Review: It’s pretty cheap, but for all that the Merc Alpha is still a solid choice for those on a tight budget. Just watch the heat...
If the Merc Alpha (and we really dig the name, too – very clever) were beige, we’d almost think we’d somehow travelled back to the mid-90s of computing. And we mean that in the best possible way!
It’s really quite refreshing to pick up and play with a budget gaming case and not have it, well, suck. Too often, case makers, when they aim to make a cheap case, forget all about the cheerful half of that popular phrase. No so BitFenix, who has delivered a stripped back, no nonsense offering that simply does what it says on the tin.
Smoothing, not cutting, corners
We normally start talking about a case in an out of the box sense, but for the Alpha, it was pretty obvious this was a stripped back experience when we actually tried to unbox it. It’s light, you see; so light that our usual method of tipping a box upside down and removing it like you would a mould from jelly just didn’t work. It just hung in there, defying gravity, spider-like.
Once we did remove the thing – and it is seriously light – it’s actually one of the most refreshing cases we’ve seen in a long time.
From the exterior it’s, well, pretty plain, but by no means ugly. A slightly curved front fascia holds the ODD bays and an ever-hopeful 3.5in bay for anyone who really still cares. There’s a small strip of mesh along the bottom that’s as much an aesthetic choice as a cooling one, especially as there are no intake fans installed in the front panel. Actually, there are a no intake fans at all, and only one exhaust fan. For humble computing efforts, it’s not too much of an issue, but anything truly Atomic will definitely need to take advantage of the generous fan mounts the case boasts.
There’s basic IO options and power controls along the top fascia, and a simple rear plate complete with old-fashioned punch-out expansion plates. Solid metal thumbscrews secure the side-panels, too proving that you can make a budget case without using cheap plastic screws. The interior... well, it’s not much to write home about, but the thing we really love here is that BitFenix has not tried to shoehorn ineffective tool-less options. Every drive bay and expansion slot relies upon simple screws; that’s something we wish some high-end cases would do, and it’s infinitely better than trying to look the part with restraining systems that are actually a danger to your kit.
Now, the lack of cooling is in a problem, and there’s almost nothing in the way of serious cable-management going on apart from some un-grommetted cut-outs that lead the merest hint of space behind the motherboard tray, but oddly... we don’t mind. Compare it to the recent Helios, and not only is cheaper and far less pretentious, but it’s actually just a better case. For the money, this is a near perfect case for the first-time builder or even if you want a case that you can mess about with a few modding projects. Well done, BitFenix, for not pretending the Merc is more concerned about money than anything else.