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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  • dac7nco - Thursday, October 6, 2011 - link

    Agreed. By the time I'm done a $150 case is $300.

  • mrcaffeinex - Thursday, October 6, 2011 - link

    to the Thermaltake V3 Black Edition that I picked up for my wife's desktop not too long ago. They are in the same price range (the V3 was $29.99 from the Egg a month or so ago, usually $39.99 or $44.99). There are some nice improvements on this one over the V3 though: the motherboard doesn't require standoffs to be installed for normal installations, the PSU can be mounted normally or inverted, and I think I prefer the simplicity of the front panel design on this one a bit more.
  • JonnyDough - Thursday, October 6, 2011 - link

    "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."

    We've been trying to tell computer case reviewers this for years...we don't need $200 cases to house our PCs. It isn't worth it when you replace a PC every 3 years. Yesterdays prized system is tomorrow's too slow to use piece of junk.
  • Zoomer - Saturday, October 8, 2011 - link

    How about adding in numbers for the antec 300? It'll be useful as a basis for comparison.

    On that note, how about asking Antec when they'll update the 300?
  • EthanW - Thursday, October 13, 2011 - link

    I don't understand why everyone likes the Merc. I've messed around with one and the front is very plasticky (it's not the same soft-touch the other cases had), while the guts aren't anything special. Don't get me wrong, I love Bitfenix cases. It's just that the Outlaw puts the Merc to shame for about $10 more. The Outlaw has the proper soft-touch finish, an inverted motherboard and nicer build quality - not to mention how much better the outside looks.

    Guys, if you can talk Bitfenix into it, review an Outlaw, instead. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

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