Ultra Custom Cabs - 2 player upright machine and customer service review

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by Zoltrix, Feb 14, 2019 at 9:35 PM.

  1. Zoltrix

    Zoltrix Member

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2001
    Messages:
    321
    Location:
    Canberra, ACT, Australia
    Hi all,

    This review is to share my impressions on the Ultra Custom Cabs 2 player upright cabinet, and provide comments on my recent interactions with Ultra Custom Cabs (https://www.ultracustomcabs.com.au/).

    Research
    I recently began looking into arcade machines (been wanting my own for a long time), and was investigating different options between an original cabinet, flat pack, completely built, etc.

    After a bit of hunting around I was tossing up between Arcadeworx (http://www.arcadeworx.com.au/) and Ultra Custom Cabs. Not being a handy man type, I didn’t really have the skills or patience to build my own. I’ve worked with computers for a long time and know my way around emulators and software, so would have been comfortable in taking care of that part. But the advantage with Aracdeworx and Ultra Custom Cabs is that they advertise their completed machines having plenty of emulators and roms as well.

    First impressions of the Ultra Custom Cabs website, I thought it looked rather tacky, and I was about to cross them off the list. But then came across their YouTube videos, and when I saw the machines in action, I thought they looked very cool. Loved the designs, etc.

    I then sent emails off to both companies, waited a few days and had no reply.

    Ordering
    I then used the live chat option on the Ultra Custom Cabs website, and they were very responsive. Answered all my questions, etc. At this stage with no reply from Aracdeworx I decided to go with Ultra Custom Cabs and placed my order.

    A couple of weeks went by, and I sent Ultra Custom Cabs an email asking how my order was progressing. I had no reply. I posted on their Facebook page asking if I was using the correct email address. They deleted the post and then replied to my email saying they had a large backorder of machines and it would be at least 8-9 weeks.

    A great aspect I love about the Ultra Custom Cabs business model, is that they regularly post updates on their Facebook page regarding the progress on their machine builds, etc. So I spent way too much time watching their page for any updates. I did notice from time to time that any posts that were negative in nature were quickly removed. I didn’t think much of it at the time (but more on this bizarre behaviour later on in the review).

    Fast forward to early Feb and I saw on their Facebook page my machine had been completed, w00t! Couple of days later I received an SMS saying my machine had been completed. Very cool I said, any news regarding delivery? The next day they confirmed their delivery driver would be back in their area soon and they would let me know. The following day they advised the delivery driver would be leaving three days later and would be in touch.

    Delivery
    Four days later I received an SMS from Bill the delivery driver to say he was three hours away. Awesome of course. But a little more notice might be needed for some customers.

    Bill was awesome. He takes very good care of all goods he delivers, and he spent a considerable amount of time helping me get the machine into the house, making sure no damage was inflicted.

    Build quality
    First impressions when I saw the machine were “wow”. It looked well built, and was massive. Once we got it inside and Bill left I start to have a closer look. It was covered head to toe in wood dust. No doubt from the workshop. Easy to clean off, but maybe a slight concern if any got into the electronics, etc.

    The cabinet is very solid and well built. Can’t fault it. As you can see from the photos. The artwork quality is top notch and flawless in how it looks. The components used are pretty run of the mill stuff. Standard computer gear, Asus motherboard, Seagate hard drive for rom storage, etc. The Western Digital M.2 SSD for OS is a nice touch. On some of their YouTube videos they do rubbish other cabinet makers for using low quality components, which is a little ironic, as I wouldn’t call the Soniq LCD TVs they use as top notch. Anyway it all runs very well, and very fast. I opted for a few other bells and whistles on mine like larger LCD screen, USB 2.0/HDMI ports for the side of the cabinet, light up marqee, perspex overlay for the control panel, LED strip under the control panel, LED player buttons, and an externally mounted power switch (which was made a standard option before my build was complete, but they still charged me for it).

    The LED buttons are very clunky, and in hindsight, I think the standard concaved buttons may have been a better choice. The standard joysticks are great, really solid. The sound is terrible lol. I made the assumption that there must have been speakers with each cabinet as I saw the speaker grills in the photos and videos. But unless you purchase the upgraded sound package, you just have the TV speakers.

    The LED strips function fine, but you need to hold the LED remote a few centimetres from the sensors to get them to operate. But they are just cheapies off eBay I’d say.

    There are buttons on the side of the control panel to use for pinball games, very nice touch. There are two buttons located at the front of the machine under the control panel used for left and right mouse clicks. A really nice touch. Using these with the trackball means you have a full mouse to use in Windows (as it all runs on Windows 10).

    Speaking of the trackball, the lights in it don’t turn off. Once you power down the PC in the cabinet and turn off the monitor. The trackball stays on. This is expected behaviour.

    IMG_20190211_172936.jpg IMG_20190211_172955.jpg IMG_20190211_173104.jpg IMG_20190211_173120.jpg IMG_20190211_173132.jpg IMG_20190211_173150.jpg IMG_20190211_173338.jpg MVIMG_20190211_173610.jpg

    Software and tech support
    Anyway onto the software setup and games, that’s the main reason to buy an arcade setup. The system comes with a ridiculous amount of games. From MAME, to consoles such as SNES, Megadrive, etc. Not sure about the legality of shipping out machines preloaded with roms, I think it is a bit of a grey area. All of the software runs on a unlicensed copy of Windows 10 (which you are advised to license yourself if you want to). They use Faronics Deep Freeze on the OS drive. With each restart, the PC will return to the state it was in when it was first “frozen”. I’m guessing this helps them to ensure Windows 10 can remain unlicensed. I’m also assuming the copy of Deep Freeze installed isn’t licensed. It does seem like a good way to keep the machine in a healthy state for users that may not be IT literate. I have used this software in the past, and asked Ultra Custom Cabs for the password so I could “thaw” the PC to free up some additional space on the system drive, but they denied this request.

    All of the roms and emulators are on a separate drive (spinning disk so slower), and this drive is not frozen, so any changes made stay if the machine is turned off or restarted.

    The frontend used to browse through the games is Hyperspin (https://hyperspin-fe.com/). It’s a pretty slick interface, but can be a little overwhelming as it auto plays video clips and music each time you change to a different game or game wheel, so can be a little distracting when trying browse through. Games are broken up into wheels. Wheels are just different collections of games, eg, MAME, MAME 4 player, SNES, etc. The same game can be part of multiple wheels. I personally think there are to many wheels, but can understand why they have created so many, to ensure they cater for everyone. I will be more then likely removing most of them.

    The backend is all held together by Rocket Launcher (http://www.rlauncher.com/). This allows unified controller mappings across emulators, setting rom paths, etc. Basically sets up all the configuration, so users can change between different frontends if they want to.

    Once in Hyperspin finding the games and launching them is pretty straight forward. You click the start button on the control panel (all the buttons are well labelled), and away you go. The games all load very quickly. Things like the bezels around the games are very cool and look great. Most games work with no issues. But… when you do find the occasional games or emulator that doesn’t work properly, things get interesting.

    One of my favourite arcade games is NBA Jam. So it was one of the first I fired up. It launched fine, but the joystick didn’t work. I sent Ultra Custom Cabs a Facebook message saying the joystick didn’t work, and was there a quick fix they could recommend? They quickly responded and said it wasn’t possible that it didn’t work, as they play that game all the time. Hang on a sec, did they just call me a liar? lol. Anyway I asked if I should take a video so they could see it first hand. They said no, and told me to go and Google how to change controls in MAME. I was initially shocked as they continually promote how good their customer service is, but that response seemed a little dismissive to me. A quick reply of, “plug a keyboard in and press TAB to bring up the controller configuration in MAME” would have been a more helpful response.

    Anyway… onto more game testing. I then went to play some Sega Genesis (Megadrive) games. When opening good old Sonic it was all stretched and at full 16:9 resolution so looked pretty ordinary. I would have thought a console as popular as this would have its display settings set correctly by Ultra Custom Cabs. After digging under the covers I found it was using “Kega Fusion” for the emulator and was able to change the display settings to the correct 4:3 output, and the games were looking great again.

    Later on another game I tried to open told me the rom was missing, and as you can see from one of the photos the file path mentions something about an 8TB drive. You don’t get the 8TB drive by default, so I quickly was able to determine this must only be valid for the people who pay for that upgrade. But it would be a better user experience to maybe have those removed from the 2TB system so as not to confuse purchasers.

    There was another game that once opened asked me to insert a CD, and then there was no way to exit, so the machine had to be restarted.

    Anyway Ultra Custom Cabs are forthcoming in that they can’t test all games, and that’s understandable.

    IMG_20190211_173903.jpg

    Business processes and customer service
    The last topic I was going to cover was something I only discovered after purchasing the machine, and it relates to how petrified Ultra Custom Cabs are in receiving any neutral or negative feedback. As mentioned earlier they deleted my post when I asked if I was using the correct email address as they weren’t replying to emails. After I received some lacklustre customer support myself I did a bit of Googling and found this thread: https://www.aussiearcade.com/showth...(Melbourne)/page2?highlight=Ultra+custom+cabs

    That thread talks about a customer buying a machine and having issues with it, and not being able to get support. It also mentions users being blocked from posting on their Facebook page, etc.

    After I started to pay more attention to their Facebook page, I noticed that any post that pointed out things that may not have worked on their machines, it was quickly deleted. They also don’t allow users to post feedback on their YouTube videos. They don’t have their business listed on Google Maps, so you can’t provide feedback on their business that way either.

    A very puzzling way to conduct a business.

    In summary
    Overall I recommend the product, but probably only for people that know their way around emulators, and can do the odd bit of troubleshooting if required. Due to the hit and miss technical support, I think some people may get quite frustrated and disappointed if they paid a lot of money, and found some things didn't work, and didn't know how to resolve it.
     
  2. Bert

    Bert Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2002
    Messages:
    1,419
    Location:
    Brisvegas
    My 2 cents....

    I bought a two player from UCC early last year. Could not be happier.

    I did all my homework before buying. I have not found a anyone selling machines of that level of quality, at that price.

    You will find that the main issue with complaints stems from clueless people who buy the machine, then buy an upgraded drive from someone else, and then wonder why the PC (built to handle the games shipped with the system) can't handle emulators like PS2, Gamecube, etc. They also don't understand that if they buy a drive from someone else, the controls may be mapped differently. Other issues may be people playing with configurations and breaking things.

    I don't believe the poster in that thread on Aussie Arcade Forums when they say that none of the games work. Either they've accidentally deleted files, or they are talking rubbish just to bad mouth UCC.

    I have my machine running an 8tb drive sourced else. This was always my plan from the beginning as UCC didn't offer an 8tb option at the time. I did my homework to make sure I could get it running correctly.

    I've had no issues when dealing with UCC at any point. The lead time was long, due to the popularity of their machines and the backlog of builds in the workshop. I expected this and it just wasn't an issue for me.

    With any Hyperspin/Retropie systems of this size, not all games work. This is the nature of emulation. If this is a concern for anyone potentially purchasing a custom built arcade machine, then my advice would be to buy NES Classic, SNES Classic, etc. Hyperspin runs emulators, designed by the retro gaming community. These are not perfect.

    I understand the philosophy of being disappointed if they paid a lot of money, and found some things didn't work, however, let's be realistic. If you paid $2,000 for the machine, and it has 40,000 games, that equates to $0.05 per game. I can't see why someone would feel cheated if (say) 1000 or 5000 games didn't work.

    Also, to be fair their website does state everything clearly.

    Also attached a pic of my cab :)
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 15, 2019 at 10:48 AM
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  3. flain

    flain Member

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2005
    Messages:
    2,162
    Location:
    Sydney
    Thanks for the review. I did the arcadeworx thing but just for the cabinet shell and did the rest myself.

    I've never found a hyperspin image that just works 100% out of the box, but if they are selling them as complete then they really should take ownership of issues and have a continued improvement process of some sort. I get that nothing is perfect but when you start charging money for things my expectations get higher.
     
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