Saitek X52 Flight Control System Review
- 2007-06-17 09:10:27 in Input DevicesCategory: Input Devices
Reviewed on: March 26, 2006
Saitek�s company website claims their focus is to build products for gamers that are designed by gamers. It is easy to believe this claim as they produce some of the most intense products available to the serious gamer. After entering the gaming market in 1993 Saitek appears to have really hit their stride judging by some of their latest products. The company manufactures a decent sized arsenal of weapons for all types of gamers to utilize. From steering wheels and control pads to keyboards and innovative looking joysticks such as the X52 Flight Control System that we are looking at today.
The first thing you will notice about the Saitek X52 is the overall quality of the individual pieces of packaging. The large box slides out from a nicely designed matte finished sleeve before opening up like a large lunchbox revealing the joystick, pardon me�flight control system and its accompanying components. Inside there are; the two parts of the joystick being the throttle and stick itself, suction cups for added stability, an instruction manual and a cable to connect the throttle to the stick.
- Precision engineering, ergonomic design and a detailed fusion of features deliver maximum aeronautical authenticity
- Advanced programming provided by Saitek Smart Technology (SST) software
- Enhanced game play through intuitive Multi-Function display (MFD)
- lluminated buttons and MFD - ideal for low light environments
- Rubber grips and ergonomic design for increased comfort and fatigue-free gaming
- Part metal construction for increased durability and authenticity
- Includes Roger Wilco Chat software - the ideal accompaniment for on-line multiplayer gaming
- Precision centering mechanism, non-contact technology on X and Y axes and constant spring force reduce free play, improve control and increase durability
- 2-stage metal trigger; 2 primary buttons in 1 convenient position
- 4 fire buttons including missile launcher with spring-loaded safety cover for instant access Conveniently positioned metal pinkie switch provides shift functionality to double up on programmable commands
- 2 X 8-way Hat Switches
- 3D rudder twist
- 3-position rotary mode selector switch with LED indicators
- 3 spring-loaded, base-mounted toggle switches for up to 6 programmable flight commands
- 5-position handle adjustment system to suit all hand sizes
- Progressive throttle with tension adjustment, detents for afterburner and idle
- 2 fire buttons
- Scroll wheel with built-in button
- Mouse controller / hat switch with left mouse button
- 8-way hat switch
- 2 x rotary controls
- Smooth-action slider control
- Clutch button initiates �safe mode� to allow on-the-fly profile selection, or to display button functionality without activating
Software and Installation
At first, I was put off by the operating manual. I thought, �What have I got myself into?� as it landed with a resounding thud on my desktop the manual was exactly the same size as the one that came with my Honda Civic. Thankfully, a peak into the quality, hard-spine book informed me that the manual was in five different languages. A quick glance at the 33 pages of English instructions was more than enough to get up and running. In the back of the manual is the install CD, which was a breeze to install. Within one minute I was ready to calibrate the joystick to my liking. The software was very standard and enabled you to calibrate each button and setting accordingly.
When I gripped the joystick I was amazed by the build quality of the device. A nice mix of brushed metal, plastic and rubber gives the user a confident grip and makes for a stable playing position. The suction cups when attached made slippage a complete non-issue but even without them, the X52 barely ever slipped on me. In fact, I found for games that aren�t all cockpit action, the suction cups had to go. I liked having the ability to jump out of a plane and then quickly slide the joystick out of my way slightly to engage in FPS action.
I set the buttons very similar to the way I did with the Top Gun Afterburner 2 that I had used to date and went straight into BF 2. The previous night, my fellow clan member and I had been beat down badly by two spamming pilots on the Wake Island 2007 map. I wanted to display that kind of dominance that I knew wasn�t coming from using a keyboard. Within half an hour I had altered my settings twice and was already getting to a comfort level that I still hadn�t reached with the Afterburner in six months. I found for the first night of use that I would discover a new button every few minutes or each time I changed my grip slightly.
This thing has a ton of buttons, dials, gauges and switches. While donating a paragraph to each button could have you reading until an X53 comes on the market, I can definitely tell you which buttons you will find yourself favoring. As shown in the images, the X52 has a variety. One of the buttons you will notice first is the one that most users will assign to their primary weapon. The thumb switch that even has a nifty cover to prevent any 'misfires' is an awfully gratifying button to squeeze down. I actually found myself flipping the cover back down between dogfights for added effect. The dual triggers are also a nice touch. Users can fire with either their index finger or pinky finger depending on their preference. Both triggers give you the cool, quality feel of metal as you squeeze them which I found to be a significantly more realistic experience than some triggers offer. Nothing takes you out the action quite like squeezing a flimsy plastic trigger reminding you that not only are you not behind the wheel of a 30 million dollar supersonic jet, but sprawled out in a 30 dollar Ikea office chair. The triggers can be adjusted for various hand sizes using a simple dial located on the front of the stick. I found that even with my huge basketball palming mitts I had to dial it down two notches to fit my hand perfectly so the sizing should fit any user this side of Shaquille O'Neal. Closer Look
Didn't he say it glowed?� you ask. Yes it does, and in a number of ways. The highlight of course is the light up display present on the throttle. This handy and attractive element tells you the date, time, profile in use and which mode you are currently utilizing. Mainly though, it just looks fantastic. I haven�t found myself looking at it for the information it displays as much as I have just simply been drawn to looking at the blue glow. The glow is also present in three of the buttons on the throttle and four on the stick. Three switches also show a sliver of blue light on the base of the stick. Between the myriad of lights on the stick and my recently reviewed Saitek Gaming Keyboard, I am starting to get a distinct �wrap around� cockpit feel in the dark.
The X52 even has a little virtual mouse on the front of the throttle in case taking your hand away to use the real mouse would result in a catastrophic Mach 5 collision with a control tower. In BF2 for instance, this was a handy way of using the commo-rose to turn down my commanders� orders while I honed my acrobatic prowess over the rooftops of the Daqing Oilfields. Also on the throttle is a scroll-wheel that will act as your mouse scroll to further lessen your hands off time.
Testing and Conclusion
By the end of the first evening I was enjoying every minute of preying on slow moving choppers and bombing enemy targets. For some reason I found bombing more accurate with this stick but it is probably just from having a better feel due to the fluid (albeit a touch light) movement of the stick and being able to maintain a steady, low altitude for prime bombing.
Speaking of choppers I also found the X52 to be a useful ally in the painful process that is flying a helicopter effectively in BF2. The ability to rotate using the twist grip made for some outright unfair moments where I could temper the throttle and shamelessly mow down soldier after soldier while maintaining a consistent altitude. I wish I was able to ramp up the speed of the twist but was unable to. Dogfights within the chopper are a little more difficult but with practice they are possible. The next game I put the X52 against was Lock-On. Now, I�m not a big fan of this Ubisoft sim but it provided a much better reference as far as the multitude of options needed to play the game. Lock On allowed me to assign every single button and give me a taste of what trying to remember each button�s purpose was. Although it was definitely a stretch to remember so many commands, I can�t say any of the buttons were really difficult to reach or press accurately. Pressing the wrong button almost never happened thanks in large part to the well-spaced and varied buttons.
By the end of the first week I was singing �Highway to the Danger Zone� constantly and referring to my roommate as �Goose�. As you may have guessed I am a fan of the X52 and have very few negative comments. Those few consist of wishing the entire base of both the throttle and stick were made of metal and not a metal/plastic combination. Additionally I would like the ability to turn off all of the fancy blue lights when not needed. I was finding myself constantly dreaming of the Tron when heading to bed after spending countless hours in flight.
Aside from those minor gripes I find myself once again very impressed with a Saitek product and would highly recommend the X52 to all levels of pilots.