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
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.
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.
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.
JetFighter V: Homeland Protector was a bit more worthy of
the X52’s abilities, and with some adjustments to the X52’s software, I was
finally able to make use of the missile launch button for its’ intended usage.
The first time I got to flip the spring-loaded cover and launch missiles, it
was a pretty sweet feeling.
Combat Flight Simulator uses World War II aircraft that for the most part took
the missile launcher out of play, but allowed for the most realistic flight
experience with the controls. I have to say it also made for the easiest use of
the controls, and required the least work with the X52’s software.
conclusion, if you are looking for the top flight control system at a
reasonable retail price point, the X52 is the choice for you. It may seem like
I’m becoming a bit of a Saitek fanboy, but the X52 is truly worthy of the
Editor’s Choice award for it’s solid construction, multitude of controls,
easily programmable software, and terrific look and feel.
Saitekâ€™s X52 Flight Control System, is head and shoulders above the rest of the retail market flight controllers. Whether itâ€™s for launching sidewinders at a target 15 miles out, or closing in for a gun kill, these are the controls you want to be doing it with.