Advice for most "authentic" controllers for Microsoft Flight Simulator X
December 2, 2007 12:51 PM   Subscribe

I want to get my father "Microsoft Flight Simulator X" for Christmas and would like advice for which controllers (wheels, yokes, pedals, etc.) to buy for it. I don't know anything about flight controls or flight sims, but I'd like to get him the most authentic setup possbile.

I'd like to hear what is typically considered a good set up for a cost of up to about $200 or so (excluding the cost of the game itself). His aeronautic interests are primarily in prop planes, but other configurations would work as well (jets, etc.)
posted by monkeyagent to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A yolk, if you can find one, would most resemble an older prop plane like a Cessna or Piper. A joystick would most resemble newer planes. You'd want rudders with either of them.

The problem with a yolk is you're limited to using it with a flight sim. A good joystick can be used in other types of games.

Also, although a yolk might resemble a Cessna, it doesn't feel like one.

My suggestion would be a good joystick with a heavy base and some decent rudder pedals.

For added fun/accuracy, get him some local aviation charts and a kneeboard.
posted by bondcliff at 1:24 PM on December 2, 2007

$200 is going to keep you in the league of consumer joysticks and pedals, but like automotive racing simulators the prices for better and better equipment can go pretty high. Force-feedback should be at the top of your list, though.
posted by rhizome at 1:40 PM on December 2, 2007

Best answer: One of those minor things that I realized the hard way: General aviation aircraft usually have the right hand on the throttle and the left hand on the yoke or stick. Joysticks, on the other hand, are pretty much universally designed for the right hand.

If you've flown before this feels so wrong, like you're always flying from the right seat. I bought myself a reversible-handed joystick with the throttle at the bottom centre of the joystick and it fixed everything. So if you're buying consumer, try to get something where the left hand is comfortable on the stick and the right hand can reach the throttle.

(Mine is the Saitek Cyborg EVO, which has handrests that will unscrew and reattach left- or right-handed, which was doubly nice when using a helicopter sim where you do fly from the right seat.)
posted by mendel at 1:52 PM on December 2, 2007

Best answer: You might want to look through Sporty's catalog - they sell flight sim equipment for training. I'd probably get a joystick, throttle quadrant, and rudder pedals.

I would also suggest looking at X-Plane as a comparison to FSX and see which one you like better.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:04 PM on December 2, 2007

Its worth mentioning that this is an incredibly resource intensive game. I played it on a system with a 6800 nvidia card and was only able to get the graphics up to medium-low. If you want it look like the pictures on the box then you might be better off spending that 200 dollars on a nice video card and picking up a bargain basement joystick.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:04 PM on December 2, 2007

Response by poster: All this info is incredibly useful. To those who have experience in such matters - are there any more specific products you would recommend?

Also, he definitely won't use any of this equipment for anything other than flight sims, so broad usability is not necessary.

Finally, his computer should be capable for the mid-range settings or so, but I'll be sure to double-check that.
posted by monkeyagent at 3:08 PM on December 2, 2007

When I was into simming, about 10 years ago, I had a CH Products Yoke and "Pro Pedals," which summed out to around $200 in 1995 cash -- looks like Sporty's sells a bundle similar to what I had for $279, including Flight Simulator X Deluxe -- the CH Products brand is gone, but it looks like the pedals are identical and the yoke is close, but with a full single-engine throttle quadrant and some more buttons. The one thing I will say is that a plastic yoke definitely doesn't do the experience of flying justice -- I've right-seated in real-world small planes, and it's just a different experience entirely. That said, if you're looking to get as close as you can for under $200, that kind of yoke is probably a good start.

(And now I'm drooling at the On Top system. Bad Alterscape. Money is for grad school, not obtaining a pilot's license...)
posted by Alterscape at 5:07 PM on December 2, 2007

Best answer:
I've been simming for decades.

For equipment, I really like Saitek gear. CH products are also highly regarded. A really good setup will cost 2-3 hundred dollars, but it is possible to spend more.

Personally, I prefer joystick and throttle, though some people do like yoke and quadrant configuration. In almost any case, he will want rudder pedals - many joysticks have a twist function that can do rudders, but that tends to be sub-optimal.

In general, you can mix and match hardware, though sometimes there are small issues.

If you really, truly love your father, you will also get him a TrackIR, which is far and away the best damn thing to happen to flight sims since 3d graphics accelerators. I have no relation to the company, but I couldn't fly a sim at all anymore without it.

Also, if your father likes prop aircraft and WWII combat, it is very worth it to check out Aces High - a massive-multiplayer WWII flight sim. The client is a free download, runs well on older hardware, and there is only a (monthly) fee if he plays online.

As for FSX - it is a bit of a resource pig. If he has an older system, you might be better off using FS2004. X-Plane is also very good, and runs well on older hardware, but it's not quite as easy to use.

Good luck,
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:52 PM on December 2, 2007

Best answer: Monkeyagent: Seriously, seconding the recheck of his computer's specs. It needs to have at LEAST a DirectX 9-capable video card, and it will look like death on most machines.

I have a AMD 4400+ 2.2GHz dual core and an ATI Radeon x850xt with 256MB RAM and 2GB of system memory and it chokes and sputters in the medium-high range. Fortunately, it's infinitely configurable, but it's a slippery slope. And he'll need, seriously, 4-8 GB of HD space, to prevent annoying loading issues, etc.

My machine's definitely older, but still. It ran fine and looked decent, AND i ran it on dual display, but it gets ugly quick. :-)
posted by disillusioned at 2:44 AM on December 3, 2007

Oh, one more suggestion. A great add-on gift to this already stellar package would be a flight lesson. If you call some local airports, they may offer introductory lessons for about 50-70 dollars - half an hour or so in an airplane, and he gets to do all the flying.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:04 PM on December 5, 2007

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