Saitek X-52 Throttle Axis Problems
It’s been a fair few days since I’ve posted anything or flew any DCS for that matter owing to a Saitek X-52 Throttle Axis Problem I’ve got.
Basically, since I’ve owned my X-52 Pro it has had a strange behavior that I couldn’t put my finger on. When flying in DCS, every so often my view would jump about randomly and then settle back down again. It did seem to be connected to when I moved my throttle but in over a year, I could never find the cause of the problem. I tried everything I could think of to find it and eliminate it.
I thought it might be conflicting bindings in game so I cleared and re-mapped everyone of my buttons again. That didn’t work so owing to a HDD misbehaving, I re-installed windows and everything along with it. That didn’t cure it. I tested the X-52 in the configuration utillity in Windows and couldn’t find anything. I tried with and without the Saitek SST software and that didn’t help. Nothing I tried revealed the cause of the problem.
Then I began to suspect my homemade head tracking was responsible. I use FaceTrackNoIR with point tracking with a PS3-EYE camera. The headtracker itself is made using 3 super bright Yellow LEDs. For this to work, I have to keep my room dark and the threshold levels on the PS3-Eye camera just right so that it only sees and pays attention to my 3 LEDS. Occasionally, I have to adjust these settings because even something slightly reflective can be seen as an additional point of light, even if only briefly. This makes the view jump about here in a way that’s identicle to what happens with my HOTAS problem. So for over a year, I put it all down to my headtracking.
Recently I’ve started flying with a couple of guys that want to learn how to fly the F-15 correctly. By correctly I mean by observing the same procedures as any air force would. Take off, landing, formation, combat. All done by the book. Long story short, this prompted me to set up my HOTAS better for the F-15 and in so doing, I wanted to make use of the rubbish rotaries and slider which until now I’d completely given up on owing to their instability and jitter. I purchased some electrical contact and switch cleaner and decided to give them a blast of that to see if it settled them down.
While doing this, I happened to be in the joystick configuration utility in windows observing whether or not the switch cleaner had made the rotaries and slider any better when I noticed something really interesting.
For some reason, I decided to move the throttle and when I did, I saw the mini stick also slewing fully to the left before quickly jumping back to center again. So I moved the throttle about again and sure enough, it did it again. Then I noticed that it wasn’t just the mini-stick being affected, the rotary scroll wheel on the back of the throttle handle also scrolled when the mini-stick moves.
After a while experimenting around, I soon realised that there are two small areas in the throttles range that are affected and cause the mini stick and rotary wheel to move. The worst area is around the afterburner dent and the other area is the idle dent.
After about half an hour of further experimenting, it dawned on me why I had missed the problem for over a year and had instead chased ghosts.
Basically the problem manifests itself like this:
When flying in the F-15 in DCS, I spend most of my time in MIL thrust. When I do go into Afterburner, it’s a swift steady ramping forward of the throttle to the end of it’s run. I.e full power.
If I move the throttle swiftly and precisely, the motion over the affected area is usually too quick to register but occasionally it does and this briefly moves the mini stick which momentarily registers as a mouse movement or view change. Since my headtracking overrides the mouse movement, it manifests itself as a conflict stutter between the two devices.
When I’ve been looking for the problem it’s clear to me now why and how I’ve missed it. Because firstly it’s such a really small area on the throttle that’s affected and secondly, the affected area on the throttle is right where I wouldn’t normally have the throttle much i.e on the dents. The throttle is either in the MIL area or full AB. When I spent all that time looking for the problem in the windows config utility in the beginning, I would have been moving the throttle through it’s full range of motion quite quickly where it is less likely to misbehave. Having discovered the problem I now know that to consistently get it to misbehave, you have to move the throttle quite slowly and precisely over the affected area and then it plays up nine times out of ten.
This is a video capture I took of the windows config untilty when I discovered the problem – finally. The only control I am manipulating in the video is the throttle axis. I did not make contact with any other axis or button. What you are seeing is the movement of the throttle directly affecting the other two axis (Rotary Scroll Wheel & Mini Stick Mouse).
I contacted Saitek over the weekend and was anticipating a big “to-do” with them over the fact that the product was 16 months old and that I’d just now mentioned it but in their defense, they’ve been really good about it. I’ve been dealing with the same chap over the issue and after some discussion and providing purchase proof etc., they’ve agreed to RMA it. The X-52 pro has been all packaged up in it’s original box (I try keep the boxes of all my high value and prized posessions) and is due to be with the courier for return today.
They did say to me that I should have mentioned this to them sooner but as I said in reponse: what really could I have told them? I had nothing to go on. I couldn’t find the problem in 16 months of investigating on and off and only recently found it by sheer accident. I could have contacted them about the rotaries and slider I suppose but after reading about how common it is, I decided I would just rather put up with not using those controls instead of going through the hassle of returning the HOTAS only to get a replacement with the same quality components back – all at my expense paying for the return postage. But now I’ve found this issue, it has to be returned. There’s no other choice. This is a problem with the hardware itself and cannot be nulled out or ignored.
Trust me, if I had found this on day one, it would have gone back on day one!
My only hope is that Saitek don’t take too long repairing / replacing my X-52. It’s only been barely a week since I last flew and already I’m getting F-15 withdrawal LOL.
I will update this post when I have more news and will continue to update for my own future reference and/or anyone that happens to have this problem, right through to its conclusion.