Reviewed: August 15, 2004
Type: Gamepad Controller
What's in the box
It's been 14 months to the day that I reviewed Saitek's P2500 Rumble Force gamepad. At that time I really had no great demand for a gamepad in my daily PC gaming, but in the past year things have been changing. More and more console games are coming to the PC and along with them the demand for a quality gamepad has never been greater. The P2500 is still one of the finest gamepads on the market and I have been using it constantly and recommending it to anyone who asks, but now there is a new kid on the block and his battlecry is "Look Ma, No Wires!"
Yes, that's right, the P3000 Wireless Gamepad has arrived to prove that wireless just isn't for consoles anymore. Best of all, Saitek didn't screw up the good thing they had going. The P3000 is virtually identical in design to the P2500 so you still have the ultimate in comfort, configurability, and functionality, and now you are no longer tethered to your PC.
Installation - 10
Even though the gamepad is wireless the charging base and signal receiver still needs to connect to your PC via a USB port. You'll want to install the included software first then plug in the cable when instructed by the installation wizard. It's a fairly quick and painless process, and I was up and running in less than three minutes.
You also have the option to install Saitek's custom programming software. This allows you to program just about any command to any button or shifted button on the controller. Even games that don't typically work with a gamepad can be "fooled" into working with the P3000.
Aesthetics - 9
The P3000 is a near perfect replica of Sony’s Dual Shock pad, at least in size and shape. In some ways I actually prefer this design to the Dual Shock. Featuring twin analog sticks, a D-pad that redefines comfort, 6 buttons that slip right under your thumb, two large shoulder buttons, and textured rubber handgrips, you won’t find a more comfortable gamepad for your PC.
The black and silver color scheme is quite stylish and all the buttons are engraved with their respective numbers with the exception of the vertical clicks on the sticks, which act as buttons 9 and 10. Two mode select buttons toggle digital/analog and A/B functions while a Shift key allows you to program alternate commands to each button for up to 20 functions.
The charging base is about 3" tall (about the same size as my wireless mouse base) and not only provides you with a convenient place to store your gamepad when you aren't playing, but also allows you to charge one of the two included power packs. So while one battery is in the gamepad the other is charging, insuring that you'll always be able to play. The green and red indicator lights keep you apprised of the status of the battery in the charger while the LCD on the gamepad updates you on the remaining battery life for the one in the controller.
Durability - 10
The P3000 is of solid construction with a comfortable weight. The battery weight is offset by the lack of rumble motors so there is no real variance in weight between the P2500 and this new model. The buttons all have a good feel and the sticks are quite responsive with a nice snap-to-center that persists, even after more than 20 hours of intense gameplay. The two shoulder triggers still feel just a little loose and clicky for my taste.
Performance - 10
My first concern was battery life. It takes about an hour to charge the power pack and a fully charged battery lasts for about 8 hours of gaming. As long as you keep one battery in the base you should never have any downtime from dead batteries. The P3000 has a range of about 30', arguably farther than anyone would likely ever want to play unless you have your PC jacked into a big-screen TV. It uses 900MHz technology for reliable communication and no noticeable lag, even on some of the more intense games I tested.
I wanted to try Saitek’s new gamepad out on some hot new titles that really need a gamepad. I started off with The Suffering then moved on to TOCA Race Driver 2. Mutant Storm is still one of my favorite games that demands a quality gamepad and the P3000 performed flawlessly with precise analog control and instant button response.
The P3000 lacks the rumble technology of the P2500, obviously to keep the batteries from draining faster than they can charge, so if you insist on a rumble pad then stick with the P2500, but if no-wires freedom is more important then you have found the gamepad of your dreams.
Value - 9
Admittedly, $40 is a significant chunk of change but I can’t think of a better wireless gamepad that you can buy for your PC, especially if you are a veteran of the PS2 and are already comfortable with the Dual Shock. It’s a solid controller that is both comfortable and functional and relatively easy to install. The optional software will allow you to map keyboard commands and use this gamepad even with games that normally wouldn’t support one. I also have to commend Saitek for using rechargeable power packs rather than enrolling gamers in the "battery of the month" program at Radio Shack.
Overall – 9.5
There is a growing number of PC games that require, or at least play better with a gamepad these days and when you are ready for great one the Saitek P3000 Wireless is one of the best and the only one to have me unplug my P2500. I'm sure I'll still use my P2500 for games that really need rumble effects, but the convenience of a wireless gamepad cannot be denied, and the P3000 gets the job done and does it with the style and quality that we've come to expect from Saitek.