Since I have had a complete Atari CX2600 ‘Heavy Sixer’ in my collection, I have been getting asked regularly how you tell a ‘Heavy’ from a ‘Light’ Sixer. At first glance they look pretty similar; six switches, woodgrain, same general shape. But look a little closer and the differences in Atari’s original VCS start to become apparent. Well, they do if you are lucky enough to have both to compare with each other, so here is a short guide to telling if you have a sought after Heavy or a more common (but equally fantastic!) Light Sixer.
The easiest way to tell if you have a Heavy or Light sixer is by looking at the thickness and shape of the trim around the sides and front of the unit.
1. Heavy Sixer’s have a much thicker trim around the front under the wood effect panel, along the sides and around the back of the console.
2. The wood effect panel stops short of the lower front trim on a Heavy Sixer and runs behind it on a Light model.
3. The final indicator is the rounder shape of the front trim on a H6er compared to the much more angular trim of the L6er.
Heavy Sixers were manufactured in Sunnyvale, California, USA, although there are reports of some Heavy Sixers being manufactured elsewhere. And as some Light Sixers were also manufactured in Sunnyvale, you can’t tell by label alone if your model is a Heavy or a Light model. However if your label says Atari Wong, Hong Kong or anything else, it’s a certainty that your VCS is a Light Sixer. If your CX2600 was produced for PAL regions the label is likely to be without the FCC regulations needed for sale in the US and usually features the letter U after the part number, a good way of spotting a PAL model Heavy or Light Sixer.
It is common knowledge amongst Atari collectors that there are two types of bezel in existence on Heavy and Light Sixers, with the Heavy usually having beading around the switches which is visibly raised and rounded and a smaller holes in which the switches move, compared to the flatter beading and (slightly) larger holes of the Light model. I have actually found a third, subtly different type of bezel on another Light Sixer I own and have illustrated the differences above. Do remember that bezels can easily be changed so use the other methods of identification first, this is more as a matter of interest than anything else!
Weight: Just how heavy is a Heavy Sixer?
The greater weight of a H6er is noticable when compared directly to a L6er but obviously you would need both models to hand to compare. To save you the trouble of finding both models, we popped our H6er and our L6er on our trusty digital postal scales.
The Light Sixer weighs in at 1.52 Kilograms (3.351 lbs) and the Heavy Sixer at 2.05 Kilograms (4.519 lbs). Half a Kilogram doesn’t sound like a great deal and it isn’t but when you think that it is just the base section that differs, it makes you realise just how thick that base really is. Quite why they decided to make it so thick (12mm in places) is anyone’s guess.
Now obviously, you can’t tell whether your CX2600 is a Heavy or Light model by the sticks it comes with but if you do have a H6er, wouldn’t it be great to know you have the original sticks too? Original 1977 Heavies were bundled with CX-10 Joysticks (accounting for less than 5 percent of all Atari VCS Joysticks in total according to some sources) and all later models had the extremely common CX-40s. Here are the most noticeable differences (without having to open up your stick!):
1. The word ‘TOP’ appears on the later CX-40 but is absent on a CX-10.
2. The rubber gator on a CX-10 has four ‘steps’ then extends further out to the plastic ring without much of a gap between it and the ‘dotted’ line. The gator on a CX-10 also has noticable gaps around its circumference. A CX-40 has the four steps, but then has a section of plastic instead of the extra rubber, leaving a distinct gap between it and the ‘dotted’ line (see pics).
3. The stick on a CX-10 has far more movement due to it being a sprung joystick. When moved the springs inside the stick make quite a bit of noise, groaning and creaking. A CX-40 has far less movement in its stick and makes little to no noise when used.
4. The button is more pronounced on a CX-10 and travels further when pressed.
5. The screws on the base of a CX-40 are far more recessed (around 14mm) than on a CX-10 (around 5mm).
For serious Atari-heads only
There are reports of other very subtle differences between the Light and Heavy CX2600s, like the colour of the line around the bezel (more yellow than orange on Sunnyvale built models) and the chrome effect on the switches but in my opinion these are fairly unreliable ways of distinguishing the models. Paint can fade after all and as stated above, bezels can easily be replaced. Also there are some that think that the Atari logo differs in size and the position of the ‘R’ registered mark changes between models, all of which I have seen examples of to the contrary.
It goes on… the thickness of the felt pads under the bezel, part numbers on the boards, the type of heat sink used, the subject has been the topic of heated debate throughout the Atari community for decades. I can’t be bothered with all that personally and certainly don’t hold with the view that thousands of H6ers have had their insides stripped out and replaced with L6er parts just because they don’t conform to an Atari purists vision of a first run Heavy Sixer. If you are brave enough to want to look into the subject further, there are many, many threads over at the Atari Age Forums that broach the subject, if you can stand the controversy and potential for a good flaming that is! Or of course, if you are lucky enough to own this Granddaddy of videogames consoles you could just enjoy it for what it is. A heavy CX2600.
Myths surrounding the CX2600
1. A Heavy Sixer is heavier due to the increased RF shielding inside
WRONG. The increased weight of the Heavy is solely due to its substantially thicker bottom casing (around 12mm thick!). The RF shielding inside CX2600s remained similar throughout their manufacture.
2. There is no such thing as a PAL Heavy Sixer (yes, some people really do state this!)
WRONG AGAIN. Go on many Atari forums and you will still see ‘experts’ (note the inverted commas there) saying that all PAL Heavies are just PAL Light Sixers transferred into NTSC Heavy cases. I have no idea why they can’t seem to grasp that the internals (not just the cases) evolved over time and there are late run Heavy cases that were MANUFACTURED with early redesigned PAL internal components. Add to this that Atari were renowned for using whatever parts they had at their factory and you can see why Heavies ended up with ‘Light’ components and sometimes vice versa! After all a Heavy Sixer is a Heavy Sixer because of the weight of its case, not its circuit boards.
3. Heavy Sixers give a better TV signal than Light Sixers
NOT NECESSARILY. Heavy and Light Sixers have very similar internal components, some were even manufactured with exactly the same internal components for a while. So it doesn’t follow that a H6er necessarily has an RF output any different to a L6er at all.