My daughter wanted a gamepad that she could play from her bed (instead of sitting at her PC desk) and she originally proposed adding an extension cord to her existing gamepad. Ever the doting father, I considered looking into some of the wireless gamepads that were out on the market.
Fry's Electronics recently dropped the price of the Thrustmaster Wireless Firestorm Gamepad down from $30 to $20. The 33% discount was enticing so I decided to try it.
I had used Thrustmaster products since their early years when they established themselves with a reputation for innovative designs. I had high hopes for this unit.
The Wireless Firestorm package comes with the gamepad, a 900MHz receiver with a 3' cord that plugs into a USB port, 2 AAA batteries, an installation CD, and a short manual. The gamepad is virtually identical to the original corded Firestorm which sports an ergonomically-sound design with a somewhat zen-like simplicity. It roughly imitates the Playstation gamepad format with the 8-way controller to the left, four buttons in a diamond formation to the right, two analog controllers, and six trigger-style buttons underneath (two of which are placed a quarter of a ways from the front for a more trigger-like feel). The gamepad itself is made with a solid-feeling rubberized material that is very comfortable to hold and helps reduce fatigue.
The gamepad is sized just right for large and small hands. I was very happy to see that it fit nicely into a 9-year-old's hands as comfortably as that for an adult.
The software allows full programmability of all controls and can also use keyboard and mouse-click commands; typical of almost every high-end gamepad on the market.
The one design accommodation for the wireless unit which bothered me was the battery case located in the bottom center of the unit. I had no problems with it but the battery cover looked like it could easily pop off if solidy struck by a wayward finger during intense gameplay.
The setup was rather simple: load the software, reboot, and plug-in the USB receiver when prompted. The unit worked perfectly for the first session of my daughter's favorite racing game at about 2.5 meters away from the receiver. The responsiveness was good for this game and it seemed that we had a winner of a product.
Sadly, annoyances began to follow. After one game, we attempted to check the unit's calibration and found that the analog sticks were off-center. We then found the unit inoperable for another game and discovered that the gamepad was transmitting the wrong button signals to the receiver (or that the receiver was misinterpreting the gamepad's transmissions). On another occasion, the gamepad wouldn't work after a system reboot.
A lot of these issues might have been caused by signal interference. We have three 900Mhz phones in our house along with other wireless RF devices. Suffice to say, I came to the conclusion that the Firestorm wasn't the best gamepad for our home's wireless arrangements.
I wound-up returning the unit to Fry's and purchasing a Logitech corded gamepad along with a 15' USB extension cord from Pricewatch.com. I ran the extension cord along the wall (through a white cable cover) to my daughter's bedside. It's not innovative, but the gamepad works everytime with no annoyances.
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Amount Paid (US$): 21.50