Computer Hardware

As a result of my software reviews page, people have asked me about computer hardware as well. Here I will review various items which don't fit into a software category.

How ratings work.
When putting software on this page, i  use the following criteria to rate it:
1 Ease of use
2 Reliability
3 Price
4 "Coolness"

As long as a product matches at least two of these criteria it gets put below.

I am a pretty hard when i rate; here is a rough guide:
50% or above. Does the job. (C-)
55% or above. Not bad at all. (C)
60% or above. Pretty Good. (C+)
65% or above. Worth a look at (B-) Worth Paying for.
70% or above. Great Effort. (B)
75% or above. Well worth buying. (B+)
80% or above. Truly something very special. (A-) Worth an Award.
85% or above. Pure Brilliance. (A)
90% or above. Inspires Awe. (A+)
95% or above. Godlike in its greatness. (A++) Worth a Prize.
Manufacturer / Model Description Details and Price Requirements  My Rating
Sidewinder Precision Pro

Makers Homepage

Where to buy:
Any retailer can order one in.

This is a more upmarket joystick.
Its a digital-optical simulated analog joystick. It has 4 joystick emulating buttons, and 4 extra programable buttons. It has a throttle and a POV hat switch. It also has a "shift" button with effectively doubles the amount of button functions. All buttons are programmable. The main hand grip also rotates left and right, giving you a total of 2 axis's of movement when combined with the throttle. It rests on simple rubber stops.
Comes in a very large shiny box, with a small manual, a large license agreement, a software CD, and a USB adapter. 
Price ranges from $55 to $95 Australian depending where you get it.
15 pin IBM compatable style game port, which supports midi processing, or a USB port.
Win95/98/me ONLY
Its is often way over priced, but if you can get it for less than $60 its worth every cent for a hardcore gamer. The main axis is smooth, and dispite its odd appearance the hand grip isnt too uncomfortable to use either. the rotational axis seemed a little too tight and thus lacked precision, but for most games you wont even notice. Nearly every button was programable. It could probably even be used with word processing if you were lazy, as you can put in any keystroke you like.
It survived the hard core gaming session fairly well, although it required a rearrangment of my desk to fit it on. Some of the pre-programed game configs had problems, eg. Mech Warrior, the POV switch didn't work right. didn't mater, as you almost never use it, was just irritating.
Super Cobra
Digi Pad

Makers Homepage

Where to buy:
Discount stores, swap meets, kmart

A cheap 2 button game pad.
This is a cheap semi-digital gamepad. It has 2 buttons with individually selectable auto fire speeds from none, medium and fast.
Comes in a clear plastic molded shrink wrap style box. There is no obvious brand.
$15 Australian
15 pin IBM compatible style game port. 58%
This looks cheap, feels cheap, but operates pretty well when you actually use it. It appears to be a rip off of the old NES controllers, and the case even has space for a start and select button if you pull the sticker off. An amateur experimenter could probably wire in two more buttons if they tried hard enough, but given that this joystick works good with a "Y" adapter, you probably shouldn't unless you want a button conflict.
Its a little on the small side, once again most likely aimed at younger players. Its perfect for playing console style games, like platform games, or top down games, or puzzle games that require no analog precision. Alternately, if you have an NES, atari or Sega emulator installed, this is a good option for a game controller.
Saitek (i)BM
Laser Fire

Makers Homepage

Where to buy:
Swap meets.

This is a cheap Analog and semi digital CH thrustmaster emulating joystick.  It comes with a a trigger, a pinky finger button, 2 buttons on the top on each side of a "hat" switch, and has a throttle, and turbo fire switch.

You can use either the hat switch or the throttle, but not both (as you need to change a slider switch)
 It has X and Y trimmers hidden undernieth as well. It rests on 4 plastic suction cup feet.

Comes in a big shiny box, similar to the sidewinder box, and comes with a dust cap for the plug, and a small manual explaining the basics.
$25 Australian
15 pin IBM compatable style game ports 54%
For its price a fairly good deal, but it was not a smooth joystick, it tended to "drift" every 10 or so minutes requiring re-calibration.  The grip fitted snugly in your hand, (almost too snugly - most likely better for smaller hands) The hat POV switch feels smooth to use, but appeared to be wired so that some games it didn't point the right direction if you clicked "left" or "up". 
It was also irritating that in a game you could play with the hat, OR the throttle, but not both. You had to calibrate it for one, or the other, and leave it like that. The throttle wheel felt constricted, and clicked oddly at its upper setting suggesting a loose wire inside. It survived the 2 hour hard gaming session fairly well, but it needed constant re-trimming or calibrating at some points.
QJ / 
PC Raider

Makers Homepage

Where to buy:
Bargin Bins

This is a cheap analog Two Button joystick.
It comes with a manual X and Y trim control, and an auto fire switch for each button.

It rests on 4 rubber pc suction cup feet.

Comes in a big shiny cardboard box.

$18 Aus

15 pin IBM compatable style game ports 51% 
For its price, this is a surprisingly smooth joystick. It has a pleasent feel in the hand. The rubber instead of plastic suction cups on the bottom, makes it hold the desk a little easier. Trouble is, it has one major design flaw that ruins it - the centering springs are mechanically made in such a way that puts too much strain on the resister arms inside, which ultimately means the plastic fatigues and breaks after about 2 hours of hard game play. 

I found if you dismantle the joystick, and remove the centering springs, you loose the auto-centring function, but the joystick becomes almost indestructable. If you see one of these on a chuck out table for a buck or two, and are adept with a screwdriver, grab it, and remove the springs, it will serve you for ages.
If it wasn't for the flaw this would have easily rated a 58% 

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