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
Expansion Slots 7
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)
Price $39 MSRP

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.

In and Around the BitFenix Merc Alpha
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  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    But would you want to use that?

    Also, fuck, those cases were basically scrap metal. No rolled edges. Hope you like bleeding all over your new machine, and then blowing it up after plugging in the tin-pot POS PSU.
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Not I don't mean this case of course!

    This case actually looks pretty decent, and they even bothered coating the inside instead of leaving it bare. Damn fine for $39, no matter how you slice it.
  • aguilpa1 - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Aw the good ole days, when you weren't hacking unless your fingers were bleeding...., wait maybe not so good.
  • Thermalzeal - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    This ^
  • Spazweasel - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Oh, you still can. You can get a case + PS for as little as about 25 dollars.

    You would want neither case nor power supply, though. The lowest cost power supplies worth having, even for a budget build, seem to start around 40 dollars (Antec and Corsair both make very nice 400-watt class power supplies in that range).
  • JonnyDough - Thursday, October 6, 2011 - link

    With the extra $20 spent on a better PSU, we're not only saving the environment a little, but helping to ensure longevity of our motherboard and components by going higher end. Yep, around $40 is my minimum, as that's basically the starting point for a 300w 80+ Bronze certified from Seasonic. Most systems don't use that much, and amps are much more important than total wattage anyway. There need to be better standards regulating power supplies. In fact, they should have to list certain factors on every OEM PC sold as well. The big mass market PC builders should be unable to fool consumers by not listing the gpu specs for instance.
  • CloudFire - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Good budget case indeed, the only other one I would recommend near this price range is the CM Haf 912.
  • CrystalBay - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Coolermaster 690's were 30-40 back a couple/few years .

    Thanks Dustin, keep posting the deals!
  • Vepsa - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Would make a great case for my home server (so I could swap its 80mm fans out for 120mm fans) but Newegg doesn't have any BitFenix cases :(
  • xcomvic - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Yea, as soon as I finished this review, I tried to look it up on Newegg, very surprised that they aren't on there...maybe they are "too" cheap for the egg, can't make any profit on the resale...

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