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Sidewinder Precision Pro Review

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06/06/04
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Quick 'n Accurate

I've always hated bad joysticks. You probably know them. They're uncomfortable, inaccurate, two-button, analog pieces of junk. I was then very glad to be able to try out Microsoft's Sidewinder Precision Pro Microsoft has been developing a reputation for designing high-quality game devices for their Sidewinder line. I am pleased to say that they are carrying on that tradition with the Precision Pro.

The Sidewinder Precision Pro is Microsoft's newest non-force feedback joystick. It is the successor to the Sidewinder Pro. The Precision Pro is an all-digital joystick. This means that you never need to recalibrate the thing. It used infrared beams of light to ensure accurate movement and no drift. The Sidewinder's all-digital nature is a blessing for those who seek accuracy and quality in their joystick, but it can also cause problems on some sound cards. If you have one of these problem sound cards, you should think long and hard before you buy this joystick, as you may have major difficulties when trying to use it.

The Sidewinder has a standard 2-axis stick, plus a rudder control in the form of a twistable handle, which can be used in some games. The main stick has 4 buttons, which are placed more naturally than on the Sidewinder Pro, as well as a hat switch, which can be used to control the viewing direction. On the base of the stick, there are 4 other buttons, a throttle control, and a 'shift' key. You might be wondering why you need all these buttons. After all, most games have actions for 2 or at most 4 joystick buttons. This is where the Sidewinder's software comes in.

The Sidewinder uses profiles to control the functions of the stick. Each profile allows the user to set keystroke combinations for each button and each shifted button. This allows you to use up to 16 combinations per profile. Adding to the joystick's flexibility is the fact that you can switch between profiles by simply calling up the profile manager. 30 profiles for popular games have been included, and it is quite easy to change them or to make your own. One weakness that I noticed is that you are unable to assign keystrokes to rudder control, hat-switch, throttle, or basic movements. This would have let the user use the Sidewinder even in games which are keyboard based, or assign the throttle, hat-switch, and rudder functions to keyboard commands in games which do not use these features.

Despite these annoyances, I found the Sidewinder Precision Pro very useful in most games. Its button layout is much more convenient than the earlier Sidewinder, and its full complement of buttons and programmability makes it invaluable in flight sims and fighting games. While I would not recommend the Sidewinder Precision Pro to current owners of a high quality joystick, I would recommend it to anyone looking for an accurate, drift free, programmable joystick. Another joystick to consider would be the Sidewinder Force-feedback joystick, but it costs about twice that of the Precision Pro, and can cause soreness in some users. If you use a joystick a lot, and are stuck with one of those $10 models, you will wish you had bought the Sidewinder Precision Pro a long time ago.


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