Review by Kevin Steele
SlikStik is always seemingly cranking out innovative new accessories: when I got their original stainless steel replacement handles, I thought they were a fantastic improvement over the stock handles in my P360 joysticks. They transformed an excellent joystick into an extraordinary one. Could it get any better?
Apparently, yes. SlikStik has improved their replacement handles, replacing the one-piece design and adding new interchangeable balltops and peartops. The new tops are available in both the original stainless steel and new anodized aluminum (in four colors: red, purple, blue, and black).
Both types of joystick handles consist of a stainless steel shaft (in different sizes for the peartops and balltops) which is designed for a specific joystick base (Happs Super, Competition, Ultimate, and Perfect 360). The tops can be used with any of these joystick-specific shafts.
The peartops are the same diameter as the original SlikStik peartop handles, and felt perfect in my hand. It's closest in feel to the Ultimarc T-Stik handle, but really is a unique and original shape.
The balltops are also the exact same diameter as the original SlikStik balltops, which may be a bit large for many enthusiasts at 1.5". I myself thought the balls were too big, but the more I used them, the more I found I liked the larger ball size. They definitely grew on me the more I used them.
With the stainless steel ball installed, the new joysticks are practically indistinguishable from the original SlikStik balltop handles:
The stainless steel tops are very heavy, at .40 lbs/.18 kg for the stainless balltop and .50 lbs/.23 lbs for the stainless peartop. This heavy weight is especially noticeable compared to the new aluminum balltops and peartops, both of which weigh in at about .15 lbs/.07kg. In other words, the stainless tops weigh over three times as much as the aluminum tops. This difference makes the handles a bit "top-heavy" when using the steel top as opposed to one of the aluminum tops.
When installed in a cabinet, this top-heavy weight difference doesn't really make a huge difference, but it is noticeable when compared to the new, lighter aluminum ball and pear tops. Using the new aluminum tops gives the shaft a much more "balanced" feel, and a bit more "snap" during gameplay.
The SlikStik handles are available for Happs Super, Competition, Ultimate, and Perfect 360 joysticks. If you're using these replacement handles in anything but the Perfect 360's, I'd recommend the stronger replacement springs if you plan on using the stainless steel tops.
There's no need for stronger springs, however, if you use the new aluminum handle tops, as the weight difference between the stock handles and the aluminum-topped handles is minimal. On the P360, the springs included with the joystick are already strong enough to provide good gameplay even with the heavier steel balltop — I've been very happy with the original SlikStik steel balltop handles with my P360 joysticks.
Installation is a cinch, at least in joystick terms: pop off the e-clip on the bottom of the original shafts, pull them out (while watching the order of the parts), slide in the new handle, and replace the e-clip.
The tops screw onto the top of the shaft very nicely, with a firm "grip" that keeps them from wobbling loose during gameplay, but not so tight that you can't swap out the ball or pear top once it's attached.
These joystick handles add a very cool and (dare I say it?) slick appearance to a control panel. I like the feel of the aluminum tops in the palm of my hand, and the better balance and weight is icing on the cake. My only concern is about possibly scratching the anodized surface of the aluminum tops with, say, my wedding ring while playing. I'll have to report back on the long-term durability of the anodized coating.
It's not often you can improve on something already so close to perfect, but SlikStik has managed to really improve their replacement joystick handles. One of the best improvements? The price: at $21.99 for the balltops and $23.99 for the peartop handles, they're nearly half the cost of the original SlikStik joystick handles (add $12 for the stainless steel balltop or peartop). Extra balls and pear tops are sold separately, so you can change colors whenever the whim strikes you.
If you're looking for some "bling" for your control panel, these handles are just the thing. Recommended by RetroBlast.