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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  • dac7nco - Thursday, October 06, 2011 - link

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

    Daimon
    Reply
  • mrcaffeinex - Thursday, October 06, 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. Reply
  • JonnyDough - Thursday, October 06, 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.
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Saturday, October 08, 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?
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply

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