Happ Controls Super Joystick   Happ Controls Perfect 360
 
The Happ Controls Super Joystick is considered by many to be the best all-around, general purpose arcade joystick.  It also happens to be one of the most popular choices for the DIY arcade/MAME cabinet builders, many of the regulars at the BYOAC forums, and also commercially built controllers such as the HotRod SE.

The Super was previously reviewed in a comparison between the Happ Controls Super, Competition, and Ultimate joysticks.  This comparison will now match the Happ Perfect 360 (P360) against the Super because the Super was chosen as the benchmark to which all future joysticks will be compared against.  It is sometimes suggested that the P360 is pretty much the same joystick as the Super but uses optics instead of microswitches.  This comparison will look at the joystick construction and functionality to get a more in-depth view of the P360.


6/15/03 Update - More information regarding the P360's can be found in this thread.

 

.: Construction Comparison
Joystick Shaft
One of the first things you will notice is the different shape of the joystick handle.  The P360 has a more pronounced taper and is slimmer than the Super.  The P360 is also about 0.22" taller when measured from the top of the base.


side-by-side


a few dimensions
The shape and height of the handle can be a major factor on how the joystick feels because that is the direct interface to the sticks.  The height can easily be customized by adjusting the mounting depth of the joystick, but there isn't much that can be done to change the shape of the handle.

Some people characterize the stubby, thicker handle on Super to be better suited for heavy-handed play because of the meatier grip; and a slender, taller stick such as the P360 is better suited for more precise control.  This comparison is difficult to quantify because it is based entirely on "feel" and the operator's proficiency with the control.

 

Joystick Base
While different in appearance, the base of each joystick is a very rigid box construction design.  The base designs themselves offer no discernable differences in performance.  The box on the P360 is smaller overall and slightly shallower.

open base

side-by-side
 

The finish of the Super base is textured and very clean in appearance.  It is obvious that the manufacturer of the Super takes great care with their process and produces a premium quality plastic molding.

The P360 appears to be manufactured by a different vendor than the Super.  The base has a smooth finish and looks a bit "rough around the edges".  Even my untrained eye can see evidence of shrinkage and untrimmed "runners" from the molding process.  While these minor defects do not affect the performance at all, they are easily visible and so I figured they were at least worth mentioning.

 


close-up

 


close-up

 

Centering Springs

The joysticks use different springs. The P360 spring has a greater uncompressed length and is made from a larger diameter wire than the Super spring. Below is some data on the springs, but note that all of this data is measured and calculated by Oscar Controls. None of this data was obtained from the manufacturer.

Data Super spring P360 spring
Wire diameter 0.073" 0.080"
Free (uncompressed) length 1.38" 1.53"
Compressed length 1.00" 0.85"
Spring Rate (lbs/inch) 8 lbs/in 11 lbs/in
Precompression Force (approx) 3 lbs 7.5 lbs

Precompression is a method of storing energy in a spring. This energy, or force, must be overcome to compress the spring further. This force is calculated based on the spring length and spring rate for each of the springs. The above table shows that the P360 requires more force to move the joystick. This means that the P360 is stiffer feeling joystick than the Super, and not by just a little.

 

 

 

Actuators
As described in the previous review, the Super uses a round actuator to contact levers attached to microswitches.

The P360 uses a series of optics in lieu of microswitches that indicate the joystick position.  The lack of microswitches results in nearly silent movement of the joystick, very similar to a leafswitch joystick.   There is no restriction at all on the P360's, they rely completely on the optics in the base that detect the position of the joystick actuator; be it either the 8-way or 4-way side of the actuator.

Below is a diagram of how the P360 optics work. In the below graphic of the underside of the joystick, you can see a total of 4 pairs of emitter/detector sets. The white outline is the inner hub of the P360 module where the optics are housed and the square-ish looking things are the optics. The yellow lines indicate blocked optics, and the red lines indicate non-blocked optics. The brown circle is the range of motion for each actuator. The P360 has a switchable 4/8 way actuator, similar in function to the Super joystick actuator with the 4-way actuator being a bit larger to provide a higher degree of optic blocking.


click to enlarge

When the joystick actuator is centered, all optics are blocked which means no joystick direction signal is generated in both the 8- & 4-way modes. In the graphic, when the joystick in pushed to the Down position, an emitter/detector set on the Left/Right sides of the base becomes unblocked, thus registering a Down signal.

How does the 4-way work with respect to "blocking" diagonals?  The 4-way actuator is sized just right so if you were rotating the joystick from Down to Right, just as the Down optic line (lower horizontal magenta line) is starting to be blocked, the Right optic line (right vertical magenta line) becomes unblocked thus generating a Right signal.

This does make for very precise 4- or 8-way play, but as you mentioned there is no distinction in 'feel' between 4- or 8-way. However, the actuator is sized just right to produce a near-zero dead zone in 4-way play. As you can see in the graphic, when the joystick is at a 45 direction when in 4-way, it is just a hair's width from being either Down or Right.

 

Final Conclusions
The overall feel of the P360 is very fluid, more so even than the Super.  The metal joystick bushing, which goes between the pivot bushing and the shaft, is one of two points of contact with the base which limits the motion of the joystick.  The other point of contact is a "floating base" (which is what the spring rests on) and another hole in the bottom of the joystick base.  Both the upper bushing and floating base appear to contact the joystick base simultaneously.  The result is "perfect" circular motion.
 

The 8-way play on the P360 is very precise, just as advertised.  Many "fighter" fans will certainly notice the lack of discreet diagonals that is present with the Competition joysticks, but for true 8-way gameplay the P360's do live up to their reputation.  The P360 is on pretty even ground with the Super in an 8-way configuration as far as gameplay is concerned.  The most notable distinctions between the Super and P360 when used in an 8-way configuration is the lack of the "clicky-clicky" microswitches and the stiffer feel of the P360.

With the actuator in 4-way mode it is not possible to hit diagonals and the dead zone is imperceptible.  The P360 can easily be used in a 4-way only configuration without problems.  The only thing missing is the distinctive diamond shaped pattern of a true 4-way, but the P360 moves so smoothly that I hardly even miss that.  The 4-way play of the P360 is so much better than the Super that it is hard to even put into words.

Based on the scale I developed in the previous joystick comparison, the joysticks will be rated on the below 5 point scale in both Construction and Functionality.  The benchmark joystick, the Happ Controls Super Joystick, has a "3" in each category.

  1 - poor
  2 - below average
  3 - average
  4 - above average
  5 - excellent

 

Analysis of the Happ Controls Perfect 360 Joystick:

Construction: 3

Functionality: 5

 

 
Questions/comments on the review?  Email for information
 

 

 

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Oscar Controls is not affiliated with any company mentioned herein unless explicitly stated otherwise.

 

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