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Author Topic: My 1st MAME: Review of: U-HID, U360, UltraLux, SpinTrak, Tornado Spinner, etc.  (Read 17074 times)

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ubiquityman

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I'm building my first arcade machine.  As I go through this, I'll review the products and update this posting.
If this post gets too long and useless, let me know and I'll move it to a blog or something.
You'll get the perspective of a mechanical engineer and a firmware programmer.
I will be expressing my personal opinion on things, and I won't hold any punches.  My pet peeve is a review that isn't critical (good and/or bad) on issues.
Also, I'm happy to answer any questions on any of these products.
Feel free to disagree or submit your own rebuttals.



The control board is 47x19.5 inches for 4 players.

This is the assembled control panel.



Only the shift key is lit on the control panel

The player credit lights will be on the Bezel:

I'll get a proper picture when it's all set up.

I also drew up a Marquee:


Finished product.
The Ultimarc Ultralux shifts the menus keys into their 2nd function.
2 buttons on each side near the bottom are for pinball.



Considerations:
  • Support of two player, dual joystick games like Smash TV.
  • Easy switching from 2way -> 4-way -> 8 way -> 49way (eg. Sinistar)
  • Ergonomic layout, palm rests, etc

Shopping Experience.
I have absolutely no prior connection or affiliation from these vendors:

Arcadeemulator.net http://arcadeemulator.net/ - Great prices.  US location.  Resolved issues very quickly.  Before I purchased, I had about a 66% response rate on emails.  100% response rate regarding an already placed order.  Definitely the place to go for Happ Parts!!  I'll be buying again from them.
  • Happ Buttons
  • Happ Competition Joystick

Jammacade http://www.jammacade.com/ - Exceptional prices on Sanwa Joysticks.  Fantastic communication and follow through.  Very quick email responses.  I will be buying all future Sanwa products from Dan. Another great shopping experience.
  • Sanwa JLW with BallTops.  

Suzo Happ http://www.happcontrols.com/ - Web prices are very high.  If you have a large enough order, speak to a sales person.  Shipping & Handling is OUTRAGEOUS.  I highly doubt I will be buying from them again.
  • 3" GoldenTee Trackball
  • Mounting Bracket for Trackball
  • Happ Buttons
  • Tornado Spinner
  • Marquee Holder
  • Connectors, etc.

Ultimarc http://www.ultimarc.com/ - Unique products.  Andy was great to deal with.  I had far too many questions but he entertained them all.  Very knowledgeable and reasonably quick email responses.  Definitely would do business again.
  • SpinTrak
  • U360 w/ balltop & Restrictors
  • UHID

GroovyGameGear http://groovygamegear.com/webstore/ - I originally was going to purchase a number of items from here such as the spinner, translucent buttons and some of the interface boards.  They do have some unique products.  Over the course of a month, I sent about 3-4 emails inquiring about products.  None of them were responded to.  Quite likely my emails made it into the spam folder or something, but since I could not make contact, I decided not to order from them.

In all, close to $2000 in parts were purchased to build 3 machines.



Product Review & Comments:
I'll get to reviewing the other products, but I'll start with the best and worst.

BEST: Ultrastik 360
This is by far the most impressive product of the bunch.
The non-contacting analog joystick works well.
I have not yet fully analyzed how this product works, but as most are aware, it's essentially a digital compass or hall effect sensor that senses the location of a magnet at the enjoy of the joystick shaft.  I also love the fact that the stick allows for 8 buttons to be connected and one button to act as a shift key. (but I will not be using the shift function on the U360.)
As an analog stick, it works well.  The spring is really too soft, but the range of motion is not bad.
I would say that the worst part of the joystick is how the controller board is mounted.  It's a bit of a kluge to change restrictor plates.  I ordered 6x U360s from Ultimarc, and 1 of the standoffs for mounting
the restrictor plate was shorter than the rest.  No problem as Andy offered to send out a new one.  The standoffs are made from fairly soft aluminum.  I broke one of these standoffs tying to install them.  The aluminum is soft enough that I was quite easily able to drill it out on the drill press, but just be careful not to apply too much force when installing the standoffs and use your fingers instead of pliers.
Also, in my opinion, the only reason to sell it with the soft spring is so that a harder spring can be offered for an additional price.  Menards has a suitable spring for $0.59 that can be cut into 2 pieces, so essentially $0.30 per spring.
The restrictor plate is a different story.  I can see that some people might not want the restrictor plate for analog joystick functionality.  Installing the circular restrictor does noticeably reduce the travel and thus the resolution of the analog output.  So, you'll have to decide for yourself whether to get the restrictor plate or not.  I'm on the fence right now.  After further use, I may make a decision on which I prefer.
Since we're mounting the joystick from the top, the shorter stick is more than adequate.  The shorter stick also provides a stiffer feel.  I personally would not recommend mounting the sticks from the bottom and thus I don't recommend the longer shaft either.
Luckily the mechanical joystick setup is only done once.
For a game that supports only a single player where 2 joysticks are required, both U360 units (Joystick1 and Joystick2) would be used.
The novel thing here with the 4-player control panel and two U360s is that two people can play a two-joystick game.   So if a game requires 4 joysticks (2 per player), the software configurable mapping of the U360 allows the axis to be shifted 30 or 45 degrees so that the U360 and the microswitch Sanwa can be parallel in movement.  (see picture)

In terms of the software 2-way, 4-way, 8-way mapping, the good news is that it's not required for MAME.  If you are used to using a microswitch joystick like a Sanwa or a Happ, you might be wondering what I'm talking about here.  Well, if you leave the U360 in analog mode, MAME takes care of the mapping for you.  (I received that information from Andy at Ultimarc, but have also verified it myself in use.)  You may still want to do custom mappings to fine-tune the joystick to "feel" the way you want, but for convenience, unlike a switch joystick, this is not necessary with an analog joystick.

This product really did "wow" me and other than cost, there is no reason not to go with this product.


U-HID

Ultimarc has made some changes to the firmware of these devices and most of my prior complaints have been resolved.

The unit is built around a Cypress Programmable System-On-A-Chip microcontroller.  
It's USB 2.0 (12Mbps, does not support 480Mbps).
Because it's programmable, U-HID/Ultimarc can change this to give it more capability through firmware.

Originally what I wanted to do, and what I had to settle for:

1. Have Player 3 joystick + buttons be seen as a gamepad, AND the same with Player 4.
This would have required U-HID to emulate 2 gamepads.  
I found out that this is not possible.  U-HID will only report itself as a single joystick.
So when it says
Max 8 analog axes on 50 possible pins (Windows limitation)
Max 32 Gamepad buttons on 50 possible pins (Windows limitation)

This is on 1 joystick.  ie. max of 8 axes, but only 1 gamepad/joystick.
Also to connect the joystick as a gamepad, I believe one has to install resistors between the left-right and up-down (2 axes, but 3 states per axes).

So I thought OK, I'll configure the buttons and joystick as one of the 32 gamepad buttons, then use the global UHID (programmable) shift key to change it to keystrokes.
I was thinking, where supported, I'll use the gamepad buttons so I don't have to worry about Windows keyboard repeat settings, etc when I don't have to, but if some programs required the different players to be on different joysticks then I would switch the UHID to keyboard emulation.  Initially, I concluded this was not possible.  If the pin is programmed as a gamepad button, the SHIFT only allows it to send a different gamepad button.  I could not get the same button programmed as a gamepad button and as a keyboard button when SHIFTed.

After getting more familiar with the UHID, I realized I could accomplish this through a workaround by programming macros for this.  So, Macro1=GamepadButton, Macro2=Key, etc.
Then I would assign the Macro1 to a button and the Macro2 would be the shifted condition.

2. Trackball & Spinner inputs.
The unit is advertised as:
Max 8 Quadrature mouse devices on 16 possible pins out of the 50.
Max 3 Quadrature mouse axes (X, Y and Z, Windows limitation)

I thought I would be able to hook (up to) 8 devices with each a separate mouse.  This was not the case initially.
However, Ultimarc upgraded the firmware for this capability.  It now supports two different mouse IDs.

The board is small.  This is not a bad thing and I picked it based on (what I thought) was software/firmware functionality over mechanical functionality.  Given all thing equal, I would choose a product with screw terminals any day of the week over the dual inline connectors used by this board.  There are more risks in using screw terminals (eg. ESD, required re-tightening, etc), but screw terminals are easier to work with.  I can't complain too much about this, as I knew what I was getting into, but if they had the same product with screw terminals, I would have chosen that.  Also, if you need to buy the harnesses, that factors into the price compared with screw terminals.  With the UHID, one could spend another ~$40 on harnesses.  The manual does list part number for the connector and pins if you have a proper crimping tool and want to do it yourself as I prefer.

At first, I thought the U-HID supported the "Standby" functionality.  It's one of the programmable options.  Ultimarc later clarified that this was a left-over entry from the PS2 days and the function does not work in USB mode.  A bit of a show stopper for right now, but I can map a key sequence to put the computer into sleep mode with AutoHotKey.

Overall, I've been very pleased with Ultimarc's responses to comments and complaints on this product.


Spinners - SlikStik Tornado vs Ultimarc SpinTrak

I found both of these spinners work just fine, but there are some difference between the two products.

Happ SlikStik Tornado:
The advantage of the SlikStik Tornado is that for $72, it comes with a USB/PS2 interface AND the flyweight, essentially making it ~$20 less than the Ultimarc.
The SlikStik has a 5-pin connector that supports 3 mouse buttons (vs zero buttons for the Ultimarc SpinTrak).  The connector is a "JST EH Series".  It's a very low cost connector, but not many places sell it.  Digikey does sell that part, but may have lead-times on availability.   The SlikStik also has a 2 pin connector for driving LEDs when the unit spins.  (I did not test this, but was told this by Happ tech support.)  The unit does come in a fairly sturdy aluminum frame that also can sit on the table.  (The shaft does not extend through the bottom bearing in the units that I received).   The board is solidly mounted to the aluminum frame.  Overall, I felt this was a well built unit and it functioned perfectly.  I did notice that one of the units I received had a slight bearing click when it was spinning which made it not spin as long as the other SlikStik spinners, but IMO it spun more than adequately.  Installation is where this unit is the weakest.  It only supports bottom mount and requires substantial clearance.  The USB 1.1 interface did not appear at all to be an issue, but the additional USB port required was of concern to me.

Pros:
  • Lowest Cost - USB/PS2 & flyweight included
  • Sturdy aluminum frame
  • Support 3 mouse buttons per unit

Cons:
  • Doesn't support top mount, only bottom mount.
  • Requires 1 USB port per spinner.
  • Clearance required below the control panel.


Ultimarc SpinTrak:
The SpinTrak retails for $74 without a flyweight and without a USB interface.  IMO, the flyweight is necessary to get the proper feel and that's +$10 more.  The USB interface is not necessarily required, but it's +$7 more.  The SpinTrak can be connected directly to another interface board to reduce the USB ports required.  This is a significant plus in my opinion.  The spinner is top mount like a button which is a plus, however, it's a tad larger than a standard Happ button and the plastic nut is also larger than the Happ nut and a different thread.  I'm guessing this is due to sensible metric measurements used instead of the backwards English measurements that the US is still using.  For tooling, a 1+1/8 in bit should work for both.  The large flyweight overhangs the diameter of the button and must be removed to install the button.  

The other thing about this spinner is that it does appear quite a bit more fragile.  The encoder board at the bottom of the unit does not look nearly as sturdy as the Tornado SlikStik.  The lead wires are soldered directly onto the encoder board.  I would have preferred connectors on the PCB rather than a pigtail.  The 4-pin connector (0.100in spacing) at the end of the pigtail is a poor connector type.  It's possibly adequate for arcade machines, but it doesn't give me any confidence in the connection/durability.  The pigtail is extremely short.  It would have been nice to see a long pigtail with a connector at the end that could mate directly to the U-HID.  That would have provided some convenience although I think it would increase the probability that the encoder board would get accidentally ripped off the bottom of the spinner because the pigtail was pulled.  

I experienced a slight quirk with the SpinTrak+UHID.  If I spin it fast enough in Tempest, the player would move in the WRONG direction.  I tried playing with the analog input setting within MAME.  If I reduced the sensitivity in MAME, it was better, but not entirely removed unless I reduced it to a point where the game was not really playable.  I did not notice this problem with the Tornado.  I'm not sure what is causing it and the test setups were a bit different so I can't conclude for sure that the problem is attributed to the SpinTrak.  I will say that as a check, I tested it outside of MAME, just in Windows and it clearly does not exhibit the problem.  So it's looking like it's something to do with MAME, or an interaction that occurs only with MAME.

Pros:
  • Top mount through a standard 1+1/8in hole
  • minimal clearance requirements

Cons:
  • Pigtail instead of on-PCB connector.
  • Higher cost

Spinner Overall Thoughts:
I think spinners need MORE friction not less.  They should NOT be free spinning for 5 minutes once set in motion.  For example, I find when I'm playing Tempest that if I take my hand off the spinner when the spinner is still, it's when I DON'T want the spinner to move any more, at all.  However, with the Tornado it really is so slick that if I don't consciously remember to remove my finger from it carefully, it does occasionally spin just a little bit.  While this is just too slick for me and occasionally annoying, the form-factor of the Tornado does allow a tab or a device to be easily added to it to give it more friction if desired.  I supposed the spinner could also be modded to give it an indent feel.  With the Ultimarc, this could be done as well, but it would likely need to interact with the flyweight, and would overall be harder to do.

Of the two, I don't have a preferred yet.  I think both devices are adequate.  It's a choice between sturdiness and mounting convenience.  I unfortunately can't recommend one over the other at this time.  


[MORE TO FOLLOW.  ANOTHER DAY.]
« Last Edit: February 16, 2011, 11:51:28 pm by ubiquityman »

Ginsu Victim

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Suzo Happ http://www.happcontrols.com/ - Web prices are very high.  If you have a large enough order, speak to a sales person.  Shipping & Handling is OUTRAGEOUS.  I highly doubt I will be buying from them again.
  • 3" GoldenTee Trackball
  • Mounting Bracket for Trackball
  • Happ Buttons
  • Tornado Spinner
  • Marquee Holder
  • Connectors, etc.

You could've bought all of this elsewhere for cheaper.

Quote
GroovyGameGear http://groovygamegear.com/webstore/ - I originally was going to purchase a number of items from here such as the spinner, translucent buttons and some of the interface boards.  They do have some unique products.  Over the course of a month, I sent about 3-4 emails inquiring about products.  None of them were responded to.  Quite likely my emails made it into the spam folder or something, but since I could not make contact, I decided not to order from them.

Great vendor. Give them a shot in the future. RandyT is a very active member here and tends to be very responsive to questions, so I'm guessing your emails did somehow just get lost in the shuffle.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2010, 01:17:22 pm by Ginsu Victim »

ubiquityman

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Suzo Happ http://www.happcontrols.com/ - Web prices are very high.  If you have a large enough order, speak to a sales person.  Shipping & Handling is OUTRAGEOUS.  I highly doubt I will be buying from them again.

You could've bought all of this elsewhere for cheaper.

Yes.  That's a very good point.  Suzo Happ's retail prices are very high.
Most of the items I was able to get at substantial discounts which made the prices competitive.
Definitely not a good place to be ordering small quantities from due to shipping & handling costs.
Large quantities need to be quoted by a sales person, otherwise, this is just not a great place to shop.

I personally do like the metal trackball mounting brackets.  They are quite sturdy, but harder to find.


Quote
GroovyGameGear

Great vendor. Give them a shot in the future. RandyT is a very active member here and tends to be very responsive to questions, so I'm guessing your emails did somehow just get lost in the shuffle.

OK, thanks for the info.  I may do that in the future.  Their Optiwiz device looks pretty good, and their spinners appear to have a connector rather than a pigtail.  If I had been able to make contact previously, I likely would have gone that route.

upprc04

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Where did you use the competition joysticks from Arcadeemulator.net?  What did you think of them?  I am building my first cabinet and am leaning toward these, but wondering if a universal joystick (4 and 8 way) would be a better idea?  Were you happy with your competition joysticks?  Do you have any experience with universal joystick?  What is the benefit of the U360 over the joysticks from Arcadeemulator.net?

ubiquityman

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I would highly recommend the U360 for flexibility.
The problem with the switch type joysticks is that it limits the system to which games are compatible.  For example, if you have the joystick in 8-way mode and you play Pacman, the game doesn't know what to do when two of the switches are closed (eg. up and right simultaneously).

With the U360 in analog mode, Mame takes care of the mapping from analog to digital.
It's more money, but do yourself a big favor and get an analog joystick even if it's not a U360.

I ended up using 2x U360s (for players 1&2) and 2x Sanwa switch type joysticks (for players 3&4).
The Sanwa and U360 share many of the same parts so it's trivial to change the design or layout to 4x U360 in the future if required..

nickynooch

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Awesome work on the artwork.  I keep debating on changing my control panel to 4 player.

Also, I love my U360s.  If I ever add 2 additional joysticks, they will be U360s.

patm95

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I really like the control panel overlay there. That is a good design!

janey

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WOW  LOVE the contraol panel..
 Make me one too ...



J

ubiquityman

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Updated the original post with the completed product.

zylon

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Very nice cab!  :applaud:

How do you like the final product? Would you change anything?


ubiquityman

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It's been a while since I last posted, but I will add a few comments in hindsight:

The Ultimarc Ultrastiks are great in terms of convenience as mame does the analog->digital mapping automatically.  This provides compatibility with a maximum number of games.  Because of this, for Players 1 & 2, I would never use a microswitch joystick.  My slight complaint with the Ultimarc Joystick is that it doesn't return to dead center.  It returns close to center, but there is a "dead zone" where the joystick is not quite at center, and the spring no longer has enough energy to return the joystick it to center.  This is somewhat taken care of when I calibrate the joystick.  I move the joystick around in the "dead zone" center when the windows joystick calibration is looking for center.  As a side note, Ultimarc also provides good support on issues, and I've been quite pleased with their service support.

I still don't like the spinners.  They leave a lot to be desired.  The main problem is the lack of indent and general lack of friction.  It is still on my to-do list to see if I can modify the spinner to have indent points, or if I find a better replacement, I will swap out the spinners with a different brand.

For my use, 4-players is definitely the way to go.  It's much more group oriented in that it leaves fewer people out of the action.  An alternative would be two head-to-head 2-player units.