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Bartop Guide?


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Hi guys,

I come from the XBMC community and have built my own HTPC -- after reading countless threads and full guides about selecting HTPC parts -- but I'm really nervous about building my own bartop arcade.

I've found a few video tutorials on the "shell" portion of the bartop, but I can't find many guides on selecting the hardware -- both computer hardware and buttons/I Pac etc.

I know only enough to know that I'm not quite ready, and am hoping there are dome guides you wonderful people might link me to to get me started.

Id really appreciate it


Sent from my ADR6425LVW using Tapatalk 2

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Hey Owen,

I am a newcomer to xbmc (through a rasp Pi) so maybe you can share your HTPC developments too sometime...would be very interested as I have partially started a build which I plan to run both hyperspin and XBMC through a touch screen machine. so yes a game machine and juke box in one.., anyway I have kicked off a build thread on here if your interested BUT progress is SSSLLLOOOWWW (family etc etc)....

Anyway back to your question....

First thing first PC....I have regretted twice now buying pc's which were fine for my initial requirements then as the build and my hyperspin/emulation collection grew i wished i had gone bigger, well you know faster...

So what do you plan to run on your bartop? Just mame? mame + others? If yes to the "others" then these "others" will dictate the power requirements (graphics cards/processor/ram). If just mame then a good fast P4 should do (emitting some of the 3d games)..

You looking at a new bartop build (so pc + ipac) or old machine jamma conversion (pc+jpac)?

Either way you CANT go wrong with the ipac/jpac products, there are cheaper ways, but i would advise as a new user this would be my suggestion.

Buttons - DONT buy too cheap. They work fine but again you will regret it later. For not much more you can get a nice set....This is not priority yet, lets sort ya pc first. Think about feel and colour too, also important for your final design.

p.s - I'm new to all this too really, the guys here are far far more experienced and super helpful so keep asking/posting and you'll get there...


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You're making my day, man! Thanks so much.

First up, I can and would be happy to help you get up and running quickly with XBMC. I've built 5 systems for XBMC at this point:

A8-3850 (Living Room)

A6-3500 (Bedroom & Travel HTPC with 1TB internal storage)

Zotac ID41 // Foxconn A3500 x3 (basic setups for friends)

20 Drive Unraid Server

Let's keep this thread mainly on topic about bartops -- so it's helpful for others -- but definitely shoot me a PM and let's chat XBMC. I'll be happy to help get you going.

I'm going to read through these threads and then post back, but I completely agree with your logic that one thing leads to another. I definitely fall into the "MAME + others" category. While I'm not really up on modern day gaming -- I love the old stuff -- I do want this bartop to be futureproofed as much as possible. I'd rather shell out a few extra bucks now, vs regretting it later.

All my HTPCs have been AMD based, but I gather that might now be the best route for gaming/emulation.

As I said, I'm diving into the links you posted now, but if you have any recommendations in the meantime, they'd be most welcome!


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Not sure if I need IPac JPac.

Doing some Googling, but a bit confused...

How would you describe the difference?

So your bar top build is it

a) A brand new build? i.e cut your panels, make up the cab then add a computer inside + screen.

B) Buy an existing "real" arcade machine that you will convert to mame etc? (so still adding a pc, but retaining the control panel.)

If (a), then you need the ipac. This will interface between your newly made control and PC. (controls button assignments)

If (B), then you need the jpac. This will interface between your existing control panel (via the machines jamma harness) and your PC.

Both items are bought from here:


This website has also loads of info on these products.

So first things first Owen A OR B ?


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So another decision you will need to make is screen - arcade monitor / lcd / or comp crt..

Im would suggest searchin on here to understand (unless you already know) the differences and what will suit your preferences... The purists here will always say arcade monitor. This again depends your choice of emulator. The newer emu's WILL benefit from the higher res lcd route but at the expense of a "too clear pixelated" view on some of the older mame games...

Must admit though my 1st arcade monitor project (+arcadevga graphics card) was a pain to setup. My latest touch screen crt is a higher res monitor and hence a doddle to setup and looks great for taito x etc.....

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Not sure if I need IPac JPac.

Doing some Googling, but a bit confused...

How would you describe the difference?

Ipac or keywiz = simulates your keyboard,

volatile memory( when you turn it off, the memory contents are lost) because of this you need to use a software (WinIPAC IPD) to automatically load your assigned keys every time you turn on your computer.

MAJOR draw back: you have to configure all your emulators to the assigned ipac keys, some emulators have issues with service keys so you can't use mame default keys for some emulators

Jpac DO NOT USE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! intended for original cabinet (JAMMA BOARD) to PC conversion, if you don't have an jamma connector then your wireing will be next to imposible

what you should buy!!!!!!!! 2 players or less only

USB keyboard encoder such as

GPWIZ (what I'm using and I also own a keywiz [not in use because of the drawbacks I mentioned]) http://groovygamegear.com/webstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=235


Apac http://www.ultimarc.com/a-pac.html

USB encoders = simulates a joystick

both the gpwiz and the apac are registered as regular joysticks to your PC, the good thing abut this is that you can use 3d party software to assign different key profiles for each emulator

you may think what is the big deal with this but it is. because some emulators have issues with service keys such as alt, ctrl, space, and shift. By using this type of encoder you can use all the default keys for each emulator with out any problems.

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