The word Icon is banded around with somewhat gay abandon these days. Strictly speaking it refers to Christian religious imagery depicting figures of worship as an aid to devotion. In more recent times the term has been attached to pretty much any-one or anything you care to mention, whether it be a pop group, a football player or even the "Iconic" chocolate hob-nob. In overuse, the term then becomes somewhat diluted, losses it's meaning and drifts of into meaningless obscurity. That is until something comes along that is truly worthy of the word. In hushed tones we speak not of the second coming, for that was some years ago, but of the third coming (we should be so lucky), for CoolerMaster have seen fit to grace us with an update to the "Iconic" CM 690 class of cases. Ladies and Gentlefolk, we're no experts at Roman Numerals, but pray silence as we bring you the CM 690 Eye Eye Eye.
The build up we've given this case should allude to our expectations of it. You see the previous iterations of the 690 have been mightily impressive, and whether or not you consider them iconic it's hard to deny that they have had it where it counts. So what of the 690 III then? Well it's a fraction bigger, allowing more flexibility on the inside, but not so much as you'd notice from the outside, it has more than ample storage with room for endless configuration between 3.5" and 2.5" drives as well as room for tall coolers and long GPUs. Throw in battleship build quality, native water cooling support for up to two 240mm radiators, a price tag of £85 and you might be starting to see why we're getting so worked up.
CMS-693-KKN1 | KWN1
Polymer, mesh front bezel
Dimensions (W x H x D)
230 x 507 x 502 mm / 9.1 x 20.0 x 19.8 inch
8.7 kg / 19.2 lbs
5.25" Drive Bays
3.5" Drive Bays
2.5" Drive Bays
10 (hidden; 7 from the HDD/SSD combo cages, 1 under the ODD cage, 1 behind the M/B tray,1 at the bottom)
USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2, Audio In & Out (supports AC97 / HD Audio)
Top: 120/140mm fan x 2, or 200mm fan x 1 (optional)
Power Supply Type
Standard ATX PS2 (not included)
VGA card length: 423 mm / 16.6 inch
Top compartment with cover to place personal belongings
Up Close: Exterior Overview and Front
The ancestry of the 690 III can clearly be seen it's lines harking as they do back to the 690II and the original 690. Gone are the pronounced shoulders though, replaced instead by a bevelled edge blending back to the case sides. The highly reflective chrome strip is still in evidence and if anything it's slightly broader and more impressive.
The lineage of the 690 III can also be seen in the front elevation. Large meshed areas, with the 5.25" bays barely distinguishable from the remainder of the meshed frontage. The right hand side of the case is devoid of features having just a slight bulge to the side panel aiding rigidity and bestowing a few extra millimetres of cable management space.
Yes, we were also hoping for a window! Thankfully the 690 III line up follows a similar patterns to that of it's predecors and it is available with a window. We're guessing there will also be a lite version and a few different colours as the brand moves forward In the meantime we have a non windowed, non bulged panel that has a large unfiltered ventilation area able to accommodate 2x120mm, 2x140mm 1x180mm or 1x200mm fans. Granted that's not bad, but we'd still rather have had a window. Did we mention we like windows???
The fine mesh that covers the front of the case is actually a series of vertical rectangles as oppesoed to the practically ubiquitous hex or circular mesh. We've deliberately pulled focus here to help you see the structures behind the mesh and to give you an idea of how unobtrusive it is.
Up Close: Roof, Rear and Base
The majority of the roof of the case is given over to a large rectangular mesh panel. Anterior to this there's a high gloss smoked/opaque acrylic sheet that slots into guides providing a sliding access to a decent sized cubby hole beneath. There is nothing elegant or sophisticated about the sliding action, indeed, it does tend to stick a little and we suspect it won't be too long before the high gloss finish is covered in greasy fingerprints. A better alternative may have been to hinge the panel, or perhaps to make it from the mesh material and so extend this along the roof.
The mesh panel is easily removed by means of a thumb bolt at the rear. Lifting it cleanly off reveals fixings for 2x120mm or 2x140mm fans. Although the fixings aren't shown in the image below, the roof is also able to take a 200mm fan. The observant amongst you will also have noticed that several of the screw holes are elongated, hinting at the cases ability to house 240 rads in the roof. There's not really enough room up here to stick a fan in, but as you'll see when we move to the build, there's plenty of room on offer inside.
As well as providing cover for a little cubby box the sliding panel also serves to blank off the front I/O area when it's not in use.
A pair of USB3.0s are teamed up with a pair of USB2.0s, the usual audio headers and a separate power and reset switch.
Round the back all is much as you would expect. A single 120mm fan on extract sits above a trio of rubber grommeted tubing holes (please stop this). Below we find 7 vented PCI slot covers with an additional vertically mounted cover providing a mounting option for devices that do not need motherboard connection, such as fan and lighting controllers.
The case is supported by four large rubber capped feet which give it a very firm base to stand on. a long slim removable dust filter covers the PSU and base fan area.
Up Close: Interior Overview and Drive Bays
The CM690 has a spacious interior with a large CPU cut out. Although it's by no means the largest we've seen it should be plenty big enough to allow hassle free installation of CPU coolers up to the 171mm in height that the case permits.. The three vertical cable management holes are on the slim side and again although they should be fine it would have been nice to see rubber grommets in a case at this price point. Turning our attention to the 3x5.25" bays we can see that as expected they are of the tool free variety.
It's when we start to look at the internal storage area that things start to get really quite interesting. With the prices of SSDs dropping faster than a Granny on ice skates we're starting to see manufacturers come up with ever more ingenious ways of handling them and their older HDD siblings. with the 690 III CoolerMaster have opted for a fully modular system of two cages, each of which can be either dismantled or re configured. At point of delivery the drives are configured as you see them below left, the set being 3x3.5" underneath 4x2.5". In this configuration the 690 III will be able to accept a GPU of up to 310mm (not including plugs). Undoing a few screws and moving the end wall of the upper rack outwards converts the assembly into 7x3.5". Obviously changing the drive configuration is going to affect the maximum GPU length, reducing it as it does down to a maximum of 260mm.
Not too bothered about storage, but have an old school monster GPU to find a home for? No problem, dismantling the upper rack will up the max GPU length to 423mm. And if you really need to you can always remove the lower rack. And what do we see when we do? Mounting holes for a 240mm rad, that's what.
Whereas the lower rack comes out in one piece, the upper rack comes apart on removal, giving you that slight "oh crap what have I done" feeling. It is in fact a piece of piddle to put back together so you can keep a firm grip on your man card for now.
As necessity is the mother of invention CoolerMaster have come up with a rather clever method of adapting what appears to be a standard HDD caddy to accept both 2.5" and 3.5" drives. Releasing a small catch underneath allows the caddy to be pulled open to just wider than the desired width allowing the drive to be slotted in and the caddy slid shut around it.
Manufacturers are also coming up with other ingenious hiding places for the slim line SSD, with CoolerMaster being no exception the 690 III has a mount on the floor of the lower 5.25" bay as well as the floor of the actual case. At least that'll stop people putting fans down there.
Up Close: Base, Rear, Roof and Reverse
Circular mesh ventilation runs practically the full length of the base of the cae, stopping only when it reaches the drive bay area. Inlaid into this myriad of ventilation holes can be found mounts for a 120mm fan as well as a 2.5" drive.
Four rubber pad topped dimples provide a secure mount for the PSU, with an elongated non grommeted cut out enabling the cables to exit to the rear.
The 690 II has room for 7 expansion cards in addition to an eighth that sits vertically alongside for non mobo PCI devices such as fan and lighting controllers. Up in the top corner we find a CoolerMaster branded 120mm fan on extract duty.
Looking now at the roof from the inside we can see that the rectangular mesh is supported by a plastic elongated honeycomb pattern mesh. The mounting holes for 120mm and 240mm fans can also be seen, as well as those for the optional 200mm fan off-set into the metal of the chassis in the image below right. The holes for the 240mm fans are elongated allowing for varying inter hole pitch on radiators, and although there are 140mm holes, you're not going to be getting a 280 rad up here without a bit of modding. But more of the water cooling options when we come to the build.
The reverse side of the 690 III is very well laid out with 13 well distributed cable tie points, for example the row of tie points that run down the side of the vertical management holes and the sets of tie points around the slots for the rear mounted SSD.
At first the 19mm of space back here seems a little worrying, and it would be were it not for the bulged side panel which will bring the total space available up to a more than adequate 27mm
There's also plenty of room for managing what could be a multitude of power and SATA cables, should you choose to populate all the drive bays.
Up Close: Stripped
Easily released plastic barbs allow the front of the case to be removed in one piece. A large aperture for the 5.25" bays, beneath which lays the large 200mm fan. We're not quite sure just how CoolerMaster have managed to squeeze this in here especially as the case itself is only 230mm wide and a good proportion of that is the bulge on the right hand side. Should you decide you don't want the nice low speed low noise fan provided, you can always whip it out and replace it with your choice of either 2x120mm, 2x140mm or 1x180mm.
Both the 5.25" blanks and the main intake area are filtered. On the downside though, whichever fans you go for if you want to clean the main filter you're first going to have to remove the front of the case
The 690 III comes with a multi language instruction booklet. The images are clear and plentiful, but could do with being a little bigger. Getting lost momentarily when we were looking for the English sentences it tickled us no end to find the Polish phrase "Jak podJak pod", which by all accounts means "How to install the Power supply" How the Hell can a six word sentence, where none of the words are duplicated be translated into a three word sentence where there are essentially only two words??? Pod and Jak? Still, it made us chuckle and reminded us that as Britons were are remarkably ignorant of other languages.
The PSU slots in easily resting securely on the rubber topped dimples, with the multitude of cables passing easily through the large oval management hole. Round the back things might look a mess but with the 27mm of space on tap, not to mention the 13 well distributed cable tie points we've every confidence of achieving a tidy job
The lack of rubber grommets does of course make for untidy looking management holes. Not so much of a problem when there's no case window, but a bit of an eyesore otherwise.
Things actually look tidier round the back than they do up front. In all we used 9 of the supplied cable ties to achieve this minimal install. There is however plenty of room back here for cable extensions and the like.
The roof of the case offers 65mm of space which if you're using 25mm thick fans means you'll be able to get any rad no greater than 40mm thick up here. This means along with custom rads such as the Hardware labs Black Ice GT Stealth series you'll also be able to fit the thicker XSPC RS240. Any of the current crop of 240mm AIOs, including CoolerMasters own Eisberg and Seidon 240 series will also fit just fine, along with others such as Corsairs H100i. However, as NZXTs Kraken X60 is a 280mm unit it just isn't going to fit up here.
There is hover a slight limiting factor in placing rads in the roof, and that is that as the rebate into the roof is 29mm deep by 285mm long, whichever rad you opt for must fit into this rebate. This means that no rad greater than 285mm is going to fit up here (assuming side ports on the end tank). As a result the XSPC EX cross flow at 290mm long will be too big as well as AX series at just 1mm over the 285mm of space available. Now you might be thinking that it'd be easy sorted by just sticking the fans in first and slinging the rad underneath, allowing it to protrude proud of the rebate. However, as the rebate is 29mm deep, and a case fan is only 25mm thick this won't work. In the image below left you can see we've placed an XSPC RS 240 in the hole, which at 277mm long is still a snug fit.
If you are after placing a thicker rad then the front of the case is the pace to be. With all the drive cages removed the world is pretty much you oyster, however, with the gap between the floor of the 5.25" bays and the floor of the case being just 290mm you're still going to have to be mindful of the length of the rad. It's also worth bearing in mind that you're going to have to steer it past the various lugs and tabs that stick out so if you're planning a build using a thick rad it might be worth putting it in first before anything else.
Fortunately if you need to retain some storage and still fancy a thicker rad or perhaps a push pull set up then all is not lost as the lower drive cage can actually be relocated further inboard opening up a gap of some 60mm in which to play. In the example below we've again used the 35mm think RS240 both with and without an extra set of fans. It fit's but only just. It is though a cert that any of the AIOs which are way under 35mm thick will go in here as a push pull set up just fine.
If you're still using air then the 690 III is also a good proposition, able as it is to take coolers up to 171mm in height. The Havik 120 that we use for comparison purposes fits in here a treat, looking well proportioned to the rest of the case.
In the introduction we talked about the phrase "Iconic" and how putting its true meaning to one side, it has become somewhat overused in recent years. The reason for us discussing this is that CoolerMaster themselves have referred to the CM 690 II as an "Icon re-defined" A bold statement by any means and a trifle egotistical especially if the latest iteration of the 690 line turns out to be a Lemon.
Well, we're pleased to say it's no Lemon, that's not to say it's perfect in every way but it's not far off by our reckoning. Let’s start with the battle ship like build quality shall we, there are few cases out there built as sturdily as this, you get the distinct feeling that a fat lad could sit on it and there'd be no ill effects. The quality of the finish is also as you would expect from CoolerMaster, with no marks or blemishes to be found anywhere, and with looks that have clear 690 lineage, defining class and elegance as they do, we think you'd be hard pushed not to find it attractive.
With SSDs becoming ever more affordable case manufacturers have had to meet the ever increasing need for them to be accommodated within their cases. In the beginning, which let’s face it, was only a year or so ago we were content with the odd 3.5" bay adapter on the off chance that we could afford one of the new and esoteric pieces of kit. Since then we've seen many weird and wonderful ways of providing a home for the slim SSDs, the main problem being that if you simply screw them into a 3.5" bay tray you're wasting quite a lot of space. With the CM 690 III CoolerMaster have tackled the problem head on and have come up with quite an innovative solution in the form of a drive rack that can be re configured according to the size of the dives you wish to house, which in the case of the SSD in turn enlarges the amount of GPU space available from 260mm up to 310mm. If you've got an old school beast of a GPU to house then have no fear the cages can be totally removed in no time at all. This modular design has been teamed with the "combo tray", in essence a HDD tray that can be expanded or contracted to house either 2.5" or 3.5" drives. Not only that, but CoolerMaster have also found little hiding places within the case for 3 additional 2.5" drives, bring the grand total to 10 SSDs or 7 HDDs
Although the 690 III is only a fraction bigger than the 690 II, the feeling of space on the inside is greatly enhanced. We've already talked about how re configuring drive cages, what we didn't mention was that by moving the lower rack posteriorly 60mm of space can be created, meaning we can get a rad in here and not lose too much storage space. It also means thicker rads and a potential push pull set up can be used, utilising either a custom set up or any of the 240mm based AIOs on the market, not least of which is CoolerMaster's own Seidon 240 or Corsairs competing H100i. Removing the drive bays completely does of course mean that the world is your oyster with regards to rad thickness, appreciating that this will impact on max GPU length, and that you will have a bit of careful wiggling to do to get it in place.
The front of the case is not the only place that rads can be mounted though. Aside from the ubiquitous 120mm mount in the rear fan location, which we tend to largely ignore these days, it's also feasible to get a 240mm rad up in the roof. There are a few limitations in that if using conventional 25mm thick fans the rad can be no thicker than 40mm, and that owing to the size of the 28mm deep rebate the rad sits in it can't be any longer than 280mm, but that's about it, and although these factors may slightly affect your choice of custom rad they're not going to impact at all on the choice of AIO.
If water cooling's not your thing then all is not lost, the 690 III is able to accept traditional tower coolers up to 171mm in height, with the large CPU cut out in the mobo tray ensuring that fitting is as stress free as can be. This combined with a potential 10 fan locations and an included 200mm unit up front there should be no excuses for poor through case air flow.
Round the back of the motherboard things continue to impress. What at first seems a miserly 19mm of space is enlarged to 27mm by a contoured bulging side panel. Thirteen well distributed cable tie points make for an easy and neat loom with plenty of space in the floor gutter to stash unused lengths.
So far so good then, but here at OC3D we are a bit picky, well very picky if we're honest. But even when we try really hard the only thing we can fault the 690 II on is the lack of rubber grommets on the slightly smaller than usual cable management holes. And believe us when we say we really being picky here as the case we have for review doesn't even have a window, so it's not like the cabling will never be seen. Fortunately for us the case is also available with a window (SKU CMS-693-KWN1) so you will be able to show off all your expensive kit inside whilst hoping that nobody comments on your £85 case not having rubber grommets. Unlikely we know but it could happen.
We scratched our heads and tried to find fault but at the end of the day the CM 690 III offers battleship build quality, extensive native water-cooling support, as well as room for tall tower coolers and long GPUs, configurable drive bays, plenty of room behind the motherboard with great cable management.
It's not until you look at the price and realise what else the £85 charged for 690 III can get you that you might start to think again. That's not to say that the CM 690 isn't worth every penny of that £85, because it is, it's just that it's right in the middle of the most competitive sector of the market, and as such is up against the Nanoxia DS1 and DS2, the Phantom 410 and last but probably most worryingly the Fractal design R4 and arc Midi V2. All of these cases are good, and all are worth the money charged for them so whichever you go for will largely depend on the small differences between them.
Thanks to Cooler Master for sending the 6900 III in for review, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.