Today, we are looking at the Merc Alpha case, a new budget offering by BitFenix. BitFenix has been busy the past few months adding to their lineup here with the Merc Alpha, Merc Beta, and the Outlaw. Now having a full complete lineup of cases from high end to budget, and even transportable. Thumbs up to them and looking forward to what else they come up with in the future. Now a look into the Merc Alpha.
(Courtesy of BitFenix)
The case gives a nice amount of flexibility for the price. Lots of fan options, USB ports and audio jacks on the top of the case. Large amount of drive bay options and all in a relatively small footprint too.
Packaging & Accessories
Pretty standard packaging. Nice amount of molded Styrofoam to hold the case in place. As well a plastic bag to keep the case as clean as possible from shipping. The bag of accessories was inside the case floating around a little bit. Overall a sound package and shouldn’t worry about any damages from shipping.
The accessories; All the screws and standoffs that you’ll need. Of course the BitFenix logo to place on your case or else where as you please. Also comes with a manual to help with the beginners in us.
Finally here is is. Case outside is metal with a plastic front. Ability to have all up to two fans on the case door and two more on top. Additionally, on the back side, you can see a fan in the case along with two holes for water cooling possibilities. The case overall is pretty light, but gives options that cases in this price range don’t give normally.
Here is a nice shot of the bottom of the case. As you can see, there’s two mesh spots on the bottom, one is for the PSU and the other can be used for an additional fan, depending on your PSU length. Rubber feet that help lift it off of a hard surface to get airflow into that PSU as well. On the back showing off the PCI slot holders. Instead of typically used in most cases that I’ve had this was on the outside, I’ll get a little more into this with the System Build. Can also get a little closer shot of the water cooling holes.
Case Interior & Accessories
Here we have the inside, fresh just opening up the case. As you can see there is a bag of accessories in there that we’ll look at in a little bit. Otherwise you can initially see is its all painted black, and a lot of possibilities for drives in the front of the case.
Here was have the bottom of the case where a PSU and fan will fit down below. As you can see there is a few cut outs (more shown later) where wires will run to the backside of the case. Top back just shows the fan as well that comes with the case. Also a nice large cut-out for access to the backside of the motherboard. Critical when changing out heatsinks without removing the full motherboard.
With seven 3.5″ bays for plenty of hard drive space you won’t need to worry about running out. Even on the top slot there is a spot where you can mount floppy drive. A rarity in computers these days, but still a good thought if you ever need one.
The 5.25″ bays here along with the wiring for the front of the case. Plenty of extra room in the top there for extra wires to help with cable management. As well the dual 120 mm fans that can mount to the top of the case here. Great for the extra ventilation needs.
Here is a good picture of the 5 .25″ drive bay from the outside. Not only this, but you can see where the 120 mm fans sit inside the case as well. Now the back of the case from the inside, here you can see all the cable cut outs quiet easily. Lots of options for cable routing which is great as well all the edges are rolled over so no cables can get caught easily on the case.
Here we have a small system build in the case. I had absolutely no issues installing anything in here at all. Was very quick and to the point, and with that the first one I’ll bring up is the motherboard installation from the picture below. Actually they included all the standoff’s already pre-installed that I needed to use. At that there was only a single one in the center of the board. The plus side with this one was there was actual dual threads on it, one going into the motherboard tray and one coming up. Worked great for installing the motherboard as it helped hold it in place so I could get screws into the board. Nice plus. With the shot below you notice that there is no shortage of room, quiet a bit actually.
From picture you can see that you can install majority of 120 mm fans up there at the top of the case without issue. Due note though there is no accessories that come with the case that will allow you to mount them up there. So either the fan has to come with it or you might need to buy some to mount the fans up there. For the PCI-E slots there is one screw that holds in the bracket that holds the slots tight, then each slot has its own screws. Note when trying to decide how many PCI-E slots that you want to use once you remove the 5 middle brackets they will not go back into the case. These are break-away PCI-E covers. The only two that you can move around are the top and lower ones to help fill in the back panel if you need to cover something up that you opened previously.
Here is a little shot of the wiring options to the backside of the motherboard tray/case. Plenty of room as you can see here even for a larger card, AMD 6950, but do note seeing that a 3.5″ drive will be an issue if you have long cards sitting in front of it. Even the SSD’s might become an issue, but those can be tossed anywhere. Though with that there is ample room to move cables/cords around as the wiring from front to back its offset from the motherboard so it will allow routing and tie downs in the area without interfering with any of the hardware especially if you don’t need to run it behind the motherboard tray.
Below you will see the SSD’s a little closer then the photo above. At least with the Intel ones I had I was only be able to use one screw hole to hold it in. At least it’s light and really only one can be used to place it but it will move around slightly due to this unless you have a 3.5″ bracket. There are little rails in the slots so the back end or front end (your choice) of the drive can be sitting on that. Also wanted to show that the front case fans there is threaded screw holes in the case to mount them, do note that it does come with the screws to go with this.
Last, but not least, backside of the motherboard tray showing the board installed. The board installed is an Asus P67 series board, and you can see two holes are easily accessible. Sadly the two on the left are on the edge of the cutout. About half of it is visible from a straight on view which means any mounting plates and such you will have to move most of the screws to take it out. If it’s just a nut/washer combo though, you can probably get to it without much trouble.
For install, minus the PSU and any 5.25″ bay items it took just minutes to put it all in. The motherboard standoff that was in the middle that also helped for a guiding hole was a nice plus when trying to the get board it. Made it go much quicker then it usually goes for me.
The quality of the case is very decent and gives you lots of options. For the price of $39.00 for the Merc Alpha from the BetFenix store…. it’s a steal! You really can’t go wrong with this budget case. There is lots of room for case fans, hard drives, graphic cards, and has a nice sturdy structure.
Actually from the sturdy construction part there is a con… the front of the case you have to remove to get to the two fans in the front. The downside is that it’s really hard to take off. I don’t know if it was something I did or not, but I couldn’t get it off without feeling like I’d break the front of the case. No, I’m not saying the case feels cheap; I was putting a lot of force on it and think its very well built to take some abuse if needed.
On the positive side, it is a cheap, sturdy case. It will fit most of anything you throw at it, including larger heatsinks that are under 165 mm in height. There is also nice clearance on other items, PCI-Slot to front panel is 437 mm and PCI-Slots to HDD-Cage (effective maximum VGA card length) is 320 mm. That can fit some of the largest cards out (AMD HD6990 and nVidia 295GTX) and still have room to spare. As I’ve said before and will say it again for the price you really can’t go wrong.
Also to note that there is a brother model the Merc Beta, only difference is there is no mounting spots for fans in the top of the case.
Thanks again to BitFenix for providing Overclockers.com with this review sample! It was very enjoyable.
– Dan Teresinski (Deathman20)