I will start by saying that I am a pretty huge flight sim enthusiast. I started a long while ago with the not-so-simlike F-19 Stealth Fighter title from Microprose. I moved on to bigger and more simlike games such as F-14 Fleet Defender, Falcon 3.0, and so on… During this time I moved from a 2-button CH Products flight stick to the more advanced controllers. It has been a joy over the years to see how the joystick has evolved into much more realistic peripherals for us ‘simmers’ to enjoy.
Recently, I was able to try out Saitek’s latest flight stick and throttle, the X52 Pro Flight Control System. Unlike their Pro Flight Yoke System, this controller is geared towards military simulations. The first thing that struck me were the cosmetic changes over the standard X52. Saitek has done alot in the way of making it more aesthetically pleasing. While the original X52 looked very futuristic with alot of silver coloring, the X52 Pro goes for a more realistic all-black design with military-style hats and metal toggle switches. In addition, the number of LEDs on the Pro unit have increased as well as the colors they can display. The original X52 could only display blue whereas the new unit can product red, green, and blue. and the first time you plug the system in you will definitely crack a smile at its cool-factor.
The X52 Pro Flight Stick:
The flight stick portion of the HOTAS system has been improved in several ways. In addition to the aesthetic changes previously mentioned, Saitek has doubled the number of magnetic sensors in the base unit to increase position sensitivity. They have added an extra spring to the base of the stick to increase the ‘return-to-center’ force of the stick the further it is moved. The stick still retains its ability to rotate (in case you are not fortunate enough to have rudder pedals) as well as its dual-action trigger and 5-position adjustable handle. I know it has been mentioned before, but one very cool lighting effect is when opening the ‘pickle button’ safety catch, that buttons light turns from green to a red – further indicating you are about to launch a deadly weapon. Not only does this look cool, but it also adds to the overall flight sim experience. It helps increase the immersion-factor, if you will.
The X52 Throttle Quadrant:
The throttle of the HOTAS system has not only undergone its aesthetic changes but also a big upgrade to its MFD system. One of the things that set the throttle of the X52 Pro and its predecessor apart from the rest of the HOTAS crowd was its LCD multi-function display(MFD) built right into the base of the unit. The new MFD can be modified to display in-game data via the SDK. While the SDK does have a learning curve, it would be well worth using as the MFD could display valuable information regarding your sim such as flight information, ammo status, distance to waypoints, etc. There is also an established mod community which has already created many MFD mods for various sims. The MFD also features two new rotary controls that can be used to interact with the display. The TQS (Throttle Quadrant System) also has much more pronounced throttle detentes as well as led lights that go from green to red when the afterburner-area is reached along the throttle base.
How does it play?
Normally, I use a more standard flight yoke inside Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X. However, for the purpose of this review I decided to go ahead anyway. After mapping the X52 Pro controls how I prefer, I began a series of small VFR (visual flight rules) flights around the Southern California area. The X52 Pro performed beautifully and without any concern. There were plenty of controls to make the flight fairly hands-free. After messing around in my Mooney for a while I decided it was time to get serious and started up Ubisoft’s Lock-On: Modern Air Combat. Again, color me impressed, as the X52 Pro Flight Control System performed wonderfully with whatever mission, campaign, or airframe I threw at it.
The Saitek X52 Pro Flight Control System is, hands-down, one of the best flight control systems on the market today with a huge array of controls to configure, excellent design and styling, and an active mod community. If you can float the $199.95 dollar price point I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone serious about flight/air-combat simulations.