Saitek has been releasing some nice quality products lately with cordless products for the Playstation 2 and the PC. Today I look at another cordless PS2 peripheral that falls short of being up to par with their recent releases. The RX600
cordless wheel from Saitek just doesn’t handle as well as it looks.
is a cordless wheel that runs off of 4 AA batteries. Featuring 8 buttons, two levers for gas and brake, and a D-Pad, the RX600
has most of the buttons at your fingertips while driving. The D-Pad is positioned on the upper left part of the wheel while the four regular buttons in a triangle formation is placed on the upper right part of the wheel. On the back of the same areas are the L1 and R1 buttons. While the four primary buttons feature a good feel and spring, I thought the L1 and R1 buttons were a little too loose and felt flimsy. The D-Pad did feel pretty good during use and offered a nice comfortable feel and adequate resistance. The L2, R2, start, and select button are positioned on the inner connectors. They aren’t placed where they are easily accessible during gameplay but not many games use them so I didn’t find their placement to be bad.
Aesthetically, the wheel does look rather sleek with the black plastic and chrome like accent. On the top is a nice boomerang shape chrome design that goes around the battery compartment and the sides feature chrome air ports. The front of the wheel has a nice blue glowing Saitek symbol when the wheel is active and it is also surrounded by a chrome like finish. Where you normally grasp the wheel features a very comfortable rubber that makes it easy to hold onto the wheel. The wheel is also not very large and doesn’t take up a lot of room.
The table attachment doubles as a lap attachment so you can use your thighs to hold the wheel in place. While it doesn’t take the place of a table edge, holding the wheel on your lap isn’t that hard with the attachment. If you do want to attach the wheel to a table, you just tighten the one screw clamp and it holds the wheel securely in place. I did like the flexibility of using it either on the table or on your lap. Whereas the Logitech wheel made you change the attachment, the Saitek R600
allows you to keep the same one as it doubles in function.
Like most cordless products, you plug a receiver into the controller port on the PS2. The small receiver hangs out of the front with a rotating antenna. Since it only takes up one port, you can use two of these wheels together by doing a simple a simple calibration step on each wheel. I do like the size of the receiver and it doesn’t hang too far out in front when plugged in.
Since the set doesn’t include foot pedals, acceleration and deceleration are done by using the flipper pedals that are normally associated with shifting. Those who are used to using the flippers to shift will need to transfer the function over to the L1 and R2 buttons. The problem with the flippers is that there’s practically no way to do a gradual acceleration with them. When playing Gran Turismo 3
and Grand Theft Auto Vice City
I had a horrible time trying to control my speed with the flippers. Trying to gradually accelerate is a practical impossibility as I was left with either no gas or the pedal to the metal. Also the tension on the flippers is really light making it even harder to try and control the acceleration. I had to resort to constantly pressing and releasing the flipper to accelerate without spinning the wheels on the tires. Yes, it was pretty frustrating trying to control the speed of the car.
The wheel itself turns well and offers good resistance. I’ve used various wheels from other manufactures and the RX600
’s turning feels pretty good in comparison. The turning radius is only 90 degrees on either side though and I’ve always liked wheels with a bigger turning radius. Although the wheel feels nice in turning, the center dead zone is just too large and there’s no way to adjust it. Unlike the Mad Catz
wheel where you can adjust how much dead zone there is if the program doesn’t allow you to, you are at the mercy of the large dead zone that the wheel has. The large dead zone makes it pretty hard to drive cars, as you have to turn a lot in order to do gradual turns. This also contributes to over steering, as it’s hard to know when the wheel starts to register a turn. With the two games I tried with, I was all over the place and even long periods using the wheel didn’t help me get used to it.
It’s hard to say how well the cordless feature works as a wheel but all the buttons and D-pad seem to work well and without any noticeable lag. The reason it’s hard for me to judge the effectiveness of the wheel’s reaction is because of the large dead zone. I couldn’t tell if that was the reason it was hard for me to control the vehicle or if there was lag. But since the other functions seem to be lag free, I am inclined to hypothesize that it’s because of the dead zone. It’s too bad the wheel is so hard to use though as Saitek did have the right idea in producing products other than a gamepad cordless.
For a wheel running on four AA batteries, the RX600
’s rumble feature is surprisingly strong. When running over corners or getting bumped by other cars, the wheel’s vibration generated was pretty good and wasn’t weak at all. The rumble won’t make you lose control and is strong enough to feel when driving.
The product instructions state that you should get around fifty hours of use with the included batteries. Well, since the unit seemed to be missing the included batteries I plopped in 4 regular AA batteries of my own. For my week of usage, I didn’t need to change the batteries so it should last you a while. Like most wireless products, the less the wheel rumbles, the longer the batteries should last.
was a good idea that wasn’t implemented well. It’s not a bad start for Saitek and while it didn’t perform up to the usual standards, it’s a nice step in the right direction. For now, if you are looking for a wheel I suggest trying the other wired products as the RX600
just won’t give you the control you need for racing games.
Saitek's RX600 looks like a winner but it didn't play like one. The frustration of the large dead zone and the inability to control the speed of the car using the flipper pedals easily led to vast over steering and out of control driving.