Testing Methodology

For testing ATX cases, we use the following standardized testbed in stock and overclocked configurations to get a feel for how well the case handles heat and noise.

Full ATX Test Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-875K
(95W TDP, tested at stock speed and overclocked to 3.8GHz @ 1.38V)
Motherboard ASUS P7P55D-E Pro
Graphics Card Zotac NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 (244W TDP)
Memory 2x2GB Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer DDR3-1600
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB SATA 6Gbps
Samsung 5.25" BD-ROM/DVDRW Drive
CPU Cooler Zalman CNPS9900 MAX with Cooler Master ThermalFusion 400
Power Supply SilverStone Strider Gold 750W 80 Plus Gold

A refresher on how we test:

Acoustic testing is standardized on a foot from the front of the case, using the Extech SL10 with an ambient noise floor of ~32dB. For reference, that's what my silent apartment measures with nothing running, testing acoustics in the dead of night (usually between 1am and 3am). A lot of us sit about a foot away from our computers, so this should be a fairly accurate representation of the kind of noise the case generates, and it's close enough to get noise levels that should register above ambient.

Thermal testing is run with the computer having idled at the desktop for fifteen minutes, and again with the computer running both Furmark (where applicable) and Prime95 (less one thread when a GPU is being used) for fifteen minutes. I've found that leaving one thread open in Prime95 allows the processor to heat up enough while making sure Furmark isn't CPU-limited. We're using the thermal diodes included with the hardware to keep everything standardized, and ambient testing temperature is always between 71F and 74F. Processor temperatures reported are the average of the CPU cores.

For more details on how we arrived at this testbed, you can check out our introductory passage in the review for the IN-WIN BUC.

Last but not least, we'd also like to thank the vendors who made our testbed possible:

Thank You!

We have some thanks in order before we press on:

  • Thank you to Crucial for providing us with the Ballistix Smart Tracer memory we used to add memory thermals to our testing.
  • Thank you to Zalman for providing us with the CNPS9900 MAX heatsink and fan unit we used.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to CyberPower for providing us with the Western Digital Caviar Black hard drive, Intel Core i7-875K processor, ASUS P7P55D-E Pro motherboard, and Samsung BD-ROM/DVD+/-RW drive.
  • And thank you to SilverStone for providing us with the power supply.
Assembling the BitFenix Merc Alpha Noise and Thermal Testing, Stock
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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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