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The Definitive Guide to Saitek Joysticks on the Mac

Nov 08, 2007 Killdog Deathwad link
Hello All,

A few weeks ago, I innocently decided to take a look at whether or not it was possible to get a decent joystick to play VO with on my Mac. Little did I know that I was going to be walking head-on into a treacherous quagmire of compatibility and configuration issues that would tax every facet of my mind and push me to the very brink of insanity...

Ok, ok, it wasn't quite that bad but it was a total pain in the arse. The worst of it was that I was not able to find any definitive answers about whether or not the sticks that I wanted to use would work with my Mac, or with VO so, in the absence of any definitive data, I had to do the research myself.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, two weeks and several hundred dollars later I have myself a nice little setup that is working out well and, because I'm such a generous soul, I'm going to give you the benefit of my experience so that you don't have to skirt the precipice of madness like I had to... You're welcome.

Firstly, if you ask me, Saitek make the best sticks out there, hands down, their stuff is just brilliant. I did look at a few other brands, namely Logitech, Microsoft and some lesser known brands but the Saitek stuff beat them all out for quality, features and price. I wouldn't recommend a Microsoft stick (I'm not even sure they will work with a Mac) but there have been some good things said about the Logitech Force 3D Pro and it also looked OK to me but I didn't try it out because I was after something with a few more buttons. As a result, all of the sticks I have covered below are made by Saitek (no, I'm not being paid by Saitek, I just think their stuff rocks).

Some background about joysticks and the MacOS (if you are a MacOS guru, you can probably skip this part)...

Joysticks, Gamepads, Mice, Tablets, etc, etc are all collectively known as Human Interface Devices (HIDs) and, like so many other things, there is a particular standard that has been developed (called the HID standard) that the manufacturers of these devices can decide to conform to, or not... usually not. However, if you get a device that is HID compliant, it will plug straight into the Mac and work straight away, without the need for driver software. This is because the MacOS has built-in software that knows what a HID needs to make it work and accommodates it accordingly. This is great because, for most of the best sticks, there is no Mac driver software available.

The problem is that the manufacturers don't usually give you any indication whatsoever about whether or not their device conforms to the HID standard. Unless you can get in touch with someone who works for the manufacturer and actually knows what they are talking about, you won't usually know if a stick conforms to the HID standard or not. Most of the time, as soon as you mention that you run a Mac, you'll get a response that is essentially, "Well of course it won't work! Serves you right for buying a Mac". I'm sure you have all had this experience at one time or another.

The upshot of all this is that you are not necessarily confined to the very small and poor selection of joysticks that are labeled as Mac compatible. Many of the so called "PC only" sticks will work with your Mac and, what's more, will do so without the need for any driver software. You just need to know which sticks are HID compliant and that is the tricky part. You don't need to worry about the current range of Saitek sticks though because I've done the testing for you.

Right, onto the sticks themselves...

None of the following sticks are listed as being Mac compatible yet all but one worked flawlessly without the need for any software whatsoever. As for the pros and cons, you'll have to read on...

After careful consideration of specs, I narrowed my selection down to 4 sticks (3 of which were only very slightly different to each other) and 1 gamepad/keyboard. I purchased all 5 and tested them thoroughly. This is what I found...

NOTE: Quoted US prices are simply the Australian price adjusted for the exchange rate. US residents can probably do a lot better on the street since we often pay a premium for being at the arse-end of the planet


1) Cyborg Evo -

Manufaturer - Saitek
Price - AU$59.95 (US$55.42)
Interface - USB
Axes - 4
Hatswitches - Single 8-way
Buttons - 12

Pros - Highly adjustable stick with ability to alter the angle of the on-stick buttons in 2 dimensions (left-right and up-down). You can also configure it for left or right handers as well as for different hand sizes. Very nice. Also cheap.

Cons - Not enough buttons for my liking. Some of the buttons are in awkward positions, as is the throttle bar.

Compatibility - Comes with special software to program the buttons but it is PC only. The MacOS does not require it. All axes and buttons work fine without any software. The only thing that does not work are the 2 "Shift" buttons which are located on either side of the base. On a PC, these allow you to assign a second and third function (depending on which shift button you press) to the other buttons on the stick. On the Mac however, they operate as normal buttons and do not allow you to use the "Shift" feature.

Conclusion - This is a great, low cost stick, especially if you have particularly small or big hands, or are a lefty like me. It has 4 analog axes (the usual pitch, roll and yaw plus a throttle bar on the rear of the base) with 12 buttons (1x trigger, 5x thumb operated and 6x on the base). It's a bit short on buttons though. 12 sounds like a lot but there are really only 6 that are usable without the need for a second hand. Not a bad stick, needs more cowbell. Still, probably the best stick on the market at this price.


2) Cyborg Evo Wireless -

Manufaturer - Saitek
Price - AU$99.95 (US$92.40)
Interface - 2.4Ghz digital Wireless via a USB dongle (included)
Axes - 4
Hatswitches - Single 8-way
Buttons - 12

Pros - Same as the Evo with the added benefit of being totally wireless (via an included USB Dongle).

Cons - As with the Evo, not enough buttons for my liking and some of the buttons and the throttle bar are in awkward positions. Might be a bit on the costly side for some people given the fact that the Evo is identical except for the wireless ability. Requires 1 x AA battery.

Compatibility - Exactly the same as the Evo in all respects except for the wireless feature. I had some concerns about the wireless working properly but it came through with flying colours. Just plugged it in and away it went.

Conclusion - Again, this is a great stick, identical to the Cyborg Evo with the added benefit of wireless operation. They achieve this with the addition of a USB dongle that slots neatly into the base of the stick when not in use. The transmission is via a 2.4Ghz digital wireless link similar to those used in walkaround phones. There is no perceptible lag at all. The downside is the cost. Is it worth paying almost twice the the cost of the Cyborg Evo for wireless? I'll leave that up to you to decide...


3) Cyborg Evo Force -

Manufaturer - Saitek
Price - AU$119.95 (US$110.89)
Interface - USB + 12DC input via included AC/DC transformer
Axes - 4
Hatswitches - Single 8-way
Buttons - 12

Pros - Same as the Evo.

Cons - Same as the Evo. Far too expensive for what you get. Force feedback is useless for most games, VO included. I wasn't able to get more than 2 axes to work (roll and pitch only), yaw and throttle did not register at all. I guess that this stick is not 100% HID compliant. Either that or the force feedback feature interferes somehow. In any case, it didn't work right.

Compatibility - Comes with special software to program the buttons but it is PC only. Not fully compatible with Mac.

Conclusion - Identical to the Cyborg Evo but with force feedback. Not only requires an extra cable (power) which is cumbersome, but it doesn't work with VO or the Mac. Also very expensive. Not recommended. Now being used as a $120 doorstop in my house.


4) Pro Gamer Command Unit -

NOTE: The unit I have looks slightly different to the one pictured on the Saitek site. I think the differences are only cosmetic though.

Price - AU$44.95 (US$39.95)
Interface - USB
Axes - 2 (2D analog thumbstick)
Hatswitches - none
Buttons - 23 + 3-way selector switch

Pros - Left handed operation leaves right hand free for mouse or another stick. Great for people who like to play with mouselook on. Very ergonomic, comfortable and easy to use. Lots of buttons. Adjustable for different hand sizes. Cheap.

Cons - Some buttons are awkward to reach in a hurry. Only 2 analog axes.

Compatibility - Comes with special software to program the buttons but it is PC only. The Mac does not require it to work.

Conclusion - I really liked this weird little thing. If you like playing with mouselook on, or you already use a stick with your right hand, I'd recommend trying it. Might take a bit of getting used to and is probably more suited to FPS games but it's definitely got potential. Worth a look.


5) X-52 Flight Control System -

Price - AU$249.95 (US$231.86)
Interface - USB
Axes - 9 (4 stick mounted + 2 analog thumbwheels + 1 analog linear slider + 2D "mousestick" thumbstick on the throttle stick)
Hatswitches - 3 (2x 8-way + 1x 4-way)
Buttons - 23 + a 3-way selector switch

Pros - This thing is a beast! Top of the line, serious flight sim sticks. Tons of axes and buttons. Adjustable for different sized hands and different tensions on the throttle stick. Good quality, solid feel, well placed buttons and lots of 'em!

Cons - Expensive. Throttle stick can be hard to centre (has no tactile centre notch to indicate the neutral position), this is my only serious gripe. A few features don't seem to work (on the Mac at least), see below for details. The bases are big and chunky, this is not necessarily a bad thing because it means they are well anchored but they do take up a lot of room.

Compatibility - Like all the rest, it comes with special software to program the buttons but it is PC only. The Mac does not require it to work.

Conclusion - An excellent setup and the one that I eventually decided to use. This thing is just unbelievably cool, I'm still totally geeking out over it. It's got the usual 3 analog axes on the right stick (pitch, roll and yaw) plus a another one on the left stick (throttle). It also has 2 analog thumbwheels on the left stick plus a linear analog slider. These are all picked up by VO and can be used for whatever controls you like. In fact there are more analog controls than there are controls for them in VO. I actually double up a bit and use some of the thumbwheels as trim for throttle and strafe. It's particularly handy for the throttle because, as I've mentioned above, the throttle stick has no centre "notch" to indicate that you are at zero throttle whereas the thumbwheels do and this makes it easier to keep yourself stationary. This is annoying and is my only real criticism of this otherwise excellent stick setup. If you have the cash, this is your puppy right here.

Even so, it's not perfect. As I mentioned earlier, there are a few things that don't work right. These are:

a) One of the scroll wheels (not an analog wheel, it's digital and works more like a mouse scroll wheel - scrolling up activates a button, scrolling down activates another, pressing it down activates a third). The press button part works fine but the scroll up/down doesn't seem to register in VO. I tested it using a program called "Joystick and Gamepad Tester" (it's a great program BTW, I suggest you download it, you will need it later. See the list of links below) and the buttons are registering, it's just that VO doesn't pick them up. Dunno why this is but they are the last 2 buttons in the button list so perhaps it's just that VO can only cope with a limited number of buttons on any single input device. This fits because, looking at the config.ini file, you can see that the button list stops just before these buttons. Still, I have no way of knowing for sure if this is that case or not.

b) There is an analog thumbstick on the left stick (throttle) that is supposed to control the screen cursor and work just like the mouse along with a button that works like a left mouse click. This doesn't work either yet, once again, it registers in "Joystick and Gamepad Tester". Perhaps it doesn't work for the same reason as the scrollwheel, I don't know. It's a pity about this because it would be handy. The left-click button does work properly, it's just the thumbstick that has no effect in VO.

c) The base of the left stick contains an LCD panel that can apparently display a range of different details about whatever game you are playing. In a flight sim it is used to display the radar or communications info. However, this must be setup using the PC driver software because all I can get it to do is display a stopwatch (start/stop, reset, mode). Not real useful but there you go. The three buttons that control the screen can be remapped for use within VO so it's not a total waste.

Apart from these things, which sound bad but are really fairly minor, it's great.


There is one issue that you need to be aware of with the Pro Gamer Command Unit and the X-52 and this is that they have a 3-way selector switch. The deal with this is that, instead of it being a button which is either on or off, it's a 3 way switch, one of which is always on. The problem is that there is no way to turn it off so when you are trying to configure the stick in the setting screen in VO, as soon as you double click the keybind, it inserts whichever of the 3 switches is active, thus stopping you from inserting anything else. This means that you can't use the setting screen to configure the keybinds, you have to edit the config.ini file directly. If you don't know how to do that, read on. If you do, that's all you need to know, happy joysticking.

Configuring the stick using the config.ini file

Configuring the config.ini file on a Mac is a bit different to doing it on Linux or a PC because the file is part of the application package rather than a file inside a normal folder or directory. To access the files, you need to control-click on the Vendetta application and choose "Show Package Contents" from the contextual menu that pops up. That will open up a window where you will find the config.ini file.

Open the config.ini file in your favourite text editor (I suggest TextEdit. Stay away from Word or Pages or anything else that might insert weird formatting). I strongly suggest that you make a backup of the original first, just in case.

If you have used a stick before, you will see a list of keybindings already listed in the file. It will look something like this...


[Saitek Pro Gamer Command Unit]


There will be a list like this for every device that you have ever used with VO, all listed one after the other in the same file. Each one is headed by the name of the device (in this case it's the Command Unit).

You can probably see where I'm going with this. All you need to do is insert the command that you want next to the appropriate joystick button. You can see that, in the example above, I have button 0 set to shoot my primary weapons, button 1 to shoot secondary weapons and button 2 to shoot tertiary weapons (for some reason +Shoot 2 is primary and +Shoot1 is secondary... go figure).

For a complete list of commands that you can use, look here: and for more info on commands, take a look at this:

The selector switch doesn't effect the setup of the analog inputs so don't worry about fiddling with the axis lines, you can set those up in the setting screen within VO, just assign the "JOYBUTTON" lines. Remember to save the file when you are done.

NOTE: It is important to ensure that VO is not running while you have the config.ini file open since it also writes to it and you will end up overwriting your changes. Always quit VO before you edit it and save and close it before you launch VO again.

The obvious problem is knowing what button is what. This is where a freeware application called "Joystick & Gamepad Tester" comes in. Download it, launch it, plug in your stick and select it from the app's device menu. It shows all the analog axes as well as the buttons. When you press a button or move a stick, you will see the numbers change on the appropriately numbered input. This will tell you what button you are pushing and/or what stick axis you are moving. Just keep in mind that Joystick tester starts listing buttons from #1 whereas VO starts labeling them at #0 so you will probably need to subtract 1 from the number listed in the tester app. For example, if the tester app says that you are hitting JOYBUTTON12, it is actually JOYBUTTON11 in the config.ini file.

An alternate method...

I don't recommend this but it is possible to bypass the configuration setup completely by using a shareware app called Gamepad Companion. This is an app that allows you to assign a keystroke to any input from any device. The upside is that this will allow you to use most non-HID compliant devices as well. The downside is that it's a bit limited in what features you can utilise, especially when it comes to assigning analog inputs.

Anyway, if you can't stomach editing the config.ini file, take a look at GamePad Companion and you may be able to get away without it. I think you get 30 days for free so you will get a decent amount of time to test it out. After that, I think it's a one-off shareware fee of US$15.

You can get Gamepad Companion from:
You can get Joystick & Gamepad Tester from:

I think that about covers it. If I think of anything else, I'll add to the thread. If you have any questions, post them here and I'll do my best to answer them.

Hope this will make your life a bit easier. It's 2 weeks of my life that I'll never get back, with any luck they won't be completely wasted. In the meantime, I have 5 joysticks, only 2 hands and a wife who wants to know what happened to the $500 that was in our bank account.

Nov 08, 2007 EddyHolland link
Thanks KillDog that is an excellent writeup.

I have an old (7 or 8 yrs?) Saitek Cyborg 3D (gold, USB) which I recovered from an old turn-of-the Century high-end PC I built and modded.
4 Axis (3 Axis + Throttle); 1 hatswitch (8-way); 10 buttons.
I can tell players 10 buttons is perfectly fine. I used to use 10 buttons + 4 from my hatswitch, and now my hatswitch is dead, so I just have 10 buttons (4 accessible to thumb and 6 you must move a hand).
My issue is I didn't figure out how to use the throttle slider. It either works in FA mode, or in Physics mode, but not both (I'm low tech) so I just leave it unused.

I think all Saitek joysticks would be HID compatible and work with Mac (I'm guessing). I wouldn't hesitate to get another one (in the unlikely event that it did not work, I'd take it back to the store).
Nov 08, 2007 Killdog Deathwad link
If anyone does have an X-52, and wants to save time setting it up, here's the relevant bit from my config.ini file. If you copy and paste it into your config.ini file it will save you from having to do the config manually.

Of course it does mean that the buttons will be mapped identically to mine but you can always tweak it if you don't like it.

Things to keep in mind...

1) If you have already had your X-52 plugged in while VO is running, you will already have a X-52 section in your config.ini file. you will need to replace it with the section below. Don't keep both, I don't know what that will do. Probably something nasty.

2) Make sure that you quit VO before you open your config.ini file and remember to save and close it before you relaunch VO again.

3) it is probably a good idea to backup your config.ini file (and your wgaf.cfg file while you are at it) before you make any changes. I'm pretty sure that VO will recreate them if you delete them or otherwise stuff them up but it's better to be safe. I call it TAPS (Total Arse Protection System).

NOTE: Copy and paste everything between the dashed lines ("---"), but not the lines themselves.


[Saitek X52 Flight Control System]


From there you can see how you like the config and, if you don't like a particular button, remap them at your leisure.

Hope this helps.

Nov 08, 2007 Killdog Deathwad link
"My issue is I didn't figure out how to use the throttle slider. It either works in FA mode, or in Physics mode, but not both (I'm low tek) so I just leave it unsused."

If you are using F/A mode, you need to select "Throttle" in the joystick setup screen for that axis. If you are using Physics mode, you need to select "Accelerate" instead.

Of course, if you are switching between F/A and Physics, that may cause a problem. This is where a stick with heaps of analog inputs is handy because you can setup one of each and use them accordingly.

"I can tell players 10 buttons is perfectly fine."

Yeah, 10 is fine, more than enough really, but it is nice to be able to map nearly every function you could ever need to an easily reached button. That way you never need to take your hand off he stick. Still, it's certainly not necessary. I'm sure you could get away with as little as 3 axes and 4 or 5 buttons quite happily. I guess it all comes down to how much you are willing to spend and how much it matters to you.

"I think all Saitek joysticks would be HID compatible and work with Mac (I'm guessing)."

Yeah, I have no idea. I really have no way of knowing. All I can tell you is that all of the ones I have tested, with the exception of the Force Feedback Cyborg Evo is definitely HID compliant. The Evo Force may also be HID compliant but only 2 of the 4 analog axes would register for me. I'm not sure why.

"Thanks KillDog that is an excellent writeup."

Thanks. I just hope it's of some use to people. If it is then my time and money did not go to waste.


EDIT - I tried several different methods to force my quotes to format as quotes but I couldn't get it to work. Dunno if I just tried the wrong tags or if there is no way to do it on this forum. Anyway, I just put them in quotation marks instead. Hope it's still readable. - KD

EDIT 2 - Put quotes in Italic tags as per EddyHolland's suggestion, Thanks - KD
Nov 08, 2007 EddyHolland link
yeah or use [ i ] and [ / i ] that should work for quotes ;-)
"If anyone does have an X-52 ... "
Nov 26, 2007 AndiJF link
Thanks for this excellent write-up. The Saitek sticks have always looked a bit weird to me, but I've been getting a bit cheesed off with my CH-Products sticks, so I might take another look. I'm especially interested in sticks that are good in the left hand, not because I'm left-handed, but simply because I fly VO with a stick in each hand. There's an acute shortage of decent left-hand joysticks...
Dec 10, 2007 Killdog Deathwad link
What follows is the next episode in the ongoing saga of my search for the perfect VO setup. Once again, I publish this in the hope that I will be the last person that has to go through it...

After deciding on, and using, the X-52 with VO for several weeks, I decided that it wasn't really working for me. The joystick itself is great for most things, and there is certainly no shortage of buttons to bind, but it lacks precision for aiming. After some tweaking and experimentation, I decided to ditch the X-52 and switch from a stick-only setup to a stick/mouse combo.

It's not that the X-52 is a bad stick, it's isn't, it's just that, IMHO, it's impossible for any stick, regardless of it's quality or features, to match the aiming precision of a mouse. I think that this is a flaw inherent to any stick. In my opinion, they just aren't designed for precision the way a mouse is. Others disagree, as is their prerogative.

I would still recommend the X-52 for anyone who is considering a stick for a flight-sim or some similar purpose.

So, as I have mentioned, I have switched to using a stick/mouse combo and I believe that I have finally achieved something approaching the ideal setup because this combination gives me almost all of the advantages of a stick-only setup but also gives me the aiming precision of a mouse.

I'm currently using a Saitek Cyborg Evo Wireless stick (see review in my original post) on the left and a pretty standard 3-button bluetooth mouse on the right. They are configured as follows...

WARNING: This setup works nicely for me but I've had some people recoil in horror at the way that I have this setup. Brace yourself...

- Mouselook: ON
- F/A mode: OFF (I don't switch modes, I stay in physics mode all the time)

X+Y axes - Yaw + Pitch
L button - Primary Fire
R Button - Secondary Fire
M Button - Tertiary Fire
Scroll up/down - Select next/prev enemy (Using Drazed's excellent "TargetLS" plugin, not the standard "RadarNextNearestEnemy" and "RadarPrevNearestEnemy" commands)

Stick - Cyborg Evo Wireless
Left <--> Right Axis - Roll
Twist Axis - Thrust
Hatswitch - Strafe
Button 1 - Turbo
Button 2 - Brake
Button 3 - Radar Next
Button 4 - Radar Next Front
Button 5 - Activate
Button 6 - Radar Next Nearest Enemy

The Cyborg Evo does have 6 more buttons but they are located on the stick's base and are therefore pretty useless since they are not accessible without using a second hand. I don't have them mapped.

I describe this setup as close to ideal, rather than actually ideal, due to it's one and only flaw: a lack of accessible buttons. This setup gives me the 4 analog axes that I need (Roll, Yaw, Pitch and Thrust), but a total of only 11 buttons (6 on the stick and 5 on the mouse - including the mousewheel up/down). This sounds like plenty but I find that I need quite a few more in order to map all of the functions I'd like. In addition to the buttons I already have mapped, I'd also like to be able to map the following:

1) Radar Prev
2) Radar Prev Front
3) Radar Next Enemy Front
4) Radar Prev Enemy Front

I'd also like a few extras (about 3) for use with custom binds.

Of course, it's unlikely that I'll find any solution that will furnish me with an extra 7 buttons. However, I can probably make do with about half this number if I am willing to sacrifice a few lesser used functions. I think I can manage this without compromising my gameplay too severely. I should be able to drop the following functions without too much hardship:

Tertiary Fire
Radar Prev Enemy Front
Radar Prev Nearest Enemy
and, if I have to... Radar Prev Front

Which means that, if I'm willing to sacrifice some, or all, these functions, I should be able to get by with only 3 or 4 extra buttons and I think that this is achievable.

So, having determined what I need, the question then becomes, how best to accomplish it?

I've been considering various options, including looking at other sticks and various other input devices but, after some research, I've come to the conclusion that the best and most efficient option is to invest in some sort of gaming mouse. Some of these mice have up to 9 buttons. This will give me the extra buttons I need while also giving me more precise aiming due to the higher resolution that these mice have.

It would seem that this is the perfect solution except for one important fact... I'm a total n00b when it comes to gaming mice and, until a few weeks ago, I didn't even know that such a thing existed.

This pretty much brings me full-circle and places me in the same position that I was in just a few weeks ago except, instead of needing to research joysticks, this time I need to research gaming mice. As it stands, I have no idea what to look for, which models will work with a Mac and/or VO, or even exactly what the features are on each model. Also like joysticks, there is a whole sub-culture dedicated to these things and, between the jargon, the assumed knowledge and the fact that most information is geared towards the FPS market, it's just about impossible for the casual inquirer to fathom it without a signifcant investment in time, effort and... yes, as with the joysticks, a not insignificant amount of cash.

Here we go again!

So, over the next few weeks, I'll be researching gaming mice in a process similar to the one I went through with the joysticks. I only hope that I can get out of it a little cheaper this time. I'm still copping hell over the joystick debacle.

I hereby swear that I WILL find the perfect VO setup or go insane (and quite possibly bankrupt) trying!

Watch this space...

Dec 29, 2007 davejohn link
Some seriously good work KD. To be honest I can't remember seeing a good comparative review of sticks in any Mac magazine. Maybe you should work your research up into an article and recoup your costs ?
May 04, 2008 Shaded link
thank you very much KD, excellent research.
Jul 02, 2008 MC1171611 link
Ok I just bought the X52 on your recommendation, and I can't get it to work. None of the buttons work, and the axes don't even register when I try to calibrate it. I've tried both of the config lists in this thread to no avail, as well as Joystick and Gamepad Tester, Gamepad Companion, and USB Overdrive. Overdrive detects most of the buttons and hats, as well as the axes, but I can't make it work with VO.

Any ideas?
Jul 02, 2008 MC1171611 link
never mind, I got it to work...thanks for the research!
Jul 17, 2008 Daare link
Great writeup, KD. I've been playing Vendetta Online for a few weeks now with an old Saitek X-45 setup and would like to share some of what I've learned.

Their are two main problems with the Saitek gear on a Mac: 1) lack of a way to calibrate the movement of the stick axes (defaults to a linear response which works poorly for anything but gross movement) and 2) no way to use buttons for more than one function (i.e., only one mode). Both of these problems are due to no Mac configuration utility from Saitek. The button problem is not usually a big one since 20+ buttons is more than enough for most games. The calibration problem, on the other hand, is a killer and stopped me from using my Saitek stick until recently.

Someone mentioned (in another thread, I believe) ControllerMate as a solution to the Saitek's shortcomings so I decided to take a look. For the problem of calibrating the response of the stick axes, ControllerMate does provide a solution, albeit not the one I had hoped. While ControllerMate provides a direct means to calibrate some devices, it won't recognize my X-45 as one of them. It may be that ControllerMate will allow direct calibration for other joysticks but for those of us who aren't so lucky, here is my solution using ControllerMate.

First, I created a virtual joystick to accept the output from the real joystick. Than I divided the output of each axis of the X-45 into three sections: a middle section and two end sections. Onto the middle section, I mapped 0.67 of the X-45's output onto 0.25 of the virtual joystick's output. I used the two end sections to handle the remaining 0.75 of the virtual joystick's output to provide access to the full range of control for each axis. Basically, instead of a curve defining my response, I have two straight lines - a long, shallowly sloped line followed by a short, steeply sloped line - that approximate, very crudely, a curve. The result is that most movement along an axis will provide a fair amount of fine control while "jamming" the stick to the ends will provide the maximum response as usual. It's a hack but it works and different values can be used to change the "curve" to suit different users.

As for multi-function buttons, I've done some experimenting and it is indeed entirely possible to use ControllerMate to program buttons so that they will function differently depending on which other buttons are active. This customization ca go beyond just using the mode switch - you can do other things such as use the Pinky Switch as a safety (i.e., require the Pinky Switch to be held down in order to fire a weapon) or utilize the currently unrecognized digital Rotary Switch 1 (Dial) by passing the Dial's output to a virtual joystick (VO lists the virtual joystick along with your real joystick so you can use both at the same time). Also, from the ControllerMate documentation, you may be able to use the LED display in some fashion as well (though I can't test this since my stick lacks this feature). There is a learning curve to ControllerMate but not an unsurmountable one and there is an Export/Import feature which may help in this regard as well.

I am in no way affiliated with Ordered Bytes, the company which sells ControllerMate, but I am impressed with the product so far. However, ControllerMate is not perfect. It seems to be something of a system resource hog for such a small program from my informal observation. You have to manually "initialize" the virtual joystick to zero everything (i.e., move/press all the controls the virtual joystick uses after VO starts) or you come out of a station pitching and rolling. "Programming" with ControllerMate is not completely intuitive and much of the program's versatility may be hidden by it's steep learning curve. (Those with backgrounds in programming may find it easier to use, however.) It's $15 (though that's pretty cheap for shareware so maybe that's a plus). On the plus side, ControllerMate will work with other input devices (keyboards, mice, trackballs, etc.), provides a way to use different setups for different applications, and has far more functionality than I've described using here. It think it's worth a look and it's shareware so you can get a feel for it before buying.
Dec 30, 2008 Raketefrau link
Have any of you tried the Saitek Aviator?
Apr 04, 2009 Secret Agent Muska link
I'm getting a Saitek Cyborg X in matter of days, I just ordered it. I'll give it a go and let you know what its like.
Apr 27, 2009 Secret Agent Muska link
Ok, if you want something cheap, get the Cyborg X, its better than the Evo and the Aviator (In performance, that is). However, if you play more flight sims, or want to have a much better stick, X52, definitely.

Lovely feel
Fully adjustable
Nice buttons
Dual throttle, but not really worth it, seeing as having throttle and accelerate on at the same time with no way of disabling the other... Nasty. Lock em together and use em as 1 instead.
Pretty blue light
Two secret buttons (Explode and activate now :P)

Very bad build quality, I'm getting mine replaced, or refunded. Buttons fell off after 1 day (possible a postal knock), and the Z rotation axis (roll) is misaligned, and now I can't roll.
Shift button doesn't work on a mac.
The base is by far too light. You just can't use it from high up, you've got to put a lot of arm weight on it. Not for long dogfights, you get tired.
What the hell is with the look? It looks like a fish feeding tube.

I like the feel, but not the actual stick, I'm getting a refund, and will buy an X52 pro.

Sep 06, 2009 Thanquol link
I'm using the Evo myself, bought in the ending Beta days :) Later I bought for WoW the Command Unit, made my life as a hunter a lot easier. The combination rocks to be honest, just remap everything to the command unit and you are basically HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick). Just a long straw for a drink and you are set for hours.
Sep 22, 2009 Secret Agent Muska link
Ok... I've had a replacement for a while now, and I'd like to give some revised thoughts...

MUCH butter, the second one. I think it was just bad postage, but this ones lasting well. Also, once you get used to it, and have used it for a few weeks, the rubber pads loose some of their slip, and gain a bit of friction. Much easier to handle for long periods of time now. The shift button still doesn't work, nasty... Also you CAN use a double throttle if you want, but I'm not sure how it'd work, I think I'll dig up the commands and write a plugin for it. See if I can also make the shift key work, though that'd be harder. I'm hoping to purchase an X52 pro soon, so I might be able to give you a review on that in a bit :)

Oct 26, 2009 Restayvien link
Anyone looked at the Cyborg X? I just checked it out and it looks pretty nice. Trouble is they are closed for stock-take so I can't order one.
Nov 05, 2009 Secret Agent Muska link
Read my last few posts :P Lots on the X there.
May 20, 2010 lostbug link
Not to derail the thread, but I've always been a big fan of CH Products for HiDs. They've supported Macs since last century, and all their products have a solid, built-in feel to them. The downside is they're a bit expensive-although on par with the one you've recommended here. for example.

Extremely excellent writeup. Given the difficulty finding CH Products here in NZ, I will have to switch to your suggestion for my next stick. tyvm!