Saitek X45 Flight Control System (Joystick and Throttle) Review

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Company: Saitek
Platform: PC

Only a few short years ago, you were a failure as a PC gamer if you didn't have a joystick at least gathering dust somewhere on your desktop. How else could you have hopped into your X-Wing fighter or taken on a Kilrathi ace in style? Of course, most of those joysticks were simpler affairs – a stick and a few buttons. These days, joystick-based games for more casual gamers are fewer and farther between than once they were. At the same time, increased computing power has helped games like flight simulations reach a new zenith. And when taking on a game like IL-2 Sturmovik or Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and its numerous add-ons, you don't just need a simple stick. You want hat switches. Lots of hat switches. And a serious throttle – with rudder controls. And buttons (with button combinations) so that you don't even have to touch the keyboard if you don't want to. That's what the Saitek X45 Flight Control System offers.

Kyle Ackerman

Frankly, just having a solid stick and a throttle with real mass gives a sense of control for even simple games, but the price tag on the Saitek X45 Flight Control System makes it a product for dedicated simulation enthusiasts. That said, if you spend a substantial portion of your time with games such as flight simulations, the Saitek X45 makes for a beautiful experience. If you aren't the sort to spend hours in the cockpit, tweaking your rudder controls and throttle, the X45 combination is equally powerful for simulations like the MechWarrior 4 set of games. It's a whole lot more fun using the rudder controls to swivel the torso of massive upright war machines as you quickly flip between views using a hat switch than trying to navigate through the morass of keys on the keyboard. And whether you attach missiles or your 'Mech's alpha strike to the central red button, there's a juvenile (but powerful) thrill in flipping up the safety cover that guards the red button and launching a devastating attack.

The controls on the X45 Flight Control System are thorough and precise. Most importantly, there are a whole lot of them. Just to go through the list – the stick itself connects to your computer through a USB cable and includes three normal fire buttons, a trigger and a missile launcher (under a cover) as well as two eight-way hat switches and a pinkie switch. The joystick then connects to the throttle through another cable, and the throttle has plenty of controls itself. The throttle sports two of its own fire buttons, another hat switch, an eight-way mouse controller (with its own button) and two rotary analog dials. Importantly, the throttle also holds two switches that let you change configurations or the functions of buttons. Altogether, the number of combinations you can set up is seemingly endless, and you can easily switch between configurations mid-flight.

In addition to having nearly all the buttons you could possibly want, the performance of the stick and throttle is solid. Their weight makes them sturdy and responsive, while still easy to move. The throttle is so hefty and satisfying that it almost feels like overkill. Using the X45's throttle, I found myself looking for excuses to change airspeed while flying, and was constantly adjusting my 'Mech's running speed in MechWarrior 4.

Customizing a setup for a particular game can take some time, but not because the software is difficult to use – rather because most simulations have so many controls, that it can take time to configure all of them. Fortunately, the software will save multiple configurations for you, so that once you've set up a game, there's no need to do so again. The software also makes it easy to configure the stick and the many switches so that everything is properly centered.

It's difficult to find criticisms for the X45 setup. Perhaps the only solid criticism is that the size of the joystick grip isn't adjustable. This won't be an issue for most gamers, but those with the very largest or very smallest of hands might find the stick an imperfect fit. Not a bad fit, just not a perfect fit.

Overall, the Saitek X45 Flight Control System with Joystick and Throttle is a complete controller for simulation enthusiasts, with an enormous variety of controls, replete with buttons and hat switches. The joystick handles wonderfully, and you'll love the throttle. It's heavy. It's satisfying. And it works. The combined Flight Control System carries a recommended price of just under $80 (although it can be found for less). The only question is: How much time do you spend at the stick? If you enjoy complex simulations, and play them a great deal, you will want the X45. And you need it. If you rarely play such games, you'll still want this controller. But you don't need it.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 5, 2004 8:23 PM.

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