Saitek R440 Wheel Review

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Company: Saitek

Platform: PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium 133 MHz, USB Port, Windows 98 or more recent operating system

The Saitek R440 Wheel is Saitek's latest entry in the realm of PC wheel controllers. The total package includes a wheel unit with four buttons and two side paddles, as well as a two pedal floor unit. It supports force feedback and is customizable to support most games.

Kyle Ackerman

The Saitek R440 Wheel makes driving games fun. It takes a few minutes to grow accustomed to any new controller, but once you get used to the wheel (and customize it to your satisfaction), it should satisfy even dedicated driving simulation enthusiasts. It would be lovely to have the controller fabricated from sturdier materials, but the controller is durable enough, and provides quite an experience for just under $80.

While the component pieces of the controller seem complex, the entire setup can be assembled very quickly. The wheel itself clamps with a simple plastic vise onto your desk or table, and three cords connect it to the pedal assembly, power, and PC. Once the cables are plugged in, run the installation disc, and you are ready start steering in games ranging from Need for Speed: Underground to The Simpsons: Hit & Run.

Perhaps the finest component of the wheel is the pedal assembly. A simple plastic panel attaches to two pedals that better resemble the action in a car than most hunks of plastic. The pedals respond well to variations in pressure. The floor panel serves as a heel rest, making the foot pedals very secure, even if you violently slam on the brake. As such, you can use the pedals naturally, rather than literally treading lightly to avoid kicking or flipping the pedals. The wheel itself is small, but quite comfortable, with decent grips to help you keep your hands on it. The whole set-up makes it easy to forget, in the heat of a race, that this is simply a plastic controller. Gamers still have to remember not to apply the full weight of a human driver by physically hanging on the wheel – just sit back and drive.

The wheel itself has two thumb buttons on each side, as well as paddles on either side, behind the wheel, to shift gears. LEDs in the center let you know how forcefully you've spun the controller. Everything is easily customizable using the included software, even making it possible for advanced users to assign macros to individual buttons or build and import specific controller profiles for different games. The controller also supports TouchSense force-feedback, which allows it to convey collisions, bumpy surfaces, jumps and skids. The force-feedback, in conjunction with the wheel, makes things like steering into a skid purely intuitive. You feel the skid and the direction your wheel wants to turn. The force-feedback also gets to the only complaint about the wheel. The side paddles are typically assigned to shift gears, but are anchored to the wheel, not the (theoretical) steering column. That means if you get into an accident that spins you out of control, sending the wheel all the way to one side, you might reach to the wrong place to shift back into first gear.

If you haven't tried driving with a PC wheel, this controller may transform your opinion of the driving genre. This wheel lets you forget about the controls and concentrate on the next curve. The greatest honor a controller can earn is when you forget it is there. It's easy to forget that the Saitek R440 Wheel is what is allowing you to spin out at will or accelerate smoothly through curves.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on February 24, 2004 3:25 PM.

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