You can buy a joystick for under £10, but what you get is likely to be all plastic with very little feel and a potential lifespan measured in minutes. If you take your games seriously and want to experience the feel as well as the sights and sound of the environment, you should think about something costing a lot more. Think about the X45, in fact.
This two-part flight controller, aimed primarily at flight simulator enthusiasts but usable in other game-types, too, consists of a joystick sculpted to fit the right hand and a throttle moulded to the left. Both units bristle with buttons – slide switches, rotary controls and top-hats – so you have a total of 18 different controls, most of which are programmable.
The throttle action – pull forward and back – is smooth and positive and there’s a screw underneath which changes the friction of it. The joystick also has a smooth feel and is properly gusseted underneath against dirt and dust. Both units are fixed together with Torq screws.
The joystick has two top-hat controls, two triggers and three fire buttons, with the middle one under a Top Gun-style flip-cover, marked ‘Safe’. The throttle offers two more fire buttons, two rotary controls, a rocker switch and two slide-switches, as well as a miniature TrackPoint-style nipple for mouse control.
The throttle unit plugs into the joystick and the joystick connects to any available USB port, so physical installation is straightforward. The driver software for the X45 comes on CD and is also easy to set up. It tries to spot all the games installed on your PC and loads ‘profiles’ for them, if they’re available. A profile is the set of assignments used to overlay a game’s controls on the joystick and throttle switches and buttons. A lot of profiles are available on the installation CD, with more on the Saitek Web site.
If there’s no profile available for a given game, the default settings give you basic control, but you can assign keyboard commands to specific switches on the joystick and throttle using the SGE program. This gives improved playability and means you can tailor controls to the specific buttons and switches you find most convenient.
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