Reviewed: June 18, 2003
Type: Wireless Wheel
The Saitek RX600 Wireless Wheel is my third wheel for the PS2, but is the only wheel in my collection that is wireless. I’ve never used a Saitek controller before so I was eagerly anticipating testing out a new manufacturer and see just how reliable a wireless wheel could be. The RX600 couldn’t have come at a better time, as I was just about to start my review of the new IndyCar Series racing game for the PS2.
Aesthetics - 9
The first thing I have to say is this wheel looks COOL. Molded in black plastic and highlighted with stylish “fake” chrome and royal blue accents, this wheel is as much fun to look at as it is to use. The D-pad and face buttons are conveniently placed in the 10-2 wheel position (driver’s ed instructors everywhere salute you Saitek) and the shoulder buttons are split between the front and rear face of the wheel. This placement is a bit odd, but still comfortable and easy to reach once you remember which buttons are which. The Start and Select buttons are integrated into the teardrop design of the L2/R2 buttons.
The wheel itself is perfectly sized and has textured rubber grips for sweat-free driving. The overall weight is not too much that it gets uncomfortably sitting in your lap. The curved top of the wheel casing pops off to easily receive the four batteries required to operate this wheel for up to 50 hours.
The receiver is just a big larger than your typical memory card and also features some chrome highlights and a swivel antenna. If you’ve ever seen a wireless net card for a laptop you’ll know exactly what this receiver looks like. There’s even a signal light on the end of the card. Speaking of lights, the wheel features red and green LED’s indicating battery levels and transmission status. The center of the wheel glows in a brilliant royal blue that is quite striking.
The box and manual state the wheel can be mounted to either a desk/table, or used on your lap. The latter is true to some degree but not nearly as comfortable for extended periods of play. The way the lap mount works is that you hug the curved desk-mount clamp with your legs, down near your inner knees. The tighter you keep your legs together the more stable the wheel feels.
My only problem with this design is that is can become quite stressful to keep your legs pressed together “that” tightly. I much prefer the design of my Mad Catz MC2 wheel that uses outward leg pressure to stiffen the lap grip. I’m sure the designers are hoping that serious racers (serious enough to buy a wheel) will be mounting this to a table, but I’m also willing to bet there are a lot of people who play their games in rooms where a suitable table is not always going to be available.
Durability - 7
The RX600 is constructed out of heavy-duty plastic. There is no slip or play whatsoever around the shaft and there is a smooth and solid feel when you turn the wheel up to 90-degrees in either direction along with a springy snap-back-to-center.
I have only two concerns with the durability of this product; the left and right paddles. The RX600 doesn’t come with pedals. Instead, you accelerate and brake using paddles mounted behind the wheel. These are known as butterfly shifters and up until now I’ve always used them for “shifting gears”. Now these flippers are duplicates for the X and Square buttons, and while I can eventually get used to the premise of using these for gas and brake I feel they are simply way to flimsy to last for more than a few months, especially if you are an intense gamer.
The first game I tested was Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec and there were at least a dozen times in my two hours with that game where I caught myself pulling on the brake or gas just a bit harder than it felt safe to do. I just know that I’m going to be rushing up on a hairpin turn and slam on the brakes (squeeze the left paddle) and that sucker is gonna snap off. I’m no engineer so I don’t know what could be done to fix this. The most obvious solution is to make the paddles shorter to reduce the leverage, but in all honesty I thought the paddles were already a bit short and I was using my fingertips to reach them.
Performance - 8
The RX600 is a very nice wheel when you find a game that supports non-specific wheels. My experience with GT3 was a bit uninspiring, not because of the Saitek wheel but rather because Polyphony Digital chose to support only the Logitech GT USB wheel. So while you can certainly use the RX600 you cannot calibrate the wheel, adjust sensitivity, or control dead space. Normally, when you calibrate a wheel there is a certain level of dead space in the lateral movement before the car actually turns. This give you much more precise control and allows you to use the full range of the wheel. When you cannot calibrate, the wheel is nothing more than an analog stick with much more travel. It took me nearly an hour to adjust my driving style to suit the wheel and not “ping-pong” off the walls of the track and even then you won’t get to use the full travel of the wheel. Again, this is for only a few games and is not the fault of Saitek, but I felt you should be warned.
Playing games like Pro Race Driver, Midnight Club II, and IndyCar Series the wheel performed admirably. The extra travel distance of the paddles gives you much more precise control over gas and braking than using the pressure sensitive buttons. I was also pleased to note that if your signal is ever interrupted (only happened twice in more than 20 hours of testing) that the game you are playing is paused until it reconnects. Nice!
The wheel also features Double Shock 2 for good vibration effects on games that offer them. I’m a big fan of force feedback (vibration effect’s more serious cousin) that actually helps me drive. Vibration is generally good for nothing more than to tell you that you are off the road or you just hit a car, tree, or wall. There’s no way to toggle the vibration on the actual wheel, so if you are looking to conserve battery juice you will need to disable vibration in the game.
Value - 9
At $60 the RX600 is competitively priced with the rest of the competition, perhaps even a bit of a bargain considering those other wheels have wires. There is always a premium to be paid when investing in a wireless controller, and the fact that this one uses the 915 MHz technology and is still priced to compete is an achievement in itself. They even give you your first four AA batteries to get you started, but I highly recommend going out and getting some rechargeable ones right away.
Overall – 8.0
Personally, I enjoyed the Saitek RX600 wheel very much, but there are a few games where I will still have to break out my Logitech wheel for that extra bit of configurability and realism. I can guarantee this is the coolest looking wheel in my growing collection, and the fact that I don’t have to string wires across the room or hook-up pedals is just an added bonus.
If you are looking for a great wheel for your PS2 and having it wireless is a valued feature then look no further than Saitek. The RX600 is affordable, stylish, and reliable. Just take it easy on those paddles.