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Gadget Review - Saitek P3000 Wireless USB Gamepad

By Kailas Narendran

features columnist

Pros

- Wireless for convenience and cool factor

- Multiple, rechargeable battery packs

- Software provides extra functionality

Cons

- Only 2 channels for multi player

- 2 channels don’t work equivalently

The lowdown

The P3000 from Saitek offers PC gamers the freedom of wireless gaming. The system consists of a wireless gamepad and receiver/stand with battery charger. It comes with two battery packs to allow you to game ’til you get your fifth-week flag from your 18.02 TA.

The game pad has a gratuitous LCD display that indicates if you’re in “analog” or “digital” mode, which channel you’re on, and the battery level. In “standard mode” the system can function like a standard USB gamepad. When you use the “advanced settings,” you can program one of the many buttons to perform keystrokes (useful for some of today’s more complicated games). Although you get two radio channels, they don’t necessarily work equivalently, so it’s really a one player system.

A nice change

When I got my laptop two years ago I decided I didn’t want to get the embedded wireless connection. Sure, I didn’t think it would catch on this fast, but in reality, I was afraid of the effect the radiation would have when I worked with the computer on my lap (one of my failed $50k ideas “The Lead Codpiece”). But I digress.

Now that I finally caved in and got a wireless card, the whole world has changed (except for the failure of my codpiece). Having gamed for a while with wired controllers, the wireless is a very liberating change. I hate the number of wires that have to run everywhere in a modern computer. With the wireless features of this game pad you can relax on your couch while playing your favorite console game, rather than sitting in your comfy wooden dorm chair feeling like you’re working on your “Super Mario 64” pset. I also think you can safely leave the game pad on your lap without having to worry about the whole codpiece problem.

Not-so-multi

One thing that disappointed me about this product was the lack of massive multiplayer functionality. It would be great if there were one receiver and you could have an unlimited number of controllers connected to it. In the end, however, it seems like real multiplayer console type games are few and far between (they’re mostly just console emulations).

Although this system has two channels, theoretically allowing two players simultaneously, the two channels don’t necessarily work equivalently well. In general, you can find one channel that works well where you are (I’m not sure what factors affect which channel is better), but don’t bet on both working. The range is theoretically 30'. If you live in the Boston area, chances are that the largest dimension of your room isn’t even half of that, so it’s not a problem.

Software add-ons

The software included allows you to program keystrokes into your game pad buttons. For example, if you needed to type “idkfa” on the drop of a dime into your game (two points if you remember that, maybe you’re all too young now), you could put that functionality at the tip of your index finger.

See me, feel me

Finally, the look and feel of this system is pretty solid. The design is very comfortable, and the switches and joysticks feel robust. I didn’t have any problems with the system crapping out or breaking on me, even with some drops.

The bottom line

The MSRP for this system is $40, and it can be purchased directly from Saitek at their Yahoo! store. I didn’t have much luck finding it elsewhere for any less. You can find out more at http://www.saitekusa.com/.