Longtime Maximum PC readers might remember former Associate Editor David Murphy stuffing a shopping cart full of PC parts into a cardboard enclosure in order to save some nickels in our $500 PC Build Off challenge. Obvious safety hazards notwithstanding, Murphy's pauper path to PCtopia is still an option, or you could forgo a night at the movies and apply that money you would have spent on an ultra cheap chassis like BitFenix's new Merc series.
There are two versions of the Merc: Alpha and Beta. The Alpha version puts a heavier emphasis on cooling with a pair of 120mm fans up top that aren't found on the Beta. Otherwise, both include a single 120mm fan with options to add several more (up to five on the Beta and seven on the Alpha), three 5.25-inch drive bays, seven 3.5-inch drive bays (one of which is external), a single 2.5-inch bay for SSDs, seven PCI slots, an all-black interior, large CPU cooler cutout, USB 2.0 I/O ports, and cable management clips.
Both are scheduled to arrive on store shelves this month for around $49 (Alpha) and $39 (Beta), which might be low enough to overlook the lack of USB 3.0 I/O ports on the front panel.