Reviewed: December 18, 2002
Reviewed by: Mark Smith

Manufacturer
Xsonic Hi-Tech Inc.

Type: Force Feedback Gamepad
System: Xbox

Rating: 6.8

MSRP: TBD


You may or may not have heard of Xsonic Hi-Tech. Iíve been working with PCís and video games for over 20 years and until last month I had never heard of them. This Taiwan based manufacturer specializes in PC components such as motherboards, video cards, optical storage devices and accessories for PDA and notebooks. Now they have set their sights on the home video game market with their new line of Quick-Retract Joypads.

The concept for this device has long been a dream of mine. In the game testing area here at GCM we have no less than five consoles all funneled into a single TV via a switchbox. Three of these consoles support four controllers, all of which are plugged in. Thatís 16 controllers for those of you who forgot your pocket calculators. The resulting tangle of cords is a total mess and often requires several minutes of pre-gaming untangling before we can even play a game.

Options are limited when it comes to eliminating this problem from which many owners of multiple gaming systems suffer. You can either go with the cordless controllers, which cost significantly more money, and either requires frequent battery changes or lengthy sessions on a recharge pedestal, or you can be a responsible gamer and neatly coil up your controller cable after each gaming sessions Ė yeah right.

Xsonic Hi-Tech has solved this problem with a design that is so simple Iím surprised somebody hasnít figured it out before now. This is the kind of creative genius you might stumble across if you watch those late night infomercials long enough.

Quick-Retract Joypad Features:

  • Quick Retract Function!!!
  • Quality joypad fully compatible with Xbox
  • 8-way direction-pad, analog sticks
  • A/B/C/X/Y/black/white buttons
  • Left and right triggers
  • Turbo function
  • Dual motor vibration
  • Twin memory card slots
The Quick-Retract Joypad is a combination of a custom controller and a retractable cable that is housed in a spring-loaded casing. You can pull out as much cable as you need from the 230cm (about 7.5 feet) available inside the case. When you are done playing you simply push the button on the side of the housing and the cable is whisked neatly inside leaving you with about 16-inches between your console and your controller.

The tension in the retractor is very high, which means you will have to hang on to the housing with one hand while you pull out the cord. If you simply pick up the controller and walk toward the sofa you will unplug the entire thing from the console in the process. Likewise, the retract mechanism doesnít have the torque required to drag the gamepad across the floor so you will need to help feed the cable back into the housing. It is only a minor inconvenience and still certainly faster than coiling 8-feet of cable manually.

Since the retractable device only works with the Xsonic controller you are going to have to decide if the novelty of an auto-coiling cable is worth giving up you favorite controller. For me, this was a major obstacle because I have long grown accustomed to the MadCatz line of controllers for all of my systems and change is never good. Regardless, I sat down and took this gamepad through the paces with a variety of games including action, adventure, platform, and simulation.

The Xbox controller is molded from smooth black plastic with excellent soft green rubber grips for maximum stability. The size and overall shape of the controller is identical to the Microsoft S-Controller that is now shipping with the Xbox. The overall size is comfortable and the black and white buttons have been moved below the normal 4-button cluster for easier access. The Start and Select buttons are now under the left stick to make room for the Turbo and Clear buttons in the middle.

By biggest problem with this gamepad are the two triggers which seem to be set unusually far back in the shell. When holding the controller as I normally would the triggers are clear back where my index fingers join to my palm. To use these triggers I have to readjust my entire grip on the pad and then nothing feels normal. The triggers feel a bit cheap. There isn't a long range of travel and they are overly springy.

The sticks all responded accurately and have a snappy return-to-center. but the round D-pad was a bit mushy and imprecise. The gamepad has a powerful rumble feature thanks to the dual motors inside and there are the standard dual memory card slots and even a Turbo button.

There are several things to consider when deciding if the Quick-Retract Joypad is right for you. If you are still using the stock controller (non S-Controller) that came with your original system then this is a much better controller, but if you have already gotten used to another third-party gamepad or already have the S-Controller you may have trouble switching solely for the convenience of the retractable cable. Itís a great idea, but unless you plan on replacing all of your controllers you are still going to have some cables lying around.

The Quick-Retract Joypad is still being finalized for retail release. If you are interested in obtaining one of these new retractable controllers keep checking the Xsonic website for details on pricing and places to find yours.