Speedlink Dark Tornado joystick
Speedlink has come out with some eerily familiar looking products in the past – such as the Speedlink XEOX and Strike FX gamepads that bear certain resemblance to MS Xbox controller and PS3 controller – but the new Speedlink Dark Tornado takes this to the next level. To all intents and purposes, it is a spitting image of the Microsoft Sidewinder joystick which was sold early last decade but is not compatible with the latest Windows OS’s.
The differences in the outward appearance are few – mainly the colour of the handle. But there are some differences that make the Speedlink’s product a little bit more interesting. One of these is the force feedback and the other is the price. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
The design of the Dark Tornado is very simple: a bulbous base with four buttons and a throttle lever and a ergonomic stick with more more buttons. The design is very much right-handed and left-handed gamers are simply out of luck. The material that the joystick is made of is plain black plastic, underlining the fact that we are looking at a piece of retroish gear.
The plasticky design and the scarcity of buttons are not the only things that mark this as a budget joystick: there’s no hat switch or a twist handle either. Furthermore, there are four suction cups on the bottom of the base – a design decision that really threw me back to the mid 1980’s. But, given the lightness of the joystick, the suction cups are really needed, as otherwise the joystick would not stay on the table unless you held it down with your other hand.
The stick is centered by separate springs for X and Y axle. The resultant feel is very yielding, perhaps too much so. You really need to relax your grip on the joystick to allow it to return to the centre position. The four buttons on the base are also very soft and noisy, giving poor feedback. The buttons on the stick are better – there’s a clear click when you press them – but they have their own shortcomings: the trigger is a simple button with no free movement until it clicks. And due to the short handle, anyone with large hands will have difficulty using the three top buttons as two of them fall beneath the first joint of the thumb while the last one is pretty much against the joint.
The throttle lever is at the base of the joystick, closest to the gamer, and it functions relatively well. It protrudes perhaps a little bit too much from the base and it is difficult to judge the centrepoint, but otherwise it works ok.
The joystick suffers the most from the lack of a hat switch, requiring you to use a mouse or some other piece of gear for free look or some other function that you’d normally use the hat switch for.
The force feedback offers so-called ‘realistic vibration’. Again, I have to question the wording and ask what ‘unrealistic’ vibration might feel like. As it is, a vibrating joystick is not very realistic at all if you think of it as a flight stick. But, for those who like the occasional hand massage, the feature is there and works ok. The main problem with the feature is that the manual states that ‘The vibration function can be manually switched on/off using the switch on the bottom of the joystick’. However, these is no such switch on the bottom of the joyctick at all.
Given its limitations, Speedlink Dark Tornado is a working solution to someone who wants to try a joystick, but does not want to spend too much on it. The handle is designed for small hands and the buttons are not worth any praise, but it works and for this price you cannot really expect much more. For anyone serious about flight sims or air combat, this joystick will fall short of your needs.