Conclusion: Great for the Money

BitFenix's Merc Alpha is first and foremost an extreme budget case. While I've personally often considered cases at the $99 mark to be "budget" because I'm spoiled rotten and used to big and fancy stuff, $39 is really about as low as anyone should want to go. Thankfully, no one at BitFenix is sacrificing quality to get there.

The Merc Alpha (and likely the Merc Beta) is pretty much packed with smart decisions. BitFenix had to cut a few corners to hit that price tag, but they cut the right ones and smoothed out the rest. Aesthetically the Merc is still a remarkably attractive case that skillfully avoids looking too generic (as many enclosures in this market often do) without being ostentatious in the process. Their engineers have also made it nearly as tool-less as possible without actually including tool-less mechanisms that might inflate its cost, and they've done it simply and smartly by including a mess of thumbscrews. Sometimes the simplest solution really is the best one.

Internally the Merc Alpha is also well organized, with allowances made for managing cables despite the relatively cramped quarters within. There's no space behind the motherboard tray proper, but there's a healthy amount of it behind the drive cages that goes a long way towards making the enclosure easier to assemble a system in as well as easy to service. I also wish more enclosure designers would take the time BitFenix's engineers did to make installing a motherboard as easy as it is here: standoffs are basically built into the tray itself, and the single copper stud makes lining up the board worlds easier.

Honestly, the nuisances are relatively minor. Popping out the expansion bay covers was something of a chore, and the lack of thumbscrews on the right panel is unusual given their inclusion nearly everywhere else (though you could just as easily replace the standard screws with included thumbscrews). I also wish they'd at least highlighted the 2.5" drive mount in the instructions, as it's incredibly easy to miss. And when you install a video card you do run the risk of blocking one or two 3.5" drive bays, but this price I have a hard time really complaining about it.

Bottom line is this: if you're on a severe budget and looking to maximize the amount of value you get for your dollar on every component you buy, you should probably be shortlisting the Merc Alpha. It has plenty of room to grow with your build, as well as solid enough thermal and acoustic performance to get the job done. If you have the money, I'd still recommend spending up to either BitFenix's Shinobi or even a Fractal Design Arc Midi, but if you need to cut corners and save some bank, you could do a heck of a lot worse than the Merc Alpha.

Noise and Thermal Testing, Overclocked


View All Comments

  • AssBall - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    I think they are not available for retailers yet; I can't find them to buy anywhere so far except Australia. Reply
  • Airwick - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    They've been available here for a little while now.
  • TrackSmart - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    They sell $20 cases on Newegg. So it's not a price issue. Reply
  • blckgrffn - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    Same internals, right down to where the SSD mounts.
  • Bozo - Wednesday, October 05, 2011 - link

    The inside of that case looks like an Antec 100. Hmmm Reply
  • TyphoidMary - Wednesday, October 05, 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 05, 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. Reply
  • iamezza - Wednesday, October 05, 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 05, 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. Reply
  • Samus - Thursday, October 06, 2011 - link

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

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now