Joysticks have fallen out of fashion with the mainstream gaming crowd these days, with most having moved to controllers that offer more convenient inputs for a large range of games that don’t make as much sense to use a fully-fledged joystick with. However, given the somewhat recent upturn in popularity of games like Elite: Dangerous and War Thunder, there’s something of an uprising for the joystick market to behold as the controller paradigm shifts back to joysticks as the best control method available.
Unless you’re part of the hardcore elite when it comes to control surfaces for these games (at which point, I’m going to say this joystick probably isn’t for you) there’s not a huge selection available, and of those, the price point leaps up quite dramatically early on in the range.
In steps Speedlink with their BlackWidow XE stick - a visual update to their previous non-XE model - that aims to satiate that desire for the most fitting input type for your games against a sensible price point that won’t destroy the bank.
Out of the box, the Black Widow XE comes with no extra fluff alongside the joystick itself, a driver CD and a quick-start guide, which in this day of plug and play compatibility should come as no surprise. Popping it out of the box and plugging it in, it was ready to rock in absolutely no time at all.
I fired up Flight Simulator X as pretty much the defacto choice to test out the BlackWidow - and it outperformed my expectations. I’d spent time flying around doing all of the usual “non-sim” things that people do in FSX such as loops and barrel rolls - the works. In fact, possibly the only thing that took time to get used to was having the rudder control on the thrust lever - I’ve come from using a Logitech Extreme 3D Pro many moons ago and had simply become accustomed to twisting the stick left and right to control rudder input. After a short while playing though, it became second nature to use the new (in my mind) rudder control.
The stick itself feels solid and well connected to the base. The buttons on the stick feel much like most games controllers do, with a sizable amount of travel, but satisfying to press, the trigger and hat buttons have a satisfying click to them. The buttons on the base have a bit of a squishy feeling to them, though there’s a good chance that with more use that will become much less apparent. It’s not enough of a squish to make it a bad experience - again, it’s mostly my experience with the Extreme 3D Pro’s almost flat buttons that I’m comparing it against.
Throttle control - like the stick is also very solid, with an excellent connection to the base. Moving through the range is very smooth and easy to get it just at the level you need it at, again much like the rudder control.
However, though suction pads are included with the base of the stick, I can’t use those with the full-width mat that I use on my desk. In that light, I would have liked the base of the stick to be a bit heavier in order to counteract the likelihood of the base moving during gameplay, which becomes more apparent when you’re moving to the ends of the joystick’s back and forward movements. It is slightly counteracted by having your hand on the throttle, but that’s not always going to be the case when you’re “going Mach 2 with your hair on fire”.
Speedlink Black Widow XE Review
Solid stick for the asking price, and a worthy contender as a stepping stone to see if it’s something you’re interested in pursuing before moving up to more heavy duty HOTAS setups.