Review by James McGovern
Tastes Great vs. Less Filling, Toma (ate) to vs. Toma (ahh) to, Paper vs. Plastic. These are some of the debates that have raged through the ages and will continue to do so long after we go to the big arcade in the sky. As many collectors and hobbyists in the home arcade game know, we have a few of our own. One of them is the debate over leaf-switches vs. micro-switches.
Classic vids, and many amusements before them, were produced with leaf-switches for a long time. Somewhere in the 80's a change took place, and the micro-switch took over, surpassing leaf-switches for good. For many collectors and builders this will not do and they are always looking for ways to keep their control panels silent.
One product released to address this need is the Rollie Electronics Leaf-Switch Bracket. This bracket is specially configured to attach to existing pushbuttons that normally feature the newer and noisier micro-switches.
John Pipp of Rollie Electronics was kind enough to send a few of these along to RetroBlast to get our impressions. I just so happened that I had a use for them right away, so I set out to put them to work!
Joe sent out about six switches, and immediately upon opening the package I was impressed with the quality. These things are really made well and do not suffer from the chincy makeup of many other replacement leaf switches.
I really like the wedge that is screwed to the bottom of the switch, you can see this above. The wedge is used to ensure a stiff backing to the leafs. This provides just the right resistance when pushing the button.
The entire switch really has the look and feel of quality. Stiff enough to withstand reasonable pressure, but also flexible to allow some leeway. I really wish you could purchase traditional replacement leaf-switches made with similar material and attention to quality.
As I said, I just happened to have a very specific application that was just right for the new switches. The use I had in mind was for my dedicated Tron upright. You see, Tron came standard with two red leaf-switch pushbuttons in the player 1 and player 2 start positions. They look fine and dandy when the machine is off in daylight, but I always felt they were begging to be replaced with translucent and backlit buttons.
They just don't glow at all
A while back I picked up a couple of red translucent pushbuttons, but they were the micro-switch variety. At the end of the day this really isn't a big deal, but I really didn't want to use the micro-switches in the Tron cabinet. I held onto them, or rather just deferred from performing the modification. I think I just subconsciously set them aside until I either came to terms with the prospect of hearing that click every time I hit P1 and P2, or until I came up with a better solution. Enter the leaf-switch bracket.
The buttons awaiting the transplant
The leaf-switch brackets snap right into place on the normally micro-switch outfitted pushbuttons. It took me a few tries to figure out which end was up, but it is not very difficult and once installed they provide a tight fit.
One thing I did not quite get was the second mounting hole in the brackets. They don't cause any kind of problem, but I could not figure out why they were there. Is this used in a different type of button? I honestly don't know, but I have a feeling some sharp RetroBlast! reader will call me on it.
The translucent buttons, one with the leaf-switch bracket installed
Above you can see the two mounting holes used to connect the pushbuttons. Don't go crazy if you have a bunch of buttons though, remember you need the switches off in order to thread them through your control panel. (yea, yea, I made that mistake.)
I can replace these, I have the technology
Next up, I needed to perform a little surgery on Tron. Time to remove the old buttons and make with the new translucent push buttons.
Buttons removed, stay in your corners boys
Snip here, snip there...
Buttons installed with the leaf-switch brackets
All wired up, that took about 5 minutes...yay!
One thing to note, if you plan on using quick-disconnects, or your panel already has them, make sure you have the right connectors on hand. The leaf-switch brackets accept .187 female disconnects, and I know this stymied at least one builder from using them as he did not want to install a load of new connectors.
Another snapshot of the newly installed brackets and buttons
Did the Plan Work?
My master plan for this modification depends on the hope that there is enough light given off by the lower marquee on the Tron upright to breathe light and life into the new translucent pushbuttons. Now its time to find out if the effect will be noticeable and worth the effort.
Oh yea baby!
As always the pics don't do it justice
The pictures above do not do this modification justice, it really came out great. Without lighting the buttons with LEDs, I don't know how it could have gone better. These buttons should have been translucent from the factory in the first place!
The brackets performed wonderfully and they have no problem at all with making a solid and consistent connection. The way in which the pushbutton actuates the switch, the way they are laid out, is better than any other leaf-switch and button combos I have seen. The action is very precise and I cannot foresee a situation in which you would have to tweak the positioning by bending or torquing the leaves.
Part of this is due to the wedge I talked about earlier that is located under the switch's leaves. This feature really helped to keep them in line and insures that they return to their original position after the job is done.
Throughout this review I have stated that the switches look, feel, and work great. The next question is how the price of this leaf-switch bracket and a button stacks up against the traditional leaf-switch buttons.
The price of the brackets is $2.15 apiece. This does not include the pushbuttons, and for a complete unit, pushbutton and bracket, you are looking at about $3.15 to $4.00 per complete button.
How does this compare to a traditional leaf-switch button? Well I did a quick check at Bob Roberts and here is what I found. Each complete traditional leaf-switch button that includes the switch and the switch holder will set you back $4.50. That's $1.50 per button and $3.00 for each switch and switch holder.
Pushbuttons with micro-switches are going to be cheaper overall, but if it is silent button strikes you are looking for, you just can't go wrong with these brackets and the micro-switch type pushbuttons.
Another HUGE plus in my book is the precision of the actuation on these things. They are, in my mind, far superior to traditional leaf-switch pushbutton assemblies which tend to need tweaking from time-to-time in order to ensure that the leaves line up properly. These feel better and give much more consistent results.
As you can tell I am pretty impressed. I went into this review thinking it was kind of a dumb idea considering you could always just use traditional leaf-switch pushbutton assemblies. The fact is these are cheaper overall, they work better than their traditional counterparts, and they remove the clickety-click from your game play. For these reasons, I am going to bestow our highest honor on this product and give it the old;