BitFenix Merc Alpha: Just How Much Can $39 Buy?by Dustin Sklavos on October 5, 2011 12:00 AM EST
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Introducing the BitFenix Merc Alpha
While we've had a chance to check out a few cases in the $200+ club and the majority of the enclosures we've tested have floated around the $99 price range, we haven't really put the screws (so to speak) to a truly budget case. That changes today, when we tackle the least expensive case we've yet tested: the BitFenix Merc Alpha. At just $39 it would be reasonable not to expect much, but as you'll see this case can hang with enclosures at twice the cost or better.
BitFenix has generously provided us considerable lead time to check out the Merc Alpha ahead of other sites, and the time was well spent. The Merc Alpha is one of a pair of twin models under the "Merc" brand; the Merc Beta has the same shell and costs the same amount, but loses the top vents. Given our generally positive experience with the Shinobi (another budget contender), I was looking forward to sitting down with the Merc Alpha and I wasn't disappointed by it.
|BitFenix Merc Alpha Specifications|
|Motherboard Form Factor||ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX|
|Drive Bays||External||3x 5.25", 1x 3.5"|
|Internal||6x 3.5", 1x 2.5"|
|Cooling||Front||2x 120mm fan mount|
|Rear||1x 120mm exhaust fan (3-pin header)|
|Top||2x 120mm fan mounts|
|Side||2x 120mm fan mounts|
|Bottom||1x 120mm fan mount|
|Front I/O Port||-|
|Top I/O Port||4x USB 2.0, headphone and mic jacks|
|Power Supply Size||ATX|
|Clearance||12.5" without hard drive/10" with hard drive (Expansion Cards), 170mm (CPU HSF), 300mm without bottom fan/160mm with bottom fan (PSU)|
|Weight||10.8 lbs. (4.9 kg)|
|Dimensions||17.3" x 7.5" x 19.3" (439mm x 190mm x 490mm)|
As you can see the bones with the BitFenix Merc Alpha are pretty bare, but I was pleasantly surprised at just how much functionality BitFenix was able to pack into it. The Merc Alpha has plenty of room for adding fans and improving cooling much like its older sibling, the Shinobi, and indeed the internal design of the Merc feels in many ways like a Shinobi that's lost some weight and some zazz.
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ckryan - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - linkBitFenix is company I'd never heard of before recently, but it looks like they're going for the mainstream case segment jugular. If nothing else, it's nice to have an inexpensive case with competence standard and not optional.
Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - linkThey really are. I'm fond of saying they're young and hungry, but it's true. Their stuff is stellar.
SunLord - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - linkNot to mention the lack of gaudy and cheesy over the top "gamer" case bling on the outside and lack of fail on the inside like alot of other cases. I can't stand all the BS most new cases come with. I got a FT2 for a reason though my old case is a Thermaltake Armor+
MonkeyPaw - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - linkI just bought a Diablotek EVO case for $45, and I must say I was surprised at how nice it was. It has a few minor design flaws, but quality was pretty good (solid feeling) at the price point. In fact, it has a lot in common with this model on the inside, and it doesn't look like a nerd warrior case on the outside.
venomblade - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - linkBitfenix is awesome! The White Shinobi Window is such a sexy case.
futurepastnow - Thursday, October 6, 2011 - linkYeah, same here.
This is really a nice looking case (although I prefer a solid, rather than vented or windowed, side panel). None of the gaudy, flashy bits that usually mar inexpensive cases.
I've never had a truly tool-free case, so maybe I don't know what I'm missing, but I don't mind having to break out the screwdriver to replace a drive.
StealthX32 - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - linkParty like it's 1999!
Glad to see someone is interested in serving the budget segment (again).
StealthX32 - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - linkAlthough come to think of it, $39 used to get you a power supply with the case...
dertechie - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - linkMind, those PSUs would likely explode if you actually tried to pull anything close to their rated power.
MarkLuvsCS - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link++1