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CM 690 III Mid-Tower PC Chassis Review

  1. Introduction
  2. Packaging and Specifications
  3. External Impressions Part 1
  4. External Impressions Part 2
  5. Internal Impressions Part 1
  6. Internal Impressions Part 2
  7. Installation Impressions
  8. Conclusion
  9. View All


Coolermaster 690 was THE most preferred ATX PC case some years ago! It had everything most of the end users wanted at a very reasonable price, and it was one of the cases used for an endless number of case mods showcased in many tech forums.

Coolermaster had many versions of the case, with minor updates and changes, but as time went on other PC chassis brands smartened up and made similar/better version of the cases. The main con of the CM 690 II Plus was that there was no ability to mount 2x 120mm fans, let alone 2x 140mm fans. Corsair 400R taken over the crown and its been favoured by a lot of system builders….

….then comes with CM 690 III- the updated version of the case!


CM 690 III came in a plain box, but it was marked as a sample. I am not sure if the retail version will have specifications and case design illustration on it, but most likely the internal packaging is the same.

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The case was wrapped in plastic with 2x blocks of Styrofoam blocks wrapped in plastic and a manual.

The specification of the case are as follows, but do note that you can mount up to 10x 2.5″ drive. The case is made of steel, but for some odd reason, CM didn’t mention that.

Model Number CMS-693-KKN1 | KWN1
Available Color Midnight Black
Materials 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
Net Weight 8.7 kg / 19.2 lbs
M/B Type microATX, ATX
5.25″ Drive Bays 3 (exposed)
3.5″ Drive Bays 7 (hidden)
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)
I/O Panel USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2, Audio In & Out (supports AC97 / HD Audio)
Expansion Slots 7+1
Cooling System Top: 120/140mm fan x 2, or 200mm fan x 1 (optional)Front: 200mm fan x 1 (installed), or 120/140mm fan x 2 , 180mm fan x 1(optional)Rear: 120mm fan x 1 (installed)Side: 120mm fan x 2 or 180/200mm fan x 1(optional)Bottom: 120mm fan x 1 (optional)HDD cage: 120mm fan x 1 (optional)
Power Supply Type Standard ATX PS2
Maximum Compatibility VGA card length: 423 mm / 16.6 inchCPU cooler height: 171mm / 6.7 inch

The PC case weighs 8.7 kg. according to the specifications, without the hardware mounted on it. Keeping that in mind, its important that the PC case is strong enough to accommodate a lot of hardware. 400R was good enough for what was worth, but the case structure wasn’t strong enough.

That’s why Corsair 500R was marked down, because for the premium over 400R with the same basic framework was not worth it, especially considering that price range of Corsair 500R could easily allow you some of the HAF series cases. Even the good old Antec P280 was a better choice.

I’ve said the following in Corsair 500R review:
The only issue I have is that the case is weak, and packaging doesn’t really do the justice of protecting it properly. I haven’t taken a look at the 400R yet, but if its the same case design and built quality I am very disappointed on the 500R because it commands an extra premium. It’s not the best case Corsair came up with. The front panel design is nothing new, Lian Li did it with K62w and Antec pretty much has it on 1200 Full tower. Both are solid steel cases and both are very strong. 500R is more designed to be a mass-produced model to go head to head with few best selling cases for the price point, but it’s too expensive and not really worth the risk. The weight of the core configuration does hold the case together (In layman’s terms: imagine it’s like a packaging box- like the case’s packaging box. It’s weak because its empty but once the box is filled with stuff and properly taped on both ends, it does hold the basic cube shape and they don’t wobble.) and most of the wobbling does stop (despite filling it up, and when you remove the HDD case, the case does tend to bend).

Why am I bringing up 400R and 500R? Because I’ve 690 II Plus as well, to which I’ve said the following:

I appreciate CM 690 II Plus, but 400R is more “polished” product, although their I/O section is weak.


CM 690 III is still a mid tower case design while it maintains some ‘essence’ of the designs resembling the previous generation to a very limited extent.

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The left sidepanel has a transparent sidepanel, whereas the right has a recessed design. I am not sure why CM chose not to have the same recessed design on the left panel.

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CM 690 III somewhat shares a similar design in some form, but that’s about it.

CM ditched 1x 5.25″ bay and the lower section uses a different design.

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The chrome is towards the outer side of the case. The mesh is a completely different design.

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When it comes to the rear panel, unlike the CM 690 II Plus, the 7+ 1 PCIe slots are vented, the rubber grommet mount is now placed below the 120mm fan+ 1 extra grommet for routing the wires through.

The case feet design is also changed. You can clearly see the thickness of the case feet’s rubber base clearly from this angle. Notice the thumbscrew towards the top which seems to be securing the top panel.

You can also see there’s a removable filter, for the power supply and the for the fan on the base.

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There 4x large case feet with a generously thick rubber grip on the base.

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The base grip for the case feet made it difficult to move the case around the wood, granite and glass surface unless I lift the case- viz. a good thing as they really make sure the case has a good grip on the ground.

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The clips secure the fan filter attached on the underbelly.

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The top panel has the same mesh design and rounded corner, along with a removable slide cover.

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Under the cover, there’s a space good enough storage space large enough to keep a lot of flash drives or whatever you wish to keep.

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The transparent window is protected with 2x plastic sheets from both end, and it was then known that this is black tinted transparent sidepanel.

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There has been a number of change on the internal panel, most notable ones are the dedicated 4x 2.5” SSD/HDD trays, followed by 3x 3.5” HDD trays. On the motherboard tray, you see cut out for the EPS cable on the top left corner and a larger cut-out next to it, to re-route cables and wiring.

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To install the 5.25” drive, all you have to do is slide it in. There are also mounting holes, in case you need it to secure any 5.25” drives.

The top 2.5” SSD/HDD is modular, and this modular design is impressive.

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The top tray rails can be set for 2.5” and 3.5” drives. The rail cages are removable, which means you have a choice of either removing them, using them as a 2.5” bay rail support or even removing one of the rail and extending it to install 3.5” drives.

The rails also have a mounting for 1x 120mm fan, but you cannot do so for the base HDD cage. CM made up for it by providing the 120mm fan mount on the base.

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the trays are also modular, therefore, you can extend or retract any trays for 2.5” and 3.5” drives.

There was a con I’ve mentioned in CM 690 II Plus:

The case lets you install 6x HDDs and 4x 3.5″ devices. Each tray uses 4 rubber grommets with 4 of these pins to secure the hard drive. The issue is that the pins are pretty stubborn to fit in place once you install the hard drive on the HDD tray. You need to make sure that they are inserted properly or else you’ll have problems sliding it in. Also,this comes with a dual SDD add-on tray, but Coolermaster could have taken a step ahead by providing mounting holes on the HDD trays itself for 2.5″ drives.

This is one of the perfect little examples how pointing out cons in a product is considered as a feedback and used to improve the product when the newer rev comes out. CM implemented 2 ways to install 2.5” drives, so that you won’t be at a dis-advantage when switching to 3.5” rail configuration.

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The tray has retractable support rail on the 3.5” modular tray when switch to 2.5” setup, perfect for drives with 9.5mm and lesser thick 2.5” drives. You can secure the drive via the side mounting holes.

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But if you switch the rail to 3.5” configuration, you’ll also end up expanding the tray as well, of which you can install it on the base and secure it via the base screw mounts.This will accommodate any 2.5” drives, irrespective of the thickness.

As you can see, the drive maintains adequate distance from the 2.5” drive, therefore unlike CM 690 II Plus you don’t need to remove the pins.

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3.5” mechanical drives is secured by the pins on the tray, but there’s also an extra screw hole on the side, should you require to do so.

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There are 2 ways to mount the 2.5” bays, whether you set the rails for 2.5” or 3.5” drive mounting. The 3.5” drive mounting pins do not require to be removed, unlike CM 690 II Plus.

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CM ditched the ‘large’ rectangular cut out for the CPU backplate that CM 690 II Plus had and went to a more reasonable sized cut out which should be generous enough to anyone installs a CPU cooler irrespective of the CPU socket layout on the motherboard.

As you can also see there are a lot of cable tie loops on the other side of the motherboard tray. Just below the CPU mounting hole, you can also install a 2.5” drive behind as well.

That is not all:

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Not only you can install a 1x 120mm fan on the base, but in its place you can install another 2.5” drive.

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Just on the base of the 5.25” drive cage, there’s another mounting hole provide to install another 2.5” drive. So in total, you can install up to 7+ 3 2.5” drives! CM has put a lot of thought into providing multiple ways to install 2.5” drives!

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The top panel has dedicate space to install 2x 120mm/ 2x 140mm/1x 200mm fan. You can install the 240mm radiator on the top, but you can install the 2x 120mm fan between the removable top panel mesh and the top panel mounting frame.

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CM provided lot of screws, standoffs, cable tie, security lock loop, an HDD cage standoff and couple of anti-vibration pads for the fans.

There was another con I’ve mentioned about the CM 690 II Plus’ top panel:

An issue that I pointed out in Bitfenix Merc Alpha– the front panel connectors/button/LED PCB is attached on the top panel. This is annoying if you want to change/replace/add/remove/ clean fans, you end up removing the top panel. If you have tightened all the front panel cables nicely, you end up removing the cable ties so that you can remove the top panel. An Elite 311 Plus that I am going to put a review up soon has a separate metal bracket like the 400R/500R, so something similar could have been done (maybe possibly by sacrificing the top 5.25″ bay??).

CM did something more convenient than removing the entire top panel. The top mesh panel can removed from the top panel frame. This way you can clean the top panel mesh vents easily, and also clean the installed top panel fan as well.

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The I/O connectors are attached on the main top panel frame, but its not a problem. You are able to access the top fans and clean them easily! This was what I wanted to see, and that’s exactly what Coolermaster has done!

After stripping the entire case, you get a good idea of the amount of effort CM has taken to re-design the case!

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The frame of the case is pretty strong, well- its much stronger than 400R and 500R.

And what was then found out that you can remove the base HDD drive as well, giving a lot of opportunities to modders. You will have to remove the screws from the underbelly of the case rather than from the base, but its not biggie.

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At this point, the case did not flex as much as I thought it would. The case is nicely riveted together, despite using lesser rivets than the 400R. The rear I/O section’s steels ‘feels’ thicker, at least it feels that its more dense than 400R. This is also the reason why I don’t mind the absence of rubber grommets on the cable management holes. Probably CM would have it in CM 690 III Advanced/Plus or whatever they plan on doing next.

Its because of this, you can install a 240mm radiator on the front. That’s where the extra HDD comes into play, atleast according to the instructions according to the manual with pictures and no instructions. The front 2x 120mm fans and the 240m radiator will be installed within the case and the base HDD case with be installed with another set of mounting pre-drilled on the case. When you’re doing this, you can still install 200mm fan on the front panel since it does not share the same mounting hole as the 120mm fans.

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You can also remove the 200mm fans and install either 2x 120mm fan or 2x 140mm fan, another con on the CM 690 II Plus. By reducing the 5.25” bays, they not only were able to allow the installation of 240mm radiator on the front, but also 2x 120mm/2x 140mm/ 1x 200mm and also the extra height provided room enough to slide in the 7th HDD tray.

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The case has multiple sections to route the cable to and from and even more then enough cable tie loops while providing mounting for a 2.5” drive on the back panel.

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The tray of the motherboard is reasonable strong, and there’s enough space to route a lot of cable even with motherboards with certain odd layouts, such as having fan headers in unusual section of the motherboard.

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The front panel and the top panel uses easier set of clips unlike CM 690 II Plus. All you have to do is press the clips from the inside and push it, therefore ejecting the plastic panels. If you want to clean the front panel vents, you will have to remove the front panel entirely.

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The front panel filter frame comes out easily. the 5.25” bay bezel can removed easily from the inside.

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On most counts, you’ll have no need to remove the top panel. Despite the front panel I/O is attached on the frame, as said before the top panel fan vents can be removed easily.

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The power/Reset, LED indicator and the USB 3.0 cable are directly wired, whereas the USB 2.0 and the audio jacks are on a small strip of PCB attached on the top panel.

There are 2 fans preinstalled:

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The front panel is 200mm fan model ‘A20030-07CB-3MN-F1’ and a rear 120mm fan ‘A1202512CB-3BN-F1’ model fan. CM has been using these fans on many cases, the 200mm fan is even used in cases such as HAF X. These are ‘long life’ sleeve bearing fans with 3 pin fan connector and a removable MOLEX connector, both cables with a generous amount of wire length.
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Other than that, the connectors and buttons are pretty standard: (From left) 2x USB 3.0 ports, audio ports for mic and headphones, 2x USB 2.0 header, a power and a reset button followed by LED indicator.

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The space between the motherboard tray and the right panel is about less than an inch, but from the HDD cage to the right sidepanel as a space of 1”.

There’s plenty of room on the top panel, even once the motherboard is installed.

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I had to use the motherboard standoff socket to secure the brass standoffs which was provided with the case, the installation was pretty easy.

The Hardware that I’ve mounted on the case are as follows:

Motherboard+ Processor Intel DZ87KLT-75K+ Intel 4770K ‘Haswell’
Memory Kit Kingston 8GB HyperX Genesis 1600MHz CL9
Graphic Card Sapphire 7790 Dual-X OC Edition
Power Supply Corsair TX750
CPU Cooler Xigmatek Black Knight
Primary Drive Kingston HyperX 3K 90GB SSD
Secondary Storage Drives 2x WD 1TB EADS Green
1x WD 1TB EVDS Green
1x Seagate 1TB
1x 320GB AAJS Blue
1x Transcend SSD720 256GB SSD
1x Kingston V100+ SSD

The Intel DZ87KLT-75K motherboard has few odd connector placements, such as 2x 4 pin front fan connectors on the top right corner of the board, 2x rear fan headers below the CPU socket, to name a few.

This may have been done to accommodate other connector types such as the mSATA drive, but that’s a tale for another day.

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To install a 2.5” SSD drive on the rear or on top of the HDD/SSD cage, you’ll need to use theM3*8 screw and the anti vibration pad, and then mount it.

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The vibration pad needs to be installed, though SSD don’t have any moving parts to vibrate. The vibrating pads properly secure the drive on the rear of the motherboard tray.

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use this when I’ve put the system together because of the TX750. Usually, 2x Molex cables and 2x PCIE 6+2 cables stay unconnected, therefore they have to be tied at the back of the case to be hidden away, and done in a way that you can close the right sidepanel with ease. In such cases, usually there’s a mess of cables in the area next to the HDD cage, since you routing SATA cables, SATA power cables, front panel cables (including the USB 3.0 cables), fan headers and the 24pin ATX cables, followed by a single 6+2 PCIe power cable and the EPS ATX cable.

Thankfully, there was an empty routing space between the end of the motherboard tray and the HDD cages. I was able to route 2x SATA power cables, number of SATA connectors, 24 PIN ATX connector through it, whereas use the routing holes for front panel connectors, fan headers, 6+2 PCIe connector and route the un-used cable behind and secure them using cable tie loops. The routing holes were also required so that I can get enough space to connect the SATA connectors on the motherboard easily, or else it would be practically extremely difficult in doing so with the 3.5” drive rail setup.

I really wished they used thumbscrews for the PCIe connectors.

CM_690_III_0179Most of the cable mess shouldn’t be there unless you have 3-4 cables idling around. But in case you do- and you’re not using a modular power supply, CM 690 III has enough cable tie loops to ensure that its secured properly.

CM 690 III is a well-made PC case with a good level of space and a lot of mounting space for 2.5” drives and has a stronger frame than Corsair 400R, especially on the rear I/O. It was able to take care of most of the cons that CM 690 II Plus has. There are plenty of cable tie loops provided on the rear section of the motherboard tray – and a couple more on the side of the 5.25” bay, enough routing holes, excellent case feet good enough for wood, glass, granite flat surface, ability to mount 240mm radiators on the front and top. etc- the list goes on.

Suffice to say that in many areas, CM 690 III is more of a design overhaul then updated version of the case.

There are minor trade-offs, such as an inability to remove only the front panel dust filter without removing the entire front panel frame (just like how CM did for the top panel), using M3*5 screws rather than thumbscrews to secure the PCIe add-on cards, not having rubber grommets on the cable management routing hole (well, then again I would probably whine about the grommets not having grips to secure themselves properly on the M/B tray, just like Antec Eleven Hundred).

This is the base model of the CM 690 III. CM probably would have Plus/ Advanced/ AMD Radeon or Nvidia Edition, etc. to put those ‘extra stuff’.

hammercm690iiiawardIt’s a good case with good enough features without compromising on its built quality, therefore it earns the solid built quality award.

For those looking out for an excellent build with standard ATX M/B formfactor, this is a great case, though many would be comfortable in getting 2x 120/140mm fans that can push in a lot CFM of air if they plan to stack multiple hard drives with higher capacity storage and known to get hot (like WD Black) or live in a fairly humid area, depending on the overall build.

As of now, only one India based online retail site has priced this case for Rs. 7,040/- all inclusive taxes, which translates to $114.20 (1USD= Rs. 61.65/-). I don’t have the pricing for U.S. and U.K. via amazon since it’s not listed, so once it is the table will be updated.

But considering that in India, Corsair 400R costs Rs. 5,890/- at the time of writing, so you can make a choice accordingly. Thumbscrews for the PCIe slots, removable front panel air filter and grommets on the cable management would have given the case VFM award along with the ‘solid built’ award, but do note the potential to amount number of drives and the solid built quality of the case when making purchase decisions.

India (online) U.S. U.K.
Rs. 7,050/- NA NA

Edit (Dated 19.08.2013): Its come into notice that CM 690 III’s non-windowed version which has a fan mounting of up to 200mm doesn’t have a fan filter. The non-transparent window variant should have some way of providing a dust filter, or else the effort of having so many dust filters get over-shadowed, especially since it gives access to blow push the dust towards the main components of the system.

Edit 2 (Dated 07.10.2013): The following message came from Coolermaster:
We will be providing the thumbscrews and rubber grommets in the new shipment. Older customers will be able to get the same from us. The spares for old customer will arrive in a month or two.

Coolermaster 690 was THE most preferred ATX PC case some years ago! It had everything most of the end users wanted at a very reasonable price, and it was one of the cases used for an endless number of case mods showcased in many tech forums. Coolermaster had many versions of the case, with minor updates and changes, but as time went on other PC chassis brands smartened up and made similar/better version of the cases. The main con of the CM 690 II Plus was that there was no ability to mount 2x 120mm fans, let alone 2x 140mm…

Review Overview

Built Quality - 10
Space - 8.5
Cable Management - 8.5
Fan Mounts - 10
Expandability - 8
Features - 8
Value for Money - 8

8.7

BBQ Score

Summary : Significant improvement over CM 690 II Plus is an understatement. A Whole new case with the same essence and succeeds CM 690's legacy!

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