In yet another example of a design that likely looked way better on paper than in practice, we find ourselves struggling to come to terms with the Cooler Master 690’s more unique features. We can’t fault the company for trying; in some ways, we applaud Cooler Master’s attempts at distinguishing the 690 from the rest of its cadre in the crowded case market.
For all the 690 chassis does to improve your rig's wiring, the end result is hardly helpful.
The exterior of the 690 not only looks cool, the mesh accents throughout the shell also serve as a handy means of moving air into and out of the case. Arguably, this semi-open design might diffuse air you want directed at certain key components, but the quasi see-through paneling—especially when illuminated by a few LED fans—looks slick enough to silence such concerns. Anyway, with room for up to seven 12cm fans, the 690 is hardly lacking when it comes to air-powered cooling potential.
Correction: six fans. When you mount a standard-size power supply to the bottom of the case, you lose one of the fan slots outright. We’re baffled as to how Cooler Master thought that power supply cables and a 12cm fan could somehow coexist in the same physical location, but there you have it.
One hole is for the power supply fan; the other (in theory) fits a standard 12cm fan.
Speaking of cables, the 690 uses an interesting scheme for managing them. A series of plastic clips attached to the motherboard tray encourages you to route all your cables along a single, uniform path. This is supposed to minimize cable clutter. And it does. But it also hampers your ability to connect devices to your motherboard; the clips and cables along the route blocked access to our floppy connector.
Storing screws in this manner is unique. Too bad it doubles our work.
Yes, right now it’s only a floppy connector, but the minute we encounter a motherboard whose side-mounted SATA ports are rendered useless by the 690’s design, well, that’s the minute we’re tossing this case into the garbage. And it’s not just the motherboard that presents an issue. We had a little trouble getting our optical drive to fit amidst the cords of the top-mounted USB, FireWire, and eSATA connectors.
While the case itself is screwless, you pay for this luxury with the hard drive holders. Rails on either side of hard drive holder let you scoot your drive right in—that is, after you’ve spent time wrestling your drive into the flimsy, plastic sheath.
Sweet ideas combined with subpar execution: Welcome to the Cooler Master 690.