When taking your racing sim experience to new levels, both in terms of authenticity and precision when driving, you’ll want to add a button box to your set-up. These helpful addons will allow you to toggle certain functions on or off with the simple press of a button or flick of a switch, allowing you to make speedy decisions when they count the most.
The Top-Rated Button Boxes for Racing Sims
Top Pick: Realgear Racepro H22 Programmable Button Box
Inspired by what you’d find in a real-life race-car, the Racepro H22 is the pinnacle of button boxes for racing sims
Let’s start off with some hard numbers for the RacePro H22. It might look small but it has 36 programmable function slots, and all of the buttons, knobs, switches and valves are programmable to any function. The H22 also has a variety of types of inputs it allows you to choose from. From safety toggle switches to one and two-way toggle switches, you’ll have plenty to choose from, and this is without counting the heavy-duty buttons.
There are two functions we want to highlight above all else, however. The first is the inclusion of multi-function encoders. Think of these as the dials to tune a radio, they don’t simply go from “on to off”, but they have a vast range of functions that they can be tied and programmed to. This is excellent should you wish to adjust things such as chat volume, radio channels and the such. Moreover, being multi-function all of these can be programmed into this encoder.
As a final examination, we wanted to look at the brass bias knob. This unique function replicated the feeling of turning a real-life brake bias, changing it ever so slightly after each turn of the knob to allow you the pilot to make the most minute of adjustments.
As a last note, while this button box is incredible, so is its cost. It will come at a high price than some great force feedback racing wheels. If this sounds too steep for you, then you should probably skip to the very end of this review for a cheaper alternative solution.
Runner-Up: Realgear Racepro H20 Programmable Button Box
This slightly less advanced model makes for an excellent runner up pick, giving the user tons of programmable functions.
The RacePro H20 might not be as advanced as the H22, but what it does offer makes it a solid pick for all but the most demanding pilots. Much like the H22, it has 36 programmable functions, though it doesn’t have a brass bias knob. Instead, it makes up this shortcoming by adding more buttons and switches. If the brass knob doesn’t enthuse you, then maybe this is a better choice overall!
In terms of build quality, what can we say except that this is clearly built with professionalism and authenticity in mind. The all-metal construction is not only durable but looks and feels as though it was pulled straight from a professional race vehicle. The buttons and switches are all heavy-duty certified, and the front panel has an elegant black finish which helps reduce glare and makes it look incredibly slick.
As with the H22, the price here is also pretty exorbitant, meaning that if you’re not willing to spend multiple hundreds of dollars or euros we recommend a DIY alternative (more on that at the bottom of this article).
“Budget” Pick: LTC 12V Racing Car Ignition Switch + 4 Blue & 1 Red Car Engine Start Push LED Toggle Button Panel for Racing Car
Though it doesn’t offer all the functions that other button boxes might, this flashy product is perfect for those with only a marginal need for buttons.
Though true that this Leaningtech product doesn’t offer the same levels of programmability and customisation that the RacePro products do, don’t write this product off just yet. First and foremost, this is something that is built to be inside a car. No, not that’s built to look like it belongs inside a car, this is a product that is built for actual sports car usage. You can’t get more authentic than that!
As for the buttons, the 5 switches have a plastic cover with LED lighting (four blue switches, one red switch) which not only looks incredibly cool when driving but makes finding the button box easy while keeping your eyes on the road. It also comes with a massive button labelled “engine start” which (as you might have guessed) we recommend you toggle to your engine starting. It might sound like only a little detail, but you turning your own car on rather than the game doing it for you adds miles to how invested you become.
As a final note, though this is a “budget” pick, don’t think that this is inexpensive. It’s definitively a budget pick compared to the other members of this list (costing less than half of anything else here). Nevertheless, this remains a professional product you could add in a real-life vehicle, don’t expect it to be cheap.
Best for Mini Mite Wheelbase users: Dashboard Panel For Ricmotech Mini-Mite Steering Base
Admittedly not really a button-box, and more a dashboard panel, we chose to bend the rules and include this pick on our list because we love it that much!
This Rimotech made dashboard panel for their Mini-Mite Steering Base might only be useful for a fraction of you out there, but for those who it applies, please hear us out! The design, practicality and customisation that this product allows is truly fantastic. It fits snugly in the set (though if you have paddle shifters you might need a spacer to make everything fit) and is built with the user in mind. The four two-way toggle switches, the six push-button switches, the two dial encoders and the brake bias knob encoder all add up to a fantastic 32 programmable functions which await you at your fingertips.
It’s redundant to point out that Ricmotech only builds their products from high-quality materials and with an elegant yet authentic look. Much like it’s redundant to go over the beautifully crafted functions of encoder switches and brake bias knob encoder. Perhaps the word to best describes this dashboard panel is truly “beautiful” both with regards to how it looks, as well as in regards to what it accomplishes.
The one major downside to this product is that, unfortunately, the price is pretty steep here too.
Honorable Mention: Realgear Racepro D22 Programmable Button Box
The D22 is a vertical button box that manages to fit a lot in a very cramped space
The Realgear Racepro D22 manages to do something nigh impossible. It decided that it wanted a tighter space, just as many functions, but without feeling cramped. And so, here we are! The D22 has an incredible 36 programmable functions that can fit inside its reduced size. We won’t go over the build quality or explain what these functions are (you can scroll up to the H22 and the H20 reviews for that), but we’ll quickly go over the major differences.
We’ve already mentioned that this box is vertical, rather than horizontal like most. This is by no means a detraction or a negative of the product. User depending this might be a positive. This is one thing that will very much depend on your taste.
The second biggest difference and the reason we picked the H20 over the D22 is the lack of buttons. Compared to the other Realgear models the D22 has very many fewer buttons and very many more switches. This might be what you are looking for (in which case the D22 is perfect) but we chose to go for balance.
Finally, the cost. The D22 is just as expensive as the H20 and the H22, making it anything but an affordable product.
What to Look for in a Button Box
When purchasing button boxes there are three major considerations to keep in mind. Here we explain what these are and go into a little detail.
The main thing you want to look for in a button box is how many programmable functions it has. This is so that you are capable of truly perfecting your own set-up. It doesn’t have to be an exorbitant amount (though exorbitant amounts give you more to play with). At the end of the day, you need to consider why you want a button box and think on whether you will want to scale up. You can always only use 10 of the 30 programmable functions of a high-end box, but you can’t use 20 functions if the box only allows for 5, forcing you to purchase another one.
Switches to buttons ratio
Depending on the game you are running, or even your racing style, you’ll have to make use of switches and buttons in different proportions, so we recommend you keep in mind how many of each different boxes have. Some sim pilots prefer to make use of almost exclusively switches, whilst others like to have a mix. There is no right answer here except for your gut feeling. Having said that, if you don’t know what you’d use more, we recommend going for a healthy mix of the two.
Button boxes are some of the most expensive peripherals (for what they do) on the market. A lot of them come to cost considerably more than some great mid-range wheels. If you don’t have a great wheel we recommend you concentrate on that (and maybe a nice set of pedals) before you splurge on button boxes. If, however, your heart is set on having a button box, a cheaper DIY solution is available.
Build Your Own Button Box
Seeing the exorbitant prices that button boxes have, many racing sim users have gone to create their own button boxes. The advantages of this are that you can tailor it to your own needs, it costs a fraction of a pre-made button box, and it’s relatively straight-forward to make. Even those not expert with crafting their own peripherals can undertake this as a fun learning experience, given its low difficulty. If you’re at all interested, why don’t you give our guide to building your own button box a look over here.
Last Updated on January 23, 2021 by Thomas Bush