this case for an upgrade. Another thing to keep in mind is that, despite all the fan grills, the case only comes out of the box with one fan installed. You'll want to pick up a couple more for a full-time installation. The back plate of the case has a nice sized cutout for the CPU cooler, but very little room for cable routing. Be prepared to do some sleeving and tying.
The drive retention clips are simple and easy to figure out. A quick twist and your drive is locked into place. I can imagine that it might get a bit tight inside the case if you wanted to drop some of the higher performance CPU coolers or longer graphics cards in, but there should be plenty of room for most setups.
As a budget case, this seems like a pretty solid choice. It doesn't have a ton of room inside, but, if you've got a setup that needs more space, you'll likely be looking at a fancier case too. If you're buying a new PSU, you'll probably avoid the problem I had, as most new PSUs are coming with long enough cabling to suite a bottom mount setup. The lack of fans is somewhat disappointing, as is the lack of any sort of USB 3.0. Most enthusiasts and gamers are going to be looking a bit higher up the food chain at bigger and fancier cases. But, this would be a really good case for the weekender who's building their own home PC, or for the enthusiast who's building one of the family one.