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Saitek X-52 Pro Flight Control System
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by Pat Poole on April 5, 2007 in Gaming Peripherals

If you are in search of a killer flight control system, Saitek has you covered. They claim their X52 comes closer to "reality" than any other. Let’s take it for a spi… flight.


The Saitek X52 Pro flight control system is the Rolls Royce of flight simulation controllers. I have been an active member of the flight sim community since.. well, let’s just say that Flight Simulator 98 was yet to come. Anyway, let’s start at the beginning. The X52 ships with two pieces in one box, the Flight Controller (Joystick) and the Throttle. I’ll review these one at a time.

First, the nuts and bolts. Let’s start with a breakdown of the key features:

  • Precision centering mechanism, non-contact technology on X and Y axes and constant spring force reduce free play, improve control and increase durability.
  • 2-stage metal trigger; 2 primary buttons in 1 convenient position.
  • 4 fire buttons including missile launcher with spring-loaded safety cover for instant access.
  • Conveniently positioned metal pinkie switch provides shift functionality to double up on programmable commands.
  • 2 X 8-way hat switches.
  • 3D rudder twist.
  • 3-position rotary mode selector switch with LED indicators.
  • 3 spring-loaded, base-mounted toggle switches for up to 6 programmable flight commands.
  • 5-position handle adjustment system to suit all hand sizes.

But that’s the same info you can get by reading the box, let’s see what this thing can really do. Once your PC is powered on, various LEDs come to life.

This base unit has an impressive weight that provides a very stable platform. The unit does come with four rubber suction cups which can be applied to aid adhesion to the table top. There are also four rubber circular grommets on each corner which provide stability and non-movement.

As we look at the joystick facing away from us, there are three rocker illuminated switches mounted in the base unit. Moving up onto the joystick, nine other fully functional switches, including two HAT keys, a ‘safe’ button protected by a flip-up cover. In the closed position the word safe is illuminated as green; flip the cover, and the button turns to red.

To the right, a rotary switch can be found. When a small light shows red, this indicates MODE1 on the MFD (Multi Function Display) screen on the throttle unit.

When rotating the knurled switch forward, alters the Mode to 2 and 3 respectively. The color changes, and the mode numbers also change on the MFD.

The material used in the handle is a ‘soft-touch’ plastic with an extremely comfortable feel. Mounted towards the base of the handle, there is a ‘ledge’ for your hand to rest. Not only is this very comfortable but looks an authentic part. Moving to the front there is a finger guard structure, which not only ‘looks the business’ but with a simple action to adjust the hand support and lower trigger, to a higher position if you so desire.

The use, perfect. Everything about this unit is superb, free and easy movement through every axis, and the rudder twist action is smooth and purposeful.

All configured, and FS2004 ready to go, as previously mentioned, if you have not used a Saitek flight system, i.e., the X-52 and throttle before this new release, you can’t help but be surprised.

Throughout many hours of testing I found this to respond perfectly, flawless in every field. I did most of my testing with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004. (Although the X52 Pro does ship with a demo copy of Flight Simulator X. The X52 also comes pre programmed for FSX, but if do a Google search, you’ll find more than enough profiles for FS 2004.)

Throttle

Nothing to say except, these units are just perfect together and perform in perfect unison.

Users of the previous version will be aware that this unit, indeed both are now a very purposeful looking black soft touch construction, with, in the main green LEDs, illuminating various key function keys/switches and of course the newly designed MFD now sporting an angle of about 30 degrees towards the user.

The tech spec is well designed. I have to say I simply love the ergonomic design of the throttle unit, it is quite simply perfection.

All right, there are switches, but on this unit you have two rotary units, further hat key, a slider and a very nifty mouse mini joystick within the handle.

The MFD panel offers you three modes, selected from the joystick as covered. This will provide you with an awesome number of dedicated options.

If you wish to time your flights, you can, very simply, press one of the roller switches (located below the MFD) a clock face appears, press the top button of two to start and stop. The second, mounted below to reset the clock. A great little option.

If you have Flight Simulator X you have the option to adjust radio and NAV from the throttle unit via the MFD. The plug-in for the MFD only works “out of the box” with FSX, however, as noted above, there are many free lance profiles to support FS2004.

The construction is the same as the joystick, but with obvious shape and action differences. The action is a dream. Fully at idle, pushing the handle forward you will notice a slight resistance push forward, this indicates the afterburner kicking in, and various illuminated segments just below the main handle are shown green; as you push to full, they turn red.

As you select idle, you will note the same resistance, indicating reverse thrust field.

Overall, I can’t say enough about this flight control system. As a person with more than a few hours in actual aircraft, the quality of the construction and ease of movement are unparalleled.

With a little practice, the Profile Editor can be easily mastered, meaning you can program the X52 to respond exactly as you want it to. Case in point? I took a FS2004 flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International to Orlando without ever having to use the keyboard. Every option function of the aircraft (in this case a Boeing 737-800) was perfectly represented in this control system.

What more to say?

Saitek has reached the pinnacle of HOTAS(Hands On Throttle And Stick) control systems…

Perfection.

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