Qanba's latest line of arcade sticks for the PlayStation 4 that was reviewed on IPLAYWINNER was based on existing designs. The Drone, priced at $79.99, was from the N1 series. The $149.99 Crystal was a reintroduction of the revised Q2 LED/Glow models. As for the $299.99 Dragon stick, it was previously featured at EVO 2014 as a prototype. The Obsidian, however, was a stick never before seen from the Chinese manufacturer when it premiered in late 2016.
Sitting between the Crystal and Dragon in price, the Obsidian is aimed for players who want better parts than the former while not breaking the bank with the very stylish latter. At $199.99, it's competing with Mad Catz's Arcade FightStick Tournament Edition 2+ and Razer's Panthera sticks. With its competitors, you can consider the Obsidian as Qanba's flagship stick but does it stack up?
As said, the Obsidian is of a new design. It reminds me of an evolved version of the popular Q4 arcade stick. Instead of the more obvious looks of Qanba's other PS4 sticks, the Obsidian is subdued. The color palette is primarily black and gray with very little hints of blue on the stick art. The mixed plastic and aluminum body uses subtle angles on the outer ends to provide character to an overall flat look. Taking influence from the RAP 4 sticks, the Obsidian body is also slimmer in height and wider in length than most of its competition. Compared to the other sticks out there, even those from Qanba, the Obsidian evokes a more lean aesthetic which is welcoming.
The look also carries over to its feel. Even weighing at seven pounds, it feels easy to carry. The sides do have enough room for you to grip onto. The design also makes it simple to carry from the front or back ends as well. If you prefer putting the Obsidian in a bag like the Qanba Guardian, it fits well. Just make sure your bag has at least 18 inches to effectively house the stick. Thanks to the antislip rubber mats on the bottom end, the stick won't be a burden on your lap or any surface when playing. Don't worry about rusting the bottom as it's all plastic instead of metal.
As with the Dragon, the Obsidian features a full set of high-quality arcade parts from Sanwa Denshi. The JLF lever and OBSF-30 pushbuttons are a notable step up from the proprietary parts found in Qanba's Drone and Crystal. The OBSF-30 buttons are all black while the JLF balltop is metal which looks nice with the Obsidian's color palette.
When it comes to modding parts, it's not as easy as the Dragon. The only way to access the internal area is to remove the bottom portion of the Obsidian. Take note that this process requires removing a sticker in one of the screw holes, effectively voiding the 90-day warranty. Replacing the lever and buttons are simple to work with like most modern arcade sticks. I was able to fit the Crown 309MJ Korean lever with ease. As for the front panel, it's possible to replace it with custom plexi glass and your own artwork.
The Obsidian adopts Qanba's LED functions found on the Crystal and Dragon. With the press of its dedicated button on the top right of the front panel, you select different emitting modes. The default mode requires moving the lever to trigger the left side while the right side activates with button presses. The other modes include flashing during a vibration trigger and having a constant glow. You can also turn it off if you prefer. The lights are similar to the Dragon as the effect is less obvious than the Crystal. Even in the dark, the LEDs don't pop out. That said, the lights are still a nice small touch nonetheless.
Grouped up with the LED button are the rest of the special controls. They include the Home button, Options, Share, Turbo, analog buttons, d-pad/left stick/right stick selector, console slider and a lock switch. The selection is similar to what the Q4 and Eightarc Fusion had. You will need to pay attention to the layout to know what button you are pressing. The contact sensitive Touch Pad is on the front side of the stick. Due to the slightly slanted front side, the Touch Pad is easy to access. The Obsidian also has a dedicated PC mode found on the platform slider like the Dragon. When plugged into a PC, the stick is configured for XInput support so it can work with most modern fighting games for the platform with no problems.
The front end also has the USB cable compartment. The cable is pretty easy to remove and does stay put when the door is closed. While I would have liked a bigger compartment, it can house the cable fine. One of the common problems in past Qanba sticks was that the compartment door was easy to break. The Obsidian's door looks like it's better constructed so it should be able to hold up for a while.
Like the Dragon we reviewed, the Obsidian has a built-in 3.5mm headphone port. Most stereo headphones with the 3.5mm jack should be able to work with ease. If you have a built-in microphone with your headphones, then you can voice chat with friends on the PS4. This is perfect when at home but not at tournaments as it disables audio from the display.
Results from lag tests with the Obsidian against various sticks did vary. Using a simple input wiring trick to simultaneously trigger a button from each stick, the test is to see what is faster. If both buttons trade hits, it's a good sign. A counter hit from either side can provide insubstantial or significant results depending on how many there were. The Obsidian was the obvious victor over the Hori Real Arcade Pro V3-SA under the Lab Zero legacy driver and under a Brook PS3 to PS4 Super Converter. Most of the hits against the Mad Catz Arcade FightStick Tournament Edition 2, Qanba Crystal and Hori Real Arcade Pro 4 were trades. The Obsidian did face some trouble against both the Brook Universal Fighting Board and the Razer Panthera with the 1.01.00 driver that reduces lag. You can read the full detailed results here.
As much as I like the straightforward approach in the Obsidian, the $200 price tag doesn't do it any favors. The cost would have made more sense during the first two years of the PlayStation 4's life since sticks for the platform were limited at the time. Now, you can get the TE2+ and Panthera sticks, with some more options, for the same price. A slightly lower price could have benefited the Obsidian, but it's possible that it would act as a detriment to the Crystal's $150 value. At this range, it's up to you if you want a simple yet sleek stick or want one that's more feature-rich.
If you are still looking into the Obsidian regardless, it's a capable stick out of the box. In a time where other sticks try to shine with specific attributes, the simple utilitarian design of the Obsidian is a nice change. Efficiency is what the stick aims to be and it succeeds. If you are not looking to modding immediately afterwards, the Obsidian is a good option to just pick up and play.
THE TL;DR REVIEW BY SUPERFX
For the average fighting game player who just wants a stick to use out of the box, the Obsidian is a solid option. The stick's top panel is comfortable even over long play sessions, and the Sanwa parts give most competitive players confidence that the buttons and stick won't randomly give out in a tournament situation. The stick is heavy enough that it won't slide around on legs or a table surface, but not so heavy as to be a burden to carry around.
The visual design decisions of the Obsidian offer a simple but sleek aesthetic. The reliance on black means the stick won't end up ratty or appear dirty due to grime gathering under plexi or collecting in grooves on the body. The LED display is a nice option to have, but like what The Phantomnaut felt, the feature shouldn't factor heavily in purchase decisions.
On the other hand, it's important to note that the Obsidian comes without easy acces to the stick's insides, so replacing parts or modding the stick will be a bit more complicated than what else is available. This is an interesting choice give the stick's competition, but does help the Obsidian maintain its compact appearance. The stick is also wider than most arcade sticks outside the Hori VLX series, and may require players to buy a dedicated stick bag to carry. While this reviewer managed to fit the Obsidian in Qanba's Guardian bag, it was pushing the bag's limits.
In the end, much as The Phantomnaut said, price will be the determining factor for players interested in the Obsidian. The Obsidian is a stick focused on quality and simplicity, but the lack of features found in other sticks in the same price range may deter some players. Overall, it's a sturdy offering with quality parts that finds value in form as a means of function.