Author Topic: Review: Thumbstick Replacement Options  (Read 13056 times)

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Offline sanni

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Review: Thumbstick Replacement Options
« on: December 23, 2012, 07:18:56 AM »
N64 Replacement Thumbstick Test:

Over the years I have aquired quite a few different replacement thumbsticks from ebay and I thought it would be nice to write some lines about them.

I will review 3 aftermarket replacement thumbsticks and compare them to the original N64 thumbstick. To differentiate between the different sticks I gave them names like "gc style replacement stick" but they are not actually called that way on ebay.
If you want to buy a particular one just compare the images.

Please bear in mind that this review only displays my opinion. So just because I say something doesn't mean everybody feels the same and maybe a thumbstick that I didn't like is actually the perfect one for you because we all are different and so are the thumbstick replacements.

Look and feel
used original thumbstick:solid, nice quality when new, terribly wobbly after extended use
gc style replacement stick:solid, nice quality
oem style replacement stick:feels like it's made of lighter plastic, top of thumbstick flat, flimsy spring
new potentiometer based oem style:solid looking plastic, thumbstick cap has good grip feels almost like coated with rubber, spring is stronger than an original, moving the thumbstick feels a little rough and could use some lubrication


Range
A normal N64 controller's thumbstick in good condition has a range between 80 and 85 steps in each direction.
If a thumbstick has not enough or too many steps then you will face problems in some of the N64 games:

  • too many steps: In Blast Corps the character won't move at all if the thumbstick replacement exceeds a certain range
  • not enough steps: In Super Smash Bros you won't be able to perform the edge-to-edge joystick test if your thumbstick hasn't got enough steps.

used original thumbstick:[ x ] pass[   ] fail
gc style replacement stick:[ x ] pass [   ] fail
oem style replacement stick: [ x ] pass[   ] fail
new potentiometer based oem style:[ x ] pass [   ] fail

Range in pictures:
new original thumbstick:
gc style replacement stick:
oem style replacement stick:
new potentiometer based oem style:

Skipping
Normally you would expect the thumbstick to increase it's analog value step by step. E.g. after 12 comes 13 and then 14 and so on.
But some replacement sticks skip steps so that e.g. after 12 comes 16 and then 20.
  • If there is too much skipping the Zelda Spin Attack won't execute.

used original thumbstick:[ x ] pass[   ] fail
gc style replacement stick:[   ] pass [ x ] fail
oem style replacement stick: [ x ] pass[   ] fail
new potentiometer based oem style:[ x ] pass [   ] fail

Skipping in pictures:
  • I tried to fill a larger area with pixels using the thumbstick test program.
used original thumbstick:
gc style replacement stick:
oem style replacement stick:
new potentiometer based oem style:
As you can see the gc style replacement stick is the only one that skips steps.


Durability
Since the original thumbstick was made out of plastic with no lubrication it did wear down with time and the controllers became useless.
  • This test is just based on personal experience without any clear method to measure how long a stick lasts.
used original thumbstick*:[   ] good [ x ] acceptable [   ] bad
gc style replacement stick**:[ x ] good[   ] acceptable[   ] bad
oem style replacement stick***:[   ] good[   ] acceptable[ x ] bad
new potentiometer based oem style****:[   ] good[ x ] acceptable [   ] bad

*I have one that still is very good after 10 years, ofc Mario Party or Track and Field was never played with this one
**most moving parts made out of metal
***you can enhance it by applying some lubricant and exchanging the spring with an OEM one
****it does wear down with time especially since there is no lubrication


Reaction time
Some replacement sticks use a microcontroller to translate the readings they get from the potentiometer into a N64 friendly format. If this process is too slow you will notice a delay in your actions.
  • If the delay is too high the Smash Attack in Super Smash Bros. won't work.

used original thumbstick:[ x ] pass[   ] fail
gc style replacement stick:[   ] pass[ x ] fail
oem style replacement stick:[ x ] pass[   ] fail
new potentiometer based oem style:[ x ] pass [   ] fail


Dead Zone
The dead zone determines how far you have to move the thumbstick until the N64 actually noticed that you have moved the thumbstick.
If the dead zone is to small your character in a game will move on it's own without you even touching the thumbstick. If it's to big you have to move your thumb very far before your character starts moving.
  • It was tested how much you have to move the thumbstick in Super Mario 64 before Mario actually starts walking slowly. The second line is where the thumbstick was when Mario finally started walking.

used original thumbstick:[ x ] good[   ] acceptable[   ] bad
gc style replacement stick:[ x ] good[   ] acceptable[   ] bad
oem style replacement stick:[ x ] good[   ] acceptable[   ] bad
new potentiometer based oem style*:[   ] good [ x ] acceptable [   ] bad

*It doesn't look like much in the picture but you actually have to move the thumbstick twice as far compared to the original before Mario does anything. So you need to get adjusted to that. It's like driving a car where the first quarter spin of the steering wheel does absolut nothing.


Sensitivity
I define sensitivity as how much you have to move your thumb to change the analog sticks output. If the sensitivity is too high aiming in shooters will become very tricky. A nice evenly distributed range feels best.
  • For this test I made a picture every 10 steps. Then I used the pictures as reference to place the red lines. The first line is 0, the second 10, the third 20 ... and the last 80. The closer the lines lay together the harder will it be to aim precisely.

used original thumbstick:[ x ] good[   ] acceptable[   ] bad
gc style replacement stick*:[   ] good[   ] acceptable[ x ] bad
oem style replacement stick:[ x ] good[   ] acceptable[   ] bad
new potentiometer based oem style**:[   ] good [ x ] acceptable [   ] bad

*: because the gc style stick first skips 2 steps and later 4 steps at a time, the sensitivity range is very unevenly distributed.
**: because of the bigger dead zone first there is a range where nothing happens at all before it continues more evenly.


Final Verdict

Out of the three replacement sticks the feeling of oem style comes closest to the original stick.
Too bad this feeling doesn't last very long before it starts getting wobbly. It initially wears down faster than an original stick. But you can still play decent with it if you don't mind the loose thumbstick especially if you replace the spring with one out of an original thumbstick.
+ feeling
- durability

The gc style replacement stick surely has taken the best approach to fix the analog stick problem of all three candidates. If only the used micro controller wasn't so flawed. The skipping and delay problem are a real game breaker here.
A higher quality analog stick potentiometer(like the one used in official Gamecube controllers) and a better micro chip would really help this replacement option.
+ durability
- skips steps
- sensitivity to high
- analog stick cap doesn't feel like a N64 stick

The new potentiometer based oem style replacement stick could use some lubrication. Moving the thumbstick has a grinding feel to it.
While it doesn't have any of the flaws of the gc style replacement stick it does introduce a new problem: a bigger dead zone combined with an unlubricated stick and fairly strong spring. You really got the feeling that you have to push a little too far with a little bit too much force before anything happens.
+ offers very firm grip thanks to rubbery material
+ no noticeable lag or skipping
+ perfect range
+ seems more durable than the oem style replacement stick so far
- no lubrication
- spring feels a little stiff
- dead zone bigger than on all other sticks
« Last Edit: December 23, 2012, 07:22:53 AM by sanni »

Offline ChillyWilly

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Re: Review: Thumbstick Replacement Options
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2012, 03:18:23 AM »
Wow, that was a lot of work! Thanks for the guide. I need to replace the sticks on two of my controllers, and this was very helpful.
 ::sm-09.gif::

Offline slothette64

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Re: Review: Thumbstick Replacement Options
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2012, 02:01:37 PM »
good read!!  ::sm-23.gif::

i replaced the stick in 1 controller
but i bought some other controllers off eBay a while back
and damn it
you open these up and you cant actually replace the sticks
they are wired differently and dont have the mini-serial plug like official controllers

stay clear of cheapo imitation on eBay if you wish to replace sticks!!
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