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The $500 Budget Full Size Pinball Cabinet


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The answer to how many cans of black I needed was 2. That should be the end of the expenses and I can tally up the final budget to see how I did. But I think I’m going to wait until after it’s fully assembled and include that in a final post.


For the paint, I raided the paint shelf in my basement. I used every kind of white primer/paint I could find to lay down a base coat. I had 3 completely unused cans of silver spray paint. I don’t remember buying them for anything and neither does my wife. I wonder if they came with the house? Anyway, I used those to cover the entire exterior of the cabinet.


Then it was time for masking tape, stencils, and black paint. I only had a partial can of black and it was sort of a metallic black.. I used that on the inside of the cab and had to buy some new black cans for the outside.

Hoping I can reassemble tonight and tomorrow.

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Final assembly is complete! Everything went well, but I did run into one issue. Read on…


This is what a budget power solution looks like ;) A power strip and some mounting tape is all you really need. The 5v for the lights in the buttons and the 12v for the fans comes directly from the computer.




Instead of plastic u-channel, this 1mm thick felt tape ($4 on ebay) lets the glass slide.






Except… here’s where I ran into a problem. I was so pleased with myself when I came up with this tidy way of finishing off the side rails. Only I forgot I wanted to be able to slide the glass out! I have some ideas to fix it. But they involve rebuilding the lockdown bar. I’ll come back to that at a later date. For now I just have to remove the side rails to take off the glass :(




I do really like the side rails. The offset aluminum angle (.75″ x 1.25″) looks really good. It doesn’t look like something from the hardware store. This was hard to find. I had to buy 3 pieces, each 46″ long ($34 on ebay from outwater-industries). So I have one left over, no idea what to do with it yet.  I made a “brushed” finish on them with sandpaper and scotch brite pads.








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And the grand total is….




Here’s the budget.


The last item I added was 3 cans of spray paint, $4 each.


I started with:

  • 2 old computer monitors ( backglass & DMD)
  • 4 arcade buttons (flippers & magna save)
  • Some scrap 1x4s and 1/4″ mdf
  • A shelf of old spray paint

Pretty much everything else I purchased including the computer and play field TV.


My initial goals didn’t include a real plunger or legs and I managed to include both. Woot!


When I first discovered virtual pinball, I was impressed (and a little intimidated) by so many of your builds. The VP community is full of super talented people who have been incredibly generous with their time and knowledge.


I knew I couldn’t invest thousands of dollars in this project (I’ve seen those build threads and they’re amazing!) I wanted to lower the barrier to entry for folks wanting to get into this hobby with more modest budgets. I hope I did that.

Time to play some pinball!


Oh wait. Hey, would you look at what just arrived in the mail today.



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Update April 2021: Since the time this project was completed in May of 2020, the $500 pinball cabinet has seen some significant upgrades.


I added Surround Sound Feedback ($99) and LED strips and a rear matrix ($98). Which brought me to a $700 total and a machine that did a bang up job of replicating a real pin. Having experienced SSF, I would never consider building a virtual pinball machine without it. The LED stuff is fun and while not true to an actual pin, it brings an element of the virtual game into the real world. I think they add a lot and recommend them.


I then decided to pursue a 4k playfield. That required some PC upgrades. The grand total for the 4k upgrade was $263 including the 4k screen and PC upgrades. That put me just shy of $1,000 for a fully functional 4k virtual pinball machine.


I had provided more details on the upgrades in the original copy of this thread on VPinball. But I'm not going to reproduce the documentation for those upgrades here. There's not really much you could learn from them. My parts lists (including costs) are all detailed in the budget.


But I didn't stop there. I bought myself an Oculus Quest 2 for Christmas and I wanted to try some VR pinball. So I upgraded the PC further at a cost of $306. At this point there's nothing of the original Dell 580 left. It's all been replaced. I ultimately decided VR pinball wasn't for me, though I do play a few PC VR games through the pin cab. I also feel like once I crossed the $1,000 threshold, I can't really call this a budget build. Although, I have to say, $1,300 for a 4k, VR capable pinball cabinet is an accomplishment I'm pretty happy with.


With GPU prices what they are today, I don't know if you could replicate the $500 cab (eventually those prices will come down). But I do hope it inspires you and shows that you can enter the hobby with a relatively modest financial investment.



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  • 2 months later...

Pretty Damn Neat Dude....  I bought a used professional build, 42 in playfield, 27 inch BS and 1024/762 DMD and had to install my own PC. What I am left with is a plunger that I had no idea how to get the 5v it needs to power. Where is your plunger connected on your PC? This is the part that cannot figure out. Is it just another usb insert? 



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So, apparently I have a 3.3v lead into the plunger, not 5. Would a USB connection still power this or is it too much?


Being that I purchased a used professional cab, all of the wire leads go to a non existing controller , just a snap in adapter. To get the table functional, I just purchased a cheap game controller button kit off of Amazon.  This plugs in via USB and the CPU recognizes it as a game controller for VP. Here is a problem though, if I add a second USB controller kit to the CPU, VP crashes. It can only read one I guess. 


I have to add a new comment as all of the pics are too large for one post here. 


The cab came just as you see it with a CPU that had a bad motherboard and no HD. I paid $1700 for the cab and another $100 to get the CPU working.... Not bad, being that I don't have the carpentry skill you have   :)  


I am wondering if I can add the plunger to the encoder and just run power to it. Basically, add it to the current board splicing wires. 


I take it the Black and White leads are the connections that read the plunger? 







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  • 4 weeks later...

@topper2k - what 4k playfield did you end up getting?   Was it the V405-H19 from your spreadsheet?  Did you have to decase it to make it fit?  It's says it's 20.51 inches without the stand...is that accurate as I have a standard cab build that I'm starting and can't find much to fit the 20 1/4 inside dimensions.  Interested in your experience.

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That is the 4k playfield I upgraded to.


The measurement in the spec was spot on. Which was a good thing, because this was the only 4k screen that I could find that was small enough for my cab.


I did not decase it and I don't think you could. It's super thin and light weight. There's no way there's a metal housing inside. I suspect the whole thing is held together by the outer clamshell.

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  • 2 months later...

This is an excellent thread to inspire people to get into building a cab on a budget. I've just finished building mine which originally started out as a £600 4K build (3 screen cab), but I quickly realised that £600 wouldn't cut it. I eventually got it "finished" and playable for just under £1000.

It's really satisfying to put old stuff you have lying around to good use in a cab build.


I say "finished" because that was last summer. And as most people on this forum will know you just cannot stop or help yourself from tinkering and improving.

Since last summer I think I've added about £300 worth of improvements which include lighting toys (strobe, fan, beacons and undercab RGB lighting, RGB flipper buttons) a 10" 1080p full DMD screen which necessitated a back box rebuild (it was only 4:1 letterbox DMD before) and professionally printed vinyl graphics for the final touch.


Total build price came to about £1300 but that did not include the old i7-860 based PC and GTX1070 card, both of which I already had. Maybe mine isn't such a budget build after all?   😛

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Yeah DBrown67, it seems like there's always one more thing to add. I tried everything on wish list. That included bass shakers (disappointing), shaker motor (awesome), addressable LEDs with matrix (awesome), head tracking camera (disappointing).


I haven't made the switch to 16:9 DMD. I guess I will eventually. For now, I'm just trying to learn to play pinball!


Oh and waiting for PinballFX to come out....

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  • 1 year later...

Hi Topper2K,


Very nice post and my inspiration to build a budget build as well. Seems you hit the sweetspot for a DIY entry level build but still close enough to a table that DOES look and feel like a real one.

Edited by zorion
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