Saitek Pro Gamer Command Unit
Reviewed on: March 27, 2007
Price: $59.99 USD
The Saitek Pro Gamer Command Unit. Big name; small peripheral. The name barely fits on this small device, which sounds like it should be far more intricate than it actually is. When I heard the lengthy name I expected something that would rival the control panels found at Cape Canaveral. Instead I found myself using what looks like debris from a damaged ATM.
For the uninitiated, the Pro Gamer is essentially the left third of a keyboard torn off and given snazzy lights. It also has a small hat switch and three thumb activated buttons. This unit is intended for gamers who feel using the standard W, A, S and D combination is beneath them or perhaps just too easy. The Pro Gamer could make a welcome addition to your LAN gear as you could leave the keyboard at home and pack both it and your mouse into something as small as a medium sized sandwich bag.
Many gamers angle their peripherals “just so” and the Pro Gamer lets you do so regardless of how little space you have available to you. In this regard I could see it being rather useful for mobile gaming at either a LAN party or when using a laptop on the road. At the same time, when carting your PC off to compete isn’t it just as easy to slap your keyboard on top of your unit and bounce? A half a keyboard’s worth of space likely isn’t the clincher in deciding whether to take a car or a truck to your next gig.
Saitek is a well-known gaming peripheral company and I myself have reviewed a number of their products very favorably in the past. To date, I have dealt with the upper echelon in looking at the brilliant Flight Control Center and bombproof Eclipse keyboard.
The twenty-one buttons located around the Pro Gamer are all easy to use and the total number of commands can be multiplied using the mode button thereby giving you 144 button assignments. The mode button also alters the color that glows behind the keys when in various modes. The hat switch is a neat little feature that does have its uses, especially in tactical games that have the heads up display on the fly. On the flip side are pads that keep the unit stationed where it should be.
You wouldn’t want to attempt typing on it, but obviously that is not what this device is for. This is supposed to give the gamer an edge in the way you can manipulate the settings and move the device independently from a regular keyboard.
The build quality of the gadget is good but not as good as one may expect from Saitek. The quality is slightly lower than Saitek's own Gaming Keyboard. The buttons don’t have the same rounded feel with slick action. They are close but just not quite as good overall. The design looks as if you should be able to manipulate the palm rest up and down on the metal rods that attach it to the button portion but you cannot. Everyone who has picked it up off my desk has promptly tried to compress or extend it thinking that it is movable to some degree. It's as if I’ve glued a Rubick’s Cube together. People are so sure it should be manipulated in some form but aside from being able to assign the buttons this is not the case.
Closer Look (Cont.)
After realizing the unit is not capable of customization, the second thing people have noted is “Why?” This is a valid question that I haven’t come up with a solid answer for despite the fact I have had a lot of time with this gadget. It really is tough to defend this question because the Pro Gamer is a niche item that anyone can do without. The more time I spent with it the more people asked the magic question. “Why?” Well I’m not sure but I have become agitated the more I hear it. It makes me feel like Edward Furlong in Terminator 2 when Arnie repeatedly asks why things are the way they are. "I just don’t know why ok Governor?" It’s pretty tough to defend something that offers no new features, takes up a USB port and may make you the center of ridicule if you break it out.
- Backlit device for First Person Shooter (FPS) & Real Time Strategy (RTS) gaming
- Ergonomic keypad with laser etched keys so characters are visible in any lighting environment; ideal for late night gaming session and LAN parties
- 4-way analog hat switch
- 20 buttons including space, shift function and 3 mode states for up to 144 programmable commands
- Adjustable thumb control area has 2 way tilt mechanism, slides forwards and backwards, pivots up and down
Would I be thankful if someone gave me this as a gift? Sure. Would I seek one out on my own? Absolutely not. There is not a lot to say about testing the PGCU. It feels pretty much the same as using a half a keyboard. Really simple stuff here folks. It is responsive and the install is straight forward, as you would expect. The hat switch is definitely useful although, I wouldn’t assign a terribly vital command to it if you happen to be right handed as the majority is. My performance was not improved nor adversely affected by the PGCU in any of the games tested. At the worst, I may have lost a few kills here and there as people passing by would waste my time with inane questions about it.
One feature that would go under the “Useless” column is how the Pro Gamer shamelessly broadcasts the company name out of its ass end in case you forget who built it. This is like Batman having self-confidence issues and turning on the bat light to remind himself who he is. I found this to be a pointless addition to a device that wasn’t exactly oozing purpose in the first place. This was the final kicker that made the PGCU more Bruce Wayne than Batman. More for the spoiled brat than those looking for something sleek and purposeful.
- Neat niche item appeal
- Looks great
- Handy for space restricted areas
- Good for LAN parties
- Superfluous item
- Not built as well as other Saitek gear
- Doesn't enhance gameplay
- Friends will mock you