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MiceReview

Logitech X56 HOTAS Revisited: Is It Still Worth in 2022?

11 Mins read
7.3

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In a Nutshell

The Logitech X56 is a well designed HOTAS joystick that is poorly executed. For games like Star Citizen or Ace Combat, it is near perfect, but for sims like Microsoft Flight Simulator and DCS World, it leaves a lot to be desired.


  • Premium look and feel
  • U.S. Air Force layout
  • Stiff and precise throttle arc
  • High-quality switches
  • Reasonably priced
  • Very loose stick
  • Hats too close to each other
  • Massive base
  • Power delivery issues

In today’s review we are taking a look at the Logitech X56 HOTAS for DCS World, Star Citizen and Microsoft Flight Simulator. Although there are better and more expensive HOTAS out there with much less flaws, there are also reasons you should consider purchasing the Logitech X56, so be sure to fully read this review before you make a final decision.

So, let’s first start this review by taking a look at the hardware. The Logitech X56 can boast with nicely designed stick, which is arranged in the typical U.S. Air Force style, cloning but still getting a touch of futuristic elements to three hats, pickle, and step buttons on top. This is a godsend, especially if you are flying something like the F-16 where these hats are used for managing the avionics suite. On other HOTAS in the same price range, such as the Thrustmaster T.16000M, you have to move over some of those functions to other controls which in turn requires you to keep track of what, where, and how. The U.S. Air Force adopted this model after a lot of research, because this is an intuitive approach and Saitek who originally made this stick followed suite, which is one of the two main reasons why Logitech X56 HOTAS is worth buying.

The Logitech X56 isn’t perfect though. The hats are too close together in the way the pickle button has been placed that your finger gets stuck if you try to go inside the hats. Meaning you have to change your grip for this weird angle to thumb over everything to pickle. The Air Force also put a lot of testing into the different hats used not only to help identify by feel which you’re on, but to make sure when operating one you don’t operate the others. Saitek missed that memo and Logitech never fixed it. You press one, you might press the others. It’s also unfortunate that this is a single stage trigger, unlike the real U.S. Air Force version. At this price point we would’ve liked to have seen that included, but for many users this will be a nonissue.

However, if you take those negatives and compare them against the positives, this is a fantastic stick. The hats are crisp and well at single stage. The trigger is crisp too, unlike the Air Force models which are mushy. The buttons have a clear break on press and that will make you a very happy user. As you run down the stick at the pump stop, again we see quality. The pinky switch is nice and big, very easy to use, but well-built enough that you’re not accidentally pressing it when you don’t want to.

The disconnect lever here is also exactly how we wanted to be crisp, solid break and firm when not in use. Unfortunately, from here on we see the biggest weakness of the X56. First though, there is this adjustable rest, which by adjustable it means you can remove it. It’s a waste of opportunity for a useful part, as being truly adjustable is a feature of some other lesser priced sticks offer.

This is the real problem though. With very weak springs, the stick is very loose. Saitek aimed for a system that was easy for the user to swap different springs in order to easily change how stiff the stick tension is. However, this system doesn’t work. Stiff in this case needs to talked with doctor. The stiffness on this HOTAS is nearly nonexistent. But don’t think the issue impacts you without putting some stock into it. For general videogame flight control, it’s not that bad. Sure, some folks prefer a flaccid sitck, but what we are really talking about is when this shows up when gaming. If you’re flying around Star Wars or Star Citizen, you probably won’t notice. After all, if you’re holding on and actually using the flight control, stiffness is simply a matter of preference. Even in DCS while performing different air combat maneuvers you don’t really notice this. You pull the stick left and you bank left.

The problem really shows up in Microsoft Flight Simulator where finite and precise movements are critical. The inability of this stick to find centers is going to drive you crazy. If you need precise tiny movements to do it, the Logitech X56 will let you down every time. And that is because you literally have to put in a small dead zone to cover the fact that the stick doesn’t center. That means to perform finite adjustments, you have to move the stick further out than normal.

For operations such as refueling, the Logitech X56 can be quite frustrating

And while the triggers are crisp, it’s this ring that will really punish you, because this stick has two modes. Fine, when this ring is engaged, and the stick is just wobbling around inside the tension guard. And the loose, where this ring is no longer engaged, and the stick has no tension at all. The intention behind this design was noble. But good intentions pave the road to a HOTAS that doesn’t get used. This is one of two reasons that will probably have you looking forward to your next set up if you own one.

Lastly, the base is massive. The only reason for this is apparently symmetry with the throttle. This makes it impossible to comfortably use this between your legs. Loose is a good place to be when we start talking about the throttle too. All the hats and buttons on the stick are crisp and firm. The team who designed the throttle were on an entirely different page. Unlike Thrustmaster T.16000M, where hats have clear direction when you push them, the X56 is the opposite. These are all way too close together. It’s so hard not to hit one of these while operating one of the others without looking at them. There is so little travel in these hats that your momentary bump trying to operate one of the others results in ascending commands from the other hat. It’s enough of a problem that when you map these for controls in DCS, the top one will be only used side to side and the bottom hat will be pushed down only. That’s three of eight inputs being used. What a waste.

Once again on the X56 design, it was solid. The execution horrible. The series of controls here in principle are awesome. Not only are these rotary dials that do read Z axis inputs, but their pushbuttons as well. You have this slider, which can be handy either as a modifier key or you can turn the laser on a US fighter. Unfortunately, this is poorly executed physically. These dials new out-of-the-box make stick tension look like concrete. They do feature a center notch so you know when you brought it to center, but internally their resistors are garbage. If you set one of these two controls for zoom like we did, your zoom is going to bounce back and forth constantly if you’re not in the sweet spot that is in the center notch.

Thankfully, however, there is a moment of good here, and that’s the actual throttle. Even adjusting to the loose direction, the throttle arc is very stiff, making finite changes easy and enjoyable. This is one of the best feeling parts of the X56 because when you move the throttle you feel like you really are pushing the throttle on something big like a 747. It feels expensive. Some users have reported that it loosens over time, but in almost a year of flying where the throttle has always moving back and forth to maintain speed, our is still enjoyably firm.

Another win is both the fact that you have two separate throttle arms for left and right engines and other uses will get into. Perhaps less important in DCS, but in other games where these are not always used for engine throttles it’s very easy to engage and disengage the lock that connects both for single throttle dual engine use. Saitek really nailed this, because even the real way modern fighters usually lock their throttles is much harder to use.

The base is equally disappointing. You get a bunch of switches, which are great, and you also get blocks that will prevent you from making accidental switches, but looks can be deceiving. Every one of these switches is an on-off-on switch, but they’re all momentary. At the end of the day, this decision is the most universal. But unfortunately prevents their use in DCS for some mappings. They wobble quite a bit fresh from the factory and it only gets worse with time. There also all identical. So don’t think you’ll use them without looking at the throttle to see which you’re going to press. We did, however, find that while the throttle hats were useless, due to the low position of the throttle, it was actually really easy to use these switches with the thumb as long as the throttle was in the right part of the arc.

Lastly, these two dials both center with notches, and have left and right limits. The only problem with these is that there is two. We really could have used four most cases, but two is more than the Warthog has, so points in the positive here. Before we move to the specific game use, a few other points to make. Both are set on their own USB cable which is nice, allowing independent use of one or both. Unlike the T.16000M, the stick only comes in a right-hand orientation. Again, design of X56 is awesome but the execution is poor.

Without getting super technical in DCS, for example, you cannot use this switch is a modifier. There are some workarounds but in general, every time you’re going to want to use it as a modifier, you’re going to have to switch this from one to the other and back. You can use it as a modifier, if you do everything in the Saitek programming suite, which is very modern looking and offers a lot of functionality. It does take some learning to use, which is something we probably didn’t try to do. For that functionality you have to change the profile in the suite for every game, and in the case of DCS for every module. That’s too cumbersome if you’re flying more than one aircraft. The loose stick can get you irritated, but you can get around that with practice.

For Logitech X56 to work properly, you’ll need a high-quality PCI USB card

This HOTAS is power-hungry and sensitive. It’s probably the LEDs, but more likely just poor electrical engineering job running on discount boards. The X56 simply doesn’t get enough electricity to run correctly from most USB ports. The result isn’t sluggish performance, which might be bearable. No the problem manifests itself in the opposite. Move the throttle arm forward and you might send five or six commands from various hats and switches on the throttle to your PC. The mouse and stick cats will send continuous commands which result in movement, you didn’t command. To use the X56 you’re pretty much going to have to install a PCI USB hub so that the USB ports powering the X56 draw their own power from the power supply, rather than share power with other motherboard components. You’re going to need every tiny increment of power USB is rated to get on paper to deliver. Anything less, and these become worse than impossible to use.

Now, let’s talk about the reasons why you should buy Logitech X56. The first is price. The X56 and features is comparable to the $400 Warthog from Thrustmaster. You get a dual throttle for a little over half of that though. The X56 is a massive upgrade and inputs from its peers in the lower sub-$200 HOTAS category giving you options you don’t see until a $400 and higher range. If you are flying a DCS module with more than a single engine, the X56 is the lowest level of HOTAS you should be considering. Yes, you can do the engine starts by key and then just use a single throttle, but let’s face it, to truly hone your craft, you need to be able to adjust the engines in an emergency, individually or you could just fly an adult jet with only one engine.

The value doesn’t stop there outside of DCS, as we look at the Star Citizen section. Multiple throttle arms and the addition of all these buttons make this attractive and feature. Lower-priced options just don’t match these feature sets spending a little more gets you with the X56. However, this doesn’t unfortunately doesn’t hold so true when you add in spending $100 on a proper PCI USB hub. For that you could have bought the $400 segment and there’s certainly room to make the argument to save your money and do just that.

Now thousands of users can’t all be wrong. The USB issue really rears its head for advanced flight sim gamers more than anything else. If you’re using all the back USB ports and some on the front mounted ones to – expect issues. If the only USB devices on your machine are keyboard and mouse, the X56 may faithfully deliver. Likewise, there’s a lot of other factors. If you spent $400 or more on your motherboard, you’re probably not going to notice. If you spent less than $100, you almost certainly will. If you took shortcuts in your PC build, the X56 is going to know. If you’re deciding between a premium HOTAS or a premium motherboard, put the money in your system. The X56 will be a faithful companion for you.

The final line in the X56 is this. Compared to the PC HOTAS of the 1990s, or even the 2000s, the X56 is worth the money. It was rolled out in the later part of that era and its age is starting to show compared to more premium offerings of the current decade. Frankly, Logitech should reduce the price to sit more in the market segment below it, because at $250, the X56 only matches in price when you consider the bloated prices of high-end HOTAS units. Compared to units in the $150 range, it resembles them more in quality. If you are not a serious flight enthusiast demanding peak performance, the X56 flaws will likely be a nuisance and a little more. For the vast majority of space gamers, arcade flyers, and so on, this stick has more than you’ll ever need, and it would be hard to justify getting into the $400 Warthog segment.

This review so far pretty much tells you all you need to know for DCS. The stick issue really shows its face when you need to do something finite, like air-to-air refueling, but overall it’s been pretty good for DCS. It’s tempting to say switch arrangement styles are problematic to DCS because you really do need in some cases a switch that holds in one direction or the other, but this is the final offering before the high-end throttles that you might buy separately that will be effective for a large number of modules.

Sliding into the Warthog trial, the switches are far better quality and you get a smattering of momentary and non-momentary options. Yet, these end up being quite specialized for use making their adaptation into something other than the A-10, far harder and less useful. Buyer beware here that unless you start looking at whirlpool throttles for example, this is the last offering for universal arrangement.

While the X56 cannot become a dual stick system which is ideal for a lot of Star Citizen, combined with recent control changes, the X56 is a fairly decent set up for Star Citizen. The dual throttle really opens some possibilities here and the biggest thing we enjoyed using this for was for using the different throttles for both thrust and speed settings. This really let us do some fun things for landings. You’ll have plenty of controls to map and here the multiple on-off-on momentary switches are helpful, as you can map a switch to most functions and have an on and off option to work from.

The dual throttles can also be quite useful configured for mining operations while just sticking to the keyboard and mouse for flight control. Star Citizen also doesn’t notice the stick issues as much because of the way the flight model works. The truth of the matter is if you’re not looking for perfection, the X56 is a solid choice. For what you’re paying the build quality should be better, but for this degree of controls to map you’re going to have to pay a pretty penny for something equivalent. Star Citizen players shouldn’t sweat the nuanced downsides of the system. Frankly, you should consider this the highest level of HOTAS to purchase. DCS and Microsoft Flight Simulator flyers on the other hand, should consider that finite control can be a problem especially if you prefer a heavy stick. Still, this is a fantastic entry-level for anyone flying a two-engine aircraft

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Logitech X56 HOTAS Joystick Controller

7.3
The Logitech X56 is a well designed HOTAS joystick that is poorly executed. For games like Star Citizen or Ace Combat, it is near perfect, but for sims like Microsoft Flight Simulator and DCS World, it leaves a lot to be desired.
7.0

Build Quality

8.0

Ergonomics

7.0

Performance

7.0

Price

Pros

  • +Premium look and feel
  • +U.S. Air Force layout
  • +Stiff and precise throttle arc
  • +High-quality switches
  • +Reasonably priced

Cons

  • -Very loose stick
  • -Hats too close to each other
  • -Massive base
  • -Power delivery issues
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About author
Frank is the Editor-in-Chief at ViCadia. He is an avid PC gamer, as well as a tech enthusiast. Besides being a tireless writer, he is also ViCadia’s web developer.
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