All charged up and ready to go.
To some, using a keyboard for gaming is as out there as a license to use the Internet. Unfortunately, there aren't many credible alternatives available to those who still think of their $3000 PCs as giant consoles on really small televisions. Most attempts at capturing the ease of console gaming have been awkward and others are straight-up unusual, though every now and then we come across something worth fondling.
Not one to be outdone by the competition, Saitek has returned with another well-made peripheral in the P3000 Wireless Pad & Docking Station. This wireless, rechargeable USB PC game controller may just be your ticket to keyboard-free gaming.
Right out of the gate the P3000 has a vast lead over the competition - virtually no wires. Well, there is one that runs from the recharging unit to your USB port, but the controller itself is completely wireless. The recharging unit acts as a nifty little display stand for the controller. The package also comes with two little rechargeable batteries; plug one into the top of your controller like an oversized memory card and plug the other into the recharging unit. While one is being used, the other is getting some rest, so you'll have sufficient power 24/7. And much like any decent new cell phone, the easy-to-read LCD screen displays the remaining battery life so the controller won't conk out on you in the middle of level 7.
Comfort and design were clearly high priorities. The P3000 sports a friendly six-button layout with a single set of left/right shoulder buttons. This is a common, comfortable layout and makes all functions easy to reach. It also comes with the now standard dual analog sticks, which can be pressed in as buttons themselves for added functionality, as well as an 8-way D-pad. There's also a 'Shift' button which effectively doubles the number of functions.
In addition, what would normally be used as "Start" on a PS2 controller is used here as a toggle to switch between analog and digital control. The latter sets your D-pad function as the main directional control, while the analog sticks operate as POV hat switches. Switch to analog and the scheme is reversed - analog sticks control your movement and the D-pad becomes the hat switch. No matter how you play, the P3000 has you covered.
Moreover, it doesn't matter what you play either. I went rogue in Neverwinter Nights, ripped it up in Tony Hawk 4, laid siege to a dungeon or two in Microsoft's RPG hit, and even threw a few fires in the hole. All performed well, yet the biggest controller hurdle was offered by the great Mafia, an excellent game riddled with varied, tough controls. Happily, the P3000 passed with nearly flying colors.
Really the only performance issue I faced was with the analog stick. While driving and skating, I found that the analog control veered slightly to the left, just enough to annoy. I found two good ways to deal with this concern: either switch to digital and use the D-pad or utilize Saitek's programming software. The software allows you to change the buttons to take on keyboard functions. With a click of a button using the programming software, I set the directions of the left analog stick to operate as WASD on my keyboard, which seemed to alleviate the alignment issue.
The $39.95 MSRP is a little steep for what amounts to just a control pad, but when you consider what you're getting for the money – wireless, rechargeable, solid layout – it makes sense. Saitek's P3000 is a great way to make hassle-free gaming your new reality, no matter how or what you play.