Review: VIRGOO PortableDX beatmania IIDX ASC

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Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 9.08.55 PM

 

It’s here. BEMANI controller maker VIRGOO’s next iteration of their Portable series of beatmania IIDX controllers for home use – the PortableDX.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a test controller for review purposes, and so I wasted no time in setting up a sync-perfect PC for testing it with beatmania IIDX INFINITAS.

Quick run-down:

  • $239 for default VIRGOO Buttons/Microswitches, $364 with Sanwas/Omrons
  • $55 shipping to USA, $65 to Europe, $40 to Asia
  • White LED lights in all buttons($15 for other colors) plus a special multi-color/mode LED turntable ring
  • Outputs to USB (one cable) by default, dedicated PS2 cable available ($10)
  • Turntable material: Glossy PVC plastic similar to the controller’s body.
  • Arcade spacing for keys/turntable/height (KOC TT spacing OK)

 Full Specs Here

First up, let’s take a look at the controller itself.

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The controller is firmly held in place in the shipping box with a plastic foam shell surrounding it on all sides. Doesn’t seem like it’ll be damaged in shipping outside of a major mishandling.

Also in the box is a warranty card with your ordered configuration on it, as well as the turntable sticker and a QR code pointing to the instruction manual online:

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Also in the box, the two turntable panels. One is clear and matches the size for the default sticker, and one is white, and slightly larger. The optional PS2 cable was also sent to us:

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As a quick comparison I lined up the controller with the KONAMI Premium Controller (middle) as well as the older iteration from VIRGOO, the Rainbow Portable2+:

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Here’s a quick comparison of each controller’s key setups:

 

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As VIRGOO’s site clearly illustrates, the PortableDX is quite a sleek-looking controller. I’d definitely say it surpasses the Portable2+ in terms of looks (and functionality). The other shell is a glossy acrylic material similar to most other ASCs out there. The inner body is made from a compressed fiber material that seems MUCH stronger than what’s inside a DJDao controller.

One nice design element of the PortableDX is the frame itself. Rather than being split into 6 different sides, the top panel wraps around the left and right sides, as well as parts of the bottom. This gives the controller a much sturdier feel, which doesn’t creak or crack when pressure is applied to it. If you have a sturdy table/stand for this controller, you won’t feel much vibration, if at all.

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The controller’s edges are all smoothly sanded down, and there is no risk of accidental injuries from sliding your hands across the corners, which is also helped by having no screws on the controller.

What’s that? …No screws? Yes, indeed, this is one of the selling points of this controller. While there are 10 screws on the bottom of the controller, the top and sides have none, and no holes, fasteners, or anything visible keeping the controller together.

Instead, this is done with magnets. The key panel is held in place by 6 tiny but very strong set of magnets. This allows the controller’s layout to be switched from 1P to 2P in a matter of seconds, without tools:

switching

If you can’t remove the panel with your own fingers, just stick a key or something small in the to pry it up. The magnets are pretty strong. So strong that, unfortunately, one of them dislodged itself from the key panel side. Although a tad concerning, this can easily be fixed with a tiny amount of super glue.

However, the magnets are not strong enough to keep the key panel in place when the controller is vertical, or upside-down, so keep that in mind. Not that most people would be spinning their ASCs around, but when working on it upside-down, or trying to stand it vertically for storage, this became an issue.

One more set of magnets also holds the turntable decal disc in place, which is a welcome change if, like myself, you’ve ever found yourself needing to open the turntable up but feared ruining the decal. By default, the disc comes clear with no sticker attached. This means you can also apply your own if you’re in the mood for some customization.

Speaking of the turntable, I had no problems with the glossy texture of it when playing both easy and harder scratch songs. The turntable is a little stiff by default, but that of course means same-direction scratches are much easier, in both keyboard and controller modes.

What’s that? Two modes? Yes, you heard me right. By default, the controller is in Keyboard Mode, with the key binding as follows:

Keymode

If you want an analog turntable control, hold the START/EFFECT1 button down when plugging in the controller. That will map the turntable to the Mouse’s X-axis. This can be changed to the Y-axis by holding EFFECT1+EFFECT2 buttons together for 4 seconds:

Conmode

 

Let’s talk about the turntable some more. In order to move the turntable closer to the key panel, for CS-spacing, you must remove 6 screws on the bottom of the controller. After that, remove four wing-nut fasteners and slide the entire turntable assembly over, then move the wing-nuts over to the according holes:

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TT

It’s quite painless and can essentially be done with one hand:

CS TT Spacing:

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Another indication of the controllers superb build quality – the turntable gear inside is extremely strong, even more so than the one inside the KONAMI Premium Controller. The turntable also has a unique LED ring with 4 modes and 7 color choices:

TTLED

By default, it uses the revolving motion. There is also an interesting “Breathing”/fade mode plus normal “On” and “Off” modes:

The USB cable itself is not permanently attached to the controller or PCB, but instead a USB-B port on the turntable side is used. Heading to a friend’s house to play? You can use any USB 2.0-and-up cable if you happen to forget the cable. This feature is quite handy, especially combined with the magnetic key panel. You can easily store the cable inside the controller as such:

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Unfortunately, I do not have a PlayStation2 to test this controller with CS versions. The PS2 cable comes separately, so you need to attach it to the main PCB. This is simply done by removing the bottom panel’s six screws and attaching it to the port seen below:

ps2

By default the controller ships with White LED lights in each button, which I’d personally recommend for 〜AESTHETICS〜 and to save $15 as well. They’re fairly bright and match the controller’s design perfectly:

 

As far as how the controller plays in-game, I had no problems at all. (For reference, I’m SP 10dan and play mostly 12s and 11s.) Timing and sync, as well as the turntable sensitivity were all pretty much the same as the KONAMI Premium Controller. The only major difference was the turntable material. If you have either extremely dry or extremely sweaty hands, you might have trouble with the PortableDX. But otherwise you’ll be fine. As far as the key setup goes, I can’t personally recommend the VIRGOO default buttons. I’m too used to Sanwas! DJ Dao’s original buttons are decent enough, but the VIRGOO ones have a slightly squishy feel to them. Not unplayable at all but if you have a certain setup preference, you might not enjoy the default buttons. The microswitches are okay if you are fine with the level of resistance they offer. The controller is pretty sturdy and doesn’t shake or vibrate much when playing, and the feet keep it in-place well.

The controller can be purchased now from VIRGOO’s site directly.

Pros:

  • Sleek design looks and feels good
  • Strong construction/build quality
  • Magnets are great for convenience
  • Analog turntable
  • PCB has many different configurations

Cons:

  • Price, compared to competition
  • Turntable material not for everyone
  • Magnets are only held in by glue
  • No white turntable LED option
  • Default buttons/switches somewhat disappointing