|Min OS X: Not Supported Requires: USB Port|
Saitek recently upgraded its line of high-end HOTAS systems with the introduction of the X45. The X45, with little added functionality from its predecessor, the X36, adds a new paint job and flashy backlit buttons. Most attractive, however, is the new low price tag, although an old problem that formerly plagued X36 owners is now back with a vengeance in the X45.
The Mac market is particularly dry when it comes to high-end HOTAS (Hands-On Throttle and Stick) joysticks. Every armchair pilot dreads being forced to remove his or her hands from the joystick or throttle and use the keyboard. Ideally, players of flight sims like Falcon 4 or F/A-18 Hornet should purchase a HOTAS with a multitude of buttons, hat switches, and dials, so that in the heat of battle, all the important controls can be used with ease.
In the past, Thrustmaster and CH Products provided Mac gamers with versatile control systems. However, with the switch to USB, the selection of these high-end systems has become noticeably lean. Thrustmaster has not yet released a Mac-compatible USB system. Only CH offers a comparable system. However, a company hitherto unheard of by Mac gamers, Saitek Ltd., started marketing their X36 HOTAS to Mac gamers upon the discovery that it worked reasonably well with InputSprocket. Following up on its success, Saitek gave the X36 a new paint job and some minor modifications to become the X45.
A Tour of the JoystickThe X45 consists of a FLCS (flight control system; the stick) and a throttle. Both of these are very large ó I had to move my hand to access the full range of buttons on the FLCS. Seated on the FLCS are two hats, a trigger, three buttons, a guarded button, and a pinkie switch. Three of the buttons are backlit by stunning orange and red LEDís ó strictly eye candy, of course, but wonderful to look at. The guarded button works the opposite of the way it used to in the X36 ó opening the guard allows the user to press the button. The X45 now has a spring-loaded base, which adds quite a bit of tension at the outer ranges of the control column. Users of the X36 will discover they can no longer fling the stick around like they used to.
On the throttle, there are two three-way switches, two hats, two buttons, two dials, and a finger rudder. The throttle has an idle detent at the bottom of its stroke and an afterburner detent near the top. Each of the dials has a detent at the center of its stroke. One of the buttons is backlit, and three LEDís tell the user the position of the Mode switch.
Both devices depart from the more austere black and yellow tones of the X36 to livelier hues of blue and orange. Painted each base is a guide pointing out each individual control and its name. The guide is close to useless, but it takes up otherwise unused space. On the whole, the new look will undoubtedly please some and disappoint others; itís strictly a matter of personal preference.