The CM690 comes in a sturdy, attractive box showcasing the usual features and diagrams that you'll find on any box. The packaging is also very standard, with a heavy plastic bag to protect the finish and thick fitted Styrofoam to protect the product from jostling and sharp poking objects during shipping. Inside the case, there is an accessories box that includes: the manual, motherboard standoff screws, a 5 ¼” to 3 ½” bay converter, and a cable-tie (which was a nice touch).
Our first walk around the case reveals some very nice styling choices. I was once a fan for acrylic windows and cold cathode lights, but have since come to appreciate the low-key classic theme and matte finish that CM employed for this case. Beyond styling, our preliminary looks show that the CM690 is serious about cooling: the front and top are completely filtered mesh, the back has pre-installed water-cooling holes, and there are fans (or at least slots for them) everywhere. You can refer back to the specifications chart on the first page for a complete list of the impressive seven fan locations and their sizes (three are included). When compared, the CM690 appears to dwarf my old NZXT Apollo chassis. It is a little bigger and heavier in all dimensions, but the extra space will be much appreciated.
The USB, Firewire, and audio “front-panel ports” are on the top for this case, which is useful if you like to keep your case under your desk. For those who don't, though, you have to stand up to see what you're doing when using the ports. Something you'll also notice is that the two USB ports are very close together. If you want to plug in two USB peripherals that are larger than standard cable size (for example, USB rechargeable AA batteries), only one will fit.
Cooler Master chose to place the power button on the front right side of the case. It is well designed and attractive in its location, but the buttons have no feel to them at all. As you'll see in a minute, the real buttons are not actually at an angle like the ones you see on the outside, so there's no “click” or other physical feedback from the buttons. How much this tidbit annoys you, though, is simply a matter of preference.
The front panel opens up with a sharp tug from the bottom. Because the case sits so flat against a table, you'll have to lift it up to get a good grip. Here you can see all of the filters that sit behind the front panel and the “true” power and reset buttons that don't exactly line up with those on the front panel.
Similar to the front panel, the top panel can be removed by releasing a series of clips from the interior of the case. As you can see, the “front-panel ports” are easily modifiable. If you don't use your audio ports, for example, you can just remove that cable. This is also where you would screw fans or a radiator into the two 120/140mm fan ports in the ceiling of the case. Finally, at the bottom of the case, you can see the large, soft, rubber feet on the bottom of the case to help dampen vibration. There are also the optional bottom 120/140mm fan port and the unrestrictive grill for the bottom-mount PSU fan. Continue on as we take a look at the inside…