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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  • ckryan - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    BitFenix is company I'd never heard of before recently, but it looks like they're going for the mainstream case segment jugular. If nothing else, it's nice to have an inexpensive case with competence standard and not optional. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    They really are. I'm fond of saying they're young and hungry, but it's true. Their stuff is stellar. Reply
  • SunLord - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    Not to mention the lack of gaudy and cheesy over the top "gamer" case bling on the outside and lack of fail on the inside like alot of other cases. I can't stand all the BS most new cases come with. I got a FT2 for a reason though my old case is a Thermaltake Armor+ Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    I just bought a Diablotek EVO case for $45, and I must say I was surprised at how nice it was. It has a few minor design flaws, but quality was pretty good (solid feeling) at the price point. In fact, it has a lot in common with this model on the inside, and it doesn't look like a nerd warrior case on the outside. Reply
  • venomblade - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    Bitfenix is awesome! The White Shinobi Window is such a sexy case. Reply
  • futurepastnow - Thursday, October 06, 2011 - link

    Yeah, same here.

    This is really a nice looking case (although I prefer a solid, rather than vented or windowed, side panel). None of the gaudy, flashy bits that usually mar inexpensive cases.

    I've never had a truly tool-free case, so maybe I don't know what I'm missing, but I don't mind having to break out the screwdriver to replace a drive.
    Reply
  • StealthX32 - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    Party like it's 1999!

    Glad to see someone is interested in serving the budget segment (again).
    Reply
  • StealthX32 - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    Although come to think of it, $39 used to get you a power supply with the case... Reply
  • dertechie - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    Mind, those PSUs would likely explode if you actually tried to pull anything close to their rated power. Reply
  • MarkLuvsCS - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    ++1 Reply

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