Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Saitek P150 Gamepad

 
Rating: 3 out of 5
Pros:Comfortable, inexpensive, works fairly well Cons:No force feedback, no analog sticks, too few buttons

Introduction

The Saitek P150 is the first of the two inexpensive controllers I purchased at Wal-Mart, the second one being InterAct's AxisPad. I originally wanted a nice controller to use with Need for Speed, Sega Smash Pack, and any other PC games that I had lying around that would benefit from doing so.

While the AxisPad costs twice as much, it also offers dual analog sticks, and force feedback, both of which are missing from the P150. The only drawback is that the error prone game pad didn't work well enough to bother with, so I would still much rather have the P150 myself.

Features & Layout

The Saitek P150 is very light. It weighs about as much as a CD in a slim jewel case.. needless to say, this makes it very easy to break. If you are too rough on your controller, or if you are just plain accident prone, you may want to opt for something else.

On the other hand, it is fairly well designed. The "wings" that you hold on to are slightly longer than normal, giving you a sure and comfortable grip on the controller at all times. The two shoulder/trigger buttons are set into grooves, which your index fingers rest in. There are two more grooves underneath for your middle fingers.

Besides the two shoulder/trigger buttons and the directional pad, there are six standard buttons on the right hand side. They are set three long and two high, and labeled X, Y, Z, A, B, and C. One thing that I find really odd, was the absence of a start button, and some sort of mode or select button. Those common buttons have been included on nearly every game pad I have seen, whether for a game console or a computer, for quite a long time now.

One unique feature of the Saitek P150 is the detachable joystick. If you flip the game pad upside down, you will notice a little gray slider. If you slide it to the left, it will release an inch long spike with a gray disk on one end. This spike sets into a hole in the center of the directional pad, allowing you to use the gray disk as a joystick of sorts.

My Experience

The Saitek P150 installed very easily. Just plug the standard USB 1.0 cord into a free USB port on your computer, and it's good to go. No special drivers are needed, and you don't have to restart your computer. I have mine hooked up to a 4 port USB hub, because I only have 4 total USB ports in the back of my computer. With a USB mouse, keyboard, scanner, printer, and game pad, these ports fill up rather quickly.

Even though the Saitek P150 is very light and cheap, I have not managed to break it yet. This even considering the fact that it has been hooked up to my spare computer for the last few months, where my little brothers give it a good work out every day. My brothers somehow got the detachable joystick wedged into it's holder, and it took me a while to pry it out with a pocket knife. It never did actually break though..

The directional pad is designed poorly. It is prone to point diagonally, whatever you do. Maybe they should have rotated the pad a bit, so that your hand would more naturally rest where it could hit the different directions straight, I don't know. It's not that bad for some games, but for others it's just terrible. The joystick was a nifty idea, and I wish it would have worked better. Not that there was much of a problem with it, but with the directional pad the way it is, using the joystick just takes away from the feel, and makes the problem twice as bad.

Conclusion

The Saitek P150 is a good choice if you are looking for a very inexpensive game pad, and don't require all the whistles and bells of more expensive models. There is no force feedback, no analog sticks, and not even all that many buttons. I got mine for $10, and have it hooked up to a spare computer, which is only used for my little brothers to play games on. For this purpose, it is very well suited, and performs perfectly.

If you need more features or buttons, you would probably be better off to check out some of the latest offerings from Microsoft or Logitech. The directional pad may be a little quirky, but other than that this controller is fine for most purposes. Pretty average, but at a below average cost, this one is a toss up.

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