A Clash Of Shafts: Three Flight Sticks Compared

By Alec Meer on April 22nd, 2014 at 5:07 pm.

I’ve spent far too long thinking about and researching joysticks lately, primarily as a result of playing Elite: Dangerous. One thing I haven’t established during all that time is whether ‘joystick’ is the right word for a genre of game controller which also throws out terms like ‘flight stick’ and ‘HOTAS.’ I’ve probably offended someone with just the title of this piece, but then again someone like decided that Hot Ass is a perfectly reasonably thing to call a ‘Hands On Throttle-And-Stick.’ Someone also thought that writing ‘VIBRATION’ in enormous capital letters down the shaft of one of the three sticks I’m looking at here was sensible. Basically, the joy/flightstick industry is a place where innuendo goes to die.

In any case, I’m sticking with ‘joystick’, and I’m using it as a term for three very different types (and costs) of stick I’ve looked at in my recent return to space games. Those are, in descending price order, the Saitek X52 Pro, the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro and the Speedlink Black Widow.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what’s available – I may look at more later, but hey, you try filling your one-bedroom flat with gaming peripherals and see how you like it. They’re all viable options in their own way, though. I’ve also looked at them primarily in the Elite: Dangerous Alpha, as I’m no flight sim man, but I’m fully expecting to be exploring more spaceship games as the year wears on. It’s an exciting time for them, and thus suddenly an exciting time for game controllers too.

Let’s start with the Speedlink Black Widow, the cheapest of the three. This is a proper flight stick, in that it’s got a full-size throttle and takes up a fair old chunk of desk space, and it can be had for as little as £20 if you shop around but generally goes for around £30. More importantly, its main stick looks the most phallus-like of anything here and has ‘VIBRATION’ printed on it, so this is the one to steer clear of if you want to avoid awkward questions.

Other than that common sense failure, the Speedlink doesn’t feel especially cheap. It’s inescapably light, bland and feature-short when compared to the Saitek for even a second, and the Logitech too makes a better first impression by far, but this is surprisingly robust, has pleasantly big, clicking buttons and a matt finish along the big naughty bit which doesn’t flinch at slimy hands. Its throttle is my favourite of the three despite being more basic than the Saitek’s – you can clench it, get that great sense of easing it in, whereas the Saitek’s massive throttle looks like a Cornish pastie designed by Skynet and limits its range/sensation of movement by having a sort of click-in, locked area at maximum and minimum acceleration. (I’ll come back to that later though).

I also like the throttle-mounted rudder, which offers a chunky two-way switch for precision left/right movement, essentially doing the job that pedals might. It’s extremely useful for minor targeting adjustments in Elite, and for making sure you don’t hit the sides of the station while docking, and most of all it feels kinda good. The Saitek and Logitech have a twist-rudder built into the main stick, but it lacks the satisfying physicality of this.

The trade-off is that including this switch instead of twist-rudder in the Speedlink’s stick creates a severe limitation when it comes to broader movement, and I struggled to manoeuvre effectively in dogfights. Also, while the Speedlink has analogue movement on its stick, it’s designed in such way that it feels like digital, with a rectangular rather than circular area where the neck joins the base that makes it tricky not to move to compass point extremes. Perhaps it was cheaper to construct that way, but it’s a big negative which impacts on the sense of freedom and direct human-game connection that the others offer.

It’s fit for purpose and surprisingly meaty given the price, but there’s no escaping that it’s a compromise. I was hugely excited about it initially, primarily down to the joy of using the throttle, but the more I used it the more I was frustrated by it. If it’s all you can afford, it’s a huge improvement on keyboard and mouse or even gamepad controls in Elite at least, but long-term you’ll wish you’d saved up longer.

Also, ‘vibration.’

Phallusometer reading: Errol Flynn

Next up is Logitech’s Extreme 3D Pro, which goes for around £40. It’s definitely 3D, is at least a little Pro but I see no evidence of Extreme. In fact, it’s the least extreme of this trio, at least in terms of mass. It’s a tiddler, this one. It differs from the other two as it’s a more traditional joystick shape, rather than the wide boxes and chunky throttles of the Saitek and Speedlink offerings. To some degree this makes it less exciting – there’s no “oh yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhh” moment when taking its relatively small frame out of its relatively small box, but it’s well built with a no mess, no fuss design approach that almost makes me like it most of all.

It looks smart and streamlined, and accessible too – compare that to the X52 Pro, which at first sight would put the frighteners on anyone. It also has a small footprint and enough weights in its base that the annoying suction cups the other two use to clamp to a desktop aren’t needed, and despite the stick being shorter and thinner than the others it feels like a solid handful and moves everywhere it needs to with appropriate responsibility and resistance. Movement feels right, and while movement feeling right is not a quantifiable quality, it is perhaps the most important one. The rubber sheath around the bottom of the shaft (oh God, that sentence) gives it a pleasing Real Gearstick look too.

The somewhat smaller stick isn’t a problem, but the impoverish throttle really is. It’s a a tiny flap of a thing that looks like a skintag and moves as though it’s not connected to anything. It’s an effort to not simply slam it from 0 to max speed, as anything in between requires very tiny, very careful movements which sap far too much attention while in the midst of a fight. I mean, there was always going to a tradeoff to have a stick so much smaller than the others here, but at the same time there is space on the stick’s base for the throttle to have been at least 50% larger, and it would have made a big difference.

Other negatives are that despite first glance looks being impressive, it quickly turns out to be the most plasticky looking and feeling of the bunch here – pressing one of the base-mounted buttons causes the adjacent one to tremble, it lacks the sweat-resisting matt finish of the others, there’s a distractingly ugly seam down the shaft (of the sort you might find on the back of a pound-store doll’s thighs), and the handrest at the bottom of the stick digs in uncomfortably. It most certainly isn’t cheap and nasty and it does perform well (other than the throttle), but there are some rough edges that undermine an otherwise classy little number.

It’s got a few more buttons than the Speedlink, which make it much more viable for the relatively elaborate control set of Elite: Dangerous, but a second HAT switch of some kind would have been a big help, plus the close clustering of buttons 7-12 along the base makes it hard to always select the right one without checking first. The quartet of stick-mounted ones are much more successful though, and have the size that the tiny nipples on the X52 Pro’s stick do not. There’s also a decent enough programming tool, but I was sad to discover that Elite Dangerous had no profile for this stick. That’s the game’s oversight rather than Logitech’s, and all it means is manually rebinding everything yourself, or alternatively you can add one of the profiles created by other players here. It seems to be a pretty popular stick though, so I’d expect to see official support for it before too long.

Part of me likes this stick a lot. It’s the most sober of the bunch and the one where I feel I could just whip it for a quick spot of fun anywhere (oh God, that sentence), but at the same time I feel like if it had just 10% more features and polish it’d be an absolute humdinger. As it is, it’s very likeable and outdoes its small size, but it’s no triumph. Definitely a better lowish-cost option than the Speedlink, however.

Phallusometer reading: Napoleon

And so to Big Mama, Saitek’s X52 Pro, which cost me £120 but can be found for a nose less if you shop carefully. I’d be lying if I tried to convey just why the Pro is superior to the non-Pro X52, but Men Who Know About These Sorts Of Things assured it this was an improvement over the earlier, cheaper model, and not just because it’s painted black. In any case, it’s beautiful. It’s ridiculous. It’s wonderful. It’s monstrous.

It’s probably the nerdiest thing I’ve ever owned, and I say that as someone with three monitors attached to his PC, two Japanese import Transformers on his desk and an unassembled Greater Daemon of Tzeentch lying on the floor underneath it. While primarily designed for flight sims, it looks far more sci-fi to my eye, and that’s one of the reasons I like it so much. Entirely superfluous LEDs flicker into garish life when it’s plugged in, there are metal effect panels on the two base units, and by God it’s got a little flip-up safety hatch over one of the main buttons. The only thing I don’t like about the look is the strange green chrome on some parts – one colour too many.

“One thing too many” is probably the design mantra of the entire thing, in fact. Does it need to be split into two sperate units? No, not really, but it’s nice to spread one’s elbows out. Does it need three HAT switches? Clearly not, but I did find a use for all of ‘em. Does it need a little Thinkpad-style nipple which works as a virtual mouse? No, but it did mean I briefly tried to control Windows with a joystick. Does it need a giant LCD display panel? No, but I did get it to tell me the time and that was quite nice.

I’m still learning it to some degree, but Elite’s out-of-the-box support for it helps enormously. What I’m most enjoying is its physicality – while its price may be eyewatering, it does work hard to justify it. The stick is strong and spring-loaded, and while it doesn’t have force feedback (uncommon in flight sticks now) its mechanical resistance very nearly does the trick anyway – I do feel like I’m hauling something heavy across the skies. Switch-based triggers and some of the buttons go click rather than clunk, so it feels like expensive electronics rather than a toy, and they also offer the reasurringly cold touch of metal rather than plastic. The stick is primarily plastic, but it deploys bits of metal in just enough places to make it feel otherwise.

What this all adds up to is the giddy feeling that I am controlling a bloody great spaceship rather than some graphics on a screen, and that’s a feeling I now realise I’d be willing to drop even more money on. My ideal stick would have a couple more big buttons instead of the rotating discs and sliders over on the throttle array, and the buttons on the top of the stick unit wouldn’t be quite so tiny, but perhaps when I’m deeper down the rabbit hole I’ll find more of a purpose for the former.

Clearly, this is not a stick for the casual spaceship-fancier, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the best thing I’ve plugged into my PC in years. I have a sneaking suspicion that vanilla X52 would have been all I needed, but I don’t regret getting the pro one bit.

Phallusometer reading: Michael Fassbender

, , .

160 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    Ban this sick filth.

    • Premium User Badge

      DrScuttles says:

      Down with this sort of thing. I, for one, can’t bring myself to believe that such an upstanding website as RPS is posting this sick NSFW filth. It’s not like me to raise an issue with the editorial direction, but with such firm output in the past, I’m genuinely shocked stiff by Alec’s post today. What a cock-up.

      • TWChristine says:

        Where’s the NSFW tag!?!? I thought RPS was a family-centric website, and while browsing this at work everyone can see me looking at phallus-shaped objects and reading words such as “stick” and “shaft”! I want to know what RPS plans to do for me if I lose my job or get suspended because of their lack of judgement!

    • secuda says:

      Dont tell me you dont like to play with the stick?

  2. Laurentius says:

    Joysticks and innuendos ! gasp ! Like it wasn’t happaning in gaming press back in 1992.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      Yeah, I liked it better back then too.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Yeah the difference is now some moron might try and get you fired for a silly penis joke by posting crap on the twitter.

  3. subshell001 says:

    I must say, anyone looking for a joystick should also consider the Thrustmaster T-16000M Flight Stick.

    Pros:
    – Ambidextrous design, so you could get 2 and set up a dual-joystick thing
    – Extremely high precision hall sensors – the most accurate joystick you can get for the money (seriously, it’s really cheap!)
    – Able to use Thrustmaster’s T.A.R.G.E.T. software for programming it. Very deep and scriptable.
    – Twist rudder

    Cons:
    – Twist rudder (depends on what you want, I like it)
    – Bad throttle slider – you will most likely want something else for throttle
    – It does have a lot of buttons, but they aren’t all really accessible. Since it’s symmetric/ambidextrous, there are 6 buttons on both the left and right. I think they did the right thing for its design, but it could be considered a negative that it’s hard to press some of the side buttons (especially if you are using another throttle for HOTAS).

    • AlexHeartnet says:

      Games that support input from multiple gamepads/joysticks are surprisingly rare, unfortunately. Doubly so if you want to map the same control to both joysticks. Even moreso if you are trying to bind a control axis to both sticks.

      So far the only game I was able to do this properly with was Independence War 2, and even that took some file editing.

      • P.Funk says:

        This is why credible joysticks include programming software that lets you create profiles for key emulation. I could type in binary using just my Saitek Rudder pedal toe brakes if I felt like it.

      • drakmaniso says:

        It’s possible to combine two T16000 joysticks into one virtual device using its associated TARGET software. In fact I wrote a script to do just that in order to play Elite: http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=15215

        Also, I believe that recent versions of Elite alpha do support multiple devices (I only have access to Alpha 1.1).

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Yeah its really just a case of assigning buttons to keys using the manufacturers software to set up a profile, not too difficult.

        • drakmaniso says:

          Actually, if you want to use the axis of your two joysticks as analog inputs, it’s a little more involved than that, as the Thrustmaster software GUI does not support multiple instances of the same joystick. You have to use the script editor, and it’s not very well documented.

    • fish99 says:

      I have a Thrustmaster T-16000M. It works well, it feels precise and it’s built to last.

      On a side note, I’m still disappointed that force-feedback joysticks have largely died out. I had the original Microsoft Sidewinder FFB and it was amazing, but since it wasn’t USB it eventually became obsolete. I did try a Logitech FFB stick but it was garbage, which is odd because they make good FFB wheels.

      • ilves says:

        I have an old non USB sidewinder, I just have a USB adapter and it works with plug and play still to this day.

        • Grey_Ghost says:

          Is this something you can get off the shelf? I’ve got an old Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro hanging around that I quite enjoyed using back when Descent was hot stuff.

          • james.hancox says:

            The 3D Pro has a different pin-out on the serial port, so it isn’t compatible with the adapter. (I also have one which is looking sad and forlorn. :( )

          • bwrrp says:

            If you don’t mind some soldering and want to get the old Sidewinder 3D Pro (and apparently a few others from the Sidewinder family) to work on a USB port, have a look at https://code.google.com/p/sw3dprousb/

        • fish99 says:

          The stick has already gone to charity. I did look into using a gameport-to-USB adapter at the time and was told force-feedback wouldn’t work because of driver issues with modern OS’s, so it didn’t seem worth it.

          • Bruwin says:

            Unfortunately, you’ve already sent yours off to charity, but if anyone else has the original Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro, and needs a USB adapter that supports force feedback, then look here: https://code.google.com/p/adapt-ffb-joy/

            I’m not sure if anyone sells a completed kit for this, but it’s a fairly easy circuit to build, and basically can be built for under $40.

    • Corb says:

      A good replacement for the logictech stick is the mad cat F.L.Y. 5. More expensive, but the throttle is improved (it splits into duals if you need 2), better construction and materials (still plastic tho), and it just looks better (less like the early 90’s joystick that logitech hasn’t left yet). It also has led lights for your ‘ooo shiny’ appeal.
      http://store.madcatz.com/categories/pro-flight-category/Mad-Catz-FLY-5-Stick-for-PC.html

      Also, a new Saitek pro x52 is on the way ($200 US), so the saitek has come down ($169 US).

      • alh_p says:

        I’ve tried both the Logitech and madcatz and while the throttle is much better on the madcatz, I really didn’t get on with it otherwise. My main issue with the madcatz is the return spring (under the handle, forces the stick back into neutral position) – it’s far too strong for fine control, especially when close to the neutral position, sadly exactly where you want your fine control. Also, while the madcatz is more customisable (you can change the position/length of different sections of the stick) this does add some extra flex in the stick, further undermining any hope of precise control.

        Personaly, in a world without force feedback, i rather prefer the logitech’s precise control to the mad catz sort of vague middle ground of a bendy stick with too much spring stiffness.

        • Gargenville says:

          I have the F.L.Y. too and really don’t get on with it. I might’ve had unrealistic expectations as I bought it at the height of my Gran Turismo 5/racing wheel bender and was expecting the appropriate peripheral to enhance flying games to the same degree but aside from doing a bad job of not feeling like a toy it’s just really limp and imprecise. It feels worse than a gamepad.

    • bylXa_KoCMaTa says:

      Cons:
      For me hat switch i too far for my finger :).I miss adjustable handle of Saitek

    • Gryz says:

      My vote goes to the Fighterstick made by CH Products.
      http://www.chproducts.com/Fighterstick-v13-d-722.html

      It’s unbelievably robust. It’s heavy. It can’t break. I bought one in 2005, and it is still working perfectly. I started playing with trackball&joystick combination in 1999. After the example of a player called OverToad, who was the Unreal champion at the time. I used a combination of Logitech joysticks and trackballs. The Logitech joysticks would break on average after 3 months. I kept the receipt, and get a new one from the store. And then I would buy another one and repeat the cycle of 2 sticks for the price of one every 6 months. Until I got my Fighterstick.

      The Fighterstick has a trigger button, a button for your little finger and for you index finger. Besides that, there are 3 4-way hatswitches. Which are basically 4 buttons in one. Thumb operates. And there’s a 8-way hatswitch, where I only use 4 directions. In total that’s 20 buttons ! I use the pinky button as shift-button, basically giving me 38 buttons on the joystick.

      The software is highly configurable. And on top of that, it comes with its own programming language. I’m not fond of the language, but it is very powerful. E.g. I used it to program my joystick to do dodging in Unreal Tournament. You can program actions on the millisecond ! Very important when doing sensitive stuff like double-tapping for quick dodging.

      I use the 2 axis of the joystick for movement. Like someone else would use WASD.
      I use the 38 buttons for all kinds of abilities, weapon-switching, etc.
      I use a trackball for mouselook, like anyone else uses a mouse. Ofc I use the buttons on the trackball too.

      I started using my Fighterstick in 2005, when I was playing Morrowind. I’ve used it for all my FPS and RPG style games ever since. I’ve played a lot of MMORPGs, especially WoW. Having 38 abilities on my joystick allows me to move around quickly, while being able to use any ability without stopping. Circle-strafing is really easy with my setup.

      My keyboard lays nearby. Next to the trackball. So I can type if I want to.
      Here’s a picture of my setup:
      http://ic.tweakimg.net/ext/i/productsurvey/77784/23909.jpg

      I know many gamers frown upon the use of joysticks in FPS, RPG or MMO games. I don’t understand why. But once the subject is discussed, it turns out there are always more joystick-users than you’d expect. E.g. I just found out that the best dps-player in my guild, who I’ve played with for many years, is also a joystick-user.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Also would be nice to see a comparison between the Saitek and the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog for those people looking to splurge out in preparation for the incoming glut of space games.

    • SuicideKing says:

      No one finds the name “Thrustmaster” funny in a juvenile way? NO ONE?!

      • Zenicetus says:

        They’ve been in the computer flight sim scene since 1990. All the jokes have already been made, back when we were using dial-up modems and there wasn’t a Web. And get off my lawn!

        • SuicideKing says:

          I’m not that young, a few years older than Google, in fact. I remember the dial-up days quite well!

          I had just expected someone to make a Thrustmaster joke in light of the article, though!

          • Premium User Badge

            JamesTheNumberless says:

            Do you realise you just made a lot of people google “google” to try to guess your age? You’ve caused an infinite loop in the internet now!

            Also, you *are* that young – get off his lawn!

        • Premium User Badge

          JamesTheNumberless says:

          I didn’t have a modem until about 96, hence I mastered the thrust, solo.

      • Premium User Badge

        JamesTheNumberless says:

        It actually completely escaped me when I owned one, in the mid 90s – it wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I was trying to get Tie Fighter to work on Vista with a PS3 controller that I mentioned my old Thrustmaster joystick in a forum post (probably here) that I first saw it cause amusement… Hang on a minute, was that you?

    • El_Emmental says:

      +1 for the T-16000M, after hesitating for a cheap joystick (between the Saitek and the Logitech one), I finally found out about the Thrustmaster T-16000M.

      It’s basically the accuracy and durability of expensive joysticks (thanks to the Hall Effect magnetic sensor), minus: the neat buttons, neat polish, neat material (this Thrustmaster is clearly in plastic), neat LEDs, neat LCD control panel and neat throttle control (the slider is… a little wobbly, short and not insanely accurate). In short, it’s a naked shaft.

      If you’re looking for a full HOTAS experience, it’s clearly not the way to go (HOTAS = expensive), unless you’ve got a separate throttle control (and know how to combine the two).

      If you’re only looking for a stick that makes your ship/plane goes wheee properly, even after 12 months of use, it’s (imo) the best entry-level ($50 / £44 / 41€) stick for that – other entry-level models will start having problems rather rapidly (mostly due to the sensor relying more on physical contact/friction between plastic parts, and not a magnetic sensor).

      The TARGET software is great (lots of possibilities), however it’s not properly documented for the T-16000M and I couldn’t find all the functions for it. The Warthog and other popular, well-known sticks have everything they need, while the T-16000M users mostly have to try commands after commands and see if they work.

      Example: the freaking LEDs lighting up EVERY TIME the stick moves a tiny bit – that “feature” was made to demonstrate (in the store) how accurate and stable was the stick, but it’s terrible for the actual user (especially if you play during the night with low-light conditions – it shoots lasers right into your poor eyeballs).

      For all the other popular Thrusmaster sticks, you’ve got all the LEDs commands (light on/off each LED, turn on/off all LEDs, switch each or all LEDs current state, etc) ; for the T-16000M, I tried every single variants, old and new versions of these commands, it never worked and found no documentation on it (maybe it’s not possible to turn them off). Other users either put duct tape or forcibly removed them.

      That’s the only two problem I got with it, the LEDs and the lack of TARGET documentations for that model – the rest is just lovely.

  4. staberas says:

    but u haven’t tested it against with the mech warrior controller :P

  5. Danny252 says:

    I’m utterly confused by the Logitech one. Have they not come up with a new joystick design in 15 years? I swear mine is entirely identical to that, but I have a strong suspicion it dates from a year that didn’t start with a 2.

    As a plus, though, it’s survived however many years I’ve had it without anything breaking.

    • Tiltowait says:

      I have a logitech freedom that I got over 10 years ago that looks the same as well. Still working except for two switches which I probably crushed in some frustrated moment of game play.

    • TWChristine says:

      Yep, same here. And I have to agree with the review, that the throttle is the worst design possible. I used to have a Logitech Wingman, and one of the greatest aspects of it was the throttle that not only rotated around the base of the stick, but had enough resistance that you knew it would stay in position and not worry about accidentally knocking it in the Extreme3D one.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      Yeah I have a freedom 2.4 that is at least 10 years old. The only difference being a “3-legged” triangular base instead of a square one, other than that practically identical and I’m sure the square one existed at that time as well.

    • SuicideKing says:

      I think it’s simply an iteration of their older Wingman series, some of the profiles in Logitech’s software were really old (FreeSpace 2!).

    • sophof says:

      I have one too and maybe it’s not THAT old, but it certainly is at least 10 years old. The only thing that happened to me was that the calibration started drifting and initially the software didn’t allow for it to be fixed. Once I started playing BF3 though, it turned out it was fixed. I like it for games like Battlefield where you are not always flying. It’s easy to grab and use and easy to put away again.

    • Contrafibularity says:

      That’s nothing short of amazing. Logitech pretty much soured joysticks for me forever. I’ve owned six of the “Extreme 3D Pro” crapsticks and they just kept breaking within just a few months, sometimes even weeks. I even switched suppliers (no refunds) because I suspected there might be something iffy on their end, but no. So after the third supplier and the sixth crapstick I gave up on joysticks forever. Not to mention Logitech products, obviously.

      It’s a real shame; I would love an actual real, functioning, well-built joystick, but I’m afraid there’s just something wrong with how I handle them; I’m fairly strong physically, but as more than two decades of gaming have only made me very gentle on control devices it really can’t be that. I am fairly sure it was no fault of mine, but I’m not going through the whole fiasco again with another manufacturer.

      Still, articles like this fill me with envy. Someday, when I’m rich, old, frail and grumpy, I will buy something outrageously top-of-the-line, and weep for how badly my reflexes, skills and motor control have deteriorated.

      Did I mention just how badly I detest Logitech? Yes, good.

  6. MiniMatt says:

    Any readers have thoughts on Saitek’s Cyborg Fly? – http://www.saitek.com/uk/prod/fly5.html

    I can’t quite justify £120 on a stick’o’joy but something no more than half that price that’s well supported in games, all-in-one throttle & stick.

    • Zenicetus says:

      That stick is unnecessarily complicated, with more parts to break.

      You don’t need any “extra” ergonomics if you’re right-handed and buy one of the joysticks modeled on real-world combat aircraft, because those have developed over time (and tons of R&D and money thrown at the problem) into optimum shapes and button layouts.

      Another nice thing about sticks and throttle controllers based on real-world designs is that you don’t have to re-train your fingers much, if you swap to a different controller. When I upgraded from a CH Fighterstick and Pro Throttle to the Thrustmaster Warthog setup, I got more switches to play with, but the basic layout of the primary switches on the joystick was almost the same.

      • frightlever says:

        I had one of those and it never worked right until I stripped it apart and replaced some wires. Never really liked it – felt too crowded. I’ve had a bad time with Saitek quality in general. A X52 Pro I ordered arrived DOA. I guess if you get a good one you’re set.

    • Nalum says:

      My wife picked one up for me for Christmas. Being the first one I’ve used since the early 90s I’ve found it to be an okay controller. The throttle is split into two sticks that van be locked together. Not sure if its Elite or the stick but the right throttle doesn’t work in the game. Haven’t tried it else where, all the other buttons work.

      I’ve been thinking about getting the X52 though.

    • Kentauroi says:

      I have that stick and when it was still working I found it to be a great tool. I don’t play flight sims, but normal space combat games still have so many options that the number of buttons is a blessing and it’s easy to use the buttons on the base while still keeping your hands on the throttle.

      Sadly, the twist rudder broke a few scant months after I bought it which ended up in uncontrollable spinning. I ended up binding the roll functions to the left/right hat buttons but it’s a poor stop gap solution. Not sure if this is common in these joysticks, and like I said I love the rest of it, but it’s still worth noting.

    • Premium User Badge

      JiminyJickers says:

      It has a decent set of features, and a split throttle for DCS-A10 goodness. But it is really cheap feeling, I’m sure it is going to break at any moment.

  7. Tiax says:

    And then came the Thrustmaster Warthog and the X52 Pro left crying.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rizlar says:

      Thrustmaster Warthog is the name of my Second Life character.

      • Shodex says:

        I just spit out my drink, took another sip, and spit it out again.

    • Caerphoto says:

      And then came the Thrustmaster Warthog and the X52 Pro left crying.

      Not to mention one’s wallet.

    • kael13 says:

      I fancy one of those, but as it’s designed for the A-10 simulator specifically, it might not translate so well to space-shootery games. We all have plenty of time before these games come out though, so I’m willing to wait for something equally as awesome.

      • P.Funk says:

        Thats a pretty silly conclusion. Its designed to be exactly like a real aircraft’s stick and throttle. This isn’t a downside, its a bloody amazing positive. It means it has way more hat switches (yes Alec, those are good to have) way more buttons, it has amazing ergonomics and most of all its tough. Apparently the required effort to throw switches on the TM Warthog is the same as in the real aircraft, meaning it feels beefy. Also SimHQ review tests showed that its also the most accurate stick on the consumer market. Its a true monster of a stick.

        The ONLY reason to not want one is the price.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      And then everyone begged for it to come back after they realized the Warthog costs seriously like four times as much, for real, what were they thinking.

      • Tiax says:

        That’s simply not true. Where I live, you can get a brand new Warthog + gaz throttle for 400 $, whereas the X52 Pro costs 210 $.

        It’s not even half the price.

  8. DatonKallandor says:

    Some important things about the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro (a name clearly meant to evoke the Legendary Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro – the greatest consumer Joystick of all time):
    You can set the Elite profile to Saitek X52, and you’ll only need extremely minor adjustments.
    The #4 Button on it is a piece of crap and will fail within a month. Everything else about the Joystick is going to last, but that button is a write-off, so consider it a one-button-less-than-advertised Joystick.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      The 4 button breaking is something that you know for sure is a problem with the model or you just had one or two where the button broke? It’s quite a big distinction between you just being unlucky or there being a known problem with the model.

  9. Premium User Badge

    darkChozo says:

    Pfft, joysticks? Real men build an actual spaceship and then replace the forward viewscreen with a monitor.

    • TWChristine says:

      Why would you build a real spaceship and replace the viewscreen with a monitor? That sounds like building some top of the line PC with 8 processors, 4 titans, 64 gb of ram and then attaching a 12 inch CRT. Monochrome.

      • HothMonster says:

        Because real space has a surprising lack of pirates. Not much to shot at unfortunately.

      • jarowdowsky says:

        Because if you can build yourself your own spaceship you can do whatever the hell you want with it ;)

  10. Tiltowait says:

    Thanks for showing me your gigantus Saitek, thanks for giving me a case of small joystick syndrome.

  11. derbefrier says:

    I bought a X52 Pro for star citizen and couldnt be happier with it. granted I am new to this whole flight stick thing but I had 3 important factors to consider, how well it worked, durability, and how cool it looks. I have had it for a few months now and with only light use i can say It works very well, IT seems to be holding up well, and it is as badass as it looks. I am happy with my purchase.

  12. sith1144 says:

    there was also a flare a path article on joysticks months ago: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/12/21/the-flare-path-a-stick-for-a-stone/

  13. MessyPenguin says:

    Your joking right, I have just been looking at joysticks and wondering what to buy, and then I come here and there is an article on joysticks. I’m scared and confused now. However I do think I will go for the Saitek Cyborg Fly 5

  14. BTAxis says:

    I’ve got a Saitek EVO Force, which is nowhere as fancy as the sticks mentioned in the article, but it works for me. I don’t get much use out of it though, but I intend on using it for Elite Citizen one day.

  15. SooSiaal says:

    “you try filling your one-bedroom flat with gaming peripherals and see how you like it.”
    I’m liking it alot,all the console stuff in 1 corner,pc stuff in another corner, and just enough room left for a table and couch. Good times..

  16. AlexHeartnet says:

    I personally use the Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas X. It’s not perfect by any means, but for $60 USD it’s a very good compromise between quality and cost. it’s also remarkably durable – I have been using the same one for years to the point where the button labels have worn off, and yet it still works perfectly well.

    My main complaint about it would have to be precision (or lack of). Careful aiming with the thing is…difficult.

    • SooSiaal says:

      Yeah same here, aiming (specially with older games) can be a bit annoying at times, but started replaying freespace 2 with it and it’s not too bad actually, really depends on the game somehow

    • Taidan says:

      I’m replaying Starlancer with that stick right now. I love the versatility of being able to have it as a single unit on my lap for some serious reclining, or being able to split the throttle and stick and use it on the desktop. Can often be picked up for around £30 in the UK.

    • Cockie says:

      I was looking at that one for al the space games coming out (because flightsticks are friggin’ expensive apparently).
      Does it have enough buttons for ED’s turning, strafing and toggling? And would the inaccuracy be a problem? Cause in that case a accurate joystick without throttle and one hand on the keyboard might be better…

      • AlexHeartnet says:

        5 Axis, 12 buttons, plus joystick hat. You can never have enough buttons, but it’s a good start. As for precision aiming, it’s probably no different from using a gamepad.

        That’s enough for, say, throttle, turning, rotating, sideways left/right, afterburners, multiple weapon and/or targeting controls, with a few buttons left over for other misc things.

        • Cockie says:

          Ah, I had imagined something worse than gamepad accuracy. Doesn’t sound too bad then, thanks for the info!

    • Premium User Badge

      Martel says:

      This is what I have, and has been in my closet up until last night. Funny timing on the article. Some friendly RPSers gave me some encouragement in the last Foxer, so I’m going to use mine to try out X-Plane. Then I can see if it’s really worth dumping money into a better stick and pedals. But so far this stick seems to do a decent job, especially for what I paid for it.

  17. dogsolitude_uk says:

    It’s funny, I bought a Black Widow just yesterday. It’s amazing how much fun flight sims are now.

    Previously the only joystick I had was a Powerplay Cruiser.

    I’m 89 you know.

  18. Zenicetus says:

    By the way Alec, regarding this comment about the Saitek…

    Does it need three HAT switches? Clearly not, but I did find a use for all of ‘em. Does it need a little Thinkpad-style nipple which works as a virtual mouse? No, but it did mean I briefly tried to control Windows with a joystick.

    That’s cute writing, but the switches you’re talking about are designed for military sims, and actually are needed in some of the more elaborate ones. Even the mouse nipple; it’s used for things like moving the cursor on a radar or targeting display panel in the cockpit. I don’t know if that will be useful in any of these new space games, but there’s a reason for it being there.

    • Ich Will says:

      Do these “elaborate” military sims not acknowledge the presence of the regular keyboard and mouse?

      • Taidan says:

        They usually do, but that kind of defies the point of getting a HOTAS in the first place.

        There’s nothing worse than having to take your hands off of your Hands On Throttle-And-Stick…

        • Ich Will says:

          So you’d honestly rather forego the precision of the gaming mouse sat next to you and twiddle with a tiny hat on top of your stick just so your left hand can rest lightly on the throttle not inputting any commands into it at all while you concentrate on the radar screen?

          Fair enough!

          • Taidan says:

            Apart from the fact that the mouse-replacement is on you left hand, thus allowing you to keep your hand on the stick, you got it in one. Don’t need cursor precision for those kinds of inputs.

            What you do want, is your right hand on the stick pretty much all of the time.

          • Premium User Badge

            darkChozo says:

            You’d be twiddling with the nub on the throttle, thank you very much.

            More legitimately, given the size of a HOTAS setup, chances are that your precision gaming mouse has been forcibly displaced from its rightful position to somewhere inconvenient and out of the way. In that case, digging it out to navigate a menu for five seconds can seem a bit silly compared to the also silly throttle nub.

          • Premium User Badge

            Stellar Duck says:

            No, that’s not quite the case.

            In DCS A10c for instance you have a number of different hat functions where the one that is like a mouse is the slew control. But the way the game is, you need the mouse for clicking switches.

            As it is, having slew on either the stick or throttle allows you to move the SPI or the FLIR POV while maintaining flight control. It’s not about precision. It’s really about not removing hands from throttle and stick and spending as little time heads down as possible while in air.

            Edit: that said, I don’t have enough buttons on my T-Flight HOTAS so I use my PS3 controller for slew control. It’s located next to the throttle so at least I keep my hand on the stick and then have TMS, DMS and china hat on my POV hat with modifiers. But believe me, it’s a sub par solution.

          • P.Funk says:

            The “precision” of a mouse means I have to take my hands off my stick to reach for it, move the mouse around and find the switch I want to flip which takes considerably more effort and time and attention than simply pressing a hat switch.

            HAT switches aren’t just for moving your view and a cursor around. They serve as basically 4 way buttons. 1 button, one place to rest your finger, 4 functions. In fact in real military aircraft like the A-10C the 4 way hat serves 8 purposes because you have both the “short” and the “long” press. Press it briefly it does one thing, press it for a full second it does another. So 3 HAT switches times 8 functions apiece equal 24 separate action for three finger positions. This is before you start counting other buttons and switches.

            Whats this about HOTAS anyway? Well while a “precise” mouse is all fine and dandy, if you want to fly with a joystick then you want to fly with a stick and every moment you take your main hand off the stick and put it on a mouse you’re not flying the bloody ship eh?

            I am usually on side with the mouse master race when we’re confronting the evils of the console empire, but when it comes to actually using a stick in a sim… oh you can’t win me over with this “precise mouse” nonsense. That said, the mouse is nice in a sim like DCS where you can click the buttons in the cockpit when you really need to. But, all other things considered I”d rather have the control mapped to my throttle so I’m not taking my eyes off the bad guy while I fiddle for a button.

  19. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Is there any where you can go to trial PC setups? I would like to trial a 3 screen setup, maybe 3D, with controllers for simulators, and compare that with the upcoming Rift 2. But it seems like the only way to do that is to buy all the stuff I need, spending LOOOOOADS just to find out.

    Can you go somewhere and test drive computer stuff? PC World only has cheapo guff on display.

    • Premium User Badge

      Llewyn says:

      Basically no. That stock costs a lot to buy, assuming you need a decent range and keep it current, plus the usual retail space costs. All that happens is that people come in, try stuff out, find what they like and then go home and order it from Amazon 40% cheaper.

      Also the reason it’s increasingly difficult to listen to decent quality audio kit.

    • TWChristine says:

      You could always get the Rift 1, and design your own mini-simulation where you walk into Store Of Your Dreams and play with doodads! I’d recommend using mid 90’s 3D for extra awesome.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        I just might do that. Either that or spend my life in that cinema simulator

    • Gargenville says:

      nvm I’m an idiot

  20. HothMonster says:

    My CH Products Fighterstick just arrived to the house while I toil away at work. Everyone talks highly of the x52 but I just can’t bring myself to buy a MadCats product even if they are just the parent company. Had too many issues with them over the years.

    Now just have to wait for the StarCitizen dogfighting module to release. If I keep playing I’ll consider picking up a throttle.

    Have not owned a joystick since probably the late 90s. I don’t really have any games to play with it at the moment, though I will probably do something stupid like play CS:GO with it. But I still find myself super excited to get home and say “Pew pew pew” a lot while wiggling it around.

    • Premium User Badge

      Stellar Duck says:

      Get DCS World. It’s free to play to an extent and includes a SU25 module as well as an upcoming WW2 fighter plane F2P module (no guns on that one I think).

    • Zenicetus says:

      Rise of Flight is a great WW1 biplane combat sim with a free demo.

      http://riseofflight.com/en

      You only get two planes in the demo — a SPAD 13 and Albatros D.Va, — because their business model is based on pay-per-plane additions, but the free version is basically the full game. If you get deep into this one, I highly recommend adding rudder pedals and TrackIR for head tracking. TrackIR will be great for the upcoming space games too.

    • P.Funk says:

      Spend a few months flying with serious flight simmers and you won’t hear nearly as much praise for the X52. In the casual market its a beast, but in the world of would be pilots you’re constantly wanting better.

  21. jarowdowsky says:

    I’m fucking loving the Thrustmaster Warthog. There are SO MANY BUTTONS!

    Remember seeing those Battletech set ups or the Steel Battalion original? Just feels so much like that and everything is so damn easy to set up.

    Outside of the terrifyingly immersive A-10 experience in DCS it’s just great to be able to map everything and just feel so damn engaged with a game without needing the keyboard at all.

    Add the Track IR and it’s just blows me away. Can’t wait to take it out of the atmosphere

    • Tiax says:

      Have you already tried it on a space sim? I read that it’s not really adapted.

      Also, how are you dealing with the lack of Z-axis (no twist-rudder on the stick) ?

      • P.Funk says:

        How is a joystick “adapted” for a space sim?

        Those who have the money for a TM Warthog can surely buy rudder pedals as well.

        • Tiax says:

          Here’s what I read:

          “Be careful with getting a HOTAS setup for space sims. I’ve never owned an X52, but if windows treats the throttle and stick as separate devices, as it does with my Warthog HOTAS + pedals, then you’ll only be able to use one of those devices with older space sims, like Wing Commander or Freespace. Likewise, although I cannot attest to the build quality of the X52, the Warthog HOTAS is completely inappropriate for a space sim. In an actual flight sim, whether civil or combat, overcontrolling invariably leads to high-G turns, rapid airspeed loss, excessive angles of attack, stalls, spins etc. whereas in a space sim, you use the full control range of the stick all the time. Likewise, you tend not to spend too much time squeezing the trigger in a real flight sim — you have very little ammunition and you need to make it count — where as space sims, with recharging lasers and enemies that take multiple direct hits, require that you be squeezing the trigger constantly. I bring these issues up, because as a result of them, the Warthog HOTAS has true to life stick deflection resistance, and requires a true to life amount of force to depress a button or trigger. In other words, if you’re constantly fully deflecting the stick one way and then another, and constantly squeezing that two-stage trigger, you’re hand and wrist are going to get tired very fast. Likewise, using the Hog Hotas in a space-sim would likely put unnecessary wear on what is a rather expensive setup. The X52 may be much more toy-like in its build quality, and thus appropriate for a space sim, but it may not. “

          • P.Funk says:

            Thats all a bunch of stuff based on assumptions that aren’t researched. The 2 separate device thing is mostly just a feature of the TM Warthog. You can use either independently, but the X52 is a single device as far as Windows is concerned. Most HOTAS are as far as I can tell, not that there are that many. I also recall reading that the Warthog software might be able to combine the two to make them act as one as far as Windows is concerned.

            All that nonsense about the difficulty of using the stick is subjective. Sure the spring resistance might be tougher than the X52 but anyone who’s ever used an X52 can tell you that that thing flops around like a drunk mule and is incredibly imprecise. The centre play is a mess and it will wear out eventually. Its my feeling that the concern over high tension springs on stick is exaggerated. I’ve found with the X52 that a game like Freespace with a stick is awfully hard to control. When you throw that stick around sure the spaceship will snap around really fast, but its awfully hard to keep it under control and pull the stick back to get it to settle with say the reticle right on a target because of the lack of resistance.

            Here’s the thing about airplanes versus space. Modern aircraft actually behave more like X52s than they don’t half the time. Fly by Wire aircraft have literally no connection between the stick and the control surfaces so all that high G resistance means nothing because the human isn’t pulling on it he’s instead sending electronic signals to hydraulic systems that do the work. This would be basically the same as a space pilot sending commands with a stick that trigger RCS thrusters. Now, these FBW systems have sophisticated computers that allow human input to be dampened and be precise, and most space sims do not so thats why the controls are so hard to manage with a stick. I know someone who flies DCS Black Shark with a stick like a pro and can’t handle Freespace except with a mouse, and he uses the X52.

            Now, there’s the hybrid control types. These are direct linkage controls but with hydraulic assists, so the human pilot is often still not experiencing real resistance. This is in the absence of a sophisticated flight computer a very hard situation for a pilot to fly under, so much so that they add things called “artificial feel devices” that basically give the sense of resistance so that the pilot can actually get a sense of control and better manage his inputs.

            All in all I’ve spent a lot of time using an X52 and its floppy spring, and I modded mine to have more tension because without that its hard to feel in control. As for the whole stiff buttons are exhausting, well you tell me how much better the crappy plastic toy is when it breaks and starts squeaking and the pots start to spike. I don’t understand how its supposed to be that the more expensive and robust TM Warthog is more likely to wear out than the crappy soggy X52 thats built with parts that are half as strong. If I had to press a trigger 10 000 and hope that it didn’t fail I’d bet on the Warthog one. Saitek cheaps out on every part they can.

          • Damn Rookie says:

            Interesting, I hadn’t really considered that. Thanks for typing up the quote!

            EDIT: and thank you PFUNK for the other side of the coin.

          • Tiax says:

            Thanks for this answer, P.Funk

          • P.Funk says:

            No problem.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Yep, with a Warthog HOTAS, you just add pedals. They’re almost essential for WW1 flight sims and any game or sim that includes a helicopter. The twist function on a joystick can be used in a pinch, but trying to control 3 axes with one hand is much harder in the heat of combat. Also, pedals are just fun! You’re not really the Komplete Simming Nerd unless you have pedals under your computer desk.

        The best pedals (IMO) without getting into silly money for hardcore civilian sim models are the Saitek Combat pedals:

        http://www.saitek.com/uk/prod/compedals.html

        CH Products also makes a decent set for less money, but the pedals are a little too close together for some folks, and there is a stronger center detent that can make precision moves a little more difficult than the Saitek pedals.

        • Premium User Badge

          Chaz says:

          Those Saitek Combat pedals are still at the top end of the amateur gaming pedals price wise though. About £165-180. The Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Rudder Pedals should do a similar job and are only about £100-110. http://www.saitek.com/uk/prod/cessnapedals.html

        • jarowdowsky says:

          Yup, exactly the pedals I went for – nice to have the wheel breaking there as well.

          As to the space sim stuff – I haven’t had any problems and the issues highlighted really aren’t going to be a factor except with very old games and even then I’ve just joy2key the problems when they rarely came up. The warthog is able to reduce resistance really easily if necessary but it’s not too big a deal and something that won’t be any issue with a modern game.

  22. dragondeojosrojos says:

    It would be great if these companies remember that Left handed People also exists.
    Since they start competing 15 years ago to see who makes the joystick with more curves than
    anyone, I , and many left handed people can´t use one any more
    Sorry for my english.

  23. jonfitt says:

    I still use my 15 yr old Saitek Cyborg 3D Gold
    http://www.amazon.com/Saitek-JI3G-Cyborg-Gold-JoyStick-Pc/dp/B000056Q0P

    It’s a good little stick, it has a small but usable throttle, twist rudder, plenty of buttons, and everything can be reversed for a lefty, or the grip can be raised/lowered for bigger/smaller hands. The only thing I would do with money would be to buy pedals, and then maybe a full-sized throttle.

    • Zap Brannigan says:

      I still use mine too. As a lefty there were very few sticks i was happy with back then when there were dozens of choices. It was so well built it has lasted all this time.
      I look forward to using it in E:D and SC.
      It is also one of the more unique looking joysticks, with a friend first seeing it and asking me if it was a model of C-3PO’s junk. On hearing that, it was the only way to refer to the stick for years.

    • Zafman says:

      The Saitek Cyborg 3D is pretty much a perfect design and the only joystick I ever owned that didn’t disintegrate or develop a nasty creaking noise after a couple of months use. I completed Freespace 2 with it back in 2000 and it’s still as good as new today! Even the Z-axis (twist) is smooth and completely silent.

  24. Lomaxx says:

    The X-55 RHINO H.O.T.A.S. SYSTEM looks interesting too:

    http://www.saitek.com/uk/prod/x55.html

    The option to replace the spring seems handy and I personally wouldn’t need the small display. And i prefer it’s overall look compared to the X-52.

    • cpy says:

      Yes, i hoped to see X55 in review too, since it’s the new infant in the stick game.

  25. derbefrier says:

    SO i have a couple questions for you guys who know about these things. note that I am asking these questions as someone who will be primarily using these for space sims not airplane sims

    1. are pedals worth it, cost isnt really an issue but I don’t want to spend the money on them if they are useless in a space sim. Does it add anything or make things easier to control or follow targets?

    2. I have heard of people using dual sticks for space sims. has anyone done this if so was it worth the money or practical at all?

    • Zenicetus says:

      I haven’t flown SC or Elite:D yet, but from my experience in earlier Golden Age space games that supported pedals, I’d say they’re less important in space games than they are in the more realistic civilian and air combat flight sims.

      In a space game they’re usually mapped to the roll axis, and roll just isn’t that important when you’re not dealing with aerodynamics and you have full access to the 3D space around you with just the joystick’s pitch/yaw axis. You may be oriented all kattywampus to your target, but it just doesn’t matter unless you need to have everything lined up and looking pretty for a screen shot. Two buttons (or two axes on a china hat) can be mapped to roll on your joystick or throttle quadrant, and that’s usually enough, even for tricky things like docking in Elite or an uber-realistic sim like Orbiter. If you’re only interested in space games, I think the money for a good set of pedals would be better spent on TrackIR head tracking.

      Pedals *are* fun just for the immersion factor, but it’s probably the last peripheral you should buy after a HOTAS and TrackIR (or Oculus Rift, if that’s your thing).

      As for twin sticks — I think a throttle quadrant controller under your left hand is far more useful and intuitive. The exception might be if you’re left-handed, since separate throttle controllers are usually designed for the left hand of right-handed users. And even then, you couldn’t use the Y-axis of the second stick for throttle unless you disabled the centering spring. Unless you always fly at half speed. :)

    • SuicideKing says:

      I’ve used a joystick and keyboard for X-Wing vs TIE Fighter years ago…and have been using the same combo for FreeSpace 2 for 15 years now.

      I use the Extreme 3D Pro.

  26. Axess Denyd says:

    I’m seriously considering the X-55. My justification for going HOTAS is that I plan to be wearing a Rift for most of my flight gaming (once they bother coming out) and I don’t want to be trying to find keys on the keyboard with the Rift on. It might be a flimsy excuse, but it is an excuse.

    I don’t understand why force feedback died in the joystick market. When it was done well I really appreciated the extra immersion. Somewhere I have a Saitek 3D Force, if I can ever actually find the thing…

  27. TechnicalBen says:

    One question. The only important one.

    Which is better for Kerbal Space Program? I need nth number of axis controls and billions of buttons.
    Oh, and I’m possibly left handed with joysticks…

  28. SuicideKing says:

    Wow this article would have made Cara proud. :D

    Anyway, I have an Extreme 3D Pro, and I really don’t have many complaints, I bought it for a current equivalent of £20 over 2 years ago (then it must have been £25 or £30).

    The only major issue i have with it is that the twist axis is bit too sensitive in the counter-clockwise direction, so you have to increase the deadzone. Otherwise, you’ll keep spinning about your Z-axis in space, for example.

    But yeah, the throttle is fairly useless and i just use the keyboard to adjust speed. And yes, that seam is ugly, but the rest of the build quality is fairly good, not had any issues with the palm rest.

    Avoid if left-handed.

    EDIT: The X-52 Pro is fucking gorgeous.

  29. Shadow says:

    I got the original X-52 a few years ago, and ended up feeling rather scammed. At first I was somewhat disappointed at the apparently cheap construction, and then realized the spring is a joke, making the stick feel flimsy and oversensitive pushing it around. To make matters worse, I brought it out of the closet recently to play some IL-2, and found out the rubber on the base of the stick (where you rest your hand) had rotted to a sticky mess. If the Pro variant has that same rubber, it will rot as well, in time.

    But overall, the Pro makes me rage, since it appears to be what the base X-52 should’ve been. I paid a bucketload for that damn stick, and I feel I deserve a massive discount on the Pro version. Massive wishful thinking, of course.

    Overall, lots of rage by now. I miss my old Wingman Interceptor so bad. It’s such a pain in the arse to buy a joystick: beyond the fact you’re buying a likely expensive peripheral for just a couple of games, you don’t know whether it’ll feel ‘right’ until you use it. And as it happened to me with the X-52, you’re likely fucked if it doesn’t.

    • P.Funk says:

      Google “X52 spring mod” and you may find less to rage about. (not much less)

      • Shadow says:

        Yeah, I found that video around the time the looseness got to my nerves. Made me rage as well to see I had to resort to power tools to fix problems no hundred-dollar joystick should have. Even if I had bothered with that pseudo-solution, there’s the inescapable fact that its side-effect is a substantially reduced movement range for the stick.

        Oh, and apparently the issue persists in the X-52 Pro. Baffling.

    • Jekhar says:

      Hey, i got the same problem with my (non pro) X-52. Took it out of the cupboard where it rested for a good half year and found the rubber was very sticky. But not just the handrest like you described, it was pretty much all over the stick and even on the throttle. I managed to clean the throttle somewhat, but the stick must have more serious issues in my case. It seems i will have to wipe that a few more times. What did you use to clean it?

      • Shadow says:

        Well, I couldn’t really clean it. I used a kitchen rag on the rubber and that lessened the stickiness somewhat, but not nearly enough. The problem’s not that there is something sticky on the material: it’s the material itself that rots and becomes sticky. And even if you somehow manage to scrape off the affected surface, the rest of the rubber’s liable to rot in the future if it hasn’t already.

        Honestly, I was thinking about wrapping the afflicted areas with black duct tape. The stick will end up looking more post-apocalyptic than sci-fi, but I don’t think I’ve a choice.

        And yes, while the base of the stick is most affected, the lower portion of the throttle is beginning to show signs of it too…

        • Jekhar says:

          I managed to clean the throttle by alternatively swabbing it lightly with Isopropanol* (Isopropyl) and clean, cold water. About three to four passes did the trick. But the Stick itself must be more affected, seems i have to go over that a couple times more. But if it’s a problem with the rubber itself, as you say, then all the cleaning will help only temporarily.

          *I keep a small bottle around for cleaning the contacts on my old mega drive modules.

  30. Armante says:

    Not to blaspheme on this article, but does anyone know if Elite and Star Citizen support XB360 game pads?

    I very much like the idea of getting a decent stick when these games come out, but seeing as I really REALLY want an Oculus Rift it will be hard to justify the expense straight away. I’m thinking that if I do indeed lose myself in the new space games like I think I will I can get save up for a stick then.

    Any thoughts from people in betas and alphas?

    • cpy says:

      Hello there, time traveler. We here in our timeline don’t have star citizen beta or even alpha out yet.

      • Armante says:

        Dangnabbit! Busted by a slip of the tongue.. back to the de Lorean!

  31. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    I’ve mentioned it before quite recently, but the http://www.thrustmaster.com/products/tflight-hotas-x stick is a great budget HOTAS stick. Only £35 but looks and feels much more expensive. I’d take that over the Speedlink and Logitech one personally.

    It’s doing me just fine in Rise of Flight and DCS World and Flight Sim X. Similar to the above Speedlink, there’s a rocker switch on the throttle which can be used for rudder control, if you’re a casual flyer like me and don’t want to spend £100 and over on a set of pedals. And you can adjust the stick’s resistance too. Also programmable buttons.

  32. Flamepreacher says:

    Can anyone direct me to somewhere where I can pick up the X52 pro for £120, all the ones listed on amazon and Ebay seem to be over £150

    Ta!

    • psuedonymous says:

      I just picked one up from Dabs for £112, and CPC have them in stock for £120.

  33. aircool says:

    If they don’t do a left handed version for the same price, they can fuck off! It really, really, really annoys me when left handed versions of items aren’t available.

  34. The Petulant Platypus says:

    The Old MS Sidewinder FF2 joystick, Oh Lord! It was heavenly to use if only Microsoft would re-release that stick that could be their vaunted return to PC gaming a flippin’ peripheral that is actually awesome. It was heavy, had a great twist rudder action and had great feedback, it was just at home playing Sturmovik as it was Mechwarrior. Damn versatile.

    Mine was pinched in the mid noughties (which is quite painful I hear) by (presumably) bad men probably doing bad things with it right as I type this. It boils my blood.

    • Premium User Badge

      Mungrul says:

      See, no matter my opinion on Windows and Xbox, I’ve always been consistently impressed with Microsoft’s peripherals. I have the non-force feedback Sidewinder which is good enough, and I’ve loved their mice. My Lasermouse 5000 is still going strong, albeit I use it at work now.

      For ages I was using the Habu as my main gaming mouse, and that’s what contributed to me buying a Deathadder when it finally died.
      I tried using Logitech mice for ages, and while they felt nice, I always found their durability to be very poor. Skates would always rub off of them, and the sensors would frequently begin exhibiting random twitches after a few months. I’ve never had any such problems with Microsoft mice, and they last for a substantial time.

      My keyboard’s the Sidewinder X6 and offers more features than I know what to do with while being tough and responsive with a dimmer adjustable backlight.
      Hell, back when I was on ISDN, I even used GameVoice for voice comms in RtCW, and it worked pretty damn well.

  35. Ownicus says:

    You can still find the Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 online if you’re willing pay $80-$120 for one. They’re pretty tough, the worst failure being the hat switches wearing out. Digi-Key still sells the little buggers for something like $0.25 a pop so it’s not a huge deal.

    Your other option to get one? Be a complete bastard like me and find one sitting at the thrift store for $3. :P https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1xTEZsSJ0E

    Good force feedback, works on Windows 8 without a hitch (can still play Crimson Skies with full effects!), the motors are used for centering so it’s deadly accurate and it even has a cool sensor that brings it to life and up to your hand when you grab it.

  36. Frye2k11 says:

    Doesn’t Elite dangerous require near constant use of the thrusters during a fight? So circle strafing is possible.

    If so, having a 4 directional ANALOG control on your throttle device is a must.

    • Zenicetus says:

      An up/down/sideways thruster doesn’t necessarily need a full analog axis controller, since most space games treat thrusters as ON or OFF as long as you hold down the switch, not a continual range like throttle control. So it should work fine with a 4-way or 8-way hat switch, like most separate throttle controls have under your thumb. Even if the thrusters do have a range of power settings, it should still work with continual switch input (start and stop) to set the amount of thrust.

      FWIW, the CH Products Pro Throttle has an actual X-Y axis output on its thumb hat switch. The Thrustmaster Warthog has an 8-way hat switch there, and so does the Saitek X42 Pro, I think.

      You could also map thrusters to a 4-way or 8-way hat switch on the joystick, if you have one free. The Warthog joystick has three 8-way hats plus one 4-way hat, so I may end up mapping the Elite thrusters on one of those. Depends on how many other features are supported, and where they need to go. With a programmable joystick/throttle, you have lots of options.

  37. psuedonymous says:

    I finally plumped up for the Elite beta, strapped on the Rift, and pulled out the long-unused Speedlink Black Widow (that big VIBRATION on the stick? Lies).

    So yeah, now I’ve ordered an X52 pro. Space sims and flight sticks and VR are fun. More fun when the throttle axis doesn’t zero in the middle, with no detent.

  38. jingies says:

    A budget recommendation is a Saitek AV8R.

    Once you get past the awful name, you are left with a decent stick with two throttle levers and lots of buttons, although the rotary mode selector switch does mean it takes a bit of effort to program.

    I can’t afford to give an opinion in how it works for Elite, but I’ve liked it in earth-based flight sims.

  39. Premium User Badge

    Continuity says:

    I used to have saitek x45’s but to be frank i wasn’t that happy with them, the throttle unit needed to be clamped to the desk to stop it from sliding around as throttle was so stiff and the buttons and general layout of the flight stick made it a pain in the ass to use, plus it was way too large for my medium size hands.

    So given that previous experience I don’t think I would ever go with a HOTAS setup again, and almost certainly not saitek. I may need a new stick at some point however as there is a limit to how much fine control you can get with a 360 pad, for me the main use would be helicopter piloting so proper floor rudder peddles and a decent throttle to act as collective would be pretty much essential.

    I’m curious though, Is a stick really recommended for Elite Dangerous? I’m used to playing my space sims with mouse and keyboard, Elite 2 and games like the X series are simply much better with a mouse over a joystick, and I have to go back to games like Freespace 2 and Xwing v tie fighter for space sims I felt really needed a joystick…
    To be honest I’d be disappointed if Elite dangerous goes for that more action/dog fighty style of control, as much is it was great for xwing vs tie fighter I feel it just doesn’t work for larger ships, anything from light corvette upward shouldn’t be a dog fighty style of control IMO.

    @jingies
    The AV8R looks quite nice, shame its out of production and impossible to buy new in the UK. >.>

    • P.Funk says:

      You’ve used one HOTAS and you want to write the entire concept off?

      Silly.

      • Premium User Badge

        Continuity says:

        Seems eminently sensible to me, its the concept I have a problem with more than any anything particular to the x45.
        I didn’t elaborate above but the main and overriding reason I won’t consider another HOTAS in the style of the x45 is because its simply too bulky and cumbersome a setup for the less than 1% of my gaming that would maybe benefit from it.

  40. Premium User Badge

    Fitzmogwai says:

    I’m fully intending to try playing Elite with my Logitech G25 wheel.

  41. Gargenville says:

    God I still want a Steel Battalion controller so bad though.