Saitek has developed a series of panels to increase flight simulation realism. While added realism is definately achieved, basically they do nothing more than bring some of a plane's controls and gauges outside of the virtual cockpit onto your desk, freeing your screen. This saves a lot of view-changing and mousing around. However, since they do not bring all of those controls and gauges onto your desk, not even if you got several of all of them, view-changing is still essential. To avoid view-changing, something like Track-IR would be more useful. Also, the view changing now takes place on these controls and gauges, for instance, unless you have 6 FIPs, you'd probably need to change the instrument you want to display on the FIP itself by pressing the buttons at the bottom of the FIP. Also, on the left side of the FIP you can press any of 6 'quick view' buttons which opens directly the associated view. To display GPS for instance, one of these buttons can be pressed rather than shift+3 on the keyboard.
These panels are made to be screwed on the yoke which is meant to be screwed to your desk, but if you do not have a yoke, pressing the buttons on the panel will just move the panel backwards. The panels are rather smoothly made so they slide easily. Saitek supplies velcro patches to stick on your desk and the panels so they won't move, but I would not want to stick those velcro patches directly on my desk.
The supplied USB cable is kind of tough, not easily bendable. Some USB devices are lighter than the cable's toughness and as such will not stay where you put them, and this is true for the FIP. But again, these panels were meant to screw on the yoke.
One of my FIPs has a dead pixel. Not sure if that would qualify for warranty-exchange but it does not bother me enough to try.
USB devices may need more power than you think so it is advised to use a powered USB hub or to plug it directly into the computer. Esp. if you have more than one FIP.
The FIP was designed to display the 6 main flight instruments. By default Saitek's FIP shows Cessna 172 like instruments, regardless of the chosen plane int he flightsim, with the exception of the airspeed indicator which goes up to 360 knots. I think that someone who is a bit clever with a PC can change the looks and ranges of these instruments. I have found XML files and the default FIP pictures that are displayed. Change and adjust these and it should be possible. My guess is that it is possible, in fact, to display all 6 instruments on 1 FIP; making it look like a small version MFD as found in a Lear jet for instance; but this would not automatically change if I chose to fly another plane. I suppose it can be made selectable by the buttons on the bottom of the FIP. Not sure what impact combining flight instruments onto 1 FIP would have on performance, however. Saitek indicates in their manual that there may be a performance price to pay when using multiple FIPs, but perhaps this is because of multiple data streams rather than multiple FIPs. It should be possible to use a client PC with SimConnect to let the client PC process the FIPs' data, freeing resources on the server with the flight simulator; but I have as yet not been able to get that working, not even with Saitek's tech support (who, btw, pointed out a site to me where I can download different, enhanced drivers, not made by Saitek, but by enthousiasts - I have not yet tried those). This is a pity since the FIPs have a very noticeable impact on helicopters. My computer is not the latest and fastest but surely not a slow one either, but I must set the FIPs to inactive by pressing the up/down buttons on them or I won't be able to fly helos without getting dizzy by the sim's shocky screen drawing. For fixed wing flying I notice an impact but a very acceptable one.
I think these panels are really cool and for me, being an aviation enthousiast, worth the cost. But if you're just an occasional flightsimmer, they are probably not.
- Shulin City, AL
May 11, 2010