Ultimarc J-Stik Oval Top Joystick
Review by Kevin Steele
The Ultimarc J-Stik Oval Top Joystick
Time to break out the old Huey Lewis records: the Ultimarc J-Stik is set on proving that it's "hip to be square," with the squarest feeling movement I've ever encountered in a joystick.
The Ultimarc J-Stik (manufactured by Sanwa) is unique in several ways: besides the aforementioned "square" movement pattern, the J-Stik's knob can be unscrewed, making for an easy installation. It's also available in both pear-top and ball-top versions.
One other handy feature of the J-Stik (shared with Ultimarc's E-Stik) is the rotating restrictor plate on the bottom of the joystick. The joystick can be switched from 8-way operation to 4-way operation by "dialing" the appropriate setting.
While not as convenient as the T-Stik Plus' "lift and twist" method of switching, it's still much easier than having to disassemble the joystick and flip a bushing.
Speaking of disassembling, the J-Stik joystick has an unscrewable knob top, allowing you to simply remove the knob to install the joystick instead of removing the entire shaft. This makes installing the J-Stik easier than many joysticks, especially since you don't need to fight with an E-clip!
As I mentioned earlier, this joystick has an extremely square range of motion. In 8-way mode the joystick feels like it's in a square mounting hole, and in 4-way mode the joystick has a diamond-shaped movement pattern. The feel is very unique.
The joystick straddles the line between short-throw and long-throw (it engages at 5° and travels to 10°), but in feel it's more of a long-throw. Movements felt precise and "crisp." The Ultimarc site notes that the actuators on the microswitches are longer than most, allowing you to fine-tune the sensitivity by using pliers to slightly bend the actuators.
Sound and Size
The J-Stik is just slightly louder than a Happs Competition joystick. In other words, it's still fairly quiet. The video below shows the J-Stik compared to a Happs Competition joystick:
The J-Stik has two handle types, the Oval-top and the Balltop. The Oval top sits very low when mounted in a wood control panel — I'd definitely recommend routing out some of the wood underneath to raise it up a bit. Height definitely isn't a problem when installed in a metal control panel.
The J-Stik has a uniquely wide range for diagonals (60°!), which can either be a blessing or a curse, depending on the game. Because of the square motion, it's very easy to hit diagonals when in 8-way mode, mainly because there is solid feedback that you're in a corner.
Unfortunately, this also makes straight U/D/L/R moves a little bit more difficult to hit accurately, especially when changing from a diagonal movement. Ultimately, accuracy with this joystick boils down to a matter of adapting to the very square actuator in the J-Stik. You'll either love it or hate it.
Even with the wide range for diagonals, the overall impression the joystick provides is one of solid precision and control.
The following chart lists the joystick test results, current as of this review. The chart will continue to fill in with data as the "Joystick Roundup" continues.
The Ultimarc J-Stik definitely stands out among the joysticks I have tested: with the square restrictor plate and extra large diagonal range, the J-Stik brings a wholly unique feel to the table. Whether that unique feel is to your liking is most definitely a personal taste, but it's great to have a joystick that truly feels "different."
Once again, special props to Andy at Ultimarc for including an elegant 4/8-way switching mechanism (this time the rotating restrictor plate) which is easy to use.
Special Thanks to Ultimarc for providing the J-Stik used in this review.