I got a kick out of this

Howto build a MAME cabinet for $392

In my previous post, I wrote about my experiences building a MAME cabinet. Here, I’m going to explain how to build one as cheaply as possible. As I wrote in my previous post, the cost for building a MAME cabinet that still uses all the original cabinet hardware will probably run you anywhere from $500 to $1000.

If you don’t care about the machine being authentic, and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, there’s an easy way to build a cabinet for much cheaper. Just right now, I was able to find a JAMMA cabinet on eBay for $100 (Capcom’s Final Fight), where everything but the monitor works. $100 is a good price, but if you are really patient, you can find these for less or free on craigslist.

What we have:

  1. JAMMA cabinet (-monitor): $100, eBay

Replacing a cabinet monitor will run you about $300 if you can find a good deal (I lucked out got a 27 inch for $275 when the tube on my Street Fighter 2 machine blew), but you can do even cheaper – don’t buy another JAMMA tube!

Used TVs go on craigslist anywhere from cheap to free. For example, I just found a $30 25 inch tv in NYC in under a minute of searching. These are also pretty easy to find for free.

What we have:

  1. JAMMA cabinet (-monitor): $100, eBay
  2. 25 inch TV: $30, craigslist

Now, you’ll need a PC to run the cabinet. You should find a machine that has a RCA/Component (TV) output on the video card so you can plug the TV to the PC. Another minute of searching on craigslist turned up a dell Pentium 4 (plenty powerful for a MAME cabinet) for $175.

What we have:

  1. JAMMA cabinet (-monitor): $100, eBay
  2. 25 inch TV: $30, craigslist
  3. Dell Pentium 4: $175, craigslist

We’ll assume this machine doesn’t have component output, and buy a videocard with component output as well. The first page resulting from googling for “cheap video card” finds Geeks.com with an ATI Radeon 7500 (a shitty card, but good enough) with component output for $30.

What we have:

  1. JAMMA cabinet (-monitor): $100, eBay
  2. 25 inch TV: $30, craigslist
  3. Dell Pentium 4: $175, craigslist
  4. ATI Radeon 7500: $30, Geeks.com

Now, as in the previous post, you’ll want to make a visit to Ultimarc, and pick up a J-Pac ($57), but unlike the previous post, you wont need the ArcadeVGA card, since you’ll be using the TV as the monitor. If you’re feeling hardcore, you can hack the joystick inputs to a hacked keyboard, and skip buying the J-Pac altogheter (although you may experience key-ghosting). For these prices, I’ll assume buying the J-Pac.

What we have:

  1. JAMMA cabinet (-monitor): $100, eBay
  2. 25 inch TV: $30, craigslist
  3. Dell Pentium 4: $175, craigslist
  4. ATI Radeon 7500: $30, Geeks.com
  5. J-Pac: $57, Ultimarc

Total: $392

And that’s all you’ll need to buy. You’ll need to figure out how to mount the TV in the cabinet, but spare wood and some screws will solve that problem. This is still a day (two max) of build time. These prices are pretty worst case, as you can find the TV and arcade cabinet for free or close to it if you are patient. If you happen to have an old PC around, that cost goes away as well.

Wanna go cheaper? Get ready to get your hands dirty and use an XBox instead of PC ($50 on craigslist) and hack up the joysticks yourself. Put linux on the XBox and run MAME on the XBox from there. Your cost then is just the Xbox, cabinet, and TV, about $200!

UPDATE: Ultimarc also makes an XBox to J-Pac adaptor, which runs $35. You’ll also need to buy the J-Pac to use it ($57), but you shouldn’t need to do any special fabrication/wiring once you have these parts (but I’ve never used it). Very nice stuff.

UPDATE: You actually don’t need the J-Pac to do this build since it is using a TV instead of a JAMMA monitor. Instead, we can buy the cheaper I-Pac ($39), which is a keyboard encoder made for MAME. This brings the total price down by$18.

UPDATE: If you’re feeling hardcore and want to tackle wiring by yourself, you can save a few more bucks. Check PC2JAMMA

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