Ultimarc T-Stik Plus Joystick
Review by Kevin Steele
The Ultimarc T-Stik Plus and T-Stik Plus Balltop Joysticks
And now, time for something unique: the Ultimarc T-Stik Plus. What makes this joystick so special is its ability to switch between 4-way and 8-way operation from the top of the control panel, without opening anything up.
The Ultimarc T-Stik Plus is available in both pear-top and ball-top versions. The "on-the-fly" switching method requires you to grab the joystick handle, lift, and twist. A special latching mechanism on the bottom of the joystick engages and flips the "switch" that converts the joystick from 8-way to 4-way operation or vice-versa.
I was really impressed with the elegant and simple way this joystick handles the 4/8-way switch. The "Grab, Lift, and Twist" method is great, and the latching system doesn't interfere at all during normal joystick operation.
Installing the T-Stik Plus isn't too difficult, as long as you remember the cardinal rule of joystick installations: remember what order the parts attach in! You have to unscrew the switching mechanism to remove the shaft for installation, and there are several small parts that are important not to lose. Other than that, the installation is fairly typical, and not that difficult.
The T-Stik plus is a "short-throw" joystick, meaning the range of motion is much less than a typical joystick: for example, while the Happs Competition joystick has a "travel" of 15 degrees, the T-Stik Plus only moves about six degrees off of the perpendicular.
The T-Stik Plus also only engages about 1 degree before the end of the range of motion. This, combined with the short travel, produces a sensation which can throw off gamers accustomed to the relatively generous range of motion of the Happ joysticks, which engage roughly half-way through their travel.
So, is this "short-throw" motion good or bad? Neither — it's just different. It produces, in my opinion, a very "crisp" feel to the joystick, and only light pressure is required to engage the joystick, despite it having a very firm feel. This is a joystick for "finesse" motions rather than hard-core joystick jockeying.
Sound and Size
Time for the "clickiness factor": the T-Stik has it in spades — this is one very "clicky" joystick, with firm microswitches that produce a very noticeable clicking sound when they engage. Ultimarc does offer a special "light action" set of microswitches that require less pressure to engage, and are also somewhat quieter (though still louder than the Happs joysticks)
The video below shows the Balltop (with the default microswitches) and the peartop (with the light action microswitches), compared to a Happs Competition joystick:
The T-Stik has two handle types, the Pear-top and the Balltop. The pear-top handle sits 2.5" high when installed, and has a 1.25" diameter handle top. This height and width was identical to the Happs Competition joystick.
The Balltop version is available in two shaft sizes: 2.5" for metal control panels, and 2.875" for wood control panels. Even with the longer shaft, however, the balltop was noticeably shorter when mounted in a wood control panel.
The T-Stik Plus is a great joystick for fast, quick direction changes. The short travel and solid, firm feel provide a great sense of control. The feel is different, so it will take some adjusting to, and the joystick is noisy, even with the optional light action microswitches.
Still, 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 T-Stik Plus definitely stands out as a unique joystick, one that may be an "acquired taste," but one that also brings a lot to the table in terms of performance. I have to give special props to Andy at Ultimarc for the elegant 4/8-way switching mechanism, which is convenient, easy to use, and doesn't interfere with normal game play. If you only have room for one type of joystick but still want good 8-way and 4-way performance, this is an excellent joystick choice.
Special Thanks to Ultimarc for providing the T-Stiks used in this review.