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Reviewed: AirStik 2000
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: September 8th 2000
Page: 2

The Airstik 2000 hooks up through the USB port (a gameport version is available as well), and is a marvel when it comes to installation. Thanks to the magic of USB, the controller plugs in even while you're running the computer, configures itself, and is almost ready to go. It uses standard Windows HID drivers, so no new driver package is necessary, and all the player has to do is go into the windows joystick utility and calibrate the device. It can actually be installed and usable in under a minute on faster systems, which is a BIG difference compared even to Microsoft's sidewinder sticks which require their own drivers.

The button configuration of the stick is yet another one of the bonuses; it gives the player full 4-axis controls with 4 fire buttons, plus a top hat control. It's also a largely ambidextrous design, so lefties can use it as easily as those of us who are right-handed. The left two buttons are fire buttons 2 and 3, with fire button 1 being the trigger and button 4 sitting just under the throttle slider. The throttle slider and top hat are in the center of the stick, and the two right buttons are actually a 4th digital axis for rudder control. The three buttons way out on front control the sensitivity, which has three modes - light, medium, and "twitch". The real beauty of the stick is that it can be used off or on its base, measuring its orientation by two accelerometers on the very bottom of the stick. This lets the player hold it out in the air, or in two palms, or at whatever angle his/her ARM needs to feel comfortable. It also allows it to be held out like a gun if that's the player's preference, especially for those who insist on using joysticks for first person shooters.

While it would be nice to have the device wireless as well as baseless, the weight of batteries probably precludes this, and the cord has PLENTY of length. As for performance, it took me about about a day to learn to use the stick, which isn't surprising since it responds to any nonlateral movement (I reached for a drink a few times without thinking, and watched the planes swerve with my bodily tilt). Once I did adapt to the stick, it functioned flawlessly in every game I could stick it in, from Mechwarrior to Crimson Skies to Quake 3 (not that I'd willingly use ANY joystick for my deathmatching). The ability to change the sensitivity on the fly was very helpful, as it let me adjust to where I wanted the controls without a major restart. As for the weight, I'm happy to say that it didn't give me any trouble -- I was able to play with the stick for about 2 hours before my arm began getting tired, which is longer than conventional sticks. The bottom line with this stick is that it let me have FUN rather than making me fight with my tools.

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Added:  Friday, September 08, 2000
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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