|Min OS X: Not Supported Requires: USB Port|
The USB gamepad market has been flooded with peripherals that are full of gimmicks and flash, but lacking in substance. This is especially true in the budget area, where quality is often sacrificed to keep costs low. Saitek, famous for making quality game controllers like it's Cyborg 3D Gold joystick, enters this market segment with the P150 USB Action Pad, which retails for $14.95.
The last decent gamepad I owned was Gravis' Gamepad Pro USB (which was a blatant ripoff of a Sony Playstation controller) so I was excited to get my hands on something more recent. Being a Mac user, I was drawn to the handsome look of the P150. The pad itself is dark gray with a glittering finish, while the buttons, D-pad, and mini-joystick are a classy silver color.
The GoodUnlike some inexpensive gamepads, the P150 is large and quite comfortable. The long 'handles' are molded so your index and middle fingers wrap naturally around the grip. The area where your palm rests is textured to reduce slippage. The P150 also has a very solid feel to it, despite the light weight. There was no creaking or signs of poor construction. At 5 feet, the USB cord is sufficiently long.
The P150 features an 8 way directional pad and a total of eight buttons: six buttons accessible with your right thumb and two molded index finger triggers on the underside. The thumb buttons are arranged in two rows. The buttons on the top row are about a quarter of an inch in diameter, labeled 'X', 'Y', and 'Z'. The buttons on the bottom row are oval and slightly larger and they are (not surprisingly) labeled 'A', 'B', and 'C'. Button placement is adequate, as even my small hands were able to reach the top row without straining.
One interesting feature of the P150 is the detachable mini-joystick which is stuck in the hole in the D-pad (as seen in the picture). When not in use, it is stored on the back of the joystick and secured by a locking mechanism. Personally, I found that using the mini-joystick felt less 'direct' than using the D-pad. Of course, your mileage may vary.
The BadI tried to resist, but I couldn't help comparing the P150 to ASCII's FT Special gamepad that I have been using for several months. Admittedly, the third party Dreamcast controller costs twice as much as the P150 and is designed for fighting games, but the overall design and quality of the buttons and D-pad reflect the price.
I felt that the motion of the P150 was a bit tight at first, but it loosened up after several minutes of use. I would have liked the D-pad to be seated higher and have even looser movement. Larger and softer buttons would have also been preferable. Although I adjusted to the size and arrangement of the buttons, gamers with larger fingers may not be so forgiving.
One annoying aspect about the gamepad is that the two left-most buttons are placed on a slope which curves upward towards the center of the joystick. What's the big deal? Well, with most gamepads, I like to place the tip of my thumb on the top row, while using the bottom of my knuckle to tap the bottom button. The slope makes this action very uncomfortable.