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Old 3rd July 2006, 4:15 PM   #1
Bearz Thread Starter
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Default REVIEW: SmartJoy Dual Plus PS2->USB converter (56k friendly)

If you're a pc gaming enthusiast, at some time or another you might have wished that there was some way of using a console controller to play that tacky port of Resident Evil or the ever so good MAME emulated Street Fighter series on your PC, without having to use the god-awful key assignment on your keyboard, or fork big bucks for some whiz bang USB joypad that looks like it's been designed by an eight year old.

Thankfully, some companies out there have recognised this demand, and put out various converters that let you use official (or unofficial) console controllers on your home PC, saving money and headaches. These exist for pretty much every platform you can think of (incl. Gamecube, XBOX, N64), but today we'll look at one for the Playstation series: the SmartJoy Dual Plus PS2->USB converter.



I purchased this one in from Lik-sang. Normally they cost ~$20 AUD without shipping, but if you buy in bulk like I did you'll save a bunch. I got mine for ~$18 AUD incl. shipping from Hong Kong, which is pretty darn good. So let's look at the actual converter then, shall we?



Now, I'll be the first to admit I'm a sucker for packaging. Still it looks mighty impressive. A slick black and red scheme which outlines some capabilities (Mac OSX compatible for the rebels out there). Not to mention that it's shiny ! Looking at the back:



Not only is it in 3 (!) languages, if you can be bothered reading it, it is spelling/grammatically correct! A huge a plus in my book. Even if it did come from a massive factory in China, they must have forked out for MS word spellchecker. AWESOME.



Opening it up, we have the following contents (clockwise from top left):

- SmartJoy catalogue of other nifty do-dads
- Installation instructions
- Driver diskette
- Converter
- SmartJoy sticker (a nice touch)

Quite a comprehensive package compared to some of the other ones I've seen. The only things that irks me a bit is the fact that the driver comes on a floppy, which in this day and age is a bit outdated. A mini-cd would've been nice.



Being a "Dual" converter as named, it obviously supports 2 controllers so you can play with a friend if you got one handy. Not much else to say, except that it looks to be easily disassembleable, so if a solder joint breaks loose, a bit of DIY should be simple for the electronically minded.



All plugged into my computer. Unlike some other converters, this is completely hot pluggable in terms of controllers. It is also worth mentioning that it is compatible with Playstation 1 controllers (as tested by yours truly). Here, I'm testing on a standard Official Playstation2 controller and....



An awesome but unidentifiable DDR mat courtesy of resident gaming guru elvis . Big props from me (and other OCAUers I'm sure) for getting this all the way to OZ. There's a thread here if you want to read more about these: http://forums.overclockers.com.au/sh...d.php?t=464931

Onto the testing!



This is the screen you should see under Control Panel -> Game Controllers -> Properties after you have installed the drivers. This particular screen is for the PS2 controller. On the 'Test' tab, you'll find buttons which light up when you press corresponding buttons/directions on your controller. Note that the controller is in 'Digital Mode', which is the normal mode for many game controllers. In this mode, D-pad maps to the top left box and buttons map to numbers.



The autofire option lets you set autofiring (duh) for any of the input buttons, with speed adjustments. A must for any Shmup fan



Near the Autofire option in 'Test', you'll find the Controller Mode. This is where you can set the different modes in which you're going to use your controller. The Controller Mode options are Auto, Analog, Digital, DDR (not shown) and Pressure (not shown). There are shortcut buttons to change them also, which I'll get to. Directions button mode lets you change the way Directional Buttons (generally d-pad) maps to input, I haven't really found a need for this as yet.



This is Analog mode, which can also be activated by pressing the analog button on the PS2 controller. In this mode, the two thumbpads map to the left/right squares respectively, d-pad maps to the Hat-Switch and buttons map to numbers. In the picture I'm holding down a lot of buttons and arrows and thumbpads. (Damn hard to take that screenshot)



This is Pressure mode, which can be also be activated by pressing Select+Start+Left. To state the obvious, using this allows for detection of pressure sensitive input. Here I'm pressing the Square and X buttons one hard than another, with the difference being clearly visible. D-pad and buttons map normally otherwise. Not too sure on games that utilise this, but a nice feature.



This is DDR mode, made especially for DDR mats. As some of you may or may not know, Playstation controllers are incapable of issuing simultaneous left+right/up+down input on a d-pad (try it!) or a single analog thumbpad. Thus, all converter manufacturers neglect this encoding. The problem is, this makes playing with PSX/PS2 DDR pads on a PC in Stepmania nigh impossible as you cannot issue those commonplace commands, as the arrows on those Pads pretty much always map to d-pad arrows.

What the SmartJoy Dual Plus does in this case is that it remaps directional input on a DDR pad so that the input is sent to a button simultaneously. In the picture, I am stepping on the right arrow. Note how the input '4' also registers as well as the d-pad direction itself. Now, when I step on left and right:



See how the d-pad fails to register the simultaneous input? But it is sent via the remapped keys, allowing for DDR/Stepmania playing goodness. FYI, the input you see in Digital and other modes for left/right is the same as if you were pressing nothing. Zilch. Same as the Digital mode screenshot, in fact. (Reputed DDR capability was the sole reason I bought this converter in the first place.)
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Last edited by Agg; 4th July 2006 at 9:51 PM.
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Old 3rd July 2006, 4:18 PM   #2
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Moving off the controller modes and onto other tabs, we see that Button Remapping is also supported. As with the Directional remapping mentioned earlier, I can't think of a use for it at the moment as DDR mode handles this automatically. However, I'm sure there are heaps of other incompatible games which need it out there.



Finally, we get to force feedback. Yay! You can make your joystick vibrate this way and that to test it, and also set the strongness Frankly, force feedback pisses me off in games, but to each their own. Wrapping things up:

Pros:
- Cheap
- DDR mode
- Lots of features
- Nice Packaging

Cons:
- Drivers on a floppy
- Some seemingly redundant features

Honestly, I don't think you can find a more feature packed converter for it's size and price. It does all the important things that you need it to do (analog, DDR mode, autofire etc..) and some things which you probably don't need as well. Of course, it remains untested for other input peripherals (guitars, guns and Beatmania pads etc.) but that's for another day. As it is, the SmartJoy Dual Plus definitely gets this gamer's stamp of approval.

As for actual gaming performance, let the pictures* speak for themselves



Rating: 9 out of 10

Disclaimer: Picture not representative of my actual DDR skill.
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Last edited by Agg; 4th July 2006 at 9:53 PM.
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Old 4th July 2006, 11:10 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bearz
Normally they cost ~$20 AUD, but if you buy in bulk like I did you'll save a bunch. I got mine for ~$18 AUD incl. shipping from Hong Kong, which is pretty darn good.
bunch = $2?

This looks pretty cool. I'm annoyed I bought a dodgo Logitech PS2 clone (with one of the worst D-pads I've ever used) now. Although it was only $25.

This would rock for some Super Mario World or Super Bomberman
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Old 4th July 2006, 11:47 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Belial
bunch = $2?

This looks pretty cool. I'm annoyed I bought a dodgo Logitech PS2 clone (with one of the worst D-pads I've ever used) now. Although it was only $25.

This would rock for some Super Mario World or Super Bomberman
hahaha, nah they're actually $20 AUD without shipping individually (so something like $40 bucks for one). Sucks to buy from overseas
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Old 4th July 2006, 2:42 PM   #5
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Awesome review, thanks Bearz. Hopefully that'll help a few emulation and dance players in here.

The converter I got didn't come with software (well, there was a floppy, but it had nothing on it!!!), and only works with one pad at a time in DDR mode (gamepad mode will take 2 at a time). But, it was only US$ 3.95, which wasn't bad (even 2 for DDR is fine at that price).

I'm saving my pennies for some control pad PCBs from the same place in a few months time. I'm going to start making some fighting game joysticks. I'll make sure to grab more converters then too (they have several different types, which I want to test).
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Old 4th July 2006, 2:56 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elvis
The converter I got didn't come with software (well, there was a floppy, but it had nothing on it!!!), and only works with one pad at a time in DDR mode (gamepad mode will take 2 at a time). But, it was only US$ 3.95, which wasn't bad (even 2 for DDR is fine at that price).
Yeah, I have to admit this one is can seem a bit more expensive compared those budget ones you see on eBay and such. The problem with those is that you generally have no idea what they do/don't support because of the shockingly bad descriptions. I had two which I sold on here recently, from memory the only thing extras they had were force feedback and analog, nothing else For reference, they cost me $15+ AUD each posted locally as well.

One thing I did not that was the two simultaneous DDR pads, so I might give that a go. 95% sure that it should be fine since it remaps, but you never know.

Quote:
I'm saving my pennies for some control pad PCBs from the same place in a few months time. I'm going to start making some fighting game joysticks. I'll make sure to grab more converters then too (they have several different types, which I want to test).
That would be really great, I definitely would be interested in one myself
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Old 4th July 2006, 9:05 PM   #7
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simply put,
would you suggest people to buy this brand over other brands?
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Old 4th July 2006, 9:08 PM   #8
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Simply put, hell yes Easily the best PS2->USB converter I have used so far.

That said, not sure on it's availability in OZ so you might have some trouble finding one. I saw a vendor at a swap meet sell the single port one, and that was it.
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Old 4th July 2006, 9:15 PM   #9
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i have a single port one i bough about a year ago. a smartjoy one as well.....works perfect
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Old 4th July 2006, 9:24 PM   #10
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I have one from the same people that actually goes the other way, allowing a PS/2 keyboard and mouse (from a PC) to be used on Xbox. Just the thing for proper mouselook in Halo, works great.
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Old 4th July 2006, 9:32 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Agg
I have one from the same people that actually goes the other way, allowing a PS/2 keyboard and mouse (from a PC) to be used on Xbox. Just the thing for proper mouselook in Halo, works great.
I honestly don't get how people can play FPS on consoles using a control pad, it's just crazy. I've played my share of Goldeneye and Perfect Dark on the N64 in the good ol' days, and it was a struggle to just point it in their general direction, let alone get headshots. How people manage to move crosshairs accurately with only a analogue stick astounds me.
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Old 4th July 2006, 9:36 PM   #12
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Yup, me too. I won't play without this gadget now. And with it, I fairly pwn at the Xbox parties.
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Old 4th July 2006, 9:44 PM   #13
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Is this converter recognised (and functional) in XP without the supplied drivers?

I've got an old "boom" PS/N64 -> USB converter and XP recognises it as a generic 4 axis 16 button controller. It's just plug in, calibrate, and go. Of course, it's only a single controller per converter which may be why they give you drivers for this one.
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Old 4th July 2006, 9:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Agg
Yup, me too. I won't play without this gadget now. And with it, I fairly pwn at the Xbox parties.
I did a quick search on eBay and couldn't find any? Am I looking for the wrong thing?
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Old 4th July 2006, 9:54 PM   #15
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It's functional but you miss out on some of the options, namely the key remapping, pressure mode and force feedback. I can't remember what happened with DDR mode as it automatically mapped the d-pad to buttons 13-16 in Digital Mode, which I thought was a bit strange.

Apart from that, from memory everything else worked as normal. I was verging on being lazy and not installing drivers (seeing how I didn't have a Floppy drive), but tried it and was a lot happier

Goodlet: http://cgi.ebay.com.au/SmartJoy-FRAG...QQcmdZViewItem

That's probably the one Agg uses to pwn noobs. Not sure if they got USB ones, but they definitely have them for PS/2 keyboards/mice.
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Last edited by Bearz; 4th July 2006 at 9:56 PM.
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