For the price of a PlayStation 3, Saitek's new X-65F Flight Control System for the PC had damn well better be the best video game peripheral ever made.
The X-65F is a fully-featured "flight control system", meaning the pack includes a joystick, throttle control and auxiliary instrument panel. Designed to work with every flight sim (or, because it's customisable, I'd guess any other game) ever made and covered in what seems like thousands of buttons, they are heavy, expensive, and definitely only for the hardcore flight sim enthusiast. The main draw, though, is the fact the joystick is "touch sensitive", in that it doesn't actually move, and instead registers the direction and amount of force applied then translates that into in-game action.
For such a complex piece of kit, using the X-65F is actually quite easy. All you do is install some custom software and drivers from an included CD, plug it into a single USB port (the three components thankfully "combine" their leads) and it's ready to use.
The software lets you customise the button layouts for particular games, meaning you can create a setup for X-Wing, save it to a profile, then change everything for an IL-2 game.
Almost everything. Both controllers are solid, sturdy and very comfortable to use, and the buttons — the main trigger especially — are nice and responsive. I've never flown an F-22, but if I had, I bet this is exactly what the stick feels like. The custom profile software makes switching between different flight sims (and keeping separate, complex control schemes) a breeze. Improving on Crecente's complaints from last month, it also ships with strong velcro strips that stick the controllers to your desk. Most important, though, and also most impressive, is how the touch-sensitive controls work. While strange at first, they soon become second-nature, and allow for a much finer and precise means of control than a "regular" joystick.
Regardless of how nice and impressive the X-65F is, $400 is a ridiculous price for a peripheral.
The X-65F is, quiet simply, the best video game peripheral I've ever had the pleasure of using, especially in terms of build quality. It's just a shame, then, that at $400 (and pitched at such a niche genre) it's a pleasure few others will ever get to share.
The Saitek X-65F Flight Control System is designed for the PC. Available now for $400. A unit was sent to us by the manufacturer for reviewing purposes. Tested the stick on numerous flight (and space combat) sims.