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You may think that all cases below the USD 50 mark have serious quality problems (such as sharp edges where you might cut your fingers while building your PC) and don’t come with features most users will need. However, after seeing the Bitfenix Merc Alpha, which costs only USD 40, you may change your opinion. Let’s see why.
The left-side panel has a ventilation mesh. This mesh doesn’t support the installation of fans, and it also doesn’t come with an air filter. Because of the price of this case, we can’t really complain about the lack of these features.
[nextpage title=”The Front and Top Panels”]
The front panel of the Bitfenix Merc Alpha has a very sober look, with three external 5.25” bays and one external 3.5” bay, using solid covers. There is an air intake mesh at the bottom. This case, however, is the first one we’ve ever seen that doesn’t support a fan on its front panel.
The top panel, on the other hand, supports two 120 mm fans. On the Merc Beta, which is another case from Bitfenix based on the same platform, the top panel is solid.
The case comes with four USB 2.0 ports, but no USB 3.0 ports. They are located on the front part of the top panel.
[nextpage title=”The Bottom and Rear Panels”]
The bottom panel allows the installation of one 120 mm fan, but the case doesn’t come with an air filter for it, as you would expect. The second mesh you see in Figure 6 is for the power supply fan.
The rear panel and the interior of the Bitfenix Merc Alpha are painted black, which is really nice to see on a USD 40 case.
The power supply is installed on the bottom part of the case.
The Bitfenix Merc Alpha comes with a 120 mm sleeve bearing fan installed on its rear panel (Dongguan Hongcheng A1225L12S). Unfortunately, Bitfenix doesn’t give more information about this fan. You can replace this fan with an 80 mm or a 92 mm model, if you want. This fan uses a three-pin connector, so you can monitor its speed, and it must be connected to the motherboard.
There are seven expansion slots, but only two of them are reusable. The good news is that they are vented. The other five covers are disposable, i.e., you need to break them and throw them away.
This case has two holes for hoses of liquid cooling solutions. If you need to pass hoses more than 12 mm in diameter, you will need to break the available covers, so the holes will support hoses up to 30 mm in diameter.
The rear panel also has a place for you to install a nine-pin D-sub connector, such as the one used by legacy serial ports.
The rear panel has two security features. The first one is a loop for you to install a padlock or warranty seal, preventing unauthorized people from opening your computer. The second feature is a hole for security devices from Kensington, such as a steel cable for preventing people from stealing your whole computer.
Let’s now take a look inside the Bitfenix Merc Alpha.[nextpage title=”Inside the Bitfenix Merc Alpha”]
The left panel is attached to the chassis using black thumbscrews, which is rare to be seen on USD 40 cases. The right panel is attached using regular screws; however, you can replace them with thumbscrews since the case comes with a bunch of them. The motherboard tray has a huge hole for you to access the backplate of the CPU cooler without having to remove the motherboard from the case and several holes for you to route cables behind it.
In Figure 12, you have another overall look inside the case. Expansion cards are fastened using black thumbscrews, and this is done outside the case, on the rear panel. The Bitfenix Merc Alpha supports video cards up to 12.6” (320 mm) long, but if a hard drive is installed right in front of the video card, this clearance is reduced to 10.6” (270 mm).
The power supply is installed at the bottom of t
he case. Note that it can be installed with either its bottom fan facing up or facing down, so you can decide if you want the fan of your power supply pulling air from inside the case or from outside of it.
If you install a power supply up to 6.3” (160 mm) deep, you can install a 120 mm fan on the bottom panel. As already discussed, the case doesn’t come with an air filter for this fan.
[nextpage title=”The Disk Drive Bays”]
The Bitfenix Merc Alpha has three external 5.25” bays, one external/internal 3.5” bay, six internal 3.5” bays, and one internal 2.5” bay. The number of hard drive bays is impressive for a budget case. They don’t have tool-less installation mechanisms, but the case comes with several black thumbscrews for you to install the disk drives, which is terrific.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Bitfenix Merc Alpha include:
- Style: Mid-tower
- Application: ATX and smaller form factors derived from this one
- Material: Zinc-coated steel (SECC) body
- Power supply: Doesn’t come with the product
- Available colors: Black
- Side panel: Meshed
- Dimensions: 17.3 x 7.5 x 19.3 inches (439 x 190 x 490 mm) (H x W x D)
- Net weight: 10 lbs (4.4 kg)
- Gross weight: 12.5 lbs (5.6 kg)
- Bays: Three external 5.25” bays, one external/internal 3.5” bay, six internal 3.5” bays, and one internal 2.5” bay
- Expansion slots: Seven
- Maximum video card length: 12.6” (320 mm) or 10.6” (270 mm), if a hard drive is installed in front of the video card
- Maximum CPU cooler height: NA
- Fans: One 120 mm fan on the rear panel
- Optional fans: Two 120 mm fans on the top panel and one 120 mm fan on the bottom panel
- More Information: https://www.bitfenix.com
- Average Price in the US*: USD 40.00
* Researched at Google Shopping on the day we published this review.
The Bitfenix Alpha Merc is an impressive case for its price. Compared to more expensive models, lots of features are missing, as you would expect, but compared to offerings in the same price range, the Alpha Merc simply blows the competition away.
- Support for seven 3.5” hard drives
- One 2.5” bay
- Thumbscrews for fastening the expansion cards
- Thumbscrews for fastening disk drives
- A huge hole in the motherboard tray for accessing the backplate of the CPU cooler
- Holes for routing cables behind the motherboard tray
- No sharp edges where you could cut yourself
- Rear panel and interior are painted black
- Loop for padlock or warranty seal on the left panel
- Support for security device from Kensigton
- No air filters for the fans
- No support for fans on the front panel
- No clips for fastening cables behind the motherboard tray
- Only two slot covers are reusable and vented
- No USB 3.0 ports