N64 Analog Stick Replacements Test

sanni
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sanni
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Joined: February 21st, 2012, 1:47 pm

November 1st, 2012, 10:35 am #1

While the N64 controller was for sure one of the best and most innovative controllers in the past it had one major problem: The thumbstick gets bad rather quickly.
In this thread I will show you some of the ways you can still enjoy playing on your N64 today, even if all your thumbsticks have gone bad over time.
N64 Replacement Thumbstick Test:
NOTE: The gc style replacement stick tested here is the old version. Since this test it has been upgraded, see next post.

Since I got three professional manufactured replacement thumbsticks right here I thought I should write up a small review.
I will compare the three aftermarket replacements while the original thumbstick will serve as a reference.

Please bear in mind that this review only displays my opinion. So just because I say something it 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. :yeah:

Also since English is not my native language please forgive me if some sentences don't make a lot of sense the first time you read them ;D
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
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
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[?] 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
****need more time to test durability, so far it's definitely more durable than the oem style

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


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sanni
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sanni
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Joined: February 21st, 2012, 1:47 pm

November 1st, 2012, 5:22 pm #2

Just a little heads up. There is an updated version of the gc style replacement stick that has a lot of it's previous issues fixed.

Sold here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/370791569409

If you have a way to test your controller (e.g. with the N64 ControllerTest rom) the easiest way to spot the new sticks is that they have 95 steps in each direction opposed to 88 like the old one. Another way is to look at the pcb, the new one has two "000" resistors instead of "103" connected to the middle pin of the potentiometer.

Changed compared to previous version
- 95 steps in each direction
- no skipping of steps anymore
- the smash attack in SSB works now
- the spin attack in Zelda works now

On the downside they still use the 38° potentiometer instead of the better 60° one. So you still got a deadzone on the outside, basicly it reaches the 95th step way before it reached the restrictor gate.

Old version:


New version:


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Artyom
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Artyom
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Joined: November 1st, 2012, 7:10 am

November 1st, 2012, 6:31 pm #3

sanni wrote:Just updated the 1st post with some other options I remembered.

If anyone has any additions and/or comments please state them in this thread.
You can also give :pottymouth: reviews in case you tried one of the options in the past :)
Thanks for this,

I still have one question though, I've seen some posts that say the GC stick is too sensitive, would the chip mod fix this or ???
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sanni
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sanni
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Joined: February 21st, 2012, 1:47 pm

November 1st, 2012, 11:20 pm #4

Mini Review of the "micro stick"


Introduction:
Since the release of the gc style replacement stick people were complaining about it's poor performance.
- it did skip steps (instead of 20,21,22,23 it did 20,24,28,32)
- as an result it's sensitivity was too high
- it had an noticeable delay, so your moves in Super Smash Bros wouldn't work anymore
- it reached the maximum analog value way before it reached the restrictor gate

Luckily now there is a solution for all owners of the gc style replacement stick. A complete upgrade kit which includes a new and faster micro controller, a nice PCB and a new 60° 3d stick potentiometer.

Assembly:
First you need to solder the included 60° thumbstick and the cable from your gc style stick to the PCB. Then just replace the pcb inside the gc style stick with this one.

Here is a youtube video that shows the process by the german youtuber scorpius26
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD9FbgNcnFc

Review:

Look and feel:
The pcb looks really nice and of very high quality.

Range:

The range is very similar to the range of an original N64 thumbstick.

Skipping:
There is no skipping at all.

Durability:
It uses the same type of mechanical parts as the gc style thumbstick or any other modern joystick like Wii Classic or Gamecube Controllers. So it should last very long.

Reaction time:
There is no noticeable delay.

Dead Zone:
The dead zone is minimal.

Sensitivity:

The sensitivity also is close to the original and evenly distributed

Final Verdict:
If you own a gc style replacement stick then this upgrade will make it so much better.
In my opinion this is the best replacement option so far since it doesn't require any serious modding, just a little soldering and performs very well.

Where to buy:
You can buy the upgrade kit for 10€ + shipping from here: http://nfggames.com/forum2/index.php?topic=5023.0


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bluedogrulez
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Joined: March 8th, 2010, 9:20 pm

November 2nd, 2012, 12:37 am #5

Sanni, this is a great topic. Fantastic job!

With respect to option B(2), I have had success with the clone OEM by swapping out the cheap mushy spring with a used OEM spring.

Also folks, if you shell out the cash for a new OEM controller dont forget to lube the thumbstick with ceramic grease.
Switch Friend Code: SW-0786-9287-1202 (bluedogBDR)
MK8Deluxe Tourney: N64Forever.com 2332-7277-8283
Nintendo Network ID: BDR2010 / Twitter: @bluedogrulez


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sanni
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sanni
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Joined: February 21st, 2012, 1:47 pm

November 2nd, 2012, 4:13 pm #6

Today I build another funny combination.
I used the analog stick, the cap and the restrictor gate from an official Gamecube Controller and combined it with the Hori Chip out of a Lodgenet 64 Controller.



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bluedogrulez
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Joined: March 8th, 2010, 9:20 pm

November 2nd, 2012, 4:54 pm #7

:omg:

Bravo Sanni! That is, well, really rad. Those benchmark test results are glorious. How does it play? Skip test (same as LodgeNet)?
Switch Friend Code: SW-0786-9287-1202 (bluedogBDR)
MK8Deluxe Tourney: N64Forever.com 2332-7277-8283
Nintendo Network ID: BDR2010 / Twitter: @bluedogrulez


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sanni
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sanni
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Joined: February 21st, 2012, 1:47 pm

November 3rd, 2012, 12:00 am #8

Here is the test program I used for the review
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wAXxKdLkr4

You need a N64 flashcart or the MESS emulator to run it.
Download: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/20912715/N64/ControllerTest.zip



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zoki64
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zoki64
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Joined: November 20th, 2010, 11:44 am

November 3rd, 2012, 10:51 am #9

Option D4 looks amazing, I have one of micros pcb's. Thank god he started to manufacture them, I have all the necessary hardware to write his program to a chip but it's nearly cheaper to just order his pcb. It's also alot smaller and looks nicer at the end.
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badair
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badair
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Joined: September 24th, 2012, 3:41 am

November 3rd, 2012, 8:59 pm #10

Great resources here, Sanni! Thanks.

Also, kylejw uploaded precompiled hex files for PIC chips to translate GC/Wii joysticks on google code. He programmed a some really nice features, too. (several options at boot depending on how the stick is pushed)

http://code.google.com/p/n64-joystick-translator/

My friend has a raphnet adapter that he uses with his wavebird. It's really great; that is, if you're a fan of the GC controller.
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