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The best PC joysticks in

The best PC joystick will make a huge difference to both the level of control and the level of immersion you feel playing any flight or space sim. Whether ripping the wings off a Cessna in the expansive Microsoft Flight Simulator, exploring the far reaches of the galaxy in Elite Dangerous, or bulls-eyeing thermal exhaust ports not much bigger than a womp rat in the action-packed Star Wars Squadrons, you can live out your flyboy fantasies right at home.

We also recommend a good wireless gaming keyboard and gaming mouse combo since it's a good way to navigate a game's menu during one of your 'flights.' But a joystick is the building block for setting up a home cockpit. Serious flight sims are played best with a HOTAS (Hands-On Throttle and Stick), which can be a bit of an investment, but once you're set up, it's near impossible to even think about playing a flight sim without one.  

Easy is the name of the game; the joysticks on this list all require minimal setup, though if you're looking for the full cockpit experience, and more importantly, have the finances, by all means check out the likes of VKB and Virpil. You can customise your setup to the nth degree with either of those super-premium manufacturers, but you will have to pay through the nose.

So, here's a list of our favourite PC joysticks, ones we've personally tested over the years, and ones we think will make a real difference to the experience of most PC gamers. 

Best PC joystick

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1. Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog

Simply the best joystick for PC gamers

Specifications

Type: Throttle and stick

Buttons: 36 action buttons

Hats: 7

Weight: 14 lbs

Reasons to buy

+Heavy, durable, and sturdy+Impeccable action+The best money can buy

Reasons to avoid

-No Z-rotation on the stick-Accompanying software isn't great

The Thrustmaster Warthog is hands-down the best PC joystick you can buy. It's beautifully made, looks like it was ripped straight out of an A, and comes with an industrial-strength that means the only thing left in our post-apocalyptic future will be a bunch of cockroaches trying to figure out how to use these sticks.

Sure, it's an expensive unit, but you will know your money's been well spent as soon as you lift the lid on the packaging and pull the setup out. The stick alone weighs a kilo even before it's been screwed down onto the solid, wide metal base. That's something to behold, but the throttle is something else. 

It is one of the finest pieces of PC peripheral engineering I've ever experienced. Its casing is entirely made of metal and festooned with buttons. And not just buttons either; extra hat switches adorn the throttle itself, one that can be split in two should you need discrete control, and there are a host of toggles and metal flick switches too. I will honestly just sit there idly flipping switches even when the thing's unplugged, so satisfying is the action.

All that weight means it practically sticks to your desk as you fling your Cobra MkIII around in Elite: Dangerous like a BSG Viper, and if you're so inclined, the drill holes are there if you want to make it a permanent addition too. It feels great to use in-game, too, providing you with all the possible control permutations you could need without ever having to go near your keyboard again.

The only slight miss, and one that owes to its AC Warthog replica status, is the lack of Z-rotation on the stick to offering rudder control. However, that's easily mapped onto any number of extra hat switches or even extra analog joysticks.

The Warthog was originally released over ten years ago now and yet is still the best you can buy. This explains why the price has steadily crept up since then too. But trust me, if you're serious about the best PC joystick, this is it, and once you pick it up, you'll never think about its price again.

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2. Logitech G X56 HOTAS RGB

The next best joystick

Specifications

Type: Throttle and stick

Buttons: 31 action buttons

Hats: 5

Weight: 5 lbs

Reasons to buy

+Clean design+Durable hardware+Switches and Knobs!

Reasons to avoid

-More plastic than you'd think-Surprisingly light

An update to the aging X55, the Logitech X56 HOTAS improves nearly every aspect of the older Saitek design, but it still has many of the same features that made its predecessor great. The throttle can be unlocked to provide inputs for left and right engines individually. The throttle panel also hosts an entire series of metal switches and knobs that feel absolutely awesome. 

I was a bit disappointed to find out that the metal top plate on both the flight stick and throttle doesn't extend to the base and that both the stick and throttle are composed mostly of plastic. The hardware still feels sturdy, but the seam running along the joystick handle is a bit jarring given the quality present on the rest of the build.

The entire setup for the X56 is deceptively light. While it does come with suction cups that can be attached to the base for increased stability, without them, I found the stick and throttle far too eager to slip around on my desk. However, for those inclined to make this indulgence a more permanent part of their setup, the X56 has holes present in its bases to allow you to affix it to nearly any surface with the appropriate hardware.   

Featuring adjustable stick tension and over programmable controls, this throttle and joystick combo is a quality setup. It's not quite in the same league as the Warthog, but it is a little cheaper. If you're ready to kick tires and light fires, the X56 is a good way to go.

Best controller for PC gaming | Best gaming monitor | Best mechanical keyboard | Best gaming routers | Best graphics cards | Best gaming mouse

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Level up your Flight Simulator setup

Specifications

Type: Throttle and stick sold separately

Buttons: 33 action buttons (17 on joystick, 16 on throttle)

Hats: 1

Weight: lbs

Reasons to buy

+All you need for a solid flight sim experience+Additional throttle accessory+Nod to real-world Airbus design+Ambidextrous

Reasons to avoid

-Feels a little cheap-No button labels

With the arrival of Microsoft Flight Simulator and Star Wars: Squadrons last year, we saw a sonic boom in interest for compatible flight sticks. The Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus edition arrived just in time and swiftly sold out. But it's back now and a solid upgrade for any wannabe long-haul pilot looking to ditch the controller for Microsoft Flight Simulator.

It's good for other games, of course, but as a piece of officially licensed Airbus kit, it feels best suited to the flight sim of the moment. With that in mind, it features a fluid and responsive control with a comfortable stick bolted on for long-haul flights. The joystick can also be reconfigured to your liking with a modular design, making this stick particularly friendly to lefties. There are a heap of buttons within reach to keep shortcuts accessible at an instant, too; we wish there were some clear indication which button was which—it can be tough to track down 'button 14' in a bind, especially if you have flying skills are a little rusty.

But kick in for the full kit, and you can divvy up even more shortcuts to the throttle quadrant module ripped right out of an A—they got the color spot on, anyways. Baby blue isn't my first choice for gaming PC accessories, but I suppose it's a change from the standard black garb.

And when the Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick comes in at £69 in the UK, and the complete set at £ (the TCA Quadrant throttle is actually pricier than the stick itself), you can hardly bash it for price. The Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas X below is a more affordable alternative. Still, if you can splash out on this more airworthy kit, then the Thrustmaster TCA Sidestick Airbus edition won't let you down.

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4. Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X

The best budget joystick

Specifications

Type: Throttle and stick

Buttons: 12 action buttons

Hats: 1

Weight: lbs

Reasons to buy

+Thrust can detach from the joystick+Great value for money

Reasons to avoid

-Limited buttons and hats-Can be noisy when pushed

The Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X is a testament that you don't have to spend a fortune to get a good stick. It's a much cheaper build and design than the Warthog, but for a tenth of the ticket price, you can forgive the use of plastic and lack of buttons and hats.

The key elements are there. The detachable throttle is probably the neatest feature: given that you're going to need easy access to your keyboard for its extra buttons, being able to split these components around it is a definite advantage.

It's also got the much-needed Z-axis rotation for rudder control, although the press of a switch will enable you to operate the rudder via a rocker on the front of the throttle grip. You get plenty of programmable buttons too, but they feel very much the sort you'd expect to find on a budget controller.

The action on the stick and throttle aren't great either, and you'll likely notice some graunching plastic noises as you push and pull the controller around. But it's still robust and feels solid on the desk. This is an excellent value pick if you can't convince yourself that an X56 or Warthog is a sensible purchase.

The best joystick FAQ

Aren't there any cheap joysticks?

You can spend the sort of money generally reserved for a new graphics card on a decent stick. But it can be possible to get an experience that's very close but for a fraction of the price. However, it can be tricky at times. 

Prices of joysticks increased dramatically at the end of , which meant even the cheaper end of the market got pricey as stock disappeared. The market is slowly returning to normal now, though, so have another look around if you've been previously frustrated.

Do I need a separate throttle control?

For serious simulation, you're going to need some level of throttle control. This is the biggest thing that separates the joypad from a flight stick setup, and the granularity of speed it delivers when dogfighting can mean the difference between virtual life and virtual death. So that's number one: make sure your stick comes with a decent throttle.

But that doesn't mean you need a separate one, no. However, the best and most respected flight controllers have entirely separate control for the throttle, with extra toggle switches and LEDs. Others, such as the AV8R, have the throttle control built onto the base of the stick itself. So long as there's a decent amount of travel in the throttle, you'll have a good level of control in-game.

How many buttons do I need?

Some of the controllers in this test have gone overboard on that front. But sims do demand many different controls, and having them all directly to hand can be beneficial. Just don't forget that your trusty keyboard can make up for any buttons lacking on your controller. You will need at least four buttons arrayed around the stick itself and, ideally, a hat switch on the top of it.

What should I watch out for a space flightstick?

Maybe it's time we spoke about the Z-axis. Traditional joysticks have pitch and roll control—forward, back, left, and right—but some are configured for 3D movement. That means as well as controlling the X and Y axis; you can also twist the stick clockwise or anti-clockwise to control the Z-axis. Generally, this is used to control yaw and replicate the rudder controls of an aircraft.

In space, that three-dimensional control can be vital for accuracy, especially when you're zeroing in behind an escaping Sidewinder in an Elite dogfight. It is sorely missed on a stick with other controls that can mimic the rudder but on budget sticks that allow no such added control.

What does HOTAS stand for?

This exciting acronym stands for the rather mundane-sounding 'Hands-On Throttle And Stick' and denotes a dual controller where one hand rests permanently on the throttle and the other remains on the stick.

What is a Hat Switch on a joystick?

A hat switch is a multi-directional button akin to the d-pad on a controller. However, on a flight stick, the d-pad has a hat on top, which the thumb can easily push to activate the switches. They come in 4-way or 8-way flavors.

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race !). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.

Sours: https://www.pcgamer.com/au/the-best-pc-joysticks/

Joystick recommendations

I would not consider going from a Logitech Extreme 3D Pro to a Thrustmaster HOTAS-X really an upgrade, more of a sidegrade. Again, if money is a problem then sure go for it but the VKB Gladiator NXT is undeniably the current best bang for your buck and if one is willing to spend a bit more more for an objectively better joystick then it’s a no brainer.

I am trying to offer some pretty sound advice to someone looking for a joystick that is better than what they currently have. It’s not like I am saying they should buy from PFC, I have a yoke from them that I paid over $1, for.

Again the VKB Gladiator NXT is an extremely good value for your money and if you’re willing to spend a bit then it’s something to seriously consider. OP is looking for an upgrade that won’t break the bank, the NXT fills both of those. The only thing the HOTAS-X does that OP is looking for is a throttle detent which there is only one on the HOTAS-X and that’s in the middle position (it’s quite annoying to be honest).

Note that the peripherals you use can have a substantial impact on your enjoyment in a flight simulator. I used a HOTAS-X for years in XP / P3D / DCS and did for a short while in MSFS. When I got the NXT it was incredible how much more enjoyable my experience was in all of those sims. I don’t regret spending $ at all. I could have went with the $ version but because I play DCS I went with the premium.

I guarantee that all it would take is 15 minutes of using an NXT to come to the conclusion that the HOTAS-X doesn’t hold a candle to it and you would take back what you say about the HOTAS-X.

EDIT: Added to post.

Sours: https://forums.flightsimulator.com/t/joystick-recommendations/?page=2
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VKB releases new details on its military aviation type throttle (TECS)

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I follow VKB and of course on this thread. I already use GF2 with ED. I'm waiting TECS to change my old CH throttle product (very accurate with a rail and not an arc).
My points:
- Modularity (button and control )
- Electronics and programmable detents
- TECS in VKB eco-system integration with button box, supports
- API provide more functionalities to third software
- 2 models Arc and rails
- 2 versions : basic and premium (rail seems only come with premium version)
- Princing >$ (i guess => €)
- availability : from my understanding, after chinese new year, probably in may for the first model (arc standard) and month after for premium version and months more for arc model.
Big big plus on this one: Analogue thumbstick for thrusters. No other throttle except the CH has that. Those who do have an analogue ministick awkwardly place it to be used with the index finger.
Looks like this could work well. I have the rudder from them and it is a solid unit so this should also be.
Price of the linear/rail throttle is up there, but still tempting.

I vastly prefer the thumbstick at the thumb position and the only real option for this thus far has been CH, as Numa notes. The CH throttle isn't bad, but I've become increasingly worried about their quality; my newer samples required modding out of the box and haven't lasted as long as my earlier ones.
Price of the linear/rail throttle is up there, but still tempting.

I vastly prefer the thumbstick at the thumb position and the only real option for this thus far has been CH, as Numa notes. The CH throttle isn't bad, but I've become increasingly worried about their quality; my newer samples required modding out of the box and haven't lasted as long as my earlier ones.

The forum post mentions button modularity, so you can switch the positions of buttons around including the analog ministick on the back to the thumb-position side.
The forum post mentions button modularity, so you can switch the positions of buttons around including the analog ministick on the back to the thumb-position side.

Yeah, that's a nice feature. Not a huge concern for the VKB, at least for me, as the default layout looks fine, but most other throttles with analog ministicks would require extensive modding to move them.
If only VKB's software was less of a PITA to use. I love my Gunfighter/MCG but the software, while capable of a great deal of granularity, is far from intuitive. I currently use that right hand Gunfighter/MCG with a Gladiator/Left Hand Space Combat Grip, and a Streamdeck XL. Hoping for the best on this. Would like to repurpose that Streamdeck and do away with the Gladiator altogether. A properly laid out throttle with enough buttons and competent software would allow that, and this throttle certainly appears laid out in a way that fits my wants..
Sours: https://forums.frontier.co.uk/threads/vkb-releases-new-details-on-its-military-aviation-type-throttle-tecs/
VKB Gladiator NXT Review!!!

VKB-SIM gladiator USB Flight-stick with integrated throttle and yoke.

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Sim throttle vkb

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    Question VKB Sim Gladiator Mk II Throttle Sensitivity Setting

    I hope some of you MSFS experts can help me to get my joystick working properly.

    I figured out how to set up my joystick axes, and the ailerons, elevator and rudder are working OK.

    But the throttle axis (Joystick L-Axis Z+) doesn't get saved for some reason. Even if I set the sensitivity to 40%, my Gladiator throttle goes from idle to %, nothing in between. Makes flying kinda herky-jerky :-)

Sours: https://www.flightsim.com/vbfs/
VKB Modern Combat Grip Ultimate Review!

Details of VKB&#;s TECS throttle came out in and was one of my most read articles that same year. After that, VKB said very little about TECS and many wondered if the project was cancelled but that has changed as VKB has now released new details on the product just a few days ago. Let&#;s have a look!

Modular setup

The key with this product is modularity. We&#;ve seen a fair bit of that with recent VKB announcements and their hardware/software solution seems to be well suited to swapping and re-configuring. The hat switch on the throttle&#;s right grip can, for example, be swapped for a 3-way hat, 5-way hat or analogue mini-stick.

Also included on the grip are the following controls broken down by the left and right parts of the grip.

LEFT grip controls:

  • encoder wheel &#; 1
  • button &#; 1
  • 3-pos switch &#; 1
  • Interchangeable button module &#; 1

RIGHT grip controls:

  • pressable encoder wheel &#; 1
  • button &#; 1
  • interchangeable button module &#; 5
  • Hat/ministick module &#; 1

The throttle will also be compatible with VKB&#;s button boxes and other peripherals.

Three different versions

That covers modularity so now let&#;s talk about versions. TECS is coming in several variants including one significant difference. You can choose between arc and rail style throttles. Arc would be what you see from VIRPIL and Thrustmaster&#;s high end T and Warthog throttles. Rail is a bit more like Thrustmaster&#;s TWCS (not TM as was written earlier) or using real world examples &#; the F/A, F, AV-8B, etc. The aviation world is mixed in the use of these styles so one is not inherently more realistic than the other but VKB does offer the option.

VKB are also touting a new electronic based detent system which enables for a fuller range of travel and configurable detent with different styles &#; tactile click, hard limit, one-way and two-way.

  • Arc Standard &#; A basic throttle base with buttons and mechanical detents. Approximate price will be $ USD.
  • Arc Premium &#; Electronic detents and some &#;sweet extras.&#; Aproximately price will be $ USD.
  • Rail Premium &#; A electronic detent rail based system with a premium price at $

VKB has released the following pictures of a development unit. The images are real photos according to the announcement which is different than just having a rendering as we saw in The announcement points out that the final design is not quite complete yet and that their electronic detent system is still being kept under wraps.

VKB has also made mention that they, like many businesses, have been affected by the COVID health crisis and hinted that their team has suffered a loss or losses as a result. A further reminder of how painful and early has been for so many. Expect progress to remain slow as a result, however, it sounds like VKB is on the home stretch now with their high end throttle.

I expect these will be fast sellers. With flight sim hardware stocks running low everywhere as the result of newfound enthusiasm for space, combat and civil aviation sims.

For all of this and more, visit the VKB forums and read the full announcement.

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Sours: https://stormbirds.blog//02/01/vkb-reveals-new-tecs-throttle-details/

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There’s a new challenger in the world of flight sticks and throttles

You can blame Microsoft Flight Simulator for the flight stick shortage we’re experiencing. Logitech, Thrustmaster, and many of the big name manufacturers are out of stock everywhere you look. What little product is actually available — even used equipment — is going for wildly inflated prices. Still other manufacturers are taking pre-orders, and then banging out new units as quickly as they can. So what’s a budding flight or space sim enthusiast to do?

My advice, of course, is to give the scalpers a wide berth. If you’re stuck on Microsoft Flight Simulator — especially the big commercial airliners — give Honeycomb Aeronautical a try. If you’re playing a more hardcore flight simulator, like something from the DCS World portfolio, you probably already know about VKB. Its high-end equipment is currently in stock. But, if you’re looking to spend a relatively modest amount of money on a more general purpose device — something that might work with terrestrial and space flight — I recommend you take a look at Virpil Controls, a small European company that is doing some really remarkable work.

And, just like everyone else, Virpil’s stuff is on backorder as well. Nevertheless, late last year Virpil sent along a selection of its most popular flight gear. I’ve been taking it for a test drive on my custom-built flight rig. So far I’m extremely impressed.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

My favorite set of kit is called the Virpil Constellation Alpha, which, when coupled with a throttle, does an admirable job of controlling commercial aircraft. It has plenty of hat switches, plus an assortment of triggers that are perfect for games in the IL-2 Sturmovik family or other high-end simulations. It’s also mostly plastic, but in a good way. It feels more robust than the Logitech X and X, but lighter than the all-metal Thrustmaster Warthog.

The Virpil Constellation Alpha also comes in a left-handed variant. That means you can easily arrange for a much more complex dual-stick set-up. Also known as a hand-on-stick-and-stick (HOSAS) setup, I found that it completely changed the flight experience in both Star Citizen’s Persistent Universe and Elite Dangerous.

Explaining the difference is difficult to do with words. Previously I had played spaceflight simulation games with a single stick and throttle, which is known as a hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) setup. Swapping out the throttle for another stick meant that I had to constantly hold the left-hand stick forward to maintain forward thrust. But, by pulling back on that stick I had easy access to reverse thrust, which makes slowing down and changing directions in space a lot snappier. The right-hand stick still has complete control of pitch and yaw, while rudder pedals handle roll. But now I’m able to use the two stick’s twist axes to handle strafing (right) and moving up and down (left). Previously, those functions sat on a tiny hat switch on my throttle.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

After a few hours of HOSAS practice, I suddenly found myself with much more precise and immediate control over my virtual spaceships than ever before. Vectors which had previously been relegated to the keyboard or tiny hat switches were now integrated into the joysticks themselves. I could hit the gas on the main thruster to accelerate forward, rotate my ship in place, then roll left while also moving slightly down and sliding to the right all at the same time. The impact was especially prominent in Star Citizen, which has much faster ships and far more aggressive combat. HOSAS made me a harder target to hit, and helped to improve my own aim — especially with fixed weapons.

Better still, the Constellation’s side-mounted thumbsticks mean that you can actually navigate on foot without ever taking your hands off the joysticks. That made the experience in Star Citizen, which features a surprising amount of walking, much more enjoyable. It will also likely have the same kind of impact when Elite Dangerous: Odyssey launches later this year, adding first-person, on-foot gameplay to that spacefaring game.

Photo: Virpil Controls

Another highlight for me were Virpil’s Ace Interceptor Rudder Pedals. I’ve had a pretty good experience with the Thrustmaster TPR Pendular Rudder Pedals for the last few years, but they hang from a large central column that takes up a lot of space in my office. Virpil pedals are much, much lower to the floor and accommodate a wider stance — which, as a 6’6” man, I greatly appreciate. Ace pedals also have a much better mounting solution, in my opinion, compared to the TPR pedals. Out of the box, Virpil’s large, grippy rubber feet stay put on most surfaces. You can also remove about an inch of height from the pedals, stripping off the rubber feet and the entire lower frame, to attach them directly to a custom flight seat.

While the input devices alone are excellent, Virpil also has a line of surprisingly affordable custom mounting solutions. For around $70 you can get the Virpil Desk Mount V3-S. It features a dead-simple clamp with an adjustable bite, which you can dial in to firmly grasp the edge of your desk surface and hold fast. They release quickly, making storage a breeze. They’re also beautifully powder coated, and come with all the bolts you need to make the attachment to the Constellation. The V3-S also opens the door to additional customization options, including mounts that hang a keyboard, mouse pad, additional button boxes, and more all off of the same clamp.

Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Note that you’ll need two of the Desk Mount V3-S devices for a HOSAS solution using the Virpil Constellation sticks, which brings the price of accessories up to $ If you go with a HOTAS solution instead, making use of one of Virpil’s fully-customizable throttle boxes, you’ll need a slightly larger version of the clampand a special adapter plate. That brings the price for a full HOTAS mounting solution closer to $

Overall, I’m smitten with these Virpil controls. They strike a good balance between price point and feature set, sitting comfortably in between classics like the Logitech X and the Thrustmaster T, and higher end products from Thrustmaster and VKB. They also have just the right amount of heft to them, and feel like a substantial upgrade to the kinds of flight sticks I’ve been using for the last decade.

There are a few caveats, however.

First, the documentation on these products ranges from awful to non-existent. Even basic assembly drove me out to YouTube where I spent hours freeze-framing foreign language unboxing videos to find out which screw goes where. When it comes to calibration and programming, you will similarly need to find your own way with the community of users on YouTube and on message boards as Virpil offers next to no help in getting things squared away.

Second, know that the current incarnation of the Virpil throttle box may simply be too much for most users. It has about twice as many buttons as Microsoft Windows recognizes on a game controller, which means you’ll need to take some extra time to get it tuned before you hop into a game. If you’re going HOTAS, I’d recommend getting something from Thrustmaster instead.

Also, I did notice some defective materials in the batch of products that I received. The non-marking pads on the mounting hardware, for instance, began to slide off after several weeks of continuous use. I also had several screw heads shatter as I attempted to remove them, either due to being made from weak metal or being gummed up with too much thread locking paste.

With those limitations in mind, I still can’t help but recommend Virpil. After nearly a decade of watching modest, incremental improvements in the space it’s nice to see a manufacturer innovating with their flight sticks. There’s even a line of collective grips on the way, which will be perfect for the new helicopters coming to DCS World and Microsoft Flight Simulator in the not-to-distant future.

Sours: https://www.polygon.com/reviews//2/1//virpil-flight-stick-throttle-review


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