Essential hardware for simming?

I was doing a little looking around at sim hardware, as it’s been at least 6 years since I’ve changed or added anything (it was 2012 when I traded my Saitek X52 in for a CH Products setup and added TIR v5); this got me thinking about how I was trying to get a friend interested in DCS, who has only a basic HOTAS and nothing extra. I then remembered all the various sticks and hardware over the years, thinking about how comfortable some were and how long they lasted.

If I look at what I use most in DCS, I’d say that having a slew control on my throttle is one of the big things I almost always use, a must have for any of the PGMs or sensor systems in the game, even the Su-25T. Without it, it’s very clunky to use any form of TDC in any of the aircraft. The CH Pro Throttle has a little ministick with a click button press, which I use as my designate button. However, it is showing its age and the axises jitter a lot, plus slight movement of the stick during the button press can make it tedious at times. Next up would be having at least 4 buttons on my stick with a hat and a two way button, as I use the four way left hand button for zoom in and zoom out in all my games. The hat is absolutely a must for trim control, there’s just no comparison – I tried using the trim wheels on the stick itself but it just doesn’t work the same. This is followed up by the TIR, where I always have to have it on if I’m playing.

While the CH setup has been a great improvement over the old X52, I haven’t been quite as impressed by the stick’s overall comfort. It offers a lot of functionality and I use pretty much every button on the stick, but I always have to move my hand around to do what I need to do. For example, I have to shift my hand upward in order to use the pickle button and hat, which can be uncomfortable. The throttle is similar, where my hand is typically in place to make maximum usage of the ministick and nothing else. The pedals are the only part that don’t really cause me any issues, a stark contrast to most people who call them the “ball busters”!

Looking back, the most comfortable stick I ever had was the Thrustmaster Top Gun stick. That would have been the late 90s as I recall and I used it to play Jane’s Longbow. This was followed by the more advanced Suncom F15 SFS, but I don’t remember much about the comfort of it. I found it difficult to use and the binding process with the keyboard problematic, so I didn’t use it much outside of the stick. I wish I had kept it from all those years ago, because I’m sure I could probably hack the stick and the throttle into making something decent today. Anyways, I went through a few other sticks after that, before getting to the next most comfortable, the Thrustmaster Afterburner II. While it was just as limited as the older Top Gun, it was right up there in terms of comfort and ease of use. I put a lot of hours into IL2 with it before the stick began to die (buttons quit working, etc.) and a friend gave me a Saitek Cyborg force feedback stick while I held onto the throttle. This was eventually replaced with the Saitek X52 setup which I kept for many years until I got the current CH setup.

Seeing a lot of modern offerings today made me wonder if there’s anything that could reach the functionality with the CH setup while getting the comfort of the Top Gun stick, though I can’t justify the expenditure for any new hardware right now. It also made me wonder about ranking overall what can work in DCS, with the bare minimum of hardware to the absolute max.

As I see it, the starting point is the Thrustmaster T-Flight when it comes to sticks. It lacks a lot of the functionality I consider essential, but I think it’d be adequate early on. I would also have to have some kind of head tracking to go with it; it’s that important – whether TIR or some home baked solution. The button arrangement would be problematic on the stick as there’s no real easy way to control zoom without taking up two buttons or sacrificing pitch trim on the hat.

I have no idea what midrange or top of the line would represent. I honestly don’t see the Thrustmaster Warthog as being the top dog anymore, not with a lot of the independent offerings I’m seeing out there, but I will concede that it is a high end controller.

Does anyone have a big listing of who currently makes what, cost, and what features they have? And your preferred setup?

I still love my X-56, a very nicely done mid-range HOTAS for less than $250. The version to get is the updated model that is trimmed in grey. The previous, buggy version is trimmed in space-sim blue.

How do you like the feel of the stick? To me the X45/52/56 always felt like gripping a 2x4. I remember the X52 being called the neon pimp stick!

Sorry, but does that mean its big or small? It feels very good to me. I like the ability to swap or remove centering springs. It’s not perfect. With even the highest friction, the right throttle will ever so slowly drift forward. With the throttles joined together they stay put. The throttle also need to be connected to a powered usb hub. That was how I overcame ghost button presses. I haven’t has on yet since.

X52 had an adjustable rest so it wasn’t a big deal in terms of size, but it felt very squared instead of contoured to me. The Afterburner II for example felt like grasping something with ergonomics in mind.

I love my second hand hog. It blew everything I ever owned out of the water. But my most essential bit of simming hardware, the sine qua non, is my oculus rift.

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I love my 'hawg too. Lasted over ten years at this point.
Not without issues- and I had to swap a major component in both the stick and the throttle.
It still costed me less than a tenth of what I’d have had to pay a new one.

Wouldn’t change it with anything else.
When it’ll give up for good- I’ll buy it again.

I do love my Warthog HOTAS, and it has been as durable as everything I’ve thrown at it with the exception of pulling it off my desk once on accident and busting off one of the throttle knobs (glued it back on and it has worked fine since).

That said though, I did own the Saitek X45 and 52 and loved both of those controllers. The X65F I only had for a short time for a review purpose and sent it back, but I wasn’t crazy about it. And I had an early model FFB G-something and I did not like it. It was an off white color and I can’t remember the model designation, but I just never liked it as much as my X45 and 52.

I have gone low end and now high end. Unfortunately i have not tried the wart hog and i wish i did… , I am a kind of value for money guy and i wish i went wart hog over my current choice. I do believe i have exceeded my happy point on the cost vs diminishing returns scale.

Its all a lesson learned

I’ve got different equipment for different planes/helicopters.

For FSX:
Fighters: Warthog HOTAS
Helicopters: X-52
Single engine General Aviation Joystick props: Saitek Cyborg (two throttle controls - one becomes pitch or mixture)
Single engine General Aviation props with yoke: Saitek Yoke and Throttle, Pitch, Mixture (TPM)
Twin engine General Aviation props (piston engines) Saitek Yoke & CH throttle Quad
Twin Jet: Saitek Yoke and TPM (2 throttles, the other the flaps lever)
Twin Turbo prop: Saitek Yoke & CH throttle Quad
Multi-engine (3+) jet: Saitek Yoke & CH throttle Quad

Twin Diamond: Usually Saitek Cyborg
Aerosoft OV-10 Bronco: CH throttle Quad (on left) and Warthog Jowstick

My FSUIPC fine is long and “interesting”

For DCS its just the HOTAS Warthog for the fighters and X-52 for the helos.

… I don’t know how to respond to that without, like, a lot of swear words. I mean, by the anvil of Crom, you’ve got more sticks than you can shake a stick at! You could throttle a billion hamsters to death! You could yoke a hundred oxen!

Does anyone have a current listing of high end offerings? I see stuff like Virpil and VKB, but it doesn’t give much for me to go on. Are these just addons for the Thrustmaster Warthog or are they their own hardware + software? It’s very easy to find stuff from big companies like CH, Thrustmaster, and Saitek, but they’re mostly general use stuff.

Lets talk HOTAS. From starter kits to expert kits :

Starter kits :

  • TM T.Flight Hotas X + TM TFRP Pedals ( pedals not required - twist stick )

  • TM T.16000M FCS Hotas + TM TFRP Pedals ( pedals not required - twist stick )

Pro kits :

  • CH Stick + CH Pro Throtle + CH Pro Pedals

  • VKB Gladiator MkII + any throtle ( VKB dont have own model ) + VKB T-Ruder Pedals ( pedals not required - twist stick )

  • Logitech X52 HOTAS + Logitech Flight Pedals ( pedals not required - twist stick )

  • Logitech X52 PRO HOTAS + Logitech Flight Pedals ( pedals not required - twist stick )

  • Logitech X56 HOTAS + Logitech Flight Pedals ( pedals not required - twist stick )

Expert kits :

  • TM Warthog HOTAS + TM TPR Pedals

  • VKB Gladiator Pro MkII + any throtle ( VKB dont have own model ) + VKB T-Ruder Pedals

  • VPC WarBRD + VPC T50 Throtle + any pedals ( VPC dont have own model )

  • VPC T50 + VPC T50 Throtle + any pedals ( VPC dont have own model )

  • VKB Gunfighter MkII + any throtle ( VKB dont have own model ) + VKB T-Ruder Pedals

Notes :
VPC and VKB have some options for diferent stick grips.
Of course you can combine individual controlers at will.

If I mised something pls let me know.
For the prices, pls refer to your local distributor as the prices may vary.


Excellent post!
May I suggest giving this its own thread, and making it a wiki and a table?
Then maybe we can fill out the prices in different countries and/or link to reviews.

This is the first time I got a good grasp on the different HOTAS price ranges and three-letter acronyms.

TM HOTAS, might as well sponsor the best then we include the cost of a Extreme Gaming PC, damn hobbies :blush:

That’s actually what I was hoping we could do, maybe with a picture and a small overview of the gear in question.

Yay! I’m a pro!

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@Freak & @Franze feel free to do it.

I edited Beginer to Starter, I think that sounds beter :slight_smile:

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