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Generation: Gamerz Saitek X52 PRO PC Flight Control System and PRO Rudder Pedals (Review)

Posted by Fareed TurboGoat Guyot, Dec 31, 2007 01:00

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It’s 7PM on a Tuesday evening as you make your approach into Rockford, IL. (KRFD)  You have been up since 4AM to get the bosses to a 9AM meeting in Dallas.  The return flight was supposed to feature tailwinds, but the traffic jam headed north due to thunderstorms sends you to western Oklahoma before you can turn northeast.  Since you have to cross the traffic lanes into Chicago they hold you up at 23,000 feet until 40 miles from the airport.  You are flying a 6-passenger jet that can drop at 6,000 feet-per-minute and you blaze on in at 330 knots.  However once you get below 10,000 feet there is a speed limit of 250.  You have to slow down but the airport is getting bigger in the window, you are too high, there is a rain shower ahead of you, it’s dark…

Modern CockpitThat was me about a month ago flying a jet that left the factory six months before I was born .(1973)  The airplane has buttons, switches, dials, and displays from every decade of avionics design since then; but the control yoke is devoid of any lighted features that are helpful in finding critical yoke-mounted buttons in the dark.   Modern aircraft that I have flown are better equipped in this arena, but that night left me wishing I had the Saitek X52 PRO integrated PC flight control system.

A year ago I evaluated Microsoft Flight Simulator X (read review here) and through that process I discovered the Saitek AV8R-01 which has performed nicely for me.  The AV8R is still a great buy however the X52 allows you a deeper more realistic immersion into your flight simulator experience.  In addition it just looks really cool.

X52e The X52 is a two-piece peripheral consisting of a flight stick and a throttle-Multi Function Display (MFD) combination.  The flight stick features an adjustable and comfortable grip, index and pinky triggers, two POV switches, four fire buttons, a rotating mode control, three toggle switches, full axis control (X and Y) with Z axis rotation, and once again a super bad-ass rocket launcher button that changes color when you flip up the guard.

The throttle-MFD combo features a sturdy throttle (Z axis) quadrant with ergonomic grip that mimics fighter aircraft throttle controls.  Mounted on the end of the throttle are several buttons and wheels (X and Y rotation) within easy reach of thumbs and fingers.  The throttle also features a slider and thumbstick mouse.  The MFD is a 3.5 x 3.5 inch backlit display with 2 wheel-type controls that can be pressed along with two push buttons that control both the stop-watch and up/down selector functions.  If that were not enough, the throttle features a clutch button to interrupt inputs to whatever game you are playing so you can make programming adjustments.  One feature that is also found on real airplanes is the friction lock for the throttle, which is helpful if you find yourself constantly overshooting your desired power settings.

X52c That dark, night approach into RFD would have been considerably easier with the X52 due to its bevy of lighted buttons, switches, and controls.  Saitek uses LEDs to illuminate every press-able button except the MFD display controls.  The mode-select thumbwheel on the flight stick actually changes colors as you move it, one for each of the 3 modes available.  In fact, you can change the color of all the LEDs from the properties menu.  Another fun feature I found is that the throttle has “soft” stops for both afterburner and idle.  Evenly spaced LEDs on the throttle track actually change color when you push beyond the stop into afterburner.

Programming and Setup
The visible features are truly exciting however the internal functions of the X52 is what makes this system a powerful co-pilot for your next flight.  This system is fully programmable to perform just about any function you desire.  The X52 has X, Y, and Z axis and rotation spread across the flight and throttle components, 39 buttons, and 6 toggle positions.  Plus the three modes it offers combined with shift capability means you can program up to six profiles that can be available on the fly.

X52g Saitek offers several ready-made profiles for some of the most popular PC flying games that may or may not offer joystick and gamepad support.  However, despite including the demo version of MSFS X on the setup disk, Saitek only offers a generic profile that covers “Flight Simulators (All)”.  The catch-all profile in MSFS X sets up the X52 fine; however I soon found myself heading for the settings menu to re-program the buttons for a more custom fit. Despite the myriad of cockpit functions that are controllable in MSFS X, the X52 has so many programmable options that I rarely had to use the mouse to make normal in-flight cockpit control inputs. 

One last note on the X52 and MSFS X: Saitek includes a patch that displays the aircraft radio stack on the MFD and allows you to control the frequencies.  CigDangle and I tested the convenience of this function by playing online at a “controlled” airport.  This unique feature was so easy and fun that we repeatedly departed and returned to the airspace just so we could use the radio frequency “flip-flop” function on the MFD.

The X52 is not just for the flight simulator crowd. The features available make it a top performer for some of the fun combat games like Battlefield 1942, IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946, and Apache: Longbow Assault.  As mentioned before your favorite flying game may not support programming of peripherals. The included profile editor allows for programming of multiple keystrokes and macros that will eliminate keyboard controlled chaos in your gaming.  Be prepared to spend some time setting up your keyboard controlled game since programming the X52 to mimic your keystrokes entries is an intricate and involved affair.

Saitek PRO Flight Rudder Pedals
X52a When Saitek sent me the X52 flight control system they were nice enough to send me a set of rudder pedals to try out as well.  In most of my past PC flight simulator experiences I did not have the luxury of rudder pedals or rudder twist.  The PRO Flight Rudder Pedals are stable, sturdy, and an improvement on the tippy brands I have used in the past.  True rudder pedals have a more upright design and the balls of your feet rest on the pedals while your heels rest on the floor.  In PC gaming, this design is impractical since building a base to support this configuration would make them ungainly and too large to fit under most computer desks. 

Saitek’s pedals are like putting your feet into the footrests of a rowing machine.  The pedals are adjustable and they slide back and forth, plus they pivot forward to allow for toe brake inputs.  Instead of pushing with just the ball of your foot you move your whole leg.  For trained pilots this is a little distracting at first and I found myself over-controlling.  A little practice and I forgot that I was using the Saitek pedals instead of the stock Cessna 172 pedals of my own plane.  The large friction lock between the pedals also helps in eliminating over-controlling.  The small sacrifice of realism is more than compensated by the ability to involve your whole body in the game.

Summary
X52f Nit-picking pilots would say that the X52 setup allows only the throttle on the left and the flight stick on the right. Except for fighter planes and non control-yoke aircraft (stick on the floor) most aircraft feature the opposite configuration. (Pilot flies with left hand on the yoke and throttle on right) However, we are here to have fun and switching is no big deal since I have been an instructor for 11 years I have spent many an hour in the right seat and had to fly with my right hand.

Of greater concern is the X52 cord set-up.  The flight stick is attached to the throttle by a serial patch cord.  The throttle then connects to the PC by USB.  The USB cord on both the X52 and the rudder pedals were surprisingly short and I found myself moving my right-side located PC around so that all the cords could reach.  Because of this, a USB hub may be in order for users who are not at liberty to change the geography of their setup.

As a pilot for 17 years and a professional for 10, I recommend the X52 for the flight gamer and flight simulator devotee.   Flight simulator games are doing a great job of emulating the performance characteristics of real-world aircraft.  The X52 allows the gamer to complete the puzzle by having real-world controls to make the experience and the flights more successful and really cool.

My Score:  90%

800XP Fareed Guyot earned his first license 17 years ago. He is certified to teach and has acquired many certificates and ratings including Airline Transport, instrument, instructor, and multi-engine. He can teach in and fly a range of aircraft from small single-engine piston airplanes up to large corporate jet aircraft. He has over 4,000 hours of flight time, including 1,500 of instruction. Of the aircraft available in MSFS X, Fareed has flown the real-world versions of the Mooney Bravo, the Piper J3 Cub, the King Air 350, and the Cessna 172, of which he owns a 1971 model. Currently, he flies a Gulfstream II as well as the BAe Hawker 400, 700, and 800XP.

 


For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings

Our Rating for Generation: Gamerz Saitek X52 PRO PC Flight Control System and PRO Rudder Pedals (Review)
0.0 Overall

Rating: 5.0, votes: 1


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