If you’re setting up your own flight simulator cockpit at home or you’re just keen to start taking to the skies from the comfort of your couch, you’ll want to purchase a HOTAS.
What is HOTAS? HOTAS is an acronym for Hands On Throttle On System, and it basically refers to equipment that includes a joystick and in-built throttle.
This is especially useful during flight simulation games because it enables you to better control your aircraft during play and feel like you’re in an actual aircraft, whether you want to be a commercial airline pilot or bring combat to the skies! If you’re eager to get started with flight simulation, you should check out five of the best HOTAS in our guide. We’ll start with a table of some of their important specs.
Best Hotas for Flight Simulators Reviews For 2020
Best Overall Winner: Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS HOTAS Controller
This is the best HOTAS controller on the market because it has loads of features you’ll love. Thrustmaster has been in the flight sim controller business for 25 years so it’s fine-tuned its production to provide a mid-range joystick for all its game lovers. Let’s check out its features!
- Hall Effect technology
- Magnetic sensors
- This Thrustmaster is compatible with Vista (both 32-bit and 64-bit) and PC (via USB) in many Windows versions – 7, 8, and 10.
- It has 16 action buttons that have raised bumps on them. This helps you to feel what you’re pushing when you make use of a virtual reality headset so you don’t have to keep looking down at your hands during gameplay.
- This controller makes use of Hall Effect accurate technology. This is a 3D technology that features magnetic sensors on the stick to give you more precision during gaming.
- The magnetic sensors also help to reduce wear and tear, while making your movements feel more accurate and smooth.
- The throttle is the Thrustmaster Weapon Control System, and it makes use of Sliding Motion Advanced Rail Tracks. This allows the throttle to slide in a smoother way, preventing jerking or erratic movements.
- If you’re serious about gaming, you want to find ways to be as ergonomic as possible for increased comfort. The Thrustmaster is known for being comfortable to use so you can immerse yourself in your games. An example is how its joystick has an ambidextrous design, so if you want to use it with either one of your hands you can without a problem.
- Some people have reported that the large number of buttons can make the throttle a little difficult to use, mainly because of how it can cause you to hit the wrong ones.
- Others have reported that after a few months of use, the throttle starts sticking a bit, which can be frustrating.
- The design of this controller is bold orange and it also has backlighting to make you feel like you’re really immersed in the game.
- You can connect the product to other flight simulation items that can be used together, such as the rudder pedals and multi-functional display cockpit panels that are sold separately.
The Thrustmaster is available from various sellers on Amazon, and you can expect to pay between $276.00 and $324.98 for it. It’s the best HOTAS for Elite Dangerous and other flight simulation games.
Runner Up: ThrustMaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick PC
Thrustmaster makes our list again! This time, they’re offering their warthog flight stick for PC. It’s come to life as a result of a collaboration between the company and the simmer community to ensure that the joystick would be precise and meet the needs of gamers, and it doesn’t disappoint.
- Inspired by U.S. Air Force attack flight stick
- Dual-throttle system
- One of the most exciting features about this HOTAS is that the joystick is a replica of the U.S. Air Force attack aircraft flight stick.
- It offers you 55 programmable action buttons as well as two four-direction hat switches.
- The joystick is strong and durable, with a handle that’s made out of metal. Other parts are also made out of metal, such as the base.
- This warthog joystick has a handle that you can detach, making it more versatile.
- To give you the real feeling of flying an aircraft, when you press on the joystick buttons you’ll feel the same pressure as what you’d experience if you were in a real airplane.
- Some people who have purchased this joystick have reported that it requires a lot of effort on their part in order to make it feel smooth.
- Others have stated that they wanted it to be a bit more ergonomic, and this is especially something that could apply to you if you want to play games for many hours at a time.
- You can detach the joystick’s base, so it’s very versatile to meet your needs.
- If you love being able to use the joystick in your own way, you’ll love that it has a dual-throttle system. By making use of a locking feature, you can either keep the two throttles attached or use them separately.
- You’ll love those night flights, thanks to the control panel that offers backlighting.
- The control panel also has many controls available, such as a friction wheel that you can use to adjust throttle resistance.
- At 14 pounds, this joystick is heavy, which makes using it feel stable.
This Thrustmaster warthog controller costs $279.99, but it’s got some fantastic features that make it the best HOTAS for PC. If you like having more control and versatility during games, you’ll love this joystick.
Looking for something a little more compatible with your budget, or something that has a unique feature that you really have your heart set on? If so, here are three alternative HOTAS products to consider.
Alternative 1: Logitech G Pro Flight X56 Rhino HOTAS
This Logitech G Pro HOTAS combines military-grade precision with customization, so you get the best of both worlds.
- RGB backlighting
- Control surface customization
- This joystick offers players military-grade space and flight simulation precision, so it’s the best HOTAS for DCS (Digital Combat Simulator) and other battlefield games.
- There are a bunch of customizations you can make, such as control surface options so that you can feel like a real-life pilot.
- This controller makes use of RGB backlighting. What this means is that the software can be used to set the color of the lightning to match your gaming setup.
- It’s the best joystick for virtual reality, and one of the biggest reasons for this is because you will feel more in control, thanks to how the buttons are right at your fingertips.
- It’s got Hall Effect sensors. This, along with its 16-bit aileron as well as elevator axis, helps to give you greater precision.
- Customization is the name of the game. With this controller you can choose from different resistance levels to match the way you want to fly. So, there are four springs of different resistance levels in the stick spring system to make you feel that you’re in greater control at all times.
- People who have purchased this HOTAS flight simulator have reported that when they plugged it into a USB 3 port, it would cause buttons to be pressed without them wanting them to be, but this was rectified when they switched over to a USB 2 port.
- Others have noted that the pinkie switches are not durable.
- The throttle has switches on its base that are in a staggered design. This is no accident – it helps you to differentiate between them during play so you don’t have to feel like you’re fumbling or wasting time at the most crucial moments.
This Logitech HOTAS costs $419.95 from Amazon sellers. It’s quite expensive and does have some design hitches, but if you can look past those points you’ll enjoy how it brings greater customization to the table. If you love VR, this is the controller to purchase for the most immersive experience.
Alternative 2: ThrustMaster VG F/A 18 Grip Add On – PC
This controller is a replica of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C flight stick, and has been designed with Boeing’s permission, which is pretty cool. Is that enough to purchase it? Here’s what you need to know.
- Tactile buttons
- Digital Combat Simulator integration
- This stick is really light – it only weighs 720 grams – so as to give it an authentic feeling.
- The 19 buttons on this controller are built to be realistic. Not only can they be programmed but they have a two-step trigger that feels like the real Hornet flight stick.
- It comes with Digital Combat Simulator integration so you can enjoy more ergonomics and comfort during flights.
- Some people who have purchased this product have complained that it doesn’t come with a base to rest your hand, which can feel uncomfortable after a while.
- For others, the instructions are difficult to understand, making setup a bit complicated.
- The price is a bit steep.
- The joystick is constructed out of durable materials, such as metal.
- It’s completely compatible with all Thrustmaster joystick bases.
- People who have purchased this joystick have reported that it has buttons that feel very tactile, which makes them comfortable and realistic to use.
This joystick costs $227.99. It has some amazing features, especially when it comes to making your flight simulation feel as close to the real thing as possible. This is one of the best HOTAS joysticks, so you’re guaranteed of lots of hours of play.
Best Budget HOTAS: Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas
If the previous product was too pricey to purchase, you’ll love this HOTAS that gives you a solid experience without being too costly. It’s also by Thrustmaster, so if you’re a fan of the brand you’ll love getting the chance to enjoy their flight simulators without burning a hole in your wallet.
- Dual-rudder system
- Compatible with PS4
- This HOTAS has adjustable stick resistance so you can find what feels best.
- It’s got a detachable throttle for greater versatility.
- It’s got a built-in PS4 and PC sliding switch.
- You can enjoy a variety of different types of flights with this joystick, such as space adventures and civil flights.
- You’ll love making use of the dual rudder system. In a plane, the rudder function refers to how the pilot uses pedals to turn the steering. You can make use of this feature by simply turning the joystick handle.
- Some people have complained that this joystick isn’t compatible with all PS4 flight games.
- Others have reported that over time there seems to be a problem that occurs with calibration, which can cause you to drift a bit during flights.
- It’s currently unavailable on Amazon.
- If you’re worried about your hands getting sore or tired, you’ll love that this joystick comes with a hand rest.
- The base also feels nice and weighted to give you greater stability during intense moments of your flight.
Although this HOTAS is not available from Amazon, you can purchase it from other websites, such as Best Buy where it costs $79.99. It’s the best budget HOTAS and a fantastic low-cost alternative to some of the previous products we’ve reviewed, while still giving you what you need for realistic and immersive flight simulation.
Now that we’ve featured five of the best HOTAS, if you’re new to flight simulators you might have some questions about them. Let’s look at common ones.
What does HOTAS mean?
In this buying guide, we’ve mentioned the term HOTAS quite a bit. It’s basically an acronym of “hands on throttle and stick.” This applies to putting switches and buttons directly on the throttle lever and flight control joystick in an aircraft cockpit. In reality, it means that aircraft pilots can fly without moving their hands from their controls.
It’s easy to see how this feature would be hugely beneficial in gaming, too! When we talk about flight simulation, HOTAS means that the joystick used for flight simulation comes with a throttle that’s integrated.
The whole M.O. of HOTAS is to try to mimic real-life flying as much as possible, which is why these joysticks will have a throttle as well as many buttons on them. You also gain better control with this system because you can hold the joystick with one hand and reserve your other hand for the throttle. Basically, your stick will ensure you can steer the plane with precision while the throttle will control how you accelerate.
By being able to do both simultaneously, you can achieve the best HOTAS setup and have much more fun while feeling like you’re flying a plane in real life.
Are HOTAS worth it?
There are many good reasons why you should invest in HOTAS. Here are some of the most important ones.
- As you can see from our reviews, many of the best HOTAS on the market make use of technology to increase your immersive experience, which is crucial for flight simulation. For example, the use of magnetic sensors can make your experience much smoother and feel much more like the real thing.
- By choosing a universal joystick, such as the Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS Flight Stick from our list of reviews, you’ll be able to make use of lots of customization when you play.
- Speaking of feeling like you’re flying an actual aircraft, some of the best HOTAS products are modelled on real airplane joysticks, and we’ve got two examples in our reviews: the ThrustMaster 2960738 HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick PC that’s been built according to the U.S. air force attack airplane flight stick, and the ThrustMaster VG F/A 18 Grip Add On that mimics the Hornet flight stick. These go a long way to enhancing your flight simulation.
- You don’t have to burn your budget to purchase a HOTAS. These controllers come in a range of prices to suit every lifestyle, and even ones that aren’t that expensive still deliver in terms of quality. The perfect example of this product is the Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas 4 Flight Stick for PS4 & PC that’s much more affordable while still giving you all the features you want in flight simulation.
Do HOTAS work with PS4 or Xbox or Nintendo Switch?
You can definitely find HOTAS for flight simulation that can work on PS4. The Thrustmaster T.Flight Hotas 4 is a good example. There are others that you can find on Amazon that are also compatible.
When it comes to Xbox, Thrustmaster’s T-Flight Hotas will work – but you’ll have to purchase the model specifically for Xbox One. There’s also one for PS4 as well as one for your PC. For Xbox One specifically, you can also buy the Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas One, which is the world’s first joystick that’s compatible with PC and Xbox One.
For Nintendo Switch, it’s a little more complicated. When it comes to playing simulation games such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, you can play with a controller, such as Switch, but that’s not HOTAS. To play flight simulation games, you can also make use of HORI joystick and buttons that’s been licensed by Nintendo.
Do all HOTAS mean it’s all in one or do we need to buy separate pieces?
Since HOTAS refers to a setup in which you have a joystick and throttle, you’ll get what you need in one product. However, many of these setups are usually built with expansion in mind. If you want to add extra accessories to them, you can do so at a later stage and these are usually sold separately.
For example, with the Thrustmaster 2960778 T.16000M FCS HOTAS Controller, you can connect it to other flight simulation accessories, such as rudder pedals, that you can use simultaneously, such as if you’re building a flight simulation cockpit at home.
Can HOTAS only be used in flight sims? What about space or other VR games?
Although HOTAS are all the rage when it comes to flight simulation games, you can also use them for other games too. These include space simulation games (such as Elite Dangerous), aerial combat games, and truck simulation games (such as Euro Truck Simulator).
However, flight simulation games are probably the best for HOTAS because of how accurate the setup enables you to be. This is a feature that can go to waste with other games that don’t require it. In addition, HOTAS makes flight sim games much more realistic, smooth, and immersive.
If you’re a flight simulator fan, you’ll love adding HOTAS to your gaming setup.
But which one should you choose?
In this buying guide, we’ve featured the best HOTAS for flight simulators, looking at their features and details to help you buy the one from which you’ll get the best immersive experience when you take to the skies.