GameStats Joystick Extravaganza

Welcome To The Gamestats
Joystick Extravaganza!

Gamestats is very proud to present the gaming community with ten of the most thorough joystick reviews that you are likely to find in one place anywhere on the net.

We have spent a very large number of hours testing and re-testing some of the most popular products from six of the top joystick manufacturers and we hope that you will find it both interesting and informative.

Joysticks are one of the few items that almost all gamers simply can not do without. Flight simulators and combat games are the genres most often associated with joystick usage, but there are many people who swear by these devices for first and third person shooters, space based flight sims, and even automotive games. Of course almost any arcade style game-player will use a joystick.

We sincerely hope you enjoy this GameStats Special and more importantly that you find it educational and informative.

On the following pages we will explain the details behind the testing process. If you want to jump straight to a specific review simply click on the button corresponding to the name of the joystick you are interested in. To visit a specific joystick manufacturing company simply click on the button that displays their name.

The next page will deal with how we selected the joysticks to preview.

https://web.archive.org/web/19990221203558/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/joyofjoys.html

How We Selected
Joysticks To Preview

hen the GameStats editorial staff decided to do a joystick special we determined that our time would be best budgeted, (and our readers would be best served), by our examining only joysticks of very high quality from well known manufacturers. We decided not to even consider the lesser value models for this particular feature. We desired to assemble a concise high quality resource that would allow serious gamers to learn about some of the most popular joysticks on the market without having to sift through numerous reviews of lesser quality products.

To that end we contacted seven companies and asked them if they wanted to be participants in our project. One company declined because they did not like the four conditions for review that are outlined on our joystick product review conditions webpage. We believe those conditions to be more than fair as they allow us to do detailed and unbiased reviews without fear of reproach or expectation of special considerations from either party.

Next we allowed the companies themselves to select the items they wanted us to review. This ‘company directed selection’ allowed them to choose their most popular or interesting item for inclusion in this special. As you can see most chose what appear to be their cornerstone joystick with a few specials thrown in.

We also allowed companies to provide us with photography of their products. We used a fair amount of our own photography as well. All GameStats photography is original copyrighted work. The other photos belong to the manufacturers and are assumed to remain their copyrighted property.

https://web.archive.org/web/19990221213526/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/joyofjoys2.html

Conditions Accepted By The Joystick Makers For Joystick Testing

In order to assure a fair evaluation of products and to make sure that we did not misrepresent our motives we submitted the following conditions to all companies which were considered for product review. (These are the standard conditions under which ALL GameStats reviews are done.)

1) We can not guarantee that our reviews will always be written up on this website.

2) We can not, of course, guarantee a positive review of your product. We can assure you only of our absolute honest personal opinion.

3) Any products submitted become reviewer property or the property of GameStats.

4) If you submit your product for review you agree to totally indemnify and hold harmless both the reviewer and GameStats as well as all other connected parties for any damages of any kind associated with my review of your product.

We believe that these conditions were crucial in order to produce totally unencumbered reviews. All companies represented here seemingly agreed that this was reasonable and they accepted our conditions without protest of any kind. Only one company that we contacted believed that something in the above list was unacceptable.

https://web.archive.org/web/19991022015619/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/joyreviewconditions.html

How We Ran
The Joystick Tests

GameStats tested all joysticks that we received in identical situations. These are NOT comparative reviews but we used the same checklist and procedures for all of our tests.

It should be noted that we are not electronic or mechanical engineers and that all of what you read here is personal observation and opinion. This is especially important to remember when you read about our observations of the internal mechanisms and electronics of these products. We are simply committed gamers and make no pretence of being anything else.

All joysticks were tested on at least 3 games. We used shareware copies of Wing Commander Prophecy, Jedi Knight Dark Forces II, and Terminal Velocity. We also occasionally used other programs such as a full version of Duke Nukem others. This use of shareware was important so as to allow our readers to easily reproduce our results if they so choose.

Each joystick was played for a minimum of 2.5 hours.During that time we observed the subjective comfort level, playability, ease of use, and of course many other things. One of the items we looked at very closely was the software that came with programmable models and their manuals. We share our opinions on these items a where appropriate in each review.

When we finished our playtesting we did a full uninstall and noted how easily that went.

Finally, we disassembled the units far enough to make some personal observations about construction and materials. We looked at the way parts were mounted, how they were fastened, and the types of switches that were used in the construction.

After completing all of these tasks we did our write ups. Each review is the product of a total of about 6-8 hours of intense study and reporting time and in many cases much more than that.

https://web.archive.org/web/19991021222843/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/joyofjoys3.html

CH Products: The Gamestick 14

Maker: CH Products
Type: Joystick
Warranty: Three years
Reviewed By: Justice T
Tested Product Made In: USA

Individuals have different ideals and standards for products they like and don’t like. In a previous review I compared reviewing joysticks to choosing a pair of shoes for another person. I rather suspect that the Gamestick 14 will be an item that people have strong feelings for one direction or the other.

Initial Impressions
When I first opened the shipping carton that contained the Gamestick 14 I was immediately struck by the unique packaging that the joystick came in. It is a cool looking stopsign shaped box whose sides are a stiff clear plastic. The Gamestick 14’s box is very attractive and exciting looking. My impression of the stick itself was that it is attractive, if a bit modern looking. I decided right off that it had a nice overall feel. I also noticed immediately that this one of the few joysticks that can be used by left handed individuals.

Aesthetics
This joystick will appeal to those individuals who enjoy a modern rounded look to their computer equipment. It is an attractive shade of medium dark gray. The only contrasting colors on it are added by the words “CH Gamestick 14” and two LEDs, one yellow one green, on the base.

It stands about 9.5 inches tall. The base measures a comfortable 6 by 6.5 inches. The seams are all quite tight and the overall finish is attractive and tough looking.

There is a slide switch/throttle and four buttons on the base, and four more buttons on the yoke not including the hat switch. There are also two trim controls.

There is a thicker than average cord with a high quality connector leading into the unit.

Internal Construction
The bottom plate of the unit is held on by four screws. Beneath the bottom plate I found several small boards which contain switches and the heart of the electronics of the stick. The mainboard contains several microchips which take care of the functions of the joystick, and its interface with the computer. There are also several smaller boards which contain built in touch sensitive switches. These are all linked by numerous wires which race around the inside of the unit.

The yoke is held in position by two small springs whose energy is transferred through a plastic assembly to hold the yoke upright. This tension is not adjustable.

The inside of the unit was interesting but not inspiring. The buttons are held up and in place by posts and not screwed into place. There is a small flange that seems to be there to hold them in place during construction but the real strength of button placement is from the plastic struts that come up from the base of the unit.

I noted that these buttons were membrane, (on-circutboard), buttons and NOT microswitches. I am a fan of microswitches and these ‘on-circuitboard’ switches always feel mushy to me. The claims are made that they will last longer than the standard microswitch, but to me they just do not seem to be as high a quality.

Taking the yoke itself apart reveals tough looking microswitches for the most important buttons like the trigger. In all fairness these buttons will be the ones that get the most use and abuse.

In order not to leave any false impressions, I must state that I am not trained in electronic or mechanical engineering or any related field so these are just my personal opinions based on my examination.

(*) Note: I DO NOT advise dissasembling this or any other product.

Tactile Comfort
This joystick will be one that people who are left handed will like. The makers seem to have been careful to design a stick that will feel about the same no matter which hand you use it with. This in itself is big plus for that part of the population.

In general this is a pretty good feeling stick. Still, I would like to have had some checkering or other texturing on the grip which would have reduced slippage and told me exactly where my hand was at all times. The rounded surfaces allow slight movement of the hand and are not confidence inspiring to me.

The buttons on the stick itself all feel solid. With the exception of a very slight amount of trigger creep, (take up), they felt quite good and gave both tactile and aural feedback when pressed. The buttons on the base however are a completely different story. I was not impressed at all with their mushy feel and I did not have a sense of feedback until it registered on the screen. I believe that this is due to their construction using circuit board switches instead of microswitches. Also their mounting appears a little less solid than do their counterparts on the yoke.

The throttle is in a convenient place and is easy to actuate no matter which hand you use to control the stick. It seems accurate and it moves quite freely. I prefer a bit more resistance, but the throttle is an acceptable part of this unit.

I found the overall placement of buttons to be well done. Those with larger hands might find the button under the trigger to be a potential place for accidental actuation, but I did not have that occur to me more than once or twice during testing.

For long flights the inclusion of a palm rest was a very nice addition it makes fatigue pretty unlikely. This is especially true because this joystick has a moderate spring tension which does not require you to fight it for a 3 degree turn.

Installation Experiences
Installation of the Gamestick 14 itself was very easy and presented no problems. You simply plug it in, power up your PC and you are ready to put in the software.

Opinion Of The Software
The software, like the stick itself was a mixed bag. Installing it went without problems. The install was easy and covered well in the “manual” that comes inside the box. The software did not install a program group where it was expected, the “manual” said a ‘CH Products’ program group would be created and instead one called ‘Gamestick’ was found. But this was no big deal.

The calibration and setup screen for the joystick itself are easy enough to use as is the online help, but the button programming software was anything but intuitive for me. I was not at all impressed with the manual in helping this process.

Put bluntly, using the programming software is a chore that I did not enjoy at all. I worked with it for some time before getting it down and it is my personal opinion that it just was not done as well as perhaps it could have been. I believe that the software could use a much better point and click interface. I think that working on that area of the setup software would be advantageous. The software needs to be made much more intuitive in my opinion. For me the setup software was the worst part of my experience with this joystick.

The bundled game software is pretty decent. It comes with demo versions of Moto-Racer and Warbirds. Not bad. Its certainly nice to see companies include a product you can playtest your new gizmo on, and I salute CH for their efforts with that.

The software uninstalls cleanly. This is a big plus. No extra folders or oddball things appear to have been left around my hard drive.

The Manual – Our Impressions
I am completely unimpressed with the paper manual. When I buy a product I always want to see a nice thick book come with it, especially if the item includes software that I have to set up. USRobotics did it right with my modem. It came with a manual that was bound in book form and was 194 pages in length.

The Gamestick 14 comes with a puny leaflet which measures 8.5 by 5.5 about 1/4 of which is either whitespace or warranty information. There are no diagrams and there is zero information on how to use the program software. That is all left to the online manual. I don’t care for this approach. I would like to have a book in hand that I can follow along with instead of switching windows. When one of those windows stays on top this process is even less fun.

Playtesting
In playtesting I found the Gamestick to be a pretty good little flightstick. It is pretty darn responsive and the spring tension in the handle is only a tad lighter than I prefer. I found the button right under the trigger to be a real plus after reprogramming one of the games I tested to fire missiles using that button. I found that getting off a coup-de-grace shot was very easy with this setup and since I was already on target I didn’t have to move a thumb and potentially throw my aim off. Good job on that one.

I was also very pleasantly surprised that the base, (even though it did not have much weight to it), was remarkably stable. The combination of the light yoke tension, combined with the very sticky rubber feet made for a very steady unit.

I covered the mushy base buttons above so I wont rehash that too much here. There were no failures to fire but there just was not that sense of confidence that I get from a microswitch type of button clicking. If I could make only one single change to the hardware it would be a redesign of these buttons.

Lastly, I found that on longer flights the palm rest was a great joy in that it kept fatigue to a minimum. This is an item that I believe all joysticks should have.

Summation Comments
When it was all said and done I was somewhat disappointed with this flightstick. I had fairly high anticipation for this unit when I first got it, but the software ‘friendliness’ and the buttons in the base put a moderate damper on my enthusiasm. The smaller things that I didn’t like could have been more easily overlooked, but those two items really set it back for me a fair amount.

While there were problems, there were also bright spots. The stick flew pretty darn nicely and left handed people will be very pleased to note that this is one they can use easily. Also the placement of the extra button under the trigger is a real nice little bonus which could have real benefits, providing your hands are not so big as to inadvertently activate it by accident.

In closing, as with all of my reviews, keep in mind that this is a personal subjective opinion. Joysticks are a very individual choice and what I like you may find completely uncomfortable and vise versa. I encourage you to check out the item yourself and make your own determination based on your own preferences.


System Requirements:

– IBM Compatible with 286 Processor or Higher
– MS-DOS or Windows 95 Operating System
– Standard Game Port that Supports at least 2 Joysticks(usually through a single port)
– For throttle functionality, a game or simulator that supports a joystick with an analog throttle(i.e.,joystick w/throttle or CH Flightstick Pro)

How CH Gamestick 14 Rates

Aesthetics: The CH Gamestick 14 will probably appeal more to people with a love for soft rounded modern looking controllers. For me it was not very exciting, but its not ugly either. Rating — 6 out of 10

Comfort: The overall comfort of the unit is pretty good. I would prefer more weight in the base and I would really like to see some checkering on the handle of the yoke for tactile feedback. I did however like the button below the trigger and the palm shelf Rating — 7.5

Ease Of Install: Installation of the hardware was no problem. Rating — 10

Ease Of Uninstall: Uninstalling the hardware and the software could not have been easier. Rating — 10

Included Setup Software: My personal opinion of the software was pretty dismal overall. While it is easy to install, the button programming software was not intuitive for me and was less than easy to use. Rating — 2.5

Included Bundled Software: The bundled software was not half bad. I wish more companies would include it. These were however only demo versions. Rating — 6

Manual: This category rates the paper manual. The online manual was better but it too left things to be desired. The paper manual itself is a single piece of paper that does not explain how to set up the programming software nor does it have a diagram of the unit. Rating — 1.5

Overall: In my opinion this joystick suffers mostly from its support software and the lack of microswitch buttons.On the other hand it flies well and has some nice extras. This was a tough call. Rating — 7

As always we welcome your comments.

https://web.archive.org/web/19991009112900/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/chproductsgamestick14review.html

Gravis Blackhawk Joystick

Maker: Advanced Gravis
Type: Joystick
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Warranty: One Year
Reviewed By: Justice T
Product Made In: China

Please allow me to choose your next pair of shoes for you.

As I began to write this, the first review of the Gamestats Joystick Extravaganza, it struck me that, just as with a pair of shoes, a joystick is a VERY personal choice. We all have different size hands, different desktop space, different aesthetic preferences, and most of all we each have different expectations of hardware and styles of play.

Initial Impressions
I opened up the Gravis Blackhawk and my first impressions were pretty favorable. It is a nice looking unit, about 7 inches tall and totally black, with the exception of the 4 gray buttons and a red main fire button. The base is more or less round and it measures about 7 inches in diameter.

Aesthetics
The unit has an acceptable, but not exceptional, weight to it. Aesthetically, the only thing I found less that pleasing to the eyes was a short length of what looks like telephone handset cord coming off of the left rear of the stick and descending into the base of the unit. In fairness I have read that this was done because it makes for less wear on the wiring… but it just looks… well… dumb… sitting there.

The fit and finish of this stick is good. The bead-blast appearance of the plastic is pleasing and it will probably not show minor scratching the way some of the more shiny units do after time. The assembly seems solid enough, with 6 screws holding the base together and another three fastening the handle. My eyes kept going back to that silly little wire though, it looks like the one potential weak point where I would personally have concerns about durability. It also just looks silly.

Internal Construction
Internally the Blackhawk appears to be a nice simple unit. The base’s heaviness is provided by 5 cylindrical metal weights. The springs that hold the yoke in place are substantial enough for their job and look like they are of a heavy enough gauge to last for quite some time. Inside the housing the main cable is wrapped around a post so an inadvertent dropping isn’t going to pull it out of the board. Also the little spiral cord is routed through no less than 4 holder posts so you probably are not going to pull it out of the circuit board inadvertently.

(*) Note: I DO NOT advise dissasembling this or any other product.

Tactile Comfort
The initial ‘feel’ of the unit was great. the contour grip is most assuredly never going to be pleasing to those who are left handed however. This is a right handed stick and just isn’t going to make the grade for the left handed population – in my opinion.

The buttons on the stick are all easy to reach, a bit too easy, but more on that later. I would have preferred to see button 4, (which is on the base), moved to the top back of the stick. This would have made it more convenient to actuate and would have allowed the off hand to remain at the keyboard.

There is a palm shelf which allows for longer flights with little or no fatigue and the spring tension on this one does not require you to have Arnold’s biceps to push the stick around.

Installation Experiences
Installation of the Blackhawk was a snap. It does not come with any setup software whatsoever so that potential sticking spot is not even a consideration. Simply plug the Blackhawk into your computer’s joystick port, power the machine up, configure it in Win95 for ‘3 axis – 4 button’, and you are done. What could be simpler? If you previously had another joystick hooked up, do not forget to remove the Windows 95 setting for the last one or you may get problematic results. I had forgotten this myself and found my cursor constantly zipping up to the upper left corner of the screen… duh.

Opinion Of The Software
No Software was shipped with this unit.

The Manual – Our Impressions
To be quite frank, in my opinion, the manual is lacking. While its 26 pages are printed in enough languages to make the United Nations jealous, only 3 of those pages are in English. While there is not that much information that needs to be conveyed, it is my opinion that Gravis certainly could have used this space to provide more detailed technical specs, include more and better diagrams, and be made more readable using larger type. One sentence in the manual reads, and I quote verbatim from their manual here, “
Note, some games do not support throttle contral. [sic] Do not use the throttle control with these games.” Uhm… like you have that choice? They also need to proofread or hit PF7 more often as they spelled ‘throttle control’ as ‘throttle contral’. Yes the manual struck me as a little less than perfect.

Playtesting
In actual play, I opine that the Blackhawk is a good, but not an exceptional joystick. It is a very quick reacting joystick. There is no subtle delay, nor is there any question of when you are moving. The Blackhawk has nice firm springs which snap the stick back into the upright position without fail. This eliminates ‘stick weight drift’ and just feels good to me. I can not emphasize enough how important it is not to have subtle drift due to the insecure movement of the stick as is evidenced on some lesser joysticks.

I found the joystick quite comfortable during long play and flight sessions. There is a nice ‘shelf ‘ where the leading edge of your hand rests on the right side of the stick. This appears to help the user avoid long-term fatigue. The buttons, (as stated above), were all easy to get to, however this is a blessing as well as this joystick’s biggest curse.

I tested the joystick playing demo versions of the following games: Wing Commander, Jedi Knight II, Terminal Velocity, and (since I can no longer find my demo version of it), Duke Nukem 3d full version. (For first person shooters I actually prefer my Logitech Trackman Trackball, but many people like the feel of a joystick and the pistol grip.)

Because of the placement of the buttons I found myself ‘pickling off’ ordinance time after time by accident. This was most apparent in fast moving action based flight games. God this was aggravating!

It is my feeling that the button under the middle finger is particularly poorly placed for adrenaline inspiring, or rapid movement games. I found myself launching missiles when I was trying to roll right over and over because of my natural tendency to ‘pull over’ with the tips of my fingers. In addition, I found that the thumb button also suffered from a similar problem, though not quite as readily. Yes I could have raised my thumb up on the rear of the stick, but I found this to be uncomfortable when making snap actions. I would much rather see the thumb button moved up and backwards.

Despite the above, one place where the Blackhawk really shined was the trigger and thumb button reactions. When you press these controls there is a very satisfying click and immediate response. There is NO ‘trigger creep’ on the main fire button whatsoever. When you put a couple pounds pressure on it it fires without fail and with a very positive snap. While this may sound simple enough, it is not standard on every joystick I have played. I am so tired of mushy buttons and quarter inch ‘take up’ on some other joystick triggers that I could scream. The Blackhawk does not have any of these problems. For positive trigger feel I have not played a better stick.

Summary Opinions
In closing, I must emphasize that the very best joysticks are selling for well over one hundred dollars now, and when reviewing this item one must keep in mind that it is a forty dollar unit. It is probably not trying to compete with the very best. In it’s niche it is solid and it does quite well indeed. I found the placement of 2 of the buttons problematic but their positive feel and tactile/audible feedback almost made up for that shortcoming… almost.

All in all I do like the Blackhawk. It is not the best I have ever played, but in my opinion, it is certainly a good solid value and tough-looking item for less than 40 dollars.

I began this article the way I am going to end it. Joysticks are a highly individual and personal choice item. Unlike a monitor, which generally will look good or bad to a large percentage of the gaming population, a joystick I love may be the one you detest. With that in mind, as with all of my reviews, keep in mind that this is a personal subjective opinion, and I encourage you to check out the item yourself.

System Requirements:

– IBM PC Or Compatible
– Gameport

How The Gravis Blackhawk Rates

Aesthetics: The Gravis Blackhawk is a nice looking and compact joystick. It has a nice bead blast look finish and with the exception of a spiral cord coming off of the control stick, it looks quite appealing. Rating — 8

Comfort: The comfort level of this joystick is superb. Long flights or intense action do not result in fatigue. Rating — 9

Ease Of Install: Install is a snap. Rating — 9.5

Ease Of Uninstall: Beyond simple, no software to remove, just unplug it! Rating — 10

Included Setup Software: None included. Rating — Not Applicable

Included Bundled Software: None Included. I would have very much liked to see some testing software in the box instead of being directed to their website. I personally consider that pretty unfair to those who neither have nor want web access. Rating — N/A

Manual: Though it is written in enough languages to be envied by the language department at your local college, I found that 3 pages just left me uninspired. Better diagrams and larger printing would have been most welcome. It does present the information it needs to so I can’t in good conscience give it ‘bad’ marks. Rating — 5

Overall: Overall, for the price this is a good value. I mark it lower than it could attain only because of what I consider to be poor button placement. Rating — 7

https://web.archive.org/web/19991009194909/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/gravisblackhawkreview.html

Gravis Firebird2 Joystick

Maker:Advanced Gravis
Type: Joystick
Suggested Retail Price: $44.99
Warranty: One Year
Reviewed By: Justice T
Tested Product Made In: Canada

This is my second review of a Gravis joystick. The first review, for the Gravis Blackhawk was much more positive. While this one has a lot more features and is in a different class, in my opinion, it also has a lot more problems.

Initial Impressions
When I opened up the box my first thought was ‘What’s with this base?’. The Firebird2 has an absolutely huge base section that has more funny angles than a Washington DC politician. Precise measurements are not too easy due to the odd shape, but the footprint on the desk is a whopping nine by eleven inches. (approx.). That last measurement means that it is as wide as the alphabetical key section on my keyboard. That’s BIG.

Aesthetics & Description
Predominantly black from top to bottom, the only color on this stick is the gray and red of the buttons. The stick itself is nice enough looking jutting up from the base with four buttons and a hat switch. The nine programmable buttons on the base are all squashed together in a 1.5 x 1.75 inch space near the top on the left-center. Beside those are the throttle and trim controls. Jutting out of the lower left side of the yoke is a spiral wire which plugs into the unit’s base utilizing what looks like a telephone handset plug. Frankly this detracts even more from the look of the unit in my opinion.

Turning the unit over there are 4 slide adjustments that have very nice positive click stops. These slides determine how stoutly the springs hold the joystick in the upright position. There are six settings on each slide. The positive thump tells you when you have made the adjustment in full.

The fit and finish of this stick itself is good. The bead-blast appearance of the plastic is pleasing and will not show minor scratching the way some of the more shiny units will after time. The assembly of the unit is quite secure. Approximately a dozen screws hold the unit’s base together.

Internal Construction
Internally the joystick appears fairly simple. The weight of the unit is provided by a metal plate fastened to the base by four screws. I noted no other internal weights. The main cable is fastened to the housing with a standard rubber stop. You would have to really jerk on this to dislodge it, so a simple drop probably wont hurt it. The spiral cord goes directly into a jack in the circuit board. There are no other supports. I don’t have much faith in this connection, but in fairness you’d have to be doing something pretty dumb to dislodge it.

I noted that the program buttons do not appear to be the old fashioned micro click switches but instead are integral to the circuit board. I would have vastly preferred a “real” mechanical switch to this circuit board thingie. I do not know this for a fact, but this type of design might also explain why this set of program buttons was so tightly crowded together.

(*) Note: I DO NOT advise dissasembling this or any other product.

Tactile Comfort
The initial feel of the stick itself was great. The contour grip is most assuredly never going to be pleasing to those who are left handed, this is a right handed stick and just isn’t going to fly for that part of the population. (Of course pun intended!) The buttons on the stick are all easy to reach, perhaps a bit too easy, but more on that later.

The buttons on the base are a different story. I personally found the nine buttons just way too darn crowded together. I do not have particularly large hands, but with all the real estate that the base takes up, it is my opinion that Gravis really should have spread these things out… and spread them out a lot. The buttons could also have been larger in size. My problems with those buttons don’t stop there. The program buttons on the base felt quite ‘mushy’. There is no tactile or audible feedback when they are depressed. I feel that this all combined to make those nine buttons nearly useless for me and detracted greatly from my enjoyment of their program features.

The base mounted controls did have a small saving grace… the throttle and trim controls. I found these dials stout and pretty darn precise. The ‘handle’ on the throttle was an added benefit and made it easy to find when I was concentrating on the screen.

Installation Experiences
Installation of the Firebird2 hardware was quite easy. Plug it into the gameport, route your keyboard through another plug and bingo its done. Power up and prepare for the software install.

Opinion Of The Software
Software was a mixed bag. The install was a pain because as I was setting it up, it would progress to a certain point, ask a question, and then unsync my monitor. Since the program wanted a response from me on the following screen I had to find a way to determine what it was asking. I ended up switching windows using either alt or control escape sequences. This worked and the rest of the install went fine.

The interface is functional but not pretty. Loading and configuring your buttons is pretty easy, simply click on the button and a box appears. Enter your keystrokes, click again with the mouse, and that’s it. You can set up many different templates for any number of games. The joystick comes with a few templates which are pre-programmed, but most of these appear to be for games that are pretty old.

The bundled software seems to consist of shareware versions of games such as Terminal Velocity. To find all of them you can click on the installation options for other devices, (such as their gamepad), and click under games. I wish they had all been in one place.

The Manual – Our Impressions
The manual is a twenty page affair and it is printed in several languages. Sadly only five of those twenty pages are in English. To be quite blunt, in my opinion the manual stinks. It provides good hardware installation instructions but I was not at all impressed with its explanation of the software install and operation. One thing I personally detest is online manuals in place of paper. The paper manual referred you back to the online manual no less than four times in its five pages. Guys, couldn’t you have just printed it all out?

Playtesting
In actual play, this joystick does not meet my expectations. This is mostly due to the

aggravating button placement. I will harp on this again, the program buttons are shoved too tightly together for me to play effectively. I found myself pushing the wrong buttons at inopportune times because of this. Depressing 2 buttons at a time is also pretty easy to do. (I could easily order my partners in Wing Commander to ‘attack’ someone and then immediately put them in ‘weapons hold’. Aurgh!)

I found the joystick itself to be quite comfortable during long play sessions. There is a nice ‘shelf ‘ where the leading edge of your hand rests on the right hand side of the yoke which helps to avoid fatigue. The stick buttons, were all easy to get to, however this is a blessing as well as another curse on this joystick. Also the large base makes it quite natural to set the whole thing in your lap and throw your feet up on the desk, this is nice if you can program all your needs into the program buttons.

I tested the Firebird2 playing demo versions of the following programs: Wing Commander, Jedi Knight II, Terminal Velocity, and (since I can no longer find my demo version of it), Duke Nukem 3d. (For first person shooters I actually prefer my Trackman Trackball, but many people like the feel of a joystick and the pistol grip.)

The placement of the yoke buttons was problematic. Particularly in the flight games, I found myself ‘pickling off’ ordinance time after time by accident. It is my feeling that the button under the middle finger is particularly poorly placed for adrenaline inspiring, or rapid movement games. I found myself launching missiles when I was trying to roll right because of my natural tendency to pull over with the tips of my fingers.. In addition, I found that the thumb button also suffered from a similar problem, though not quite as readily.

One place where the Firebird2 really shined was in the trigger and thumb button feel and reactions. When you press these controls there is a very satisfying click and immediate response. There is NO ‘trigger creep’ on the main fire button whatsoever. When you put a couple pounds pressure on it it fires without fail and with a very positive snap. While this may sound simple enough, it is not the standard on every joystick I have played. I am so tired of mushy buttons and quarter inch ‘take up’ on the trigger before firing that I could scream. At least the trigger and yoke buttons feel exceptionally good on this joystick.

Summary Opinion
Sadly, the Firebird2 is far from my favorite joystick. In a unit at this price-point I personally expect a lot better. The placement of the buttons on the base and their feel is, in my opinion, the unit’s biggest flaw. The manual is not too far behind, but with a little common sense you can probably figure out most of what you need without it anyway. If you are looking for ‘pretty’ the Firebird2 may not be your best choice. If you want looks from Gravis drop down a notch and get the Gravis Blackhawk. I was much more impressed with its looks but it is not programmable. In the final analysis looks are probably not a good reason to buy a joystick anyway.

All in all my impression of the Firebird2 was quite disappointing. I had really hoped for better. There is certainly plenty of potential for improvement. Better use of space on the large base could make this one a sure winner. If they redesigned the base-buttons, refined their placement, and made big improvements in the manual, the Firebird2 could really be a superior joystick in its price-class.

In closing, as with all of my reviews, keep in mind that this is a personal subjective opinion. Joysticks are a very individual choice and what I like you may find completely uncomfortable and vise versa. I encourage you to check out the item yourself and make your own determination based on your own preferences.

System Requirements:

– IBM PC Or Compatible
– Gameport
– MS-DOS 3.3 or later
– External Keyboard
– High Density 3.5 inch floppy disk drive
– VGA – compatible video card
– Hard Disk
– Mouse & CD-ROM drive (2x or better) recommended

How The Gravis Firebird2 Rates

Aesthetics: The Gravis Firebird 2 is not at all pretty. It has a nice finish, but the shape and size of the base as well as the strange shape and small cluttered buttons just did not do it for me. Rating — 3

Comfort: The comfort level of the joystick itself is superb. Long flights or intense action do not result in fatigue. However small mushy buttons, 9 of which are cluttered into the same 2 inches on the base, were hard to actuate and use. Also the button placement on the stick itself results in inadvertent actuation from time to time. Rating — 6

Ease Of Install: Install of the hardware is a snap. See below for software install. Rating — 9.5

Ease Of Uninstall: Software setup is done in DOS, I did not see an uninstall option anywhere. It does copy your old autoexec.bat, so you will need to restore that. I wish this was Windows based. Rating — 5

Included Setup Software: Setup of the joystick software starts out a little rocky. I experienced a couple of technical problems where it did not re-sync my monitor properly enough to show me the next screen. This required me to control escape back to something else to resync. Once installed though setting up the buttons is easy. Less adept users might find loading the joystick with the saved programs confusing. All of this could be solved with a better manual. I also would prefer this setup be done in Windows instead of DOS mode. Rating — 7

Included Bundled Software: There are several titles included…but all that I noted were shareware and are rather old. Rating — 3

Manual: Though it is written in several languages, I found that the 5 pages in English were far from enough for my tastes. Better diagrams and larger printing would have been most welcome. What really annoyed me about the manual was that instead of telling you what you needed to know, it kept referring you back to the ‘online manual’ for things that, in my opinion, should have been printed in a good paper volume. Rating — 2

Overall: Overall, I really was not too impressed with the Firebird2. Poor button placement, a poor manual, strange looks all resulted in lowering the score a notch or two. Better software, and button placement could make this a really good item for the price. Rating — 4.5

https://web.archive.org/web/19991009211504/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/gravisfirebird2joystick.html

Logitech WingMan Extreme Digital

Maker: Logitech
Type: Joystick
Warranty: Limited one year on Hardware/90 days Software
Reviewed By: Justice T
Tested Product Made In: China

Digital joysticks are coming on very strong finally. Logitech offered me their WingMan Extreme Digital to examine and I am happy that they did. It is a good solid joystick with a good company behind it.

Logitech is a name that is well known in the industry, but not always synonymously with game hardware. They are probably best known for pointers and input devices, such as mice and trackballs which have a good reputation. I personally use their Trackman Stationary Mouse model T-CC2-9f which is the best thumb-trackball I have ever seen. Sadly they no longer make this item and mine is beginning to wear out.

I must admit some potential personal bias on this review as the last joystick that I purchased was the analog version of the WingMan and I played it so hard that it finally wore out. (It really is a wreck now, the trigger doesn’t work, and the rubber boot around the bottom is ripped and it squeaks when moved around. I sure did abuse that poor ol Wingman.)

Initial Impressions
The WingMan Extreme Digital is a nice looking joystick, but in looks it is nothing incredible. It has a decent heft to it and a natural shape. Unlike most other joysticks we have reviewed the WingMan is not black, instead opting for an overall grey-blue appearance. it comes packed with a CD-ROM, the expected registration card, a manual, and some advertisements for other Logitech products.

Aesthetics
The Logitech WingMan Extreme Digital is a nice looking joystick, but it is not exceptional. It is a medium-dark blue-grey color which is accented by 5 red buttons, (two on the base and 3 on the yoke), a red trigger, and a black 4 position hat switch. There is also a somewhat delicate looking throttle on the left hand side of the base which is colored red as well. The words ‘WingMan Extreme’ are molded into the base and Logitech has painted their emblem unobtrusively at the bottom.

If I had to use one word to describe the look of this joystick I would use the word ‘functional’.

The one real detraction to the looks in my opinion is the throttle. To my eyes it kind of looks like an afterthought and it appears flimsy as well.

The WingMan Extreme Digital is contoured for right handed players. It stands about 8.5 inches tall and the base takes up about 6.5 by 7 inches of desktop space.

Internal Construction
The base is a nice thick steel plate which is held in place by 4 small screws. The plate itself gives the unit its weight and adds plenty of strength to the unit. The fact that the weight of the unit also comprises its base makes for an even balance of the joystick as a whole. I like this approach a lot.

After I popped the plate the first thing I noticed was the three small rotational control units that provide input for the axis of the joystick and the throttle. These are mounted to plastic holders which are in turn linked to the joystick or the throttle. The joystick’s position is maintained by two small springs which tighten a ‘pincer’ type linkage.

There are two small circuit boards inside. One seems to simply be a place to mount a microswitch for the forward button on the base. The other board holds the ‘brains’ of the unit and another button’s microswitch. The wiring inside seems logically laid out and is routed through cast-in posts which keep it all in place. The control cord is secured by an integral rubber stopper then it is routed through three of these holders before entering the circuit board. Secure? You bet!

The chance of the wiring coming loose are pretty slim.

The uninspiring throttle control is, in my opinion, even less inspiring inside. I can not articulate exactly why, but I just do not have faith that the throttle will stand up to much abuse. The fact that it feels a bit delicate when you twist it in the wrong direction does not help. Also it is not as securely mounted as I would have preferred.

The housing plastic is nice and thick and was not brittle when I mashed down on it. I would have liked to see a bit heavier screws used to attach the base, but I am admittedly being picky now.

All in all with the exception of the throttle I would say this item appears to be a well constructed and tough unit.

(*) Note: I DO NOT advise dissasembling this or any other product.

Tactile Comfort
The joystick is a very comfortable joystick to fly. The oversized and cupped palm rest is a great design and the item just plain fit my hand well. Except for one, the buttons were all placed in convenient locations and could be actuated without straining.

I have a couple of criticisms about the unit in this category. First the spring tension is a bit too heavy for my personal tastes. Its not overbearing, but I would have liked to see a way to adjust it somehow.

Secondly the throttle is in a inconvenient place. To use the buttons on the base, I was forced to make an arch with my thumb and forefinger or to rest them on the throttle. This was uncomfortable and inconvenient especially during heated gameplay.

Lastly, a couple of the yoke buttons are a tad mushy. I really like a good snappy feeling button that delivers an audible click. The more sensory input the better. The two smallest buttons did not deliver as well as I would have liked. In addition this joystick suffered from some trigger creep, (take up), which is a pet peeve of mine.

Installation Experiences
Installation of the WingMan is a snap. The control cord simply snaps into the gameport and that’s it. The connector itself has the nice ‘screw in’ connections which though not ‘needed’ per-se is a nice addition.

Opinion Of The Software
The software installed easily and quickly. It set up an uninstall icon and then asked to reboot the machine.

Actually using the software is pretty straight forward once you get the hang of it. It took me about 30 minutes of poking at it to learn pretty much what I needed to know. You can select from a few games that already have a limited amount of programming in them or make your own.

It is not hard to program but is not as intuitive as I feel it could be. As with all of my reviews, this is not a comparative review, but its hard not to make mention of the other interfaces which I have seen that do a bit better job. Having said that, this is far from the most difficult interface I have ever used.

On uninstall everything appeared to go well, but when I tried to install the next Logitech product, (not a joystick), for testing I ran into problems. I called the Logitech Tech support group and they were unable to help me. They tried awful hard and ran through several things but they never quite got it. The final solution was deleting all of the joystick entries in the device manager and reinstalling it from the Windows 95 disk.

The Manual – Our Impressions
The manual is a very nice looking 16 page document which is about one and one half times as big as a cd case. Of those 16 pages, exactly 2 are in English and contain any reasonably useful information. The ‘useful information’ tells you how to install but not how to use the software and how to plug the joystick into your gameport.

The manual does not cover how to use the software itself once you have it installed.

As with all hardware reviews I am judging the manual on its paper form. I was not impressed.

Playtesting
Of course the real test of a joystick is in how well it flies.

The Logitech WingMan Extreme Digital did not let me down here. It is a pretty accurate joystick, though not as ‘fast’ as others that I have played. It had a great feel and with two notable exceptions it has no problems at all during gameplay.

The main problem that I had with this flightstick is the placement of the button under the right thumb on the yoke. This caused me to ‘pickle off’ ordinance at times when I did not want to do so. Thankfully this problem can be overcome by programming that button to do nothing.This of course costs you some usability. I would much rather have seen this button placed about 1.25 inches above where it is. It would still be comfortable to reach and the chance of an untimely touching of this control would have been ameliorated.

Similarly I really did not like where the throttle was placed. As noted above this caused me to have to contort my hand in a way that was not terribly comfortable for the long term. If I were sure I was going to use this joystick as my main flight stick I would probably cut off the throttle extension and round the edges with some epoxy. (Note: I am NOT recommending anyone do this!) A better alternative would be for Logitech to move the throttle to a less intrusive position.

Those two problems aside the stick flies very well and got me further in Wing Commander quicker than I am used to. If you can get past the above concerns it will probably please you.

Summation Comments
Logitech’s WingMan Extreme Digital is a very nice flightstick. In my opinion it suffers from a poor manual and two poorly placed controls, but overall it is a nice item with a lot going for it. It is not exorbitantly priced and if you are gentle with the throttle, it may just be a good choice. While it does not have the most intuitive setup program, the one that is provided works well and is certainly easy enough to use once you get used to it.

In summation I liked this joystick. I think that a couple of minor changes may be in order but overall it gives me a lot of confidence. The uninstall may also need to be cleaned up a bit as well.

In closing, as with all of my reviews, keep in mind that this is a personal subjective opinion. Joysticks are a very individual choice and what I like you may find completely uncomfortable and vise versa. I encourage you to check out the item for yourself and make your own determination based on your own preferences.

System Requirements:

– PC
– DOS 5.0 or higher or Windows 95 operating system
– CD-ROM drive
– 15-pin game port
– Windows 95 required for Digital Direct

How Logitech WingMan Extreme Digital Rates

Aesthetics: The WingMan is not a poor looking joystick, but then its not an awe inspiring one either. The looks are ‘functional’. Rating — 7 out of 10

Comfort: With the big exception of the throttle and the poor placement of the button right under the right thumb, this is a pretty comfortable joystick. The oversized and cupped plamrest and molded surfaces make it very easy to know exactly where your hand is at all times.Rating — 8.5

Ease Of Install: Not much could be simpler to install or uninstall. Rating — 10

Ease Of Uninstall: Uninstalling the hardware is a breeze. As detailed above I had some pretty severe problems uninstalling the software and ended up deleting all of the entries for all joysticks under the device manager and reinstalling it. Rating — 5

Included Setup Software: The software is not as intuitive as it could be but after playing with it a bit it can be figured out without too much difficulty. Rating — 8

Included Bundled Software: Sadly there was no software bundled with this item. Rating — Not Applicable

Manual: Two pages. The paper manual has 2 pages of information and does not tell you how to use the software. As with all my hardware reviews this is not reflective of the online manual. Rating — 1.5

Overall: This is a good solid functional joystick. It is not awe inspiring but it is solid and gives confidence. (Again with the exception of the throttle and thumb button.) Rating — 8

https://web.archive.org/web/19991022042232/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/logitechwingmanextremedigital.html

Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Pro

Maker:Microsoft
Type:Joystick
Suggested Retail Price: $159.95
Warranty: Limited one year Hardware/90 days Software
Reviewed By: Justice T
Tested Product Made In: Malaysia

The advent of force feedback technology is a delightful addition to the gamer’s experience. As more and more games begin to support force feedback technology, I would expect the prices of these items to become more attainable for the average gamer. This was my first introduction to force feedback technology for the home computer and I was pretty impressed.

In many respects this review will be similar to my review of the The MS Sidewinder Precision Pro because the two joysticks are quite similar, especially in looks and layout. Indeed the items look almost exactly the same on first glance. The big difference is of course that this one has the force feedback technology.

Initial Impressions
This thing is HEAVY. When I first grabbed the box that held the Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro it was apparent that this was not going to be the average wimpy little joystick. Measured in pounds instead of ounces, this unit has a very pleasing mass to it. When I opened the box and saw a fairly large sized transformer I thought, at first, that was what the bulk of the weight difference was. Wrong. The unit itself is has quite a heft to it.

Aesthetics
This is a big joystick no matter how you measure it. The base is about 10.5 x 8.5 inches and the top of the yoke soars almost 10 inches off the tabletop. The other notable item is that this stick is heavy. While it will not tip over your desk, it would most certainly be an unpleasant experience to drop this one on your toe.

The Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro is predominantly black in color, with only the medium gray controls surfaces and the word Microsoft to provide contrasting visual stimuli. There are 5 buttons on the base with a throttle control with 4 buttons and a hat switch on the yoke itself.

This is a modern looking joystick. It has plenty of rounded surfaces and there is nothing ‘mean’ or ‘radical’ looking about the setup.

The only real detraction in looks is a wide seam that runs through the middle of the yoke. To be honest this seam makes it look a little cheap. I would much prefer this to be less evident and better placed.

Internal Construction
The Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro is held together at its base by a large number of screws, and the yoke is fastened together with 4. Chances of the MSSFFP simply falling apart are pretty slim. Pulling apart the clamshell base reveals the source of the pleasingly heavy weight of the unit and a few other interesting things.

Below the covershell the first thing you notice are two metal clad precision motors. These direct current driven motors are securely fastened to a metal plate. This plate is itself fastened to the housing with a fair number of screws. The motors drive the gears for each axis of the joystick. These gears in turn move linkages which then transfer force to the yoke/handle. To an untrained eye this complicated linkage all looks like it is quite substantial, even overbuilt in a couple of places and I am pretty impressed. (I wish more companies would overbuild their products.) I also liked seeing as much metal inside the unit as I did.

The yoke tension is maintained by the force of the motors and I did not see any springs which aided that. When the power is off you can easily knock the stick over to one side. When the machine is powered on it will straighten itself and calibrate.

The control cord is held in place by the usual rubber stopper. Because of the overall weight of the unit, I would have rather seen the cord given more support in case of accidental falls since it connects directly into the circuit board. Should you drop this unit and catch it by the cord, I would fear the potential of ripping it apart. I did not however torture test this unit.

On the circuit board itself, there are a number of fine micro-switches for the buttons in the base of the unit. I liked this, microswitches seem to be a lot more positive and they make a nice satisfying click when actuated. This is not an old design. The board has its share of microchips and it is one of the more complicated looking ones that I have seen.

As with the Precision Pro, this is a digital joystick and it has the photodetector built into the circuit board and the emitter positioned above it is linked directly with the joystick handle. The entire thing is really well held together with metal screws and it does not appear like it has any chance of simply vibrating out of alignment.

All in all, internally it looked like the Force Feedback Pro was well put together and it inspired my untrained eyes with a sense of solidness. I was happy to see micro-switches rather than the touch sensitive switches which are on so many boards. I was also very happy to see that it was so heavily constructed inside. My only real reservation was that I’d have liked to see the cord better anchored on a unit this heavy.

(*) Note: I DO NOT advise disassembling this or any other product.

Tactile Comfort
The Force Feedback Pro is a decently comfortable joystick but it also has some detractions. Because of its height some people might not like it as well as a more stubby joystick, but that seems to be the price you must pay for the force feedback option as the motors in the base take up a lot of space.

The base itself is very comfortable. You rest your left hand naturally on the base and its rounded contour makes an excellent playing surface. The buttons are nice and large so they are easy to find and manipulate without looking. They are also spaced apart in a comfortable fashion and it is pretty close to impossible to accidentally mash two of them at the same time.

I had my doubts about the playability of the throttle. It is not set up vertically as most are but instead spins horizontally. However in actual practice it became fairly natural to use this control. I would have preferred more resistance, as the throttle spins freely, but that’s certainly an issue of personal taste.

The weight of the base was very pleasing to me. There is NO movement even in excited gameplay. While this probably was not a design criteria, and it is this way because of the bulk of the motors, I sure wish more joystick companies would add extra mass to their joysticks.

The stick itself is a little larger than I would have preferred, but its certainly not overly so. Those with very small hands may find keeping position on the stick to be more of a challenge. The yoke is also way too smooth for my personal tastes. It neither detracts nor adds to a player’s confidence. I blame this on the rather rounded and slanted way that it is molded. I like to have lots of tactile feedback for the positioning of my hand and I would have loved either some checkering on the grip or some sharp angle to grasp.

The yoke was firm, but not stiff. The firmness of the stick in a non-force feedback computer game is actually a tad less than its little brother The MS Sidewinder Precision Pro as it comes set from the factory. You can also adjust the ‘virtual tension’ using the software.

This is a right handed joystick. It can be flown left handed but if you have a tight gripped playing style I wouldn’t recommend this one because of the thumb rest. Also actuating the program buttons on the base will be inconvenient if you fly with your left hand.

Installation Experiences
Installation of the hardware was simple. Simply plug the cord into your gameport, attach the transformer, plug the transformer in and you are ready to roll when you power back up.

Opinion Of The Software
The joystick software installed without problems. The actual install was nearly effortless and did not present any surprises.

Using the software was an act of simplicity. The software that MS supplied was easily the most convenient and easiest to use of any joystick that I have ever tested. Choosing between setups, (they call them profiles), was quite uncomplicated and programming commands is done through a well thought out point and click console window. Once you get the hang of it, (which does not take more than a few minutes), you can program the SideWinder Force Feedback Pro with all kinds of profiles and commands. If you don’t care much for programming it yourself you might get lucky and find that your favorite game will already have a predefined profile set up. Most of these profiles are pretty good and they are more up to date than some of the competition’s are. (More modern games are included.)

Some of the bundled game software had a few problems but this is not a game review and does not reflect poorly on the joystick itself so these will not be discussed in this review.

The Manual – Our Impressions
The more joystick reviews I do the less impressed I become with the paper manuals. The manual is simply an insert in the CD and though it is 30 pages in length only 8 of those are directly related to setting up the joystick and its software. The rest is comprised of mostly instructions for the games that are bundled, warranty / legal information, and interestingly enough a health warning about hand-arm vibration syndrome.

I must admit a personal bias against little manuals. I like big thick books when I spend my hard earned money on a product and these little inserts just did not make me happy. Matrox did it right with my Millenium card. They supplied a book as thick as a zip drive.

There is an online users guide, but I do not care for this kind of setup. It is my personal opinion that most users would prefer to have something in their hands to follow along with rather than switching between online windows as they are learning. This is not the first time that I have been disappointed with MS manuals. I had similar feelings for the Precision Pro Manual… and let’s not even talk about the manual that came with Windows 95.

To be blunt the manual just does not do it for me. The online users guide is okay though. Thankfully the joystick software is easy to figure out if you poke at it a little. You don’t even really NEED a manual if you have some computer savvy and are used to ‘learning by experimentation’. For those of you who don’t like that… look at the online users guide.

Playtesting
This is the first force feedback joystick that I have had the opportunity to play on a home computer. In six words; I had a blast with it. It is not a perfect stick, but with the added force feedback capacity it is quite an amusing play. The additional experience added by the vibratory and jerking movements of the joystick in a force feedback supported game is an incredibly nice addition. More on that later.

The Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro also has added capability in its rotating handle. This is a plus and a minus. The added capability allows you to have some added movement options by twisting the handle left or right. (This is addition to the normal ‘left/right’ axis.) This additional capability can free you from more keyboard interaction, and once you get used to it, this can be a positive thing. However its also very possible to actuate these functions by accident – especially if you are in rapid gameplay such as that found in a shooter or a dogfight program. I rather suspect that for a non-military flight sim that this functionality would be a nice added bonus but I didn’t have any non-combat sims handy to play it on. In first person shooters it makes for a good ‘strafing action’.

The buttons on the joystick and on the base are all solid in feel and give a nice little click when pressed. They feel good, but not exceptional. As mentioned above the throttle was a surprise. I really like the throttle setup and I found this control to be quite precise.

Button placement is fantastic from top to bottom. There is almost no chance of accidentally actuating a button – even in fast-paced gameplay. I found that the buttons were extremely easy to use when you wanted them and did not get in your way when you did not. The large buttons on the base, (as I mentioned above), are easy to find without taking your eyes from the business on the screen and the ones on the handle are easily found with some ‘finger training’.

The main trigger button deserves some special mention here. It is molded to be flush with the front side of the joystick. I generally prefer the main trigger to protrude a bit, but in this case it worked well for me as it is. Molding it flush with the yoke eliminated all chances of getting a little pinch on the lower fingers when firing it. A nice touch. Also there is zero trigger creep (take-up) and I find that most satisfying.

Now back to the force feedback part of the joystick. This capacity really adds a great deal to the experience. In third and first person experience type games, (such as MDK), having a machinegun which actually simulates some recoil is very gratifying to me. Even more interesting is when you run up against a wall. Where normally you would have no indication except visually that you were not moving, with the force feedback you FEEL the wall stopping you. This thing is a trip.

In addition to my normal test games I played, MDK and Interstate 76, which were bundled with this product and it really shined with MDK. I am rarely impressed with driving games using a joystick so for the purposes of this review I will ignore that aspect.

One ‘problem’ which people who are used to playing a normal joystick will notice right off is that with a force feedback joystick getting back on target will be much slower. With recoil, explosions, or other things knocking you off target, you will find that holding a good aim is more of a challenge. This can certainly be mitigated by the designer of the games depending on how sadistic they decide to be to their players. As with the mini machinegun in Quake 2, it would be easy to design ‘muzzle climb’ into the force feedback experience. If overdone this could be a problem especially in competition against someone without force feedback.

In non force feedback games, the stick operated well, and I found the automatic tension of the stick was just about as close to perfect as I have seen. The movement feels a LITTLE bit ratchety I think because you are pushing against motors and linkage instead of springs alone. This will be annoying to some people and at first at least it was for me.

Having said that though, I really liked the experience and the added challenge of the force feedback. Those that can afford such an item should consider it if they have a favorite game that supports this technology.

Summation Comments
One thing I have not mentioned yet, that I found less than positive, is the fact that this joystick requires power and therefore must be plugged in at all times. There is a cooling fan which remains on when the computer is on and I found this very annoying. It’s not overly loud, in fact it is nice and quiet but I really longed for a way to make it go away when I was not using the joystick. Unless all you do is play games, the constant hum from the unit is irritating and adds to the background noise in the office. The simple addition of a power switch would be a real plus in my opinion.

In general I really am impressed with Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Pro. There are a couple of things that could be improved on in my opinion. The manual is one of them, and the addition of an off switch is another. I did like the way they chose to place the buttons on the MSSFFP and the addition of force feedback to the gaming environment will be a boon to the overall experience. I do opine however that you will have to be a pretty committed gamer to spend nearly 160 dollars for this addition. The one thing that I feel I can say without qualification is that the MS Force Feedback Pro is a fun stick to play.

In closing, as with all of my reviews, keep in mind that this is a personal subjective opinion. Joysticks are a very individual choice and what I like you may find completely uncomfortable and vise versa. I encourage you to check out the Force Feedback Pro yourself and make your own determination based on your own preferences.

System Requirements:

– PC
– Pentium 75 MHz or better processor
– Windows 95 operating system
– 8 MB of RAM
– 7 MB of available hard disk space
– Double-speed CD-ROM drive
– Sound Blaster-compatible audio board with MIDI
port
– The joystick driver
– Feedback forces are only enabled with games using the
Microsoft Direct Input Force Feedback API 5.0 or later

How Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Pro Rates

Aesthetics: The looks are solid, (with the exception of the seam in the yoke), but not awe inspiring. The rounded contours say ‘modern’ to me not ‘military’. Rating — 7 out of 10

Comfort: The subjective feel of comfort was a hard one for me to rate. I was impressed with the placement and the buttons as well as the overall weight. I found that the height was a little more than I would have preferred and I would have liked some grip checkering.Rating — 7

Ease Of Install: Simple two wire plug in. The joystick software itself was also quite a cinch to install. Rating — 10

Ease Of Uninstall: The uninstall for the software was no problem, and unplugging the hardware was equally simple. Rating — 9.5

Included Setup Software: The software itself was easy to use and was attractive. It had a fair number of modern game profiles and programming your own was simple. Rating — 9

Included Bundled Software: I like bundled software and am always glad to see it. There are demo versions of several titles including MDK and Shadows Of The Empire. They also included a full version Interstate 76. I don’t care for driving games on a joystick, and I’d prefer to see full versions than demos any day. I also found that the inclusion of the Star Wars demo which required a special accelerator card was a bit presumptuous at this stage. Still the choices were ok and show off the capabilities of the stick nicely. Rating — 7.5

Manual: I really do not care for tiny manuals. If hardware includes software with it there should be a good thick paper manual included for both. Rating — 3.5

Overall: The Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Pro is a good joystick and is very fun to play. In my personal opinion, it needs some minor refinements and it really needs an off switch and a much better manual. The price may be too high for casual gamers or those who don’t have a favorite game supporting Force Feedback. Rating — 8.5

https://web.archive.org/web/19991023012123/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/mssidewinderforcefeedback.html

Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro

Maker:Microsoft
Type: Joystick
Suggested Retail Price: $74.95
Warranty: Limited one year Hardware/90 days Software
Reviewed By: Justice T
Tested Product Made In: Malaysia

Sometimes the big companies surprise me. In the past I have seen items of poor quality and construction sold under a mega-corporation’s name simply to make a fast buck. Such is assuredly not the case with the Sidewinder Precision Pro digital joystick. It is not the perfect joystick, but it is far from an effort to simply capitalize on the Microsoft name.

Initial Impressions
The Sidewinder Precision Pro comes securely packed with the obligatory yellow Microsoft registration card and advertisements trying to get you to subscribe to some gaming magazines. You are also provided with a CD which includes the drivers and profile tools. The unit itself is lighter than I expected or preferred. The unit sports something of a modern look without any real sharp angles.

Aesthetics
This is a good, but not exceptional looking joystick. There is certainly nothing ugly about it, there is just nothing exciting to say about its buttery rounded corners and general appearance. The best way I can think of to describe the looks is ‘subtly modern’. Nothing demands your attention and nothing makes you say ‘yuck’.

The Precision Pro is a medium sized joystick, the base would fit on a 9.5 by 7.5 inch section of your desk and it stands about 8.5 inches high. It is predominantly black in color, with only the medium gray control surfaces and the word ‘Microsoft’ adding any contrasting visual stimuli. There are 5 buttons on the base with a throttle control and 4 buttons and a hat switch on the yoke itself. The only real detraction in looks is a wide seam that runs through the middle of the yoke. To be honest this seam makes it look a little cheap. I would much prefer the to be less evident and better placed.

Internal Construction
The Precision Pro is held together at its base with six screws, and the yoke with 5. Chances of it simply falling apart are nil. Interestingly, when I popped the bottom plate off of this device I noted that molded into the plastic were a bunch of signatures. I checked with the people at Microsoft and found out that these are the signatures of the members of the design team. I thought that was pretty cool. Few customers will ever see it, but it shows that these people took some pride in their work.

Below the plate is a large circuit board which takes up almost the entire area of the base. Soldered onto it are the microswitches for the base buttons. Wires from the yoke are plugged into this board which appears to be the heart of the stick. There is a photosensitive patch on the circuit board which picks up light from the output source that is connected to a moveable armature this is linked to the base of the joystick. Does it sound like a puzzle? Try putting it back together.. it is! (*)

The pleasantly firm yoke tension is maintained by a large round spring which appears to deliver an even 365 degree pressure to the base of the stick. The spring is held in place by a plastic ‘cage’ which provides support for the linkage as well. I found this unique approach to yoke tension pretty nifty and a lot less complicated than other ways I have witnessed. Elegant.

The weight in the base is provided by two penny sized steel balls. There is a place for four of these weights but for some reason they must have decided not to use them. Too bad. I would have liked to see an extra pound of weight so any extra mass would have been nice.

The cord is held in place by the traditional rubber housing attachment. I doubt dropping the unit would dislodge the cord. As with most other joysticks I have seen I would have preferred to have another couple of feet of length added to the cord.

All in all internally the Precision Pro looked like a well designed unit to my untrained eye. The parts looked substantial enough to hold up under a fair amount of stress and nothing jumped out at me and said ‘cheap’ or ‘flimsy’. Everything is fastened in place in a substantial way, and unless you abuse this item, it is not likely to crumble in your hands like some of the other stuff on the market.

(*) Note: I DO NOT advise disassembling this or any other product.

Tactile Comfort
The Precision Pro is a fairly comfortable unit as a whole. Because of all the rounded corners on the yoke, (particularly those near the palm rest), you have to make more of an effort to keep your hand positioned correctly, but it is not overbearing.

The base is very comfortable. You rest your left hand naturally on the base and its rounded contour makes an excellent playing surface. The buttons are nice and large so they are easy to find and manipulate without looking. I had my doubts about the throttle. It is not set up vertically as most are but instead spins horizontally. However in actual practice it became fairly natural to use it. I would have preferred it to have a bit more resistance.

The stick itself is a little larger than I would have preferred, but its certainly not overly so. Those with very small hands may find keeping position on the stick to be more of a challenge. the yoke is also way too smooth for my personal tastes. It neither detracts nor adds to my confidence, again I blame this on the rather rounded and slanted way that the unit is molded. I like to have lots of tactile feedback for the positioning of my hand and I would have loved either some checkering on the grip or some sharp angle to grasp.

The yoke was firm, but not stiff. Users who like a very loose or very tight tension may be sorry to hear that I noted no way to adjust the spring tension on the Precision Pro. Also this is a right handed joystick. It can be flown left handed but if you have a tight gripped playing style I wouldn’t recommend this one because of the thumb rest. I would also suspect that actuating the buttons on the base would be difficult if you tried to fly the stick left handed.

Installation Experiences
Installation of the hardware was incredibly easy. Simply snap the cord into your gameport and you are ready to roll when you power back up. As with most joysticks this was a no brainer.

Opinion Of The Software
The software installed without problems. The actual install was nearly effortless and did not present any surprises.

Using the software was an act of simplicity. Choosing between setups, (they call them profiles), was quite simple and programming in commands is done through a well thought out point and click console window. Once you get the hang of it, (which does not take more than a few minutes), you can program the Precision Pro with all kinds of profiles and commands. If you don’t care much for programming it yourself you might get lucky and find that your favorite game will already have a predefined profile set up. Most of these profiles are pretty good and they are more up to date than some of the competitions is. (More modern game profiles are included.)

The Manual – Our Impressions
I think that joystick manufacturers must be concerned about trees or something. When I first looked in the box I almost called Microsoft to tell them that they forgot to put a manual in with my unit. Turns out that the manual is ‘hidden’ in the CD-ROM case. DOH!

The manual is a 16 page affair which is, in my opinion, pretty paltry. I must say that I have a personal aversion to little manuals. I like big thick 3 ring metal clad 10 pound binder manuals and this little 16 page insert just did not make me cheer especially since 8 pages of it were mostly tech support and licensee information!

There is an online users guide, but I do not care for this kind of setup. It is my personal opinion that most users would prefer to have something in their hands to follow along with rather than switching between online windows when they are learning. This is not the first time that I have been disappointed with MS manuals… don’t even get me started on the Windows manual that came with my copy of Win95.

To be blunt the manual just does not do it for me. The online users guide is okay though. Thankfully the software is easy to figure out if you poke at it a little. You don’t even really need a manual if you have some computer savvy and are used to ‘learning by experimentation’. For those of you who don’t like that… look at the online users guide.

Playtesting
Okay enough about the internals, the looks, and my quibbles about paper versus online manuals…. How does this thing fly? In a word – great. The digital joystick adds a level of accuracy that I have not seen before. While in most flight games this is not going to make a lot of difference, it will make some. In first person shooter games it will make a lot of difference for accuracy in long distance shooting. (I am still very partial to my Trackman trackball for those games however.)

The Microsoft Precision Pro also has added another capability in its rotating handle. This is a plus and a minus. The added capability allows you to have some added movement by twisting the handle left or right. This can free you from more keyboard interaction, and once you get used to it, this can be a positive thing. However its also very possible to actuate these functions by accident – especially if you are in rapid gameplay such as that found a shooter or a dogfight program. I rather suspect that for a non-military flight sim that this functionality would be a nice added bonus but I didn’t have any non-combat sims handy to play it on.

The buttons are all solid in feel and give a nice little click when pressed. They feel good, but not exceptional. As mentioned above the throttle was a surprise. I really liked the setup and found that it was quite precise.

Button placement is fantastic from top to bottom. There is almost no chance of accidentally actuating a button – even in fast-paced gameplay. I found that the buttons were extremely easy to use when you wanted them and did not get in your way when you did not. This joystick does not lend itself to accidental depression of two buttons at once. The large buttons on the base, (as I mentioned above), are easy to find without taking your eyes from the business on the screen and the ones on the handle are easily found with some ‘finger training’.

The main trigger button deserves some special mention here. It is molded to be flush with the front side of the joystick. I generally prefer the main trigger to protrude a bit, but in this case it worked well for me as it is. Molding it flush with the yoke eliminated all chances of getting a little pinch on the lower fingers when firing it. A nice touch. Also there is zero trigger creep, (take-up), and I find that most satisfying.

One last note about play. This can be a very fast joystick. This means that pointing at a pinpoint on the screen may be difficult to accomplish unless you turn down the speed of movement a tad.

Summation Comments
All in all I really did like the Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro. While it could have had a more weighty base, and a much better manual, I liked the way it handled in ‘combat’ and I can not say enough good things about how they chose to place their buttons.

The software setup was also a big plus. It was easy and required little effort to figure out.

The Precision Pro is not my absolute favorite joystick, but it is far from being at the bottom of the heap. In my opinion with a few minor refinements it would be an exceptional product.

In closing, as with all of my reviews, keep in mind that this is a personal subjective opinion. Joysticks are a very individual choice and what I like you may find completely uncomfortable and vise versa. I encourage you to check out the Precision Pro yourself and make your own determination based on your own preferences.

System Requirements:

– PC
– 486/66mhz or better processor
– Windows 95 operating system
– 8 MB of RAM
– 7 MB of available hard disk space
– Super VGA 256 color monitor
– CD-ROM drive
– 3.5 Inch High Density Floppy Drive
– Audio Board with headphones or speakers
– Soundblaster Compatible Sound Card With Gameport
How The Microsoft Precision Pro Rates

Aesthetics: The rounded buttery look of the joystick has a very ‘modern’ look to my eyes. Nothing turns me off about it, but nothing makes me say WOW either. Rating — 7 out of 10

Comfort: The subjective feel of comfort was a hard one for me to rate. I really liked the feel of the button placement on the base, but did not like not having more tactile feedback for my yoke-hand. Rating — 7.5

Ease Of Install: Simple one wire plug in. If you can’t install this hardware, maybe you shouldn’t be out in public. The software was also quite a cinch to install. Rating — 10

Ease Of Uninstall: The uninstall for the software was no problem, and unplugging the hardware was obviously easy. Rating — 10

Included Setup Software: The software itself was easy to use and was attractive. It had a fair number of modern game profiles and programming your own profiles was simple. Rating — 9

Included Bundled Software: Sadly no software is bundled with this joystick. Too bad, I think that is a pleasant extra. Rating –Not Applicable

Manual: I really do not care for tiny manuals. If hardware includes software with it there should be a good paper manual included. Rating — 3.5

Overall: The Microsoft Precision Pro is a good all around joystick. It is accurate and generally comfortable. The software setup is the best I have seen. It does not have exciting looks and I’d prefer more yoke-hand tactile feedback. The manual is not on my good side. However those are somewhat minor detractions. Rating — 8

https://web.archive.org/web/19991023022806/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/mssidewinderprecisionprojoystick.html

Saitek X7-38 Four Button Joystick

Maker: Saitek
Type: 4 Button Joystick
Suggested Retail Price: $39.95
Warranty: None stated on box or on documentation
Reviewed By: Justice T
Tested Product Made In: China

Products do not have to cost a lot of money in order to impress me. It seems that at times companies can try a bit too hard in some areas and then they miss the mark. Other times companies can put out something that may not be highly hyped and come out with a real winner. In the case of the Saitek X7-38 I have seen very little hype, but I think they have a real special little joystick here.

Initial Impressions
My fist impressions of this flightstick were pretty mixed. First off I thought ‘Gee this thing looks funky.’ The top of the stick sort of stands out strangely and the grip is very thin comparatively. I was also taken by how different it was from it’s big brother the X36F. The stick is also very light. However once I put my hands on this thing it was hard to take them off. The X7-38 has a very comfortable grip and the molded stick feels great in the hand. I was also very surprised with the throttle control, quite simply I have yet to feel a better throttle on a single piece unit.

Aesthetics
The Saitek X7-38 is not the prettiest joystick I have seen. The oversized head on the yoke is roughly triangular in shape and the base is sort of a triangularized rectangle. Combine this with an oversized throttle and a distinctly contoured grip and truly the only word in my lexicon that seemed to fit was ‘funky’.

The stick itself stand about 8.5 inches tall and the base measures roughly 5.5 by 8 inches. About 1/2 inch of the unit’s height is provided by the removable suction cups on the base.

The joystick is entirely flat black with the exception of the dark gray trim controls and the throttle. There are 3 nice oversized buttons on the head of the stick within easy reach of the thumb. There is a sliding turbo switch on the top which lights a green LED when actuated. The trim controls are round knobs located on the base of the unit and have a solid feel when turning them. The underside of the units base has a pair of 2-position slide switches one to turn the throttle off and the other to set the turbo speed.

On the left hand side of the base is the throttle. This item deserves some special mention as it is obvious that Saitek put some thought into this one. In a word, this throttle is solid. It looks tough and it feels it. The throttle moves with a nice firm resistance and there are scaled incremental markings from 0 to 100 alongside it.

Internal Construction
I found the construction of the Saitek X7-38 to be of good quality.

The base is held on by four screws and lifts off to reveal a rather tightly packed little area. Sadly, perhaps because of space there are no weights in evidence here. The cord is held in place by the usual rubber stopper and nothing stands out as being chintzy.

The x and y axis controls appear to be maintained by slide potentiometers which are also connected directly to the trim controls. These are mounted quite firmly with 2 small screws each.

The yoke is held in position by looped wire springs which attach to the linkage which transfers the resistance to where the yoke is gimbaled from. This assembly is screwed down solidly and the parts are well lubricated. Wires descend from inside the yoke and spread out to their different terminations.

The main board is a simple affair. I did not note any microchips whatsoever. It is small and predominantly festooned with older-style resistors. Some of the wires leading into it are hot glued down in addition to being soldered. While some may look down their noses at such simple construction, to me it is tried, true, and tested technology. I did note that during construction a wire had been pinched under a mainboard mounting screw.

The throttle is attached to a round potentiometer. When freed from the housing there is no resistance. I was impressed by how tight the tolerance was in the casting which provided the throttle with its ‘tight feel’. It is lubricated lightly and is held in place snug as can be on a quad assembly of cast housing posts.

(*) Note: I DO NOT advise dissasembling this or any other product.

Tactile Comfort
Probably one of the most important measures of a joystick is how it feels. This unit has got it almost wrapped in that department. The molded grip is very nice and there is no pinching from the trigger thanks to the design of the grip. In short this is probably one of the nicest feeling joysticks that I have had the pleasure to fly in this price range.

I noted that the buttons were crisp and clean and there was no trigger creep detected. The top mounted buttons were not quite as perfect as the trigger, probably due to the fact that they are pretty large and not quite as precise as the smaller microswitches. This difference is barely perceptible.

I do have one caveat about the comfort of the X7-38 and that is that there is no ‘palm shelf’ to rest your flying hand on. I have become very used to these and in long flights they are, in my opinion, essential to ameliorate fatigue. I feel that this joystick could really use one of those rests.

One thing that I was VERY pleased with on the Saitek X7-38 was button placement. Folks, you just cant get much better than this. The large buttons were all easily reached and they actuated flawlessly.

I was struck more by where the buttons were not located. The buttons were not on any area of the stick where I needed to apply pressure to move it around. The buttons were not where I would accidentally activate them. The buttons were notlocated in such a way as to force me to move around other buttons to depress them. I am so tired of joysticks which make me fly while holding two or three fingers above the stick so that I don’t accidentally pickle off ammunition that I could just cry. Thankfully this stick suffers from no such problems. I can grab it and slam it around its entire area of movement and never have to worry about putting a sidewinder missile into a team-mate. I also don’t look like a little old lady sitting down to a cup of tea with two or three fingers raised delicately above buttons placed in stupid areas… I love it! Am I happily raving about this? Damn right I am!

Installation Experiences
Installation of the Saitek was a pleasure. It does not come with any software whatsoever so that potential problem is not a factor. Simply plug the cord into your computer’s joystick port, power the machine up, configure it in Win95 for ‘4 button flight yoke with throttle’, and you are done. Not brain surgery.

Opinion Of The Software
This item did not come with any software.

The Manual – Our Impressions
I must admit to a real personal bias here. I like manuals like the one that came with my Matrox Millenium video card. Give me a bound book and I will be happy. In my opinion the ‘manual’ for this item would be better described as a ‘leaflet’. It is a 4.25 by 7 inch two sided piece of white paper which describes the installation process. The directions are simple and easy to follow and they work. This ‘manual’ is functional and gives you all of the basics you need.

The print is very small and the product diagram in the manual is overshadowed by a far better version which is printed on the back of the packing box. I also noted that it called the stick an ‘AceMaster 16’. Curiously the term ‘AceMaster’ was not located anywhere on the box or the stick itself.

Playtesting
The best test of any joystick is how well it plays. In the case of the Saitek X7-38 I am happy to say that it comes through very well in this department.

I tested the X7-38 by playing demo versions of the following programs: Wing Commander, Jedi Knight II, and Terminal Velocity. (For first person shooters I actually prefer my Logitech Trackman Trackball, but many people like the feel of a joystick and the pistol grip.)

I found the X7-38 to be a very playable, and mostly comfortable, joystick. I was able to get on target easily and fire weapons or actuate other button controls with zero problems. The button placement made this thing a joy to fly and easy as anything to play. The large buttons were easily located without looking and they operated flawlessly.

The spring tension was almost exactly perfect for my style of play and this added to my personal approval of the X7-38. I also really was impressed with the throttle on this unit. It is tight and accurate and it has a feel that breeds confidence.

I did find that in play the lack of weight on the base, and my dubious success with the suction cups made for some problems that I had no easy solutions for. The base slid around the desktop far too easily and resulted in me having to use my off hand to hold it down. While this stabilized the base it also made it tough to use the keyboard to do other things. It was a pretty poor tradeoff. I also wish the Saitek weighed more.

For you lefties the Saitek is going to be a real plus. Unlike many joysticks on the market this one is almost the same for right and left handed individuals. The only thing that will present a challenge is the throttle.

Summation Comments
All in all, for the price, this is an excellent joystick. It suffers from two moderate flaws, that of a light base which results in sliding during rapid gameplay. It also really could use a palm rest. Even with those two exceptions, there are other very positive aspects that make this joystick a class act. Button placement is fantastic easily surpassing that of many much more pricey joysticks on the market. The throttle is solid and tight and it just plain feels good. Simply put I really like the Saitek X7-38.

I guess one of the more positive things that might be said of this unit is that I made the mistake of testing this unit in front of Wyndi, one of the other Gamestats staff members. I no longer have the option of keeping this one for myself as she edicted that this was to be her joystick. Wait a minute. Who is the senior editor here!?!

In closing, as with all of my reviews, keep in mind that this is a personal subjective opinion. Joysticks are a very individual choice and what I like you may find completely uncomfortable and vise versa. I encourage you to check out this item for yourself and make your own determination based on your own preferences.

System Requirements:

– PC
– IBM/PC/XT/286/386/486/586 and compatible
– Windows 95 or MS DOS 6.0
– Dual Port Game Card
– Sound Card with Game Port (if no Game Card)

How Saitek X7-38 Rates

Aesthetics: The Saitek X7-38 does not have the thrilling looks of other items in the Saitek line. It does not look bad per-se, but its unique looks are not awe inspiring. Rating — 6 out of 10

Comfort: Except in long flights, where a palm rest would have been nice, this is a very comfortable unit. Not having to hold your hand strangely to avoid touching poorly placed buttons is a huge bonus. Rating — 9

Ease Of Install: The install was very easy and there were no problems. It is covered in the ‘manual’ if you have questions. Rating — 10

Ease Of Uninstall: Unplug it. Done. Rating — 10

Included Setup Software: None Simply set it up in Windows 95. Rating — Not Applicable

Included Bundled Software: Sadly no bundled software came with this unit. Rating — Not Applicable

Manual: The manual is a small piece of paper. All you really need to know is covered but it could have been a lot classier. The rating reflects more the ease of following the directions which was great but I still wanted more including diagrams and some eye-candy. Rating — 7

Overall: Overall, in its class, the X7-38 is a great joystick in my opinion. It is comfortable and easy to use. Installation is a breeze. It could be better by adding some weight and a palm rest. Had those items been included this stick would have gotten very exceptional scores.Rating — 8.5

https://web.archive.org/web/19991104002653/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/saitekx738review.html

Saitek X36F Control Stick

Maker:Saitek
Type:Joystick
Warranty: Limited one year
Reviewed By: Justice T
Tested Product Made In: China

How people measure the best product in any field depends largely on individual tastes and needs. For those who are into the appearance the Saitek X36F will likely be the hands down choice. Those who are into software performance may opt for another product though.

Initial Impressions
My first impression of this joystick was markedly stratospheric exuberance. The Saitek X36F is easily the nicest looking joystick that this reviewer has ever seen. It simply looks more realistic and ‘meaner’ than anything else I have tested. Perhaps because of my initial impression I had very high hopes for this item. However, later I was to have some problems with the X36F that resulted in lowered scores than I would have expected.

Aesthetics
As is already more than apparent I absolutely loved the way the Saitek X36F looks. Of all the joysticks that I have ever seen which were produced for home use, this one has the market very outclassed. Off of a base, (which measures approximately 6.75 by 6.75 inches), soars a large and tough looking yoke. The yoke tops out about 10 inches over the tabletop.

The top of the stick itself looks like a mini control console. Festooned with 3 good looking buttons and a pair of eight position hat switches, the X36 is laid out in a very pleasing way. Sharing the top of the yoke is a red led marked ‘f.lock’ and a flip-switch ‘launch’ button that adds even more to the pleasing and ‘mean’ look. On the front of the handle there is a small red ‘c’ button.

To my eyes the X36F joystick looks like something of a mix between what you might find in a futuristic jet fighter and a controller you might find in in an inter-planetary attack spaceship. It has a four finger cover, making the general look sort of ‘D’ shaped. A large red trigger and ‘pinkie slide’ switch finish off this fine looking device.

The Saitek X36F just plain looks tough and in my opinion is an example to the rest of the industry of how to make a superb looking flight controller.

Internal Construction
The Saitek X36F is held together quite securely with four 1 inch hex screws and 4 smaller philips screws. The hex screws go into large plastic posts which utilize almost all the thread on the screw. This unit is NOT going to fall apart.

The weight in the base is provided by two metal bars which are secured to the bottom plate of the unit. Inside the base there is a small circuit board with the control wires soldered directly into it. The cord is held in place by the normal rubber stopper mechanism.

The tension on the yoke is provided by two relatively small springs which transfer the tension through what I will call a ‘pincer’ linkage. It’s an intriguing way to set up stick tension and I found it interesting. I was also surprised that such diminutive springs put so much tension on the stick.

Trim controls are linked directly to the same potentiometers that control the stick itself. These are fairly large units and look relatively rugged from the outside.

I was intrigued to find a fair amount of what looks like hot glue was used over some of the wires coming into the circuit board. I am guessing that this is to add a bit of extra strength in case of movement. It seemed unusual to me.

(*) Note: I DO NOT advise dissasembling this or any other product.

Tactile Comfort
Overall this is a fairly comfortable joystick. The buttons are all well within reach and there is the handy little shelf for your palm at the base. Long flights probably wont be terribly fatiguing to most users. The grip and buttons all make it pretty easy to find whatever you need without looking. It is also worth noting that this is one of the few high-end sticks I have seen that would be comfortable for left handed people.

There are two things on the downside in this category. First the lower three fingers are cramped. I don’t like having my pinkie extended and unless I rested my pinkie in the ‘pinkie slide switch’ the three fingers of my flying hand felt too cramped together.

Second, (in part because of the above), the trigger can provide a mild pinch to the top of the middle finger when it is depressed. A small lump on the stick might have prevented this as would have moving the pinkie slider someplace else or making it into another button. I don’t want to overstate this pinch, it is not bad and I can not imagine it causing even a minor break in the skin. It is just mildly annoying.

The trigger and all of the buttons produce a nice ‘click’ when depressed and there is only a miniscule amount of trigger creep on this unit, (you wont notice it unless you are LOOKING hard for it). There are no mushy feeling actuators except maybe for the pinky slider which does not give you a real good positive indication aurally when it has engaged. (It does however light the ‘f.lock’ led on the top of the stick… but you probably wont want to be looking there during gameplay.)

The tension of the yoke itself is pretty darn heavy. It is a little bit too heavy for my style of playing, but some people find this heavy tension a bonus. You can put a fair amount of force on the stick though – thanks to the large base.

The weight of the joystick is good, but as usual I wished for a bit more. The unit comes with suction cups if you want even more slide-resistance. The tradeoff is a small increase in overall height.

Installation Experiences
Installing the hardware is a easy enough. The manual gives good directions. Since this unit came with a throttle, (not part of this evaluation), there were a couple of extra steps. The manual gives clear directions as to how to set it all up and all connectors you will need for joystick functionality are included. Note however if you want to use the mouse function on the throttle you will need to get the connection cable for that.

This is a joystick that plugs into the keyboard connection as well as the gameport.

Opinion Of The Software
The software for this device comes on a 3.5 inch floppy disk not on a CD-ROM so if you are concerned about such things as system infection its a good idea to virus check the disk if the box has been previously opened. The installation of the software was easy and uneventful.

Once the software is installed and you have set the stick up in windows, it is time to load the joystick. Loading a preconfigured instruction set is pretty simple and the manual describes it pretty well. However programming is not nearly as intuitive. While programming is not ‘hard’ its not perfectly simple either. The manual is only somewhat helpful here and it is my personal opinion that this whole process could have been made much more easy and intuitive for the user.

We have now come to my biggest problem with the software and the reason that this review did not start out with the words, “I think I have finally found a new joystick.”

For reasons that I have not been able to determine, (be it my own ineptness or some bizarre little bug or incompatibility), I was not always able to get preprogrammed keys to work as expected in a consistent fashion. I spent quite a while setting up, and resetting up a profile for myself to play Wing Commander Prophecy and trying to track down why things did not function as expected. I never did figure out what was wrong.

The problem itself would best be described by saying that I could not always get consistent results from programmed buttons. Sometimes I would start the program and the buttons that I programmed would work fine. Other times one or several buttons simply would not respond at all. Still other times some program buttons would work while others did not.

To be very open I have no clue as to why this occurred so it might not be fair to blame the software or the joystick, but these are my results.

Uninstalling the software is a hassle. The program did not set up an uninstall wizard or icon and I had to manually go through my hard drive to find its various files. This is a real pain and could probably have been easily overcome had there been an uninstall utility included.

The Manual – Our Impressions
The X36F manual is a step in the right direction compared to some of the other manuals that I have seen for the Gamestats Joystick Extravaganza. It is 32 pages long and about 1.5 times the size of a CD case. It is all in English and contains very little ‘junk’ information. There are places where it wasn’t fully clear but this is better than what we saw from time to time where there was a total lack of information on a necessary subject. In addition the joystick came with 3 other ancillary documents that gave some additional information on setup and installation.

While the manual is not ‘exciting’ looking or printed in an expensive way, it gave a lot more information than some of the others did. It could still be a bit better in places, but as stated above it was better than most.

Playtesting
Playing this joystick is an experience with good sides and bad ones. As I have already alluded to, the program control button problems were a real detriment to my enjoyment of this flight stick. The failure to carry out my commands each time, combined with the fact that it was an intermittent problem was very aggravating and finally I gave up on this more esoteric side of the experience and decided to fly the stick ‘plain’.

Once I ditched the hope of using the programmed buttons, this stick was a good one to play. Its spring tension is much higher than I prefer, but the X36F still flies very well. I found the buttons all actuated very nicely and the general response to be good. I found the button placement very easy to get used to. If I was being picky I’d probably have moved hat switch number 1 to the right and dropped the buttons down. I had no problems actuating buttons when I wanted to. The only time I ever actuated a control inadvertently was on a few occasions when I hit the hat switch while trying to reach around it for one of the yellow firing buttons.

Summation Comments
The Saitek X36F is the most beautiful flightstick that I have personally seen on the market. Unfortunately it presented me with several bugs in the programming buttons and I never did determine what caused this. I really wanted to give a glowing recommendation to this unit since it looks exceptional and is well constructed, but It just let me down in a couple of key areas.

In closing, as with all of my reviews, keep in mind that this is a personal subjective opinion. Joysticks are a very individual choice and what I like you may find completely uncomfortable and vise versa. I encourage you to check out this item yourself and make your own determination based on your own preferences.

System Requirements:

– PC
– 486-66 or better processor
– Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 operating system
– A working dual game port, most sound card game ports are satisfactory
– A keyboard with a 5-pin DIN connector, if you have the PS/2 6-pin mini-DIN connector, use PS/2 adapters
– 3.5″ drive
– Optional – serial mouse port
– The X36 can be used in DOS, but the software requires Windows

How Saitek X36F Control Stick Rates

Aesthetics: Easily the best looking joystick I have seen to this point. It looks rugged and futuristic. I’ll let the score speak for itself here. Nuff said. Rating — 10 of 10

Comfort: With the exception of minor pinching of the middle finger when the trigger is pulled and a cramped space if you refuse to put your pinkie in the slide switch, this is a comfortable joystick All buttons are easily reached and there is a handy palm rest. People who like a heavy spring tension will like this stick. Rating — 8.5

Ease Of Install: Hardware installation is pretty easy and is well documented if you do run into any problems. Rating — 8.5

Ease Of Uninstall: Uninstalling the hardware is a no brainer. Rating — 9.5

Included Setup Software: I had no problems installing the software, but I was very disappointed with the programming of buttons. Sometimes they worked sometimes not. The interface to program them could have been much more intuitive in my opinion and uninstall was a chore since there is no uninstall program included Rating — 3

Included Bundled Software: Sadly No bundled software was included Rating — Not Applicable

Manual: The manual was more detailed than I expected but had a few unclear parts. It is a reasonable size and explains hardware setup well. Rating — 7

Overall: I very much wanted to like, no, to love – this flightstick. Unfortunately the software problems and an interface that was, (in my opinion), less than perfect slammed what would have been a glowing review. The joystick is the best looking one that I have ever tested and the buttons are almost all well placed. At this stage in the game I believe a digital model with a total revamp of the software would make for an absolutely outstanding product. There’s a lot to like about the X36F and I am actually kind of sad to drop the rating so low.Rating — 6

https://web.archive.org/web/19991103232857/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/saitekx36flightcs.html

Thrustmaster TOPGUN Joystick

Maker: Thrustmaster, Inc.
Type: Joystick
Price: $49.95
Warranty: One Year
Reviewed By: Justice T
Tested Product Made In: China

I really love it when I see people take pride in their work. I also love to see products that are built to last. Thrustmaster appears to have fulfilled both of the above with the TopGun joystick.

Initial Impressions
My initial impressions of the Thrustmaster were mostly positive. It comes packed in a very attractive box with a background of an American flag and the attractive TopGun logo printed on in silver. The joystick comes packed with a manual, a registration card, and a mini Thrustmaster catalog. The stick itself struck me right off as being very realistic looking and attractive jutting up from its simple base. The only thing I had any reservations about initially was the fairly heavy yoke tension.

Aesthetics
This is a very good looking joystick. The term ‘realistic’ seemed to come to mind almost immediately when I was looking for descriptions. This is a very military looking yoke. It also looks just plain solid.

The unit stands about 8.5 inches tall and sits on a thick 6 by 6 inch square base. It is all black except for the four buttons and a somewhat gaudy metallic label which has the TopGun and Paramount/Viacom logo and other stuff printed on it. (Thankfully it looks easy to peel off.) There is a 4 position hat switch at the top and there are some nice checkered neoprene inserts molded into the handle.

The unit looks oddly complex and yet simple at the same time.

Internal Construction
I pulled this joystick apart all the way and at every turn I was very pleasantly surprised. This one is built to last. Most internal parts are made of heavy gauge plastic or nylon. When I say heavy gauge mean its HEAVY. Everything is mounted very solidly as well. There are no buttons that I would have any fear of overstressing by putting lots of pressure on them during the most heated of games. Also the stick itself and all of the linkage is very solidly put in place. The casting inside shows thought toward ruggedness and the mount points appear thick and solid. I honestly believe that I could abuse this item and it would still work without problems.

The switches all appear to be high quality micro-switches. They are also set very tightly into the casting of the handle. In some cases they are screwed in directly. The solder connections all looked good and the potentiometers were unremarkable.

The yoke is held in place via the ‘pincer’ method. This allows some relatively small springs to produce a large amount of tension on the yoke.

The weight in the base is provided by two plastic wrapped steel bars secured in the housing. My personal preference would have been to have the bars a bit heavier but this isn’t really a detraction so much as a preference. The joystick was certainly solid during gameplay and slipped very little.

I must admit to a bit of personal bias here. I wear boots not because it was a fad a few years ago but because I can wear tennis shoes out in a couple of months. Jeans last me far less time than they do most people. In short I abuse things therefore I appreciate it when something is overbuilt. I was very pleased to see the quality construction in this item.

(*) Note: I DO NOT advise dissasembling this or any other product.

Tactile Comfort
Overall this joystick is a marginally comfortable joystick. Its my opinion however that the placement of the pinkie button, the heavy spring tension, and the palm shelf were less than ideal.

The joystick’s overall feel conveyed the sense of solid control very well. It has a lot of angles and places that give tactile feedback. All through these reviews I have been wishing for grip checkering on the joystick yokes. It was as if Thrustmaster had read my mind. There are a pair of checkered neoprene grips on the sides. These provide very definite and comfortable tactile feedback. In short you know where your hand is at all times.

I did find a couple of things a bit annoying about the TopGun joystick. The first was the placement of the pinkie button. It was situated so that there was no way for me to not hit it inadvertently. If a person has large hands, or has a style of play which makes use of a full grip on the joystick, then this button will likely be a problem.

The other problem was that I found the palm rest at the base of the stick to be too short. This made it uncomfortable for me. I would much rather the rest had been extended back a bit further.

The above complaints, combined with the heavy spring tension, detracted quite a bit from the overall comfort level.

Installation Experiences
The installation of the hardware is a snap and Windows 95 directly supports this joystick. There is no software to install.

Opinion Of The Software
No software comes with this unit.

The Manual – Our Impressions
The manual is a 43 page document printed in numerous languages. Only nine of those pages are printed in English. Those nine pages make up a good manual for this joystick as there is no software to set up and the hardware is very simple. It includes good diagrams and a small troubleshooting section.

Playtesting
In actual gameplay the TopGun is a really good stick. I found it very confidence inspiring there was never a time where I was unsure of where my hand was or had to look at the joystick for many reason.The ‘heft’ of the stick is so solid that I did not think twice about ‘being careful’ not to hurt it. Slamming it left and right during nasty maneuvers never caused me any consternation or concern for the equipment. I also found that I never once had to consciously readjust my hand position. The grips are so well detailed that it is just never an issue. If I did adjust my hand from time to time it was an unconscious action.

The button controls on this joystick are crisp and produce a nice tactile and aural feedback. I never had a failure to fire.

One complaint that I have with this joystick is the placement of the pinkie button. This thing is so in the way that it caused me no end of annoyance. I pickled off ordinance all to often because of its placement. This was my only major complaint with the TopGun joystick.

I did find that in long play the combination of the short palm rest, the heavy spring tension and having to hold my pinkie up like an old lady drinking tea made me a bit more fatigued than I would have liked.

Summation Comments
In summation this is a superb stick if you want a joystick with a military look and don’t mind heavy stick tension. If you are looking for an item that’s going to last I would put my bet on this one or its big brother the X-Fighter.

My only real caveats are the heavy spring tension and the placement of the pinkie button. If you have big hands that button may cause you problems as it did me.

In closing, as with all of my reviews, keep in mind that this is a personal subjective opinion. Joysticks are a very individual choice and what I like you may find completely uncomfortable and vise versa. I encourage you to check out the item yourself and make your own determination based on your own preferences.

System Requirements:

– IBM PC or Compatible
– DOS, Windows 3.1, or Windows 95
– Game Port(ThrustMaters ACM Game Card Recommended)

How The TOPGUN Joystick Rates

Aesthetics: If you like a military look there are few joysticks that are going to top this one. I personally liked the overall looks a lot. The decal on the base did not excite me. Rating — 9 out of 10

Comfort: Generally this is a comfortable stick however the spring tension is too high for my style of play. The pinkie button also caused me to pickle off ammunition too frequently. Rating — 8

Ease Of Install: Plug it in power it up. Rating — 10

Ease Of Uninstall: Unplug it power up. Not much simpler is possible. Rating — 10

Included Setup Software: None Included Rating — Not Applicable

Included Bundled Software: Sadly there was no bundled software included. Rating — Not Applicable

Manual: For such a simple stick the 9 pages were acceptable. there were good drawings and a nice troubleshooting section. Rating — 8

Overall: This is a really good joystick. It is solid and I was impressed that it was EXTREMELY well built. (overbuilt perhaps) I did find the spring tension to be heavy and I really got annoyed at the pinkie button and that’s reflected in the score. Rating — 8

https://web.archive.org/web/19991104022442/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/thrustmastertopgunreview.html

Thrustmaster X-Fighter Joystick

Maker: Thrustmaster, Inc.
Type: Joystick
Price: $59.95
Warranty: One Year
Reviewed By: Justice T

Ever wanted to own a tank? You know, something big, a bit bulky, but of awe inspiring strength? Me too. Of course you might loose a little finesse in the corners but at least its indestructible. When I tested the Thrustmaster X-Fighter I was continually reminded of its tank-like qualities.

Initial Impressions
My initial impressions of the Thrustmaster were pretty darn positive. It comes packed in an attractive box with a background consisting of a picture of a large orange explosion. A clear plastic window allows you to to look inside to see a simply huge joystick. the joystick comes packed with a manual, a registration card, and a mini Thrustmaster catalog. The stick itself struck me right off as being very realistic looking. The only thing I had any reservations about initially was the very heavy yoke tension.

Aesthetics
This is a very good looking joystick. I think the best one-word way to describe the overall look of the yoke itself is ‘military’. I have seen joysticks that look sort of sci-fi, some that look like they are made to fit into a modern art studio, and some that look like they would be at home on a child’s toy. The X-Fighter looks like it was popped right out of a real combat aircraft.

Overall the joystick stands about 10 inches tall and sits on a large thick 7.75 x 7.75 square base. The unit is all black except for the four red buttons and a somewhat tacky looking metallic label which has the Thrustmaster X-Fighter logo printed on it. There is a 4 position hat switch at the top-rear of the yoke and there are some very nice checkered neoprene inserts molded into the sides of the handle.

The base itself is not terribly inspiring for looks. I was not impressed by the double square box effect or the diamond design on the top square. In my opinion less would have been more here. In addition the X-Fighter sticker on the base looks tacky and in my opinion it makes a professional looking item look a little amateurish. Thankfully it appears that it can easily be peeled off and some rubbing alcohol will probably take care of the adhesive residue.

The X-Fighter’s yoke however is a completely different story. Unlike the base, nothing about the handle looks less than absolutely fantastic. Put simply, this thing looks like it is made for ‘real business’. It is thick and heavy looking and it has the look of a an item that you could rely on for your next trip to the Middle East or the Korean peninsula.

Internal Construction
I pulled the X-Fighter apart all the way and at every turn I was very pleasantly surprised. This joystick sure seems built to last. Most internal parts are made of heavy gauge plastic or nylon. When I say heavy gauge, I mean it is HEAVY. The castings inside and out show thought toward ruggedness, and all of the mount points appear thick and solid. I honestly believe that I could abuse this item and it would still work without problems. Everything is mounted very solidly.

There are no buttons that I would have any fear of overstressing by putting lots of pressure on them during the most heated of games. The switches all appear to be high quality micro-switches. They are also set very tightly into the casting of the handle. In some cases they are screwed in directly. The solder connections all looked good.

The bottom is a metal plate which is held in place by four screws. It adds the weight of the joystick’s base. As usual, I’d like to see even more weight, but it isn’t lacking badly in this area. The unit was certainly solid during gameplay and slipped very little.

The stick itself and all of the linkage is very solidly put mounted. The yoke is held in position via the ‘pincer’ method. This allows some relatively small springs to produce a large amount of tension on the yoke. These springs provide a LOT of tension. The yoke’s energy is transferred through some heavy geared linkage to the potentiometers that send impulses back to the gamecard in your system.

I must admit to a bit of personal bias here. I like high quality items which are built to last. I appreciate it even more when something is overbuilt. I was very pleased to see the quality construction in this item. How would I have done it better? Frankly I cant think of a thing… maybe make it out of solid steel?

(*) Note: I DO NOT advise disassembling this or any other product.

Tactile Comfort
Overall the X-Fighter joystick is a comfortable item but it is not the very best I have felt. The one area that I believe could use some improvement was this stick’s heavy yoke tension. Button placement is great, the palm shelf wonderful, the looks outstanding, but the springs in my test unit were just plain overbearing. It took a lot of getting used to. Having to push and pull with such force to get the stick to move where I wanted it to be was a chore. It can in fact be gotten used to, but I really would have liked to have some selectivity on the tension.

The joystick’s overall feel conveyed the sense of solid control very well. It has a lot of angles and places that give good tactile feedback. All through these reviews I have been wishing for grip checkering on the joystick yokes. It was as if Thrustmaster had read my mind. There are a pair of checkered neoprene grips on the sides. These provide very definite and comfortable tactile feedback. In short you know where your hand is at all times.

Installation Experiences
The installation of the hardware is a snap and Windows 95 directly supports this joystick. Simply snap the 15 pin connector into your gameport, tighten down the two screws, power on the PC, set up Win95 and you’re off.

Opinion Of The Software
No software comes with this unit so there is no separate software to install or rate.

The Manual – Our Impressions
The manual is a 43 page document printed in numerous languages. Only nine of those pages are printed in English. Those nine pages make up a good manual for this joystick as there is no software to set up and the hardware is very simple. The manual includes good diagrams and a small troubleshooting section.

Playtesting
In actual gameplay the X-Fighter is a really good stick. I found it very confidence inspiring and just fun to play. There was never a time where I was unsure of where my hand was or had to look at the joystick to determine where some control was. The ‘heft’ of the stick is so solid that I did not think twice about ‘being careful’ not to hurt it. Slamming it left and right during nasty maneuvers never caused me any consternation or concern for the equipment. I also found that I never once had to consciously readjust my hand position. The grips are so well detailed that it is just never an issue. If I did adjust my hand it was an unconscious action.

The button controls on this joystick are crisp and produce a nice tactile and aural feedback. I never had a failure to fire. The button, trigger, and hat controls are well placed, and you can put your hand on the stick in such a way that there is no need to rest your fingers on a button. That’s a very positive benefit in my opinion.

The downside of this joystick was that in actual play I found myself getting tired more quickly because of the constant challenge of pulling on the heavy yoke. I must admit to playing some pretty fast moving games so this wont be a problem in some of the more sedate simulations. Having said that however, I am satisfied with all of the other aspects of this unit.

Summation Comments
In summation this is a superb stick if you want a joystick with a military look and don’t mind very heavy stick tension. If you are looking for an item that’s going to last I would put my bet on this one or its little brother the TopGun.

If you have particularly small hands you may not like the X-Fighter as it has a simply enormous grip especially down where it flares at the base of the yoke. If this is not an issue then it is my opinion that you should take a very close look at the X-Fighter when you next go shopping for joysticks.

In closing, as with all of my reviews, keep in mind that this is a personal subjective opinion. Joysticks are a very individual choice and what I like you may find completely uncomfortable and vise versa. I encourage you to check out the item yourself and make your own determination based on your own preferences.

System Requirements:

– IBM PC or Compatible
– DOS, Windows 3.1, or Windows 95
– Game Port(Thrustmaster’s ACM Game Card Recommended)

 

How X-Fighter Rates

Aesthetics: With the exception of the base, this is a very fine looking joystick. The yoke itself is very military looking and the whole thing gives the impression of solidness. Rating — 9

Comfort: This joystick is very comfortable with the sole exception of the heavy spring tension. There are no buttons in the way. If you have small hands you might find this one a bit too big. Rating — 8.5

Ease Of Install: Plug in. Power up. If you couldn’t do that you wouldn’t be reading this. Rating — 10

Ease Of Uninstall: As easy as install only in reverse. Rating — 10

Included Setup Software: None Included. Windows 95 supports this stick directly. Rating — Not Applicable

Included Bundled Software: Sadly No Software came with this joystick. Rating — Not Applicable

Manual: For such a simple stick the 9 pages were acceptable. There were good drawings and a nice troubleshooting section. Rating — 8

Overall: This is a really good joystick. It is solid and I was impressed that it was EXTREMELY well built. (overbuilt perhaps) I did find the spring tension to be way too heavy but that was about it. Rating — 9

https://web.archive.org/web/19991104034529/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/thrustmasterxfighterreview.html

In Closing

The GameStats staff had a great time doing these reviews and though they were a tremendous amount of work, we would do it all over again.

We want to thank the wonderful people at Thrustmaster, Microsoft, Logitech, Saitek, CH Products, and Gravis for their help with these reviews, and most especially for taking the time to review our articles for factual or technical errors just before we went to press. We also thank them for the use of their own professional product photography which appears at the bottom of most of the reviews.

We hope you enjoy the Gamestats Joystick Extravaganza and find some useful and educational information in these ten documents. Please let us know what you think. We do this for you and we would love to have your feedback… You can mailrectitude@gamestats.com any comments and he will pass them on to the people responsible for the item in question. We welcome any question or comment positive or negative.

Also, please feel free visit the pages of the companies shown on the left. The names are all actually active buttons which will take you straight to their websites. We did not of course review all of their products and there are many more you can look up. Some of these sites even have sections that link reviews from other Gaming websites for your convenience and comparison. We encourage you to compare our results and the results of other reviewers. We also encourage you to check these products out yourself and make your own evaluations.

This closes the official portion of the Gamestats Joystick Extravaganza. Thank you very much for taking the time to stop by and we hope you enjoyed it.

The last page is just an exercise in silliness and is not actually part of this special but we include it for your amusement.

So just what would make a perfect joystick?

https://web.archive.org/web/19991021233351/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/joyofjoys4.html

The Perfect Joystick
A Personal Opinion By Justice T

This is not an official part of the GameStats Joystick Extravaganza. It is an exercise in silliness brought on by having done one too many reviews and a sense of elation and silliness as I finally complete this feature.

After reviewing all of these joysticks in a breadth and depth that even I did not expect that I would attempt, I was asked which joystick was the very best. In keeping with my promise of non-comparative reviews I refuse to say which one will grace my desk. However I think if I could assemble a super-joystick, taking parts only from the joysticks I have formally reviewed here it would look something like this:

The ultimate joystick would have the drop dead good looks of theSaitek X36 with all of its buttons and cool add-ons. It would have the ease of programming of the Microsoft Sidewinder and the solid construction of the Thrustmaster TopGun. It would have the superb buttons of the Gravis Blackhawk, the cord and connector of the CH Products Gamestick 14, and the throttle of the Saitek X7-38. In addition the ultimate joystick would have the balance of theLogitech WingMan Extreme Digital, the weight of the Microsoft Force Feedback Pro, and the superb feel and neoprene handle inserts of the Thrustmaster X-Fighter.

Now that would be a flightstick!

Take care!
JT!

https://web.archive.org/web/19991022011315/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/joyofjoys5.html

Who is JusticeT of GameStats?

Greetings and Welcome!


Hi There !!
I am Justice T, the Director of Operations / Editor In Chief of GameStats. Since you are here it would seem you either want to learn a bit about me or send me some e-mail. If you want to learn a bit read on, if you want to email me hit the graphic on the right.

I was hired by Imperious Rex in late 1997 to relieve him of some of the day to day duties associated with the Gamestats Web Site. In the last 18 months my duties and responsibilities have expanded exponentially. I continue to bring to Gamestats a high level of interest and dedication having known, and been friends with, Imperious Rex for several years.

I have been online for well over a decade and have managed several different websites. I am also active on IRC, ICQ and Usenet, (but usually under other pen names).

My primary duties at GameStats have evolved from simply doing the daily research on PC gaming news to being responsible, (along with Imperious Rex), for the day to day functioning of this site, managing the site personnel, making policies, managing content, interacting with PR folks and the community, and just generally trying to make GameStats the best damn gaming site on the internet. I am also in charge of hiring new staff members and developing future plans and pages for the site. I do this under the direct guidance and supervision of Imperious Rex who is in charge of and responsible for all legal and business issues as well as affiliate issues.


I have also recently been charged with managing most of the GameStats contacts with developers, publishers, and press/public relations people who are interested in either exposure on GameStats or in having their products reviewed or previewed. I also regularly set up numerous contests and special features, facilitate beta tests, and assign previews and reviews to our staff. I guess you could say I generally act as a funnel/dispersion point for both products and information related to any site activities, outside news, or contacts. This is probably the most interesting and most challenging part of my work. Oh and I even allow myself the opportunity to personally write reviews now and again.

I am proud of the fact that I answer every piece of email I receive. I like to be in close touch with my readers as well as with the rest of the gaming community and I take every note seriously enough to respond to. It is my considered opinion that if someone thinks enough to write to us, then if for no other reason than common courtesy they deserve some form of response. I am told this is not the norm. Oh well… I think its worth the effort.

I am constantly looking for new sources of quality information about PC gaming. I solicit your contributions and news tips. If I use your information I will publicly credit you as my source. (Unless you prefer it otherwise.) I believe in my readers and I think you guys can offer a great deal of insight and superb news tips for which I am grateful.

My daily research includes searching numerous sources on the net, press releases, email, and other sources for the most up to date computer gaming news available so as to bring you the very best daily game e-zine on the web.

If you are part of a company that develops or distributes games, I give you permission to put me on your mailinglists for press releases and news. As a courtesy, I would appreciate it if you would advise me if you put me on such a list.

On an occasional basis I personally review and preview products, both software and hardware. I publish the results of previews and reviews in an opinion article, column, or story. When I accept products for review it is with the express and implied understanding that the people asking for
review have agreed to the standard set of GameStats
Conditions For Product Review and Preview.

If you agree to all of the terms and conditions above you may contact me if you are interested in a product review and I will email you shipping information.I heartily solicit feedback from my readers. Whether you have something positive to say, or something to criticize, I promise to consider your opinions and get back to you. You are the reason that we produce this website and we encourage your opinions. Send your thoughts, tips, news, complaints,or compliments to me at: rectitude@gamestats.com.

I regularly get asked by developers, publishers and PR types what makes a good review package. I am always happy to answer specific questions or even have a dialogue about this. However you are welcome to take a look at a couple of articles I have written on this subject. What Makes a good review pack?

Another thing that I am really big on is good customer service. Here is a little thing I wrote for the main page one day about this. Customer Service as it should be.

If you are part of a company that produces games, hardware, or anything related to this field, please email me and allow me to introduce myself. Maybe we can help each other out.

Thanks for stopping by!
JT!

https://web.archive.org/web/19991102235849/http://www.gamestats.com:80/~rectitude/justicet.html

GameStats in the Press

https://web.archive.org/web/19990225104740/http://www.gamestats.com:80/specials/ourpress/ourpress.html

BGS Laboratories Intensor Gaming Chair

https://web.archive.org/web/19991012164045/http://www.gamestats.com:80/reviews/hardware/intensorchair/intensorassembly.html

Cybertronics’ VR Pro (Model 9500)

They’re an inseparable part of the joy of gaming, and the
VR Pro joystick takes it one step further.

By L Goad

Describing the functionality of Cybertronics’ VR Pro (Model 9500) game controller might make the average Midwestern housewife blush. The driver-free phallic-shaped joystick sports an ergonomically designed grip for righties and lefties; on its “head” sits a multi-function hatswitch, sensitivity adjust buttons and a LED indicator, along with a precision throttle and strafe buttons. For the average perverted thinker, the VR Pro has the makings for the handjob of a lifetime.

But the part of this joystick that no man can possess is that it’s detachable. That’s right, you’re no longer bound to an uncomfortable computer chair as you game for hours on end. With VR Pro, you can play from the comfort of your bed or pretty much anywhere within five to 10 feet from the computer—on andoff the thick rubber base.

The air stick debuted at E3, and has since paired up with LucasArts for a gaming happy meal, consisting of the stick, Rogue Squadron and Jedi Knight II. It also comes in a black and red nylon case, so you can carry it with you at all times—you know what they say, it’s always good to be prepared.

The “air” element strikes chords in the hearts of serious gamers, but the question remains, do peripherals that perform without their chords allow for precision gameplay? We had a panel of GameGal editors try it out on four games, first with Sierra’s Viper Racing, then with Star Wars Episode I Racer, Rogue Squadron and Sega’s House of the Dead. Here’s what we discovered:

Viper Racing
There’s not much to say for Viper Racing as a game; though it provided the perfect intro to what this stick could do.
The airstick stayed on its base for the first lap. At that point, it seemed like an average joystick experience, with precision racing, turning and crashing, too. The game responded well to the joystick, but the testers didn’t. Two of us experienced cramped pinkies as we tried to reach the buttons on the stick’s “head.” This thing may be southpaw friendly, but it’s definitely not made for small-handed folk. We resorted to using two hands, one to steer and the other to shift gears and brake, which was OK while the stick was on it’s base, but posed problems when playing in mid-air.

We took the next lap sans base and immediately noticed a large difference in gameplay. The car was harder to drive–despite adjustments the sensitivity buttons. On the third lap, steering became easier, but almost everyone agreed—for car racing games, better to remove the air and stick with a regular joystick.

Rogue Squadron
Rogue Squadron still stands as our favorite flight/arcade game–c’mon anything involving Star Wars is a winner in our book. With the stick on the base, we had no problems knocking off At-Ats, Stormtroopers, Imperial Fighters and the like. But the air mode made the playing even better. Though, again, the buttons were hard to reach, the airborne driving freedom, allowed us to make sharper turns to knock off circling enemies. We playedRogue for quite a while, and out of all the games we tried, the joystick worked best with this. Cybertronics made an excellent choice to offer this game with the joystick.

Star Wars Episode I: Racer
Using the joystick with Racer offered a similar performance to Rogue Squadron. In fact, the stick offered such speed that we blew away everyone. Taking the joystick off its base still allowed for precise steering, and was the perfect pal when it came to careening through canyons. Sebulba didn’t have a chance. After a few rounds with the stick off the base, though, we were glad there was a base to set the joystick on. In fact, we liked the ability to use the VR Pro as a regular joystick and alternately take it off the base, for added maneuverability. It definitely added a new dimension to our gameplaying–not to mention giving us a virtual reality tour of what it’s like to actually drive a pod racer.

House of the Dead
To be blunt–this joystick ain’t good for shooters. Computer gamers will have a better time with the tried-and-true mouse and keyboard method, or one of those fancy PC guns. With the joystick, we were lucky to shoot our way past the hillbilly, barrel-throwing zombies and were certainly no match for the walking dead with kung-fu capabilities. And in the air? Let’s just say we shot every innocent in sight. The airstick is fun, just not when there’s shooting to be done.

The VR Pro 9500’s air functionality worked well for Rogue, but for the three other games, the freestyle joysticking served more as a novelty than a practical tool. We wanted to give the VR Pro our official GameGalseal of approval, but after testing it with all of the games, two of us felt like we might need to spring for hand surgery. It follows the high-heeled shoe concept, they may look yummy, but if they don’t feel good, leave them for the fashionistas (a.k.a. fashion whores). While this free-form joystick is high concept,–and comes with a fab carrying case–the VR Pro earns only two out of four possible GameGals.

https://web.archive.org/web/20000124130639/http://www.gamegal.com:80/feat7.htm

BONUS: Joystick Nation, by David Kushner
The Village Voice, March 23, 1999

The buzz around vibrators is reaching a fever pitch these days. In Alabama, six women recently challenged a law passed in November that bans the sale or distribution of sexual devices. (The ACLU is fighting the Alabama decree.) Dong dealers face up to $10,000 in fines and a year of prison or hard labor; in jail, they presumably take your batteries along with your shoelaces.

It’s rather poetic in a McLuhan sort of way; this new technology (the Internet) is rescuing the old technology (vibrators). And as author Rachel Maines reports in her historical tome, The Technology of Orgasm, published in January, vibrators are way old indeed. The first model came out in the late 1880s, shortly after the iron and the sewing machine, and was marketed as a therapeutic home appliance. “Vibrators were contemporaneous with the toaster,” Maines says, adding that “a woman cannot live by toast alone.”

Electromechanical massagers have come a long way since turn-of-the-century physicians used penal-looking contraptions to treat women for so-called hysteria. Today in Japan, the mecca of masturbation tools, there’s no shortage of inspiration for new and unique designs. It seems every time these manufacturers see something, they think, “Hmm, wonder if we can rub that against a clitoris and make
it vibrate?”

Vibrators come in the shape of cultural icons: Santa Claus, Satan. There are vibrating eggs, vibrating balls. Most recently, there has been a Noah’s ark of vibrating animals: butterflies, rabbits, and the conveniently shaped dolphins. Understandably, no rhinos.

But like any effective rocket, a vibrator is only as good as its engine. Because the shafts are seldom larger than life, however, there’s little room to play with. For this reason, most battery-operated devices contain an ingenious bit of technology that’s equal parts Radio Shack and Barbarella: a thumb-sized oscillating motor.

These tiny engines are not easy to examine, since they’re usually encased in hard plastic. I had to run over the Smoothie— an ultra-smooth multi-speed stimulator— five times in my car just to crack it open. Inside the tip, I found the guts of many high school science projects: a spool of thin copper wire surrounding a tiny metal rod. At the tip of the rod is a small, off-balance weight. The battery’s current causes the rod to spin the weight, which oscillates and buzzes and vibrates. Bliss is centripetal motion.

One of the most popular innovations since the introduction of battery-operated vibrators has been the Rabbit Pearl. Made of translucent pink vinyl, the Pearl has a “tickler” in addition to a shaft. Each has its own motor, with the one in the shaft customized to rotate as well as shimmy.

When the Rabbit Pearl was featured on a recent episode of HBO’s Sex and the City, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, the Pleasure Chest in the West Village was inundated with requests. The same phenomenon happened, says owner Brian Robinson, after Howard Stern featured a new remote-control­operated vibrating panty on his show.

Whether a vibrator uses a sleek Mubuchi or the latest in waterproof microchips is irrelevant to customers, Robinson says. “People aren’t coming in and saying, ‘I want something that moves’; they say, ‘Oh my God, what would that feel like?’ ” It’s this passion that might be driving sales of the Auto Arouser, a device that plugs into a car lighter.

But one classic vibrator has outlasted all the innovations. The Hitachi Magic Wand Household Electric Massager, one of the bestselling items out there, actually harks back to the first era of inconspicuous home appliances. For true connoisseurs, the electrical option is a no-brainer. Compared to battery-operated devices, says Maines, electricity delivers “all the power of Niagara Falls.”

And, yes, the river runs through Alabama. Despite the cock-a-doodle crackdown, so-called appliances like the Magic Wand are readily available in the state. “Clearly [the Wand] is a straightforward product,” says Gerry Corbett, Hitachi’s head of corporate communications. “There are no implications of anything beyond standard health care use.” But of course.

https://www.villagevoice.com/1999/03/23/joystick-nation/

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One thought on “GameStats Joystick Extravaganza

  1. Pingback: PC Zone 59, January 1998: Quake II Review, by David McCandless – Donde Quake 2

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