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CoolerMaster CM 690 II Advanced PC Case - CoolerMaster CM 690 II Advanced
The CM 690 had its power and reset buttons plus LEDs awkwardly located at the side where if you had it under your desk they were the perfect height to accidently knock with a foot, but the CM 690 II has sensibly moved these up to the top right where they now reside in a dedicated plastic panel alongside the case's connectivity. The buttons offer a positive click, and the reset button is small and recessed preventing accidental presses. On the left is another recessed button that controls the case's frontal blue LED lighting.
Between these buttons you'll find the CM 690 II's connections. These are actually a step back from its predecessor, as FireWire has been dropped. To be honest though this is an increasingly niche – dare we say, outdated - connection and thus we can't bemoan its loss too much.
Aside from this you get two USB ports and a very welcome eSATA port. The USB ports are sensibly spaced with the headphone and microphone jacks between them, leaving room enough for even the thickest memory sticks. This is especially appreciated as it's a weakness even the original CM 690 didn't manage to avoid, and something surprisingly many experienced case manufacturers still get wrong.
Behind the buttons and connections is a removable transparent cover that reveals a sloped tray for 3.5in/2.5in SATA hard drives, which CoolerMaster calls the X-dock. Thanks to both data and power connections, it really is as easy as just sliding the drive in and you're away. Though it's not the only case on the market with this feature, the CM 690 II is one of a very few to offer it at a sub-£100 price point, and it's a touch that immediately elevates it above the norm.
Moving to the case's base, we have long, broad rubberised feet which should keep it balanced very well regardless of what surface you put it on and prevent damage to scratchable surfaces. They're screwed to the chassis so shouldn't come off as the ones on even some high-end cases (like my Antec P180) have a tendency of doing. The feet raise the case 2cm above whatever it's on, ensuring adequate airflow for the optional bottom fans and PSU intake.
Both of the case's side panels are removable by unfastening two thumb screws. This brings us across our first minor complaint with the CM 690 II Advanced as the left panel is quite difficult to remove, requiring more force than should be necessary. Still, at least it's a tight fit unlike on some other cases.