I’d pick up a $100-$200 stick even if I’m new to it. If you don’t like it, or it’s uncomfortable, you can resell it without losing much. As for stick choice, here are my opinions about the Qanba Q4RAF and Madcatz TE.
For about the same price as the TE, I’d pick up a Qanba Q4RAF. I have used and owned both and here are my thoughts.
Pros for Qanba:
-Qanba is about the same price as a TE, but is dual modded and uses the same Sanwa Denshi parts. So if you have a particular console at home, and decide to go to tournaments that use a different console, you’ll be covered. This was definitely an issue for me as I owned a madcatz TE for the xbox 360, but my locals and EVO use PS3. Not an issue anymore, since I have a Qanba.
-Qanba has a felt bottom so if you play on your lap, it doesn’t slip around as much. Also, if you’re wearing shorts or something, it’s not cold to the touch like the metal panel on the bottom of TE sticks.
-Qanba comes with a thick painted plexi top over the metal panel. One benefit is that when you press on your sanwa buttons, there’s a more solid/smooth feel. When I press buttons on my madcatz fightstick pro, it feels hollow and there’s a louder noise since madcatz only uses a metal panel with a sticker on top. It’s hard to explain. Another benefit is that when you replace buttons, it’s a lot easier pushing snap in buttons through the thick plexi over a metal panel on the Qanba than it is a thin sticker over a metal panel on the madcatz TE. There’s less resistance on the plexi and the buttons are secured just as well.
-Qanba comes with accessories such as button plugs, cleaning cloth, and headset.
-Qanba has excellent customer service. If you ever have problems, you can always email llx8000, who runs the Qanba thread on Tech Talk and he sends you replacement parts. I had a problem with one of my LEDs that indicates what player you are and he sent me a new pcb and control panel for free. All he asked for were pictures of the inside of the stick to see if he could diagnose a problem before he sent out replacement parts. The pictures didn’t show any loose connections so in about 2 weeks I got a replacement pcb and everything works great. All of this was after my 90 day warranty. So if you buy Qanba, it’s safe to assume they’ll take care of any problems whether or not you still are under warranty.
-The Qanba surface is also flush, so your palms won’t be hitting or resting on anything awkward.
-Inside of the stick is really clean, roomy, and organized.
Cons of Qanba:
-I hate that the USB comes out of the side rather than the top.
-There’s no break-a-way portion for the USB so if someone trips on it…you’re SOL.
-Start button is on the front near the main 8 buttons. I have never hit the start button inadvertently, but when my friends are over and they use the stick, they will occasionally pause in match. Just depends on how crazy you push/mash your buttons I guess.
-Not a fan of having a handle on an arcade stick, but I can see it’s benefits.
Pros for Madcatz:
-Haven’t had any technical problems. Overall it is a good stick. For about the same price though, I’d rather pick up a dual modded stick.
-Nice placement of start button and USB cable.
-Easy to resell.
Cons for Madcatz:
-USB compartment is kind of small and a tight fit for the cable.
-No felt bottom.
-When you open the top panel, it takes a bit of effort putting it back on because of all the wires and little room there is on the interior.
-top panel bolts get oxidized as well as the metal bottom panel.
-Most TE models have a bezel, which isn’t fully flush with the stick.