Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006, Part 6: Gifts For Geeks and Gamers

Full Control: Saitek X52 PRO And Aviator Joysticks

It seems like Saitek is one of the few companies that still really pushes joystick technology. Sure, Thrustmaster makes the amazing Cougar, and CH Products and Logitech make great sticks, but when was the last time they introduced something new ? Saitek, on the other hand, has continually refreshed their sticks like clockwork. Their latest and greatest models this holiday season are the X52 PRO and Aviator.

The X52 PRO is a new version of the popular X52 HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick). It replaces the cheesy silver Star Wars look with classic black and quality metal components. In addition, the MFD on the throttle base (that’s Multi-Function Display for you civilians) has more display options as well as selectable colors : blue, red and purple. More impressively, games can be programmed to interface with it to display information, and it already supports Microsoft Flight Simulators 9 and 10. All the same, it retains all of the X52’s glorious multi-button functionality.

The Aviator - cleverly spelled "AV8R" on the stick - is a stylishly retro-looking stick with some nifty features. It comes with two large throttle controllers attached to the base - a first, I believe - allowing for separate engine control on larger airframes, or perhaps separate throttle and flap controls. These throttles can also be physically joined to act as a single throttle. In addition to the inputs on the hat and stick, there are stylish retro-style toggle switches on the base. Along with a 3-setting "mode" switch, this allows for an incredible amount of customization : 12 buttons in 3 modes equals 36 inputs ! Overall, the AV8R is a stylish, responsive and well-equipped flightstick.

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