Page 3 - Physical Look - Inside
The first part to getting inside of a chassis is to remove the side panel. Typically, this is a simple and mindless task, but for the BitFenix Merc Alpha, you shouldn't expect anything to be completely mindless. The two thumbscrews that come with the chassis are somewhat resistive to my fingers. I guess I'll just have to pull out the ultimate anti-screw weapon, the screwdriver. While looking for my screwdriver, I noticed the side panel does have one nice feature. You can mount two more 120mm fans onto the side if you're looking for more airflow. However, if you have a reasonably large sized aftermarket cooler, you will not be able to take advantage of this opening. On the plus side, the side panel does have a beveled handle grip, and its only other point of engagement is the front panel, which comes off easily once the thumbscrews are out. As you can see from the above image, the interior is painted black to match the exterior of the case. Attached via a twist tie is a plastic parts bag and instruction manual. Taking a quick peek around, you will also notice there are no dust filters or sound proofing foam at all. This means great heat dissipation, but at the cost of a louder computer and plenty entry points for dust; not that this should come as a shock.
Taking a look at the mounting points, you will find that the BitFenix Merc Alpha is able to accommodate mITX, mATX, and ATX motherboards. In addition, you will also find that the motherboard mounting points are also labeled with a friendly lettering scheme. This is handy for those who aren't as familiar with installing a motherboard. Oddly, the motherboard risers are not what you would typically expect. In fact, they are actually tray bumps, which raise the holes for the motherboard mounting screws. While I do believe in cutting costs, and this method is quite brilliant, I can't help but get a cheap feeling when looking at it. In the above image, you can see two top vents for two 120mm fans. If you feel the need (Or have the money) to install additional fans, this would be the place. At the back, you can see the lonely 120mm exhaust fan that comes with the BitFenix Merc Alpha, but nothing particularly special about it. I do like the placement of the large rectangular hole for the motherboard tray. It lines up perfectly for installing the backplate on modern aftermarket CPU coolers. Looks like BitFenix did a pretty good job overall, not that I am happy about a single fan, but it could be worse.
In the above image, you can clearly see a hole that is supposed to have a foot going through it. In the end, I gave up trying to teach it to be a good dog and stay, I guess three feet it is, haha. As this shouldn't be a shocker, this is where the power supply will be installed. With metal spacers and a metal bracket to hold it in place, you can assume vibrations are going to be making their way throughout the chassis. Anyone who is considering buying this value case might consider investing a little bit of duct tape to pad the power supply. This will reduce the amount of noise caused by the PSU's vibration. The bottom has another vent for an optional 120mm fan; however, I typically never put a fan there, because I don't like running power cables so close to a case fan. One little thing you will notice about the positioning of the motherboard mounting holes is that it will leave you virtually no room between the motherboard and the PSU. Essentially, this makes any cables running between them stick out a bit. It would have been nice for a bit more room, but I won't consider this an issue for the Merc Alpha, as it is a value chassis after all.
It has been a long time since I have seen screw holes for drive bays, but alas, I cannot escape from them this time. You won't have the satisfaction of easy-to-remove clips or other 3.5" and 5.25" drive bay innovations with the BitFenix Merc Alpha. However, on the bright side, they provide you with thumbscrews to use, which is actually quite generous. Another nice little feature about the drive bays is that they are slotted in a very easy to use manner; this means you don't have to worry about holding the drive in place as you screw it in. The drives can simply rest on the grooves, which make it a painless installation. The 5.25" bays have relatively easy to remove front panels. It is always great to have this as a convenience for the user, but in this instance, the front panels are a bit of a challenge to remove. They require a reasonable amount of force, even when you have depressed the clips. An unusual characteristic with the 3.5" drive bays is that you only use three screws to secure in the drives. The forth screw hole is actually a metal notch that clips into the hole of your drives. Considering I typically find two screws diagonally is plenty to hold a drive in place, I like the fact there was some good old innovation for this part of the case as well.
I'm sure you can tell so far that this chassis seems to be full of little surprises. Another feature of the BitFenix Merc Alpha is the generous number of holes offered for cable management. I didn't expect this one either for a $39 mid-tower. In addition, you can see a nice large opening for attaching the backplate on large aftermarket CPU coolers as aforementioned. I must say the back side of this case is exceptionally well designed. My assumption earlier sticks; the amount of room behind the motherboard tray could certainly be improved, but that would require bigger dimensions. For something so low cost, it is actually hard to believe that I'm having difficultly pointing out its flaws. It is like getting into a sub-compact car, and then when you press the gas pedal, it feels like you are driving a V8 with tons of power. I will say I am disappointed that the reverse side panel doesn't offer thumbscrews to remove; you will have to pull out the unfortunate screwdriver. While this isn't a huge deal, it is just a minor annoyance that could easily have been fixed for a minor cost.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Outside
3. Physical Look - Inside
4. Installation and Conclusion