In preparation for a hefty flightstick roundup in the magazine, I've just been sent the new Saitek X-55 Rhino H.O.T.A.S. (that's Hands-On-Throttle-And-Stick, acronym fans) and it's a lovely, chunky thing. The X-55 has been put together to give Thrustmaster, and their beautiful Warthog setup, a run for their money. I should be getting the Warthog in the next couple weeks so we'll be able to have a proper head-to-head dogfight between the controller heavyweights.
Right now I've just got the new X-55 Rhino in front of me and even before I plug it in for some spacey manoeuvres in Elite: Dangerous it's a pleasing thing. The build quality is impressive, and there's a lovely smooth action to the throttle. It's a joy to turn off flight-assist and slam my Cobra Mk III into reverse for some Battlestar Galactica Viper-esque Newtonian dogfighting.
The action's not bad on the stick either and both have adjustable resistance options. The throttle has a dial you can fiddle with on the fly and the stick comes with four different springs you can use to load the base and customise how much springback or resistance you want. There's also a frightening array of buttons, hats, toggle switches, sliders and rotary switches.
The Premium Beta and Dogfighting Module of Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen are coming soon, so it's not a bad time to start thinking about sticks. As a first impression, the X-55 should be somewhere on the list. I think it might also be time to try and track down that old Afterburner arcade cabinet for some modding fun.
The X-55 Rhino is available to pre-order now in North America and Canada. UK folk are going to have to wait a while before we get to hand over our cash. And it is quite a bit of cash too—some $200/£170.
That's a good chunk less than the Thrustmaster Warthog and some other pro flightstick/throttle sets I've got my eye on. Still, I'd recommend holding off on a pre-order until our definitive roundup is complete.