Budget-friendly gaming pad
PC gamers have traditionally preferred the mouse+keyboard control for the simple fact that it is more accurate than gamepads (those headshots count!). But there are certainly occasions when a gamepad might be the better choice, especially sports and racing games but also some other arcade-type games that are published for PC.
We got our hands on the very affordable Speedlink Strike FX gamepads, both the wired and the wireless version. Both controllers support XInput and DirectInput modes, which means that you will be able to use them with both modern and any older titles that happen to support controllers. In the following, we will take a look at these controllers together, but will make a point of mentioning if the wired and wireless controllers differ in any aspect.
The Speedlink Strike FX gamepads are equipped with the usual XYBA buttons and an 8-way digital D-pads. In addition, you have ‘Start’ and ‘Back’ buttons and a ‘Mode’ button on the front face, the last of which can be used to activate the wireless connection or to switch the input mode. And, as also usual for gamepads, you get the two bumper buttons on left and eight as well as 2 analogue triggers. And to crown this button-fest, the controllers also have two analogue sticks with button function, so you should really have enough buttons to almost any possible need. The controllers also have the ever-mystifying vibration effect, which Speedlink markets as “incredibly realistic”, not that I know what unrealistic vibration effect would feel like.
In addition to the above, the wireless gamepad also advertises 10 metre wireless range and a Li-polymer battery that should go for up to 10 hours of continuous gameplay. Charging time over mini-USB takes approximately three hours. On the other hand, the wired gamepad comes with a 2.5 metre connector cable, obviously limiting the gamer’s distance from the PC a bit more than the wireless version.
Under ergonomics we consider such factors as the comfort of using the equipment as well as the weight and other design factors that affect the usability of the controller. In the case of the Strike FX gamepads, it should be noted that the wireless version is slightly heavier than the wired version, which is probably caused by the battery, but this slight negative point is quickly countered by the fact that you will not get tangled up with the wire all the time.
The design of the pads is familiar to anyone who has used PS3 gamepads in the past. This means that they are small for gamers with large hands, and big for small gamers. My 4-year-old daughter had trouble using the full reach of the sticks while playing Lego Indiana Jones without changing her grip every time. On the other hand, my hands eventually started to ache because of the tiny size of the gamepad. Held naturally, the buttons and the sticks were positioned below the first joint of my thumbs, requiring me to squinch my hands in order to use the buttons&sticks with the thumb-tips. But for an average-sized gamer with normal hands, the controllers will certainly be just right.
The build quality of both gamepads seems good, although I did not feel inclined to test it by throwing them around. The construction is simple plastic with no fancy additions such as non-slip coating, but that is to be expected at this price point. The handles have finger-grooves at the back, which make sure that you will still not lose your grip during a hectic gaming session.
Drivers and installation
Plugging either gamepad into a Windows 7 machine was quick and easy. The same driver installation CD worked for both controllers and while the USB wireless module took a few moments to activate upon first use, it was very fast, almost instantaneous in subsequent use.
Overall, we found the Speedlink Strike FX gamepads to be excellent considering their affordable price. More expensive models will certainly cater better non-slip surfacing and more exciting shapes etc., but the Strike FX controllers are great no-nonsense controllers for PC gamers who occasionally find the need to use one, but are not willing to commit to gamepad world fully and shell out more of their hard-earned cash. Given that the wireless connection works without hick-ups, we’d certainly recommend it over the wired version, unless you wish to also use the controller with your PS3 console.
Our score: 8.2/10