In and Around the BitFenix Merc Alpha

The important thing to remember (and the thing I'm likely to continue beating you about the shoulders with) is that the BitFenix Merc Alpha is just $39, and so expectations should be adjusted accordingly. People expecting four fans, an aluminum fascia, and support for four GTX 580s should obviously be looking elsewhere, but for those of us willing to accept an inexpensive (read: not necessarily "cheap") plastic and steel enclosure that's not too hard on the eyes, there's a lot to like here.

The front fascia, drive bay shields, and I/O at the top of the enclosure (just where I like to see it) are all a black plastic that may have saved BitFenix some dough but certainly doesn't feel particularly cheap, while the rest of the enclosure is made of steel. I found the steel feels a bit thinner than usual, but that's to be expected with a case at this price, and it's not so thin as to really compromise the durability of the Merc Alpha. The case is light, but it's also fairly small for a mid tower.

When you check out the back of the Merc Alpha, you'll see that two ventilated expansion slot covers are included while the rest have to be punched out of the case; this is still two more than you usually get in this price bracket. Note that these slots aren't recessed, which unfortunately does lead to one of my biggest pet peeves: the additional metal bracket often required to cover up the back of the enclosure. This invariably requires extra work and I'm not sure how much was really saved by going this route. It does keep the size of the Merc Alpha down, but only a little bit. You'll see the back also supports orienting the power supply normally or inverting it.

BitFenix uses thumbscrews to affix the left side panel to the chassis, and instead of sliding off, the panel is hinged; lift it vertically to remove it. Unfortunately the right side panel is held in place by standard phillips head screws, so this isn't going to be a tool-less assembly. The lack of thumbscrews here is actually odd bordering on anomalous; you'll see later that BitFenix employs thumbscrews at great lengths with this design.

Internally things are pretty basic; hard drive orientation isn't my favorite (I prefer a rotated drive cage), but BitFenix makes good use of the space opened up on the other side of the enclosure. Everything mounts with thumbscrews included with the Merc Alpha (special thumbscrews are included for optical drives and their smaller screw holes.) You'll notice that there's a single copper stud in the middle of the motherboard tray, and that there are raised areas surrounding it: unless you're installing a Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX board, the Merc Alpha doesn't require the addition of any mounts. Directly behind the motherboard tray there's virtually no space, but there's still cable management. In the Merc Alpha, BitFenix has designated the space behind the drive cages for tucking cables.

Honestly the Merc Alpha is pretty basic as far as modern ATX designs go, but it does feel modern at least and includes some niceties that I seldom see even in much more expensive cases.

Introducing the BitFenix Merc Alpha Assembling 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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. Reply
  • Thermalzeal - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    This ^ Reply
  • 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).
    Reply
  • 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. Reply
  • 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. Reply
  • CrystalBay - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

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

    Thanks Dustin, keep posting the deals!
    Reply
  • 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 :( Reply
  • 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... Reply

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