I then tested the setup with my favorite Microsoft Flight Sim plane, the Aeromacchi MB339 that I downloaded for the 2004 Century of Flight (FS9) version. This too was a very enjoyable experience, and offered the additional opportunity to utilize some of the 30 odd switches, buttons, sliders, and knobs, including a never-before-seen-by-me two-position finger trigger. Frankly, this level of control customization was daunting and I was only able to map a portion of the physical controls to virtual counterparts within the sim. For some reason, there seems to be a dearth of the sophisticated jet sims that seemed to be so common in the past. This stick/throttle combination just cries out for a sim with the complexity of the old Falcon sim, or the like. In any event, my testing was limited to the granularity of the FS9 controls but the capabilities of the X52 were readily apparent even in that limited test scenario. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for a more complex test suite in the future. In the interim, I grabbed a screenshot of the setup screen in order for you to see a 2D manifestation of the multitude of moving parts on this system.
As mentioned above, I think the X52 has to be one of the purtiest controls on the market today. It lights up like Times Square and looks great doing it, although some may find it overbearing and more than they want to look at. For them, Saitek allows the lights to be dimmed or turned off entirely in the configuration screens. The controls, both throttle and stick, have a nice hefty feel to them, and there is no feeling of the fragility one gets with lesser systems. The package included rubber suction cups that could be inserted into spots in the bases of both units which I found to be a significant feature. At best you can hold only one of the two controls, so at least one will have to be firmly attached to a flat surface. The suction cups grab hold very well, and have to be physically encouraged to let go when you want to put your toys away. I notice that the X45 has the same slots for the suction cups, but for whatever reason I never received them or long ago lost them. With the new system, I can finally throw away the bungee cord I’ve been using to lock down the throttle base.
Speaking of the throttle base, I have to mention the LCD screen Saitek has placed on its top surface. This screen is highly configurable and can display the current time from two different time zones (as a pilot, local time and GMT/Zulu time are the obvious choices), or it can be used as a timer. I was really impressed with its ability to be used to set comm and nav frequencies for the radios in Microsoft Flight Sim X, although it turned out to be a clunky feature to actually use in practice. Setting any given frequency requires moving a caret around to select the proper frequency, then another set of movements to set the actual frequencies. It turned out to be more of a distraction than a helpful feature to me, but your mileage may vary. I appreciate the thought that went into it, though. I also found it interesting, albeit slightly intimidating, when I noticed the title currently displayed in my Internet Explorer browser scrolling across the LCD screen. I’m not sure how I feel about that – it’s cool that it knows, but I really don’t see the utility of it.
All in all, the supple, silky feel of the joystick merged with the technical sophistication of the throttle unit combined to provide such a compelling experience in my beloved BF2 choppers that I completely forgot to live up to my reputation as a Holiday Season wet blanket. I became a BF2 hermit instead, and I imagine that was just fine with my family. While I strongly encourage Saitek to keep innovating, I’m not really very clear on what they can do to improve on the X52. I am extremely happy with it, and highly recommend it to gamers that are serious about their flight sims.
More On:X 52 Pro
It would be the rare flight sim indeed that wouldn't benefit from the incredible control feel and plethora of switches, knobs, sliders, and gizmos provided by the Saitek X52 System. The X52 is the answer to controlling the complexity of a modern flight sim, even if you didn't realize you had asked the question.
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