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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  • AssBall - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    I think they are not available for retailers yet; I can't find them to buy anywhere so far except Australia.
  • Airwick - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    They've been available here for a little while now.

  • TrackSmart - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    They sell $20 cases on Newegg. So it's not a price issue.
  • blckgrffn - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link


    Same internals, right down to where the SSD mounts.
  • Bozo - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    The inside of that case looks like an Antec 100. Hmmm
  • TyphoidMary - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    I bought a Rosewill Blackbone from the 'egg on THG's recommendation last year, and it was a genuine pleasure to build in. Cheap too, I think it was like $50.

  • crimson117 - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    It may be $39.99 MSRP, but the lowest price I can find including shipping to the east coast is ~$55 from the BitFenix store. FrozenCPU wants $30 for ground shipping.
  • iamezza - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Thanks Dustin for another excellent Case review

    I too dislike those non-recessed slot covers, it's something I have only really seen on either very-cheap cases or OEM cases.
  • hrbngr - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    As a previous poster mentioned, I think that for a little bit more $$, the Coolermaster HAF 912 is a stellar budget case. The detachable middle bay that allows room for big video cards along w/decent width--allowing for larger/taller heatsinks--makes this case an easy choice for most installs. I was previously an antec 300 fan, btw.
  • Samus - Thursday, October 6, 2011 - link

    This thing costs less than two 'hotswap adapters' for my Silverstone FT01!

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