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

  • ckryan - Wednesday, October 5, 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 5, 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 5, 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 5, 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 5, 2011 - link

    Bitfenix is awesome! The White Shinobi Window is such a sexy case. Reply
  • futurepastnow - Thursday, October 6, 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.
  • StealthX32 - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Party like it's 1999!

    Glad to see someone is interested in serving the budget segment (again).
  • StealthX32 - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Although come to think of it, $39 used to get you a power supply with the case... Reply
  • dertechie - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    Mind, those PSUs would likely explode if you actually tried to pull anything close to their rated power. Reply
  • MarkLuvsCS - Wednesday, October 5, 2011 - link

    ++1 Reply

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