Saitek X52 Flight Control System

Review

posted 9/21/2005 by Ben Berry
other articles by Ben Berry
One Page Platforms: PC

I love military aircraft. I saw Top Gun the weekend it premiered. I go to air shows every summer. Every time I stumble on Afterburner in an arcade, I head for the change machine. So when I saw the surprisingly small box show up at my door with the Saitek X52 Flight Control System in it, I knew I was in for a fun few weeks of reviewing.

 The X52 is the replacement for the X45, Saitek’s previous entry into the Flight Control market. The initial difference one will notice is in appearance.  The X45 is blue, while the X52 is black and aluminum. The X45 has orange lights, while the X52 has blue lights, making it an ideal compliment to the Eclipse keyboard for dark room play.

 The X52 is made up of a joystick and throttle, a manual, an installation disk, and suction cups to attach to both the joystick and throttle. These are all packed rather efficiently in a box that looks barely big enough for the joystick. I have yet to use the suction cups, as the rubber feet on the components work well to hold them in place.

 As for the controls themselves, they have everything a flight sim or dogfight junkie could possibly want. The joystick features a two-stage trigger, 4 fire buttons, 2 8-way Hat switches, and a joystick handle that twists left and right for use as a rudder. One of the fire buttons is designed to work as a missile launcher and is even covered with a spring- loaded safety cover. The throttle is tension adjustable, with natural positions for idle and afterburner. It also has an 8-way hat, 2 fire buttons, 2 rotary controls, a slider control, a scroll wheel and a very small knob that functions very much like an IBM Touchpoint control.

 On top of the active controls detailed above, the joystick has a 3 position rotary mode selector, and 3 spring-loaded controls that can be programmed with up to 6 flight commands. The throttle has a multi-function display, that shows current date and time, along with current mode and profile the joystick and throttle are in. These controls are all programmable through the software included with the system.

What struck me the most is how “real” the joystick and throttle feel. For one thing, they’re heavy. And I mean, HEAVY. I’ve never used a joystick with so solid a feel. The throttle also has substantial heft to it, and remains remarkably smooth. The joystick connects to the PC, with the throttle connecting to the joystick.

One of the features that I found most useful was the adjustable height of the “dead man’s switch”, the pinkie trigger on the joystick handle. I have big hands, but without the ability to adjust the placement of the pinkie switch, I would never have been able to use it in game play.

 With the hardware adequately described, I think it’s time to get into the game play, where the X52 truly excels. Wanting to see what the X52 could do in a variety of situations, I played LucasArts’ Secret Weapons over Normandy, JetFighter V: Homeland Protector, and Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator to put the X52 through its paces.

Using the X52 in Secret Weapons over Normandy was sort of like using a bomb to kill a mosquito. Even when mapping the controls through the X52’s software, the game simply wasn’t capable of handling the advanced controls of the joystick. Both controls worked in their most basic sense. Just the fact that this controller worked at all with this less than high quality game shows it’s versatility.

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