Quick Guide for Picking a HOTAS

Since folks routinely ask about this (especially combat pilots) maybe this will help.

It’s advisable to try to get something better than the Thrustmaster 16,000s because the twist function WILL eventually break after rigorous use.

IMHO: VKBs are great! Especially if you aren’t a rudder pedal pilot - then go for the Omni Throttle.
VPCs are also amazing, but pricey and their software has a steep learning curve for many.

Enjoy! :grin:

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Note that the pricing as presented there is deceptive and confusing. The X52/X56 for example are full HOTAS setups, whereas the VKB gunfighter is 400USD JUST for the stick. Its basically a “go big or go home” sheet, and not really fair to those on a budget.

IMO, an X52 or X56 is ok (especially for a beginner) if they can find it on sale. I sometimes see the X56 for around 200USD. Sure there are issues to deal with and things to learn, but try to tell me there isn’t a learning curve dealing with the VKB or Virpil options.

All that said, when my X56 dies I’ll likely be going the VKB EVO+Omni route or similar. But I’ve learned a lot about my preferences on the X56, which I bought before this option existed.

I realize now my response may have come off a bit harsh, which was not intended. For that I apologize.

I just wanted to speak for those more willing to compromise on quality in order to hold to a budget.

One correction I’d like to make to the chart. The X52 MSRP is no longer $130. Today it is $180. If you can find a new set for close to $130, it would be a worthwhile. If someone is limited to $200 or less, I’d keep an eye open for sales on an X56.

My daily driver is the X-55 Rhino (discontinued) - Perfect Entry-level HOTAS combo.

I’ve never had to modify it, nor do any extensive maintenance. (other than dusting)
I bought my X-55 in 2015, when they were still sold by Saitek.

I too will be moving to a Virpil or VKB combo, when my X-55 gives up on me.

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That was my first one.
Loved it.

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I agree with Nom and Crue here. You’re kind of comparing Apples to Two Apples

I too currently have an X-55 which was developed by Saitek which was bought out by Logitech. When it came out it was top notch and I have had to make a few repairs but I purchased it in 2012. When I was flightsimming my life away you either had this, wanted this or flew with a yoke. After Saitek was bought out the X-56 was released and yes there’s little difference but if you want to you can get 10 or more years out of it easily. For 250 USD you’ll have stick and Throttle with more buttons than you need which you can also use for other flying games.

Thrustmaster TWCS… oh boy… don’t out of the box the sliders will seize within half a year but you can get kits to get it replaced (voids warranty). Overall known to flight simmers as the worst Throttle to spend money on.

ThrustMaster Warthog, they are actually not too bad but you will need pedals for your z-axis. Which takes up space not everyone has and adds another cost to your setup total. I’d steer clear for this because it’s the least value for money.

Turtle Beach Velocity One, Had some headsets by them and they were good enough for the price. Overall the feedback on this is… it’s actually not that bad. Especially in the Flight Simming scene they’re making headway since they are compact and for an Xbox compatible stick it has a lot of buttons. Another thing is that it’s able to be used for lefties and righties. Very important note though this joystick is part of the Velocity one series there’s rudder pedals and a Yoke with throttle quad. That series is a direct reaction to Honey Comb’s success in sales and an attempt to capitalize on their struggles with shipping and returns. Note that there is recently released VelocityOne Flightdeck which is a HOTAS for 550 USD but I wouldn’t be an early adopter on this one as there’s little known on how the touch screen works.

VKB for sure the best but there’s issues too… First of all they are expensive as hell as it’s only the stick you’re getting so just double it for HOSAS. Second if you don’t live in the US good luck getting any support within a reasonable time. And probably my biggest issue is with the Omni Throttle which is kind of HOSAS but also HOTAS… basically it’s the stick with and adaptor and you remove a spring to make it a throttle. Great for space games but not so for flightsimming and also no way to split throttles in flightsimming.

Virpil a nice product and maybe even better than VKB in some regard but due to their geographical location and sanctions hard to get and even harder to get support for than VKB outside of the US.

Everyone’s budget differs and you really need to look at what you want to do, what your budget is and what you think is important. I know a lot of people love the Omni set-up and it sounded great to me too but it does have downsides too.

I’d never go for the HOKAM (Hands on Keyboard and Mouse) option and get a stick because why would you?
HOSAM (Hands on Stick and Mouse) in my opinion you use your stick for pitch and roll (especially with the new atmo flight mechanics coming soon™. And i’m not a captain on an airbus so my dominant (right for me) hand is on my stick and my other hand is on my throttle so I’d have to move my mouse to the other hand? Or even worse for when do upgrade to HOTAS or HOSAS use the stick for your strafing and your mouse for pitch and yaw. :nauseated_face:

For now I’m sticking with my dusty beat up X-55 as I’m torn between the Turtle Beach Velocityone Flightdeck and the VKB Setup. My issue is not budget but space as I’d ideally get an OMNI and an actual throttle. And then there’s the name I dropped before Honey Comb they’ve finally sorted out their logistics it seems and there’s rumbles of a flight stick being worked on. Note that this last rumor is as dependable as Star Citizen’s elevators…

Extra:
Rudder Pedals… I wouldn’t get them but if you do here’s my suggestions:
Budget: Thrustmaster TFRP (T.Flight Series) Going for about 100 to 140 € right now
Middle: Logitech G Flight Pedals (Saitek Pro Flight so very old but dependable design) about 140 to 160 €
You’re crazy go for something else: Thrustmaster TPR Pedals about 480 € (found one for 600 USD too)
Honorable Mention: VKB T-Rudders about 220 €

*This post is not financial advise

@Cugix - I didn’t author the spreadsheet, but your points are well taken. :+1:

Virpil opened new stores in the past, so that ordering and support has become a lot better. Shipping to EU is done from Latvia, UK has their own location in Telford, Shropshire, they opened a Showroom and Warehouse in the US and a new one in Hongkong for chinese market.

All Products are now made in the EU (Latvia), so there shouldn’t be any sanctions on their products

Besides the Setups you mentioned, there are some more, like throttle and mouse, game controller (great for Hoverbikes and Vehicles) etc.

In the list, some manufactors are also missing, like WinWing and some information are a bit outdated (mostly from 2021)

In the End, it comes down to what you want to spent and how long it should last. VKB (Premium) and Virpil are mostly made to last forever with their all Metal approach and hall sensors, Thrustmaster and Logitech will break sooner or later.

Besides Throttle, Sticks and Pedals, it’s also worth to look into other input devices like Button Boxes, StreamDeck, ControlPanels, programmable Keayboards etc.

I started with the TM16000 Stick, Upgraded then to the TM16000 Throttle, exchanged the Stick with Virpil Delta/WarBRD Base. Then exchanged my Logitech Throttle with Virpil Throttle and upgraded to Virpil Alpha Sticks.

My Current Setup is: Virpil HOTASAS with Pedals StreamDeck, MiniKeyboard, GameController and Keyboard/Mouse with Macro Buttons and TrackIR with DelanClip for Headtracking. In Addition with my Steelseries Wireless Headset, i don’t have any wires connected from PC to myself.

A HOTAS will be only a part of a gaming setup and every setup will be different

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As for the title (and list) I don’t have much to add that the previous replies hadn’t already covered. It is a bit misleading and misrepresented, although a very good start imho.
For great quality at a budget price, I’d add a not so well known company – CH Products. Up until recently, I used their products (Fighterstick, Throttle and Pedals) for years. My original setup was a Fighterstick (right hand) and Flightstick (left hand). I used that setup for months, until JayC suggested trying throttle. I met the challenge and never looked back.
The (external) build quality of CH Products is that of VKB – high end thick plastic (which I believe is ABS). I doubt the internals are near the quality of VKB, they’re likely quality plastic with metal springs. That said, my only reason for retiring the stick and throttle is that I was outperforming them. Although I hadn’t used any of them, I’d choose CH over everything on that list that isn’t VKB or Virpil.

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As not a very proficient pilot I would like to share my hands on experience.

Thrustmaster T16000M FCS Flight Pack
I had this setup from Microsoft Flight Sim days, so I hooked it up after using Keyboard and Mouse for about 3-4 months. The difference was huge and within a minute I undertood that flying with dedicated setup makes the game click in a very satisfactory manner.

However, the biggest issue with Thrusmaster is the tightness in the stick, it takes a lot of force to move it and there is no gentle curve or finesse of movement. The plastic quality is extremely cheap, there is no weight to the devices and the experience is crude at best.

VKB Gladiators
The leap in quality is through the roof. Lots of finesse, gentle gliding and I finally feel one with the craft. I’m terrible at spatial awareness, and yet, if there is an object to orient with, I can make some beautiful moves with my ship. There are so many buttons that everything is on fingertips (big thanks to BuzzKill for that). Its been an year that Ive had VKBs, I play pretty much everyday and so far, I’ve had no issue.

Simply put, I cannot imagine SC without VKBs.

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A little update from my end.

Last weekend I went to FlightSim convention where I got to try out a bunch of sticks. So here’s some extra notes:

Thrustmaster TWCS
Just no, having tried it again it just feels bad I know I said the sticks were okay but you will replace them eventually.

ThrustMaster Warthog
Decent setup but you have next to no way handle all the axis you need. And very expensive…

VKB
Shockingly they weren’t present at all nor could I find a distributor or someone who had more info.

Turtle Beach VelocityOne Flightdeck
Got to try this one out flying an “F18” in MSFS 2020. I was actually impressed, there’s almost no deadzone and I was able to make very small imputs to get it exactly where I wanted it to go. Sure it’s a nearly new one but I tried it at 4PM after a two day event which lots of younger humans throwing it around… It felt sturdy and while it is plastic it felt hefty and didn’t move much. Also the stick is able to be modified as needed to allow for different size hands.
I had a lengthy talk with the developer present and they implied the system is still being developed and their hopes are to one day be able to display information on the screens on both the Stick and Throttle coming from the game. On top of that there might be options to swap out the stick, also he stated the Project Manager for the Flightdeck used to work for Saitek on their flagship products.
Another cool feature is the haptic feedbacks on the Stick and Throttle which may come in handy if you’re constantly using too much of your axis range on the stick or to find the zero on your throttle in a space sim.
The screen on the throttle is a touchscreen and while it’s use and customization is limited… their plan is to update this to be much more customizable. Which would increase the button possibilities even more. Oh you can also connect a mobile device through a BT connection and while using the app you can have even more buttons.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some points but it has RGB so that’s an easy 20% skill and preformance boost!

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Nothing from Virpil?

Sadly also not there.

There were a few stands from webshops who were demo’ing several brands. Most of the equipment was Logitech, Thrustmaster and then the Honeycomb stuff (sadly no stick news). In one section there were cockpit builders who did use VKB and Virpil products but they mainly got it for the looks (go figure).
I never understood why these people come to these conventions they just sit there and fly their sims not ever really interacting kind of odd.

I tried all the sticks I could but not much stood out and the FlightDeck being realeased so recently made me want to try it and give my take on it. I think it’s good just not sure if the price isn’t too high compared to VKB. Then again VKB is sold out in the EU so you have to pay an extra surcharge because they have to ship from Asia to the EU via airfreight. Sea freight is taking much longer nowadays and they allegedly stopped it all together. So now your VKB order has to be shipped by air which they only do once a week and if you miss the cut-off you’re waiting 2 weeks before it’s in Europe. That’s a Europe only issue though.

I don’t think VIRPIL or VKB have EU resellers/distributors who could show off their products so it’s hard to justify for them to come over, set up a stand etc just to show it off. Then again the guy from Tobii was there the first time and he regretted not having any stock with him since he got a lot of people who wanted to buy one at the convention. And some items on other stands sold out half way through day one. So I think they might have missed out.

Cool, I’d been wanting more info on the Flightdeck. How would you compare it to an X56 (what I have now)?

I have a X55 myself it’s a very nice upgrade. There’s no “binding” when trying to move the stick out of center so it’s easier to make small corrections. Overall the build quality is much better and for me all the buttons made sense with their location.

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Love the x55

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So far, i’ve owned a lot of flight sim peripherals and spent any where from the lowest of $45 (the cheap Thrustmaster HOTAS One) to the highest of $1200 with the Realsimulator FSSB (Force-Sensing Stick Base).

Thrustmaster makes a decent a decent HOTAS with the T16000. The sensor is a really good Hall sensor, and the buttons and throttle not half bad. But you get what you pay for. In my personal opinion, i view it as the only option from Thrustmaster as a HOTAS, but you will not want to keep it long term as it is JUST to get you into flying. The Viper TQS and Thrustmaster Pendular Rudder are great, but way overpriced. The warthog is trash for the price. Please don’t do that to yourself. VKB or Virpil would be a better option and save you money.

Logitech is one brand that I have made it a point of avoiding at all costs. I’ve owned many keyboards, mice, an X56 at one point, headset and even a steering wheel and pedals and i can honestly say I would never go that route ever again. Each one that I’ve owned has had one problem or another between keycaps breaking easilly, cords heavily fraying or breaking, connection issues with some, driver issues, buttons not being as high quality as others. Do yourself a favor and save for a better brand.

Turtlebeach supposedly has their VelocityOne now and I’ve heard good things about it, but I honestly would need to check it out to get my final thoughts on it.

Virpil to this day 4 years later, continues to provide the same pinpoint accuracy it gave me from day one and I’ve loved the Throttle, Pedals, Control panel and collective that I own from them. Some time in the future I’m hoping i can review their Joystick solutions. Their software is difficult to learn; but I’m pretty well versed in how to configure it now.

VKB is also a really good brand that is pretty incredible value for the price, but i dont have much experience with their products yet… that is until I receive a couple of presents from them SoonTM. More on that in the future.

Winwing is one of those things not on this list, but I’ve heard good things from others about their products. The MIP is one thing I’d love to own so i can avoid using a touch screen.

Realsimulator has been what dreams are made of and it’s the highest quality, best performing stick I’ve ever owned. I really would like to own their new “ULTRA” base that has about 5mm of travel as opposed to almost no travel given that it operates off pressure rather than traditional gimbals and springs.

Ultimately, my recommendation for things like DCS and even Star Citizen, go with the entry level (T16000 HOTAS) if you’re not looking to spend a whole lot to get started, but I’d encourage to upgrade later or save up to get a better solution like dual VKB Gladiator Evos. I am a big proponent that your first setup shouldn’t be your last. Some of the mid to higher range sim gear can really make your experience way better than your entry level setup.

In the next few months I’ll have a ton more videos on gear like Monstertech (for those looking for a sim rig to replace your desk), VKB Gladiator Evos (for controls that are an amazing value, updated reviews on all of my Virpil gear and my Realsimulator FSSB. Here are the reviews I have currently.

If anyone has questions, feel free to ask.

You can find the review of Virpil’s CM3 here:

Rudder pedals here:

And Realsimulator FSSB here:

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