By Kevin Steele
(Update 4/04: I added the results of my "six-month checkup" on the cam locking system to the final summary.)
It's a logical progression if you're a die-hard arcade gamer who has discovered MAME: first, you need every arcade game ROM known to mankind; second, you want a true arcade controller to play the games with; and third, you want an arcade cabinet to bring it all together.
Until recently, getting an arcade cabinet meant searching around for an old cab to fix and retrofit, or building a cabinet from scratch yourself. Either meant a lot of work (and a certain basic mastery of power tools!).
A new route to gaming nirvana has appeared in the last year or so, however: prefabricated arcade cabinets, such as the new SlikStik Arcade Machine. Designed to be easily assembled with nothing more than a screwdriver, the SlikStik Arcade Machine is the ultimate in shortcuts.
The SlikStik Arcade Machine is based on contemporary-styled arcade cabinets, with space for a large 27-inch arcade monitor (an upcoming version will even support 33-inch monitors!). The cabinet is large but well proportioned:
Width 26 3/4"
Height 74 1/2"
The cabinet is large even when unassembled and boxed - too big, in fact, for regular shippers such as UPS or FedEx. I received my SlikStik Arcade Machine via the Estes Express delivery service.
The Arcade Machine is shipped in three boxes, ranging in size from manageable to taller than I am. The driver's first words to me were, "So, you got a pool table?" (Yes, the largest of the three boxes is that big!)
The packing job was exemplary: lots of Styrofoam and good placement of parts. It's obvious that some thought went into how this cabinet was going to be packed and shipped.
Once the boxes are unpacked you've got about 15 large pieces, along with smaller hardware such as the speaker grills, drawer slides, marquee holder strips, and so on. A bag full of mounting cams, bolts, and screws rounds out the package.
The first impression I had after unpacking everything was just how solid (and heavy!) everything was. The cabinet is constructed of ¾" high-density particle board, which gives it a substantial heft - this cabinet does not feel flimsy, even when it's in pieces!
All exposed front and side surfaces of the cabinet are covered in black formica, which gives the cabinet a smooth and durable finish. The interior of the two main side panels have a melamine coating, which is also very nice.
The pieces are shipped with protective plastic sheeting on the outer surfaces, which is a really nice touch: the plastic helps to prevent scratches and scuffs during assembly, after which you can just peel it off.
How to Mate A Cabinet
The cabinet is designed to be assembled using an "outrigger cam" latching system - basically, you've got a male "plug" that goes into one of the panels being joined, and a female cam goes into the other panel. When the plug is placed in the cam, you can turn the cam 180 degrees to "lock" the plug and cam together.
It's surprisingly sturdy, especially considering that both cam parts just pop into place using your fingers with very little pressure required. I had concerns about the use of cams, but they seem fairly durable.
I did manage to break one of the cams during assembly by accidentally over-torquing it, so it's not a completely perfect system. I'll report back after the cabinet has had a few months of "play time" put on it, but right now I'm very impressed with the ease of assembly and mounting strength of the cams.
One of the unexpected benefits of the cam system is how easy it is to disassemble the cabinet - I actually took it apart in about ten minutes. If you move often or have a difficult gameroom location (basement or third floor, for example), being able to quickly take apart your arcade machine and move it is a godsend.
Putting It All Together
The cabinet is surprisingly easy to assemble, and it took me less than a half-hour to put it all together the first time (I've since gotten even faster!). It actually took me longer to insert all of the cams (all 44 of them) than it did to put the panels together.
Once the cams are in place, you simply "snap" the panels together, then tighten the cams with a screwdriver once you've gotten everything in position. Items that must be screwed on, such as the marquee holder strips and the drawer slides, have pre-drilled holes for easy mounting.
It just doesn't get any simpler than this - in fact, you really don't feel like you've accomplished anything when you're done assembling the cab, except for the fact that after less than a half-hour you suddenly have an arcade cabinet sitting in your gameroom!
Built for the D9200
While the SlikStik Arcade Machine includes a monitor shelf for using a television or monitor, where it really shines is when it is paired with an arcade monitor. The cabinet includes mounting hardware for a 27" arcade monitor, such as the Wells-Gardner D9200 (see review).
The mounting system, consisting of several black bolts and some custom-designed brackets, is efficient and easily holds the 80-plus pounds of weight of the monitor. Style-wise, however, it does require that there are bolt heads on the outside of the sides of the cabinet - the bolts are black and fairly unobtrusive, but they are the only visible fasteners on the entire cabinet.
Once the D9200 is mounted, it helps to reinforce an already sturdy cabinet. The extra weight makes the cabinet "wobble-proof." A Happs monitor bezel is included with the standard Arcade Machine package, and it's a perfect fit for the D9200 monitor.
It's really hard to express in words how impressive the D9200 monitor looks once it's installed. Playing games on a 27" monitor at the perfect viewing angle is breathtaking (well, at least it is to arcade-junkies like myself!)