Saturday, July 18, 2015

$3 USB gamepad teardown

I recently received a USB gamepad I ordered off Aliexpress for a little more than $3.  I got it for a RetroPie box I'm planning to build, so I don't need anything fancy.  A USB controller chip alone can easily cost $1, so I was curious to see what went into making these.  The photo shows it is pretty simple.

The PCB is single-sided bakelite, since it is really cheap.  While double-sided FR4 PCBs cost around 5c/sq in, even in volume, a single-sided bakelite board is under 2c/sq in.  The USB controller chip is on the other side of the board covered in an epoxy blob, so I can't say what kind of controller chip it is.  besides the controller chip, the only electronic components are the 6Mhz resononator and the ceramic capacitor.  The wires connecting the L/R buttons to the PCB are cheap - similar to the wires twist ties are made from.  The controller looks like it has good strain relief, with the cord winding around a few plastic posts.

The controller was detected (under Windows 7) as a HID-compliant game controller.  I haven't finished setting up my RetroPie box yet, so I tried it out with Doom.  The button feel wasn't the greatest, but all 12 of the buttons worked.  Overall, I'm satisfied with the controller considering the low price.

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