The Saitek Pro Flight Radio Panel is a panel interface for desktop flight simulation.
ORDERING / PRICE (in US Dollars)
$117 – Purchased at a local Fry’s Electronics (price-matched) – Jan 2014.
Fry’s Electronics lists the unit for $150, but I searched online, and they matched Walmart’s listed online price at checkout.
SHIPPING / PACKAGING
This item was picked up locally so no shipping was involved.
Saitek packs their products in plastic bags, surrounded by custom molded cardboard liners, then inside a medium cardstock full-color printed outer box with some nice “see-through” graphics. The product was not damaged and all expected items were included.
DRIVERS / MANUALS
Device drivers are included on a CD. As with most retail gaming electronics, there was also plenty of self-advertisement included in the documentation package, selling some affiliate game or showing off another product.
I seldom use the drivers included with a retail product as they are typically already outdated. Instead, I downloaded the latest drivers directly from Saitek’s website.
The drivers do include a graphical test program to verify connectivity of all switches, rotaries, and displays. Also included is a link to start the Saitek-FSX plugin if it does not start automatically for any reason.
ASSEMBLY / INSTALLATION
The radio panel itself is completely assembled out of the box, and a bracket with thumb screws is included for the modular mounting system if so desired.
The panel’s USB cable simply connects to the PC. In my situation, I have it connected to my Yoke System’s onboard USB hub (which requires the yoke’s optional power adapter).
INTEGRATION / OPERATION
After installing the Saitek drivers, they run in the background and start automatically with Windows.
I did not have to program any special settings within FSX (or the PMDG 737NGX).
The Radio Panel consists of two separate radios, one each on the upper and lower rows. The black knob on the left is a 7-step rotary that selects what type of radio to use on that row: COM1, COM2, NAV1, NAV2, DME, ADF, or XPDR. I have two of these Radio Panels for a total of four communication channels at once. I use one panel for COM1 and COM2/XPDR, depending on if I want to check on ATIS while monitoring ATC. The other panel is set to NAV1 and NAV2 for ILS and Autoland approaches.
The LED displays are bright and easy to read, but are not dimmable. They come to life when FSX is started and go dark after FSX is closed.
The silver knobs are two concentric rotaries in one. The larger knob controls the radio frequency before the point or left two digits of the XPDR squawk code. The smaller knob controls the radio frequency after the point or right two digits of the XPDR. The knobs are solid, but the indents you feel while turning them don’t quite match up to the inputs sent to FSX. Therefore, you may have to carefully balance between the indents to get the frequency you desire.
The active/standby switch is a simple pushbutton that is positive when pressed.
TIP: There is a third-party developer Massimo who created an interface utility called SPAD (Saitek Panel Advanced Driver) that states it can give the user the ability to program the Saitek Radio, Switch, Multi, and BIP panels with custom operations via Pete Dowson’s FSUIPC. However, development stopped back in July 2012 with the v0.5.1 release . I have not tried it and it is mentioned here as information only.
Each panel comes with a plastic bracket for mounting. This bracket is designed to be modular and connected to other Saitek brackets or to the top of the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke System. This is what I did, eventually stacking 3 brackets above each other (two Radio Panels and the Switch Panel), and attaching them all to the top of the yoke casing. There is some forward/back flex to my setup when mounted to the yoke, so I cut some wooden dowels and propped up the back of the stack to stiffen it.
I have not needed to contact the manufacturer or reseller with this product. It has performed as advertised.
I purchased these Pro Flight Radio Panels about a month after the Pro Flight Yoke System. They require little setup or instructions and have never failed to operate. However, due the slightly annoying issue of having to pay special attention to the knobs and not trust the feel of the indents, I give the Saitek Pro Flight Radio Panels a score of 8 out of 10.
UPDATE: I sold these Saitek radios panels once I upgraded to my CPFlight Complete Pedestal.
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