Summary: Well, you haven't seen a FiringSquad review a joystick in a while, so here is your chance. Jakub takes on Saitek's controller to play his favorite flight sims. Find out how we rated this 'stick and how well it plays.
A joystick? On PC? When's the last time anyone used one of those, right? Well, the occasional computer game like IL-2: Forgotten Battles requires a joystick to review, but given the dearth of interest in flight sims lately, I could have held off on buying a joystick for another few years, I imagine. Unfortunately, my on-going addiction to World War II Online requires me to engage a joystick for the purposes of driving tanks, or more rarely, crashing aircraft into the ground while in an uncontrollable spin.
Enter the Saitek Cyborg Evo, which just happened to be the most decent joystick that Best Buy had at the time I was getting the shakes from WW2 Online withdrawal. I suppose it's possible I could have found an uglier joystick if I tried, but remember: this is Best Buy we're talking about and their selection is limited at best.
For all its hideously unsuccessful attempts at trying to look futuristic, the Saitek Cyborg Evo is actually quite a decent joystick for the money. It places, as you can see, a lot of emphasis on function over form. All the buttons are easily accessible, the hand support at the bottom can be switched from comfort for a left-hander. There are two knobs at the top that control the side-to-side tilt of the top button array as well as the forward/back tilt of the three buttons on the bottom of that array.
The Saitek Cyborg Evo features an 8-way hat switch, which is almost a luxury at this price range. The hat is notchy enough to give the feeling of feedback when you're in the right spot, without interfering with movement of the hat. In fact, the only ergonomic problem we noticed was that the 5 and 6 buttons near the hat are a little too far away for easy reach if you tilt up the lower buttons. Hitting those two usually means setting off buttons 2, 3 and/or 4. In general the buttons are light and require little pressure (perhaps too little) but give an audible and tactile click that confirms their effectiveness.
The Cyborg Evo is composed of several kinds of plastic, the dark matte blue being very grippy and resistant to slippage from sweat. The base of the stick is moderately weighted with 4 grip pads, but it doesn't sit well on a lap, especially not when the rudder twist is being used.
The throttle feels much more solid. It requires enough force to move it that you'll rarely move it accidentally, but it doesn't imbalance the stick when that force is applied. Unfortunately, unlike my old Sidewinder, it's not just a matter of reaching down with the thumb to play with the throttle - it requires active use of the second hand if you wish to maintain any sort of control over the stick itself.
The Evo comes with rudder twist that is surprisingly good but still just rudder twist. The effort that goes into twisting the joystick is considerable enough that you can learn to at least avoid how to use it if you don't want (though most games are configurable enough to disable rudder twist anyway). Getting fine-tuning out of rudder twist takes immense practice and let's just say I'm happy I don't simply crash in IL-2 any longer whenever I try to use it while engaging in combat maneuvers. Of course, there's considerable difference between not crashing, and actually succeeding. Still, as far as the feature goes, the Cyborg Evo does a decent job with it.
The programming software that comes with the Saitek stick is simple and easy to use - buttons can be configured to simulate any number of key combinations - and while the software is small, it installs a ton of unnecessary drivers. Mouse drivers, keyboard drivers and other accessories that aren't connected to the computer apparently need to be updated.
Finally, all things considered, the Cyborg Evo is a really good deal. Accessory prices have generally come down over the years, but considering my junked Sidewinder cost only $10 less when new than the Evo, color me impressed.