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Feb212013

« Review: GamerFinger HBFS-30 30mm Pushbuttons »

Sanwa Denshi is considered the most dominant force in the world for high quality pushbuttons. It's found on most arcade sticks on the market and preferred by many fighting game players. A couple of months, a Taiwan community player, Pei "Milkshark" Kao, initiated a fundraising drive to manufacture an alternative pushbutton to compete with Sanwa and a couple of other competitors.

With the drive successful, Kao and his company GamerFinger initiated production on the HBFS-30 (Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger/Silent). It aims for being unique in design while still maintaining a consistent high quality feel and response like their competition. Fortunately, they were able to pull off most of what they aimed for.

The HBFS-30 pushbuttons have a housing that's similar to that of Sanwa's or Seimitsu's design. It utilizes a convex plunger surrounded by a rim to hold the overall button in place. To keep it distinctive, GamerFinger applied an octagonal shape for the rim instead of the more common circular build. At first, it looked unusual and thought it would significant affect how I would press the buttons but they later were non-existant. To make the octagonal shape stand out, I would recommend keeping them symmetrical to each other. A minor issue I encountered is that due to the octagonal rim, it didn't fully occupy the entirety of the button hole inserts especially on my Hori Fighting Edge. Fortunately, it' more or less a very specific cosmetic concern which doesn't affect my pressing.

One of the significant draws to the HBFS-30 is that it utilizes a special microswitch system different from that found on Sanwa, Seimitsu, or Hori. The aforementioned companies uses their own proprietary technology for their pushbuttons while GamerFinger implemented MX keyboard switches from Cherry. This idea can be akin to that found in American-based Happ pushbuttons using larger Cherry microswitches. The housing of the button revolves on MX switches which is absolutley convenient and a bit easy to install than other buttons. In terms of longevity, it's still debatable if the keyswitches will last longer than the common microswitches but it's plausible.

To make sure the buttons connect to button harnesses on stick, there is an adapter that's put over the small pins to allow the stick's wires to connect to the buttons. Upon recieving my buttons and keyswitches, the adapters were failing on me but were soon partially resolved. The reason I say partially is that the new adapters only have been fitting on my red MX switches but not the blue click switches. Upon observation, the small pins found on the blue switches are smaller than the red switches. There is a DIY method to somewhat solve this issue but I haven't tested it as of this review. Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the blue switches but I will say that the reds do have a similar feel to Sanwa but is slightly more linear and smoother when being pressed. I can perform just as fine as if I was using a button from Sanwa during actual play. At the least it's good to know these pushbuttons are definitely playable.

Among the many Cherry MX keyswitches compatible with the HBFS-30.Another draw is that the buttons feature a layer of form inside their core shell. This is similar to that of Sanwa's silent series which uses the same technique. This pad lowers the volume of the buttons when pressed. Although it's not silent, it does remove the "clack" found in Sanwa buttons and will be less disruptive in quiet environments. I tested the overall sound of the HBFS-30 and regular Sanwa OBSF-30 buttons on a Hori Fighting Edge which you can check out the tests here. Aside from issues like mic placement closer to a particular button and pressing a bit harder than normal in some cases, the HBFS-30 had a considerable smaller decibel average than the Sanwa which was near or at 0 db. The HBFS-30 removed a lot of the treble frequencies that the Sanwa featured. While it does show and audibly present the differences, it's best to try them out in person. Originally I thought the foam would dramatically affect the buttons when pushed, with the result being mushy. The clack on Sanwa pushbuttons makes the impact when fully pushed immediate while the HBFS-30 barely softens it which is still good.

The HBFS-30 pushbuttons are also designed to utilize LED support out of the box. While I haven't toyed with them, some of the pictures I seen do show they work just fine.

What's left up in the air for these buttons is its projected longevity which will take time. Another thing is getting different Cherry MX keyswitches since the buttons can fit most if not all switches. GamerFinger doesn't offer them as separate products but you can check outside stores (Mouser, WASD Keyboards) to get a couple or in bulk.

There are plans to release 24mm versions for those in the future. That will be great for those who need to replace the start or select buttons and maybe for Hitbox users.

These buttons have been feeling really good in general and worthy of being replacement buttons for some of the arcade sticks I actively use. Their idea to use MX switches is really neat in theory and in practice. There are things they can certainly improve on and fix but the general execution is satisfactory. Being an independent and smaller company from that of Sanwa, Seimitsu, and Hori, GamerFinger made the effort to establish a mark in making arcade parts. From the effort in the donation as well as the end result, GamerFinger and their HBFS-30 deserves to be a respectable competitor.

You can find GamerFinger and the HBFS-30 pushbuttons here! The HBFS-24, GamerFinger Optical Kit, and the KDiT VDARK VL Case coming soon!

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