Spend any time with the SlikStik Arcade Machine, and you begin to notice all the nice design details - you can tell a lot of thought went into the creation of this cabinet. The layout is classic arcade machine, and the machine is very, very roomy inside.
There is an open section in the back to allow easy access to your PC, but in my opinion I found this detracted from an otherwise "arcade perfect" design. It's just a matter of personal taste, but I'll probably add my own hinged door with vent holes in the future.
The controller mounting shelf is well designed for mounting nearly any control panel you may wish to use...well, perhaps not every control panel:
The controller mounting shelf is designed to fit a standard SlikStik Classic controller, and the installation is fairly easy: take off the bottom panel of the controller, bolt it into place, place the controller back on the bottom panel, and screw everything together.
It's incredibly solid feeling once everything is attached - no creaking, squeaking, or wiggling. The only minor issue is that there is a very small gap between the back of the controller and the backsplash panel. I actually ended up using this gap to route the cable for the volume control, so in some ways it's actually a useful feature.
Everything about this cab screams quality, from the formica sides, to the perfectly installed T-molding, to the plastic feet on the bottom of the cabinet, to the authentic Happs coin door, to the novel "hideaway" keyboard drawer.
Keyboard Drawer? What Keyboard Drawer?
A well-hidden keyboard drawer is something that I have wanted ever since I finished my first arcade cabinet, the MAMEframe. That cabinet had a wireless keyboard and mouse combo, but I found it was just too awkward to try and hold the keyboard in my lap whenever I needed to type in something. You may not need to use a keyboard all that often in a MAME cab, but it's great to have a keyboard drawer for those times when you do.
The keyboard drawer on the SlikStik Arcade Machine is an ultra-low profile design with a "push-click" magnetic latch system. It's nearly invisible on the front of the machine when closed - if you didn't know it was there, you'd never notice it. It glides smoothly on ball-bearing slides, and extends out far enough to clear the controller above it.
A word of warning: when I say the drawer is "ultra-low profile," I mean it — I can't even use the adjustable back feet on my keyboard. It just barely fits the height of my keyboard and mouse. If you've got one of those large, fancy multi-button monstrosities of a keyboard, it may not fit.
Room For Improvement?
The SlikStik Arcade Machine is an amazing arcade cabinet for MAME enthusiasts, no two ways about it. But is there room for improvement? Of course there is (I'm always picky), but only in small, minor ways:
I haven't been this excited about retrogaming since I first bought the stripped Atari RoadBlasters cab that was to become the MAMEframe. Minor changes aside, the SlikStik Arcade Machine is designed and built exactly the way I would have done it myself. In some ways I'm disappointed, since there is so little room for "fix-it modifications." I'm a tweaker, and when something is already this close to perfect, it leaves very little room for tweaking.
The quality is excellent, and I'm also happy to report that even after six months of moving the cab around to gain access to the PC inside, the cams have held up without a single loose or "creaky" spot. The cam locking system is more solid and durable than I had any reason to hope.
The SlikStik Arcade Machine costs $1099.95 for the standard version (package deals with bundled SlikStik controllers are also available). Shipping is $145 to anywhere in the US. Only you can decide if the cost is too much for your budget, but it is certainly a good price considering the quality of the construction and everything that you get in the package, at least in my opinion.
I'm sorry if this all sounds a bit gushy, but I really, really, really like this cab. Agreeing to write the installation manual in exchange for the first cabinet off the assembly line was one of the best deals I've ever made - it's always a risk getting the first of anything, but this time it's paid off. Very Highly Recommended. (Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to play some more games.)