January 15, 2010

X-65F Pro Flight HOTAS

by Stephanie *Panther* Lessentine


SaitekAfter a long great night of online gaming and drinking I woke up knowing it was time to stop being lazy and head off to my most dreaded spot in Las Vegas — The Strip. This past week, it was host to the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, better known as the CES. CES brings in thousands of exhibitors debuting their hot gadgets and latest technology. Along with the exhibitors, thousands in media personnel are also on hand looking to review the samples of new technology. So with the exhibitors, media and tourists, it makes for a busy nightmare on The Strip. Not only was the nightmare on The Strip, it was also at the parking garage and at registration. I will save you the stories from all that, and let's move on to the real reason for my CES excursion — I wanted to get my paws on the shiny new Saitek X-65F Pro Flight HOTAS.

*Panther* tries out the Saitek X-65F Pro Flight HOTAS

The Saitek X-65F Pro Flight HOTAS is similar to the side stick located onboard the F-16 and F/A-22. In case you may not realize, the stick in those aircraft doesn't physical move more than 3/16 of an inch aft, 3/32 left and right, and next to nothing forward. You may be wondering, "If the stick doesn't move, how does it register my control input?" Similar to the F-16 and F/A-22, the X-65F has force sensing technology that allows the X-65F to remain perfectly still and register the pressure you exert with precision and realism.

Saitek X-65F Pro Flight HOTASThe X-65F features a split throttle with expansion plate and the force sensing stick has twist rudder controls. The split throttles are designed for finer control over twin engine aircraft, or you can lock the two throttles together for single engine aircraft. The throttle has two rotaries that include push button controls, four 8-way hats and one mouse hat, a 2-way switch, a four position mode switch and a scroll selector. The expansion plate has finger tip controls over the force sensing settings with 4 mode switches and indicating lights, along with 5 additional programmable buttons and 4 HOTAS mode lights. The expansion plate also has mounting points for up to six of the Saitek Pro-Flight Instruments Panels (that are sold separately). The control stick has four 8-way hats, two buttons, two pinkie switches and a trigger. All combined for a total of 608 commands right at your finger tips without having to remove your hands off the stick and throttle making it a true HOTAS setup. However, there is one thing missing on the HOTAS — a slider. Not mandatory, but it's a nice thing to have in controlling the speed brakes or selecting weapon override modes.

The HOTAS feels really great in the hands as all of the buttons, HAT switches and rotaries are all within reach without strain on the hands. The metal design on the HOTAS has a solid grip with a no-slip feel. The wide, sturdy stick base prevents accidental slipping and tipping. Nonetheless, it features pre-drilled holes to bolt down the stick. Bolting down the stick will be recommended if you go higher on the force settings than the presets.

I tested the X-65F utilizing Microsoft's FSX and the selected aircraft was the F/A-18. After a brief pre-flight check of the systems, I was blasting down the runway in full afterburner and zooming up into the wild blue yonder. I have well over a year experience with a custom force sensing setup so it didn't take much time at all getting accustomed to the X-65F stick. The default force sensor settings were too sensitive for my liking, but would be a great start for anyone new to a Force Sensing HOTAS. I didn't have any issues with the base moving or tipping during my test.

Saitek's outstanding research with the force sensing technology has brought the flight simulation community a first for the HOTAS family. The X-65F Pro Flight HOTAS is the first with force sensing technology in a HOTAS, all without needing to modify your setup or buying any additional hardware. With no moving parts and a shaft that is made from metal, it should provide good consistency and durability.

You can have your own complete setup when it goes on sale next month. The X-65F Pro Flight HOTAS will retail for $399.00 USD.

Stick - Saitek X-65F Pro Flight HOTAS

Throttle - Saitek X-65F Pro Flight HOTAS


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