Speedlink Phantom Hawk Flight Stick Review

by - 7 years ago

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Introduction


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Over the last few weeks I’ve been diving into the world of flying games, with everything from War Thunder to Star Citizen: Arena Commander taking up my time. While mouse and keyboard do a pretty reasonable job for flight sims, it’s a far cry from the real deal and can be a little cumbersome at the best of times. Control pads such as the Xbox 360 controller are a nice middle ground, they provide dual analogue sticks that are great for arcade style flying, but they lack the controls needed for more sim-friendly flying. This leaves only one option, a flight stick and that’s exactly what I’ll be testing today.

There are countless flight sticks out there to choose from, from several manufacturers such as MadCatz, Cyborg, Speedlink and more. It doesn’t take long to realise that if you want to get to grips with a realistic flight stick, you need to spend a fair amount of money. This is why I’ve chosen to put a budget friendly model through its paces, the Speedlink Phantom Hawk. It’s relatively cheap, with prices around £25 from most retailers, so I’m not expecting industry leading performance here. I am however eager to find out just how good it really is, despite its low price tag.

“Transform your desktop into a cockpit – the PHANTOM HAWK joystick makes flight simulation a true experience and adds authenticity to challenging missions. With throttle controller, three control dimensions and eight-way Coolie Hat sets you up for the races, spectacular dogfights and accurate rescue flights.” – Speedlink

It’s got all the major features you could hope for in a flight stick; an analogue stick, 8-way hat switch, throttle control, vibration feedback, D-Pad and 12 programmable buttons.

Features

  • Ergonomically designed flight stick with hand rest for right-handed use
  • Coolie Hat for an eight-way all-round visibility
  • Perfect grip on all surfaces thanks to especially strong suction discs
  • Progressive throttle controller
  • Twelve freely assignable digital fire buttons
  • Force vibration for the ultimate gaming experience
  • 4-way digital D-pad
  • Cable length: 2m
  • Dimensions: 185 × 185 × 240mm (W × D × H)

The packaging is nicely designed, with images and specifications clearly displayed around the box; handy for those looking at this item in a retail store.

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In the box you will find everything you need; the controller, a driver install CD and a quick install guide.

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A Closer Look


The Phantom Hawk comes hard-wired with a 2m USB cable.

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It features a wide base for extra stability and is held in place on your desk by four suction cups.

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There’s an extended handle on the back of the stick; although this is mostly for aesthetics than any practical feature.

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On the base of the Phantom Hawk you’ll find six programmable buttons; three on the left, three on the right.

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At the top you’ll find an 8-way hat switch, the D-Pad and a single red button.

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There is a throttle slider on the left front side of the base.

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Finally, there are two triggers on the back of the flight stick; the top one rests under your index finger, the lower will rest under your little finger.

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The suction pads are pretty standard, but more than enough to hold it in place on your desk; assuming you have a compatible surface.

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Installation & Performance


Installing the Phantom Hawk was as simple as plug and play; there are included drivers, but they didn’t really add anything that Windows couldn’t find on its own. Once connected via USB, the flight sticks 8-Way switch and fire button light up with an LED back light; this adds a little extra flair to the overall design.

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The grip is designed for right-handed use only, but it provides good ergonomics that place the top thumb controls within easy reach.

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Gaming performance on the Phantom Hawk was a mixed experience. For flight sims I found the stick to be adequate at best. For casually flying around or more arcade style controls such as those found in Star Conflict and War Thunder it’s fine, but it lacks finess. When playing with settings set to simulation mode, or games that demand more advanced controls, such as Star Citizen, I found I had a hard time lining up my crosshair on the enemy. There’s a little bit of a deadzone on the stick and you have to move it just a little too far to register a fine adjustment, meaning fine accuracy isn’t the Phantom Hawks strong point. The stick has a good resistance to it that does make it comfortable to control and you can twist the stick left and right to adjust the rudder which is a nice bonus.

The throttle on the Phantom Hawk is very stiff. This is annoying when you want to quickly boost or cut your speed in games like Star Citizen, but it’s great for making steady adjustments that are well suited to flight sim games such as MS Flight. Other than that, everything else feels responsive enough. This is pretty much what I expected, as I wasn’t expecting this to perform on par with pro flight sticks given its price. What I have found is that the stick is still a lot better for sim games than keyboard and mouse, or a control pad; especially in terms of immersion.

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Final Thoughts


Price

The Speedlink Phantom Hawk is just £25 and is easily available from many major retailers; most of which can be found via Google. This is great value for money for those needing something cost-effective for their gaming setup.

Conclusion

I wasn’t expecting this to be the best flight stick I’ve ever used and to be fair, it wasn’t. This isn’t a bad thing for Speedlink, as the Phantom Hawk performed relatively well, but it’s clear it was never designed with the enthusiast user in mind. For the casual gamer or those who just want to dip their toe into the world of flight stick controls on their favourite games, this is a good place to start.

The build quality is robust and feels durable, but there are a lot of plastics. Some of the buttons are a little clunky and the throttle slider is quite stiff to use. While I can see their is plenty of room for improvement to the overall quality, improvements would only result in a price tag that’s more than double; defeating the purpose of this being a budget friendly model.

As a budget flight stick, this is a modest solution with just enough features to satisfy casual gamers. If you want to have a little more fun with jets in Battlefield or play a few space shooters, then you’ll be more than happy with the Phantom Hawk. If you want to command complex controls in one of the more popular premium flight sims, then you may want to save up a little more money for a professional stick.

Pros

  • Lots of programmable buttons
  • Good ergonomics (for right hand use only)
  • Easily accessible triggers
  • Vibration feedback
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Stick has a small dead zone
  • Stiff buttons on base unit

“If you’re on a tighter budget, but still want to get as much out of your flying games as possible, then the Phantom Hawk is an enjoyable and budget friendly solution. It lacks the performance of pro flight sticks, but at a fraction of the cost, it’s hard to complain.”

Thank you Speedlink for providing us with this sample.

Article Index

  1. Introduction
  2. A Closer Look
  3. Installation & Performance
  4. Final Thoughts
  5. View All

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