Those who are passionate about flight simulators will inevitably eventually face the question: what joystick should I buy. Well, this is what this guide is for. Before we start it should be noted that if your interests lie in commercial/civil flight simulators then you’ve been asking the wrong question. You are more likely interested in the best yokes for flight simulators. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered, as we have our guide to the best 2020 has to offer over here. The three main things to consider when purchasing a joystick for flight simulators are precision, customization, and build quality.
Now, without much further ado, here are our picks for top-flight simulator joysticks for 2020.
Ex-aequo First: Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog PC
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The HOTAS Warthog immediately gives off a military look. It’s made almost entirely of metal (giving it a nice weighty feel), is a beautiful black color, and will feel incredible to use. Coupled with the fantastic build quality is the fact that it’s modeled after the controls on the A-10. Not only from a purely aesthetic perspective, but from a realism one as well. You will have to apply the same pressure as if you were flying the real thing.
Regarding the meat of the issue: the precision of it is nigh unparalleled thanks to the use of magnetic sensors. It has 20 remappable buttons, switches, and hats, as well as a separate throttle.
There are two major drawbacks we should mention. The first is a lack of z-axis rotation, meaning you will have to purchase rudder pedals (see our guide here). The second is the price. It’s steep. But if you’re willing to spend a lot, then the HOTAS Warthog will have you feeling like an ace in no time.
Ex-aequo First: Logitech G X56 H.O.T.A.S. RGB
So good we simply couldn’t allow it to be in second place, the Logitech HOTAS is an incredible machine for those looking for a slightly less expensive version of the Warthog
This is perhaps the smarter choice for many buyers. Logitech has created an incredibly accurate, hyper-authentic joystick. This one even has more customizable buttons and switches (30) compared to its counterpart and a total of close to 190 programmable modes. Once again magnetic sensors give you centimeter perfect precision. The G X56 HOTAS also comes with z-axis support and a separate throttle.
Where it falls slightly short with regards to the Warthog is the build quality. It’s not bad, but going to plastic after having tried the hefty metal body of the Warthog is difficult. Nevertheless, for a vast variety of users this will be the better choice, as it allows for more custom options and a lower price-point.
Excellent and VR Ready: Logitech G Saitek X52 Pro Flight Control System
This is the third refinement in the X52 series of controllers, and with each new version it had gotten better and better.
The X52 Pro is a tried and tested line of excellent joysticks for flight simulators. The first thing that is clearly noticeable is the emphasis that Logitech placed on advanced settings for VR, making this one of, if not the top pick for those who plan on playing with headsets.
Adding to this is the high levels of customization available, though it should be noted that there are occasional software issues that might hamper with controller configuration.
Nevertheless, this joystick is super precise, well-built, has plenty of buttons and a multi-function LCD display, a progressive throttle with resistance adjustment, and can be adjusted for 5 different hand sizes and grasps.
As a final nail in the (positive) coffin: the price isn’t too egregious. It can often be found discounted too, so definitely worth keeping an eye out for.
Third Place Pick: Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS HOTAS Controller
For the price it sells at, it’s a crime not to call the Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS HOTAS Controller nigh perfect.
Let’s start with the few things we aren’t a fan of for this controller: it has only 17 buttons, certain users have reported issues with yaw pickup. That’s it. Really.
The joystick is an absolute pleasure to use. It has impeccable weight distribution, is one of the few joysticks that supports four independent axes, sincs with VR with close to no issues, is a fully ambidextrous joystick (excellent for the lefties out there) and uses magnetic sensors for pinpoint precision. Moreover, it’s quite cheap! It’s slightly more expensive than our budget picks but is so much better. Even at this affordable price tag, you can often find it discounted.
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, we will always recommend you take this joystick into consideration.
Best Flight-Sim Budget Pick: Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X
This budget flight sim option is not meant for experts, but if you’re looking for an inexpensive entry-level joystick this may be for you
Admittedly this won’t be heralded as the most realistic experience by professional pilots. That being said, it’s a surprisingly solid pick.
The build quality can’t but be in plastic, but it doesn’t feel cheap or toy-like. The throttle assembly itself is fully detachable, allowing you to rewire it to either side of the keyboard. As a final feature it has the ability to store multiple mapping profiles on the on-board memory, which you can easily switch between without having to run any software.
There aren’t a plethora of buttons (17) but they are more than enough for beginners, this joystick’s target audience. For its price-tag, it’s a steal.
Best Budget General Joystick: Logitech Extreme 3D Pro
If you need a general joystick and don’t want to spend a fortune, the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro is surprisingly good.
Even just when first touching the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro you can tell it has a few tricks up its sleeve. It’s heavier than many so-called “non-budget” picks, meaning that it won’t tip even after long simulator sessions. The build quality remains excellent, and the precision is better than we would have thought for this price-tag.
It doesn’t have a huge amount of buttons, but all 12 are intelligently placed, allowing for easy access during gameplay. What isn’t as ideal are the throttle controls, which can be jittery on occasion. This final consideration can be either a positive or a negative: the stick is stiffer than others. This gives it a great feel, and it fun to use, but can cause fatigue if you plan on playing for long spans of time.
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