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Best PC Gaming Joystick 2016

If you're looking for a budget gaming joystick, the Thrustmaster T-Flight is a decent option. Find more of our favorites below.

If you're looking for a budget gaming joystick, the Thrustmaster T-Flight is a decent option. Find more of our favorites below.

My Top Joysticks for FPS, Flight Simulation, and Racing

If you spend a lot of time playing first-person shooter games (FPS), then you know just how important a fraction of a second can be to your virtual survival.

I'm an avid Battlefield 3 player and have noticed that while a good gaming mouse gives me an advantage in many situations, it's simply not ideal for some vehicles like jets and helicopters.

If you're looking for a joystick for PC racing, flight simulation, fighting, or FPS games, I’ve got you covered. Here's a look at my top joysticks for PC gaming.

What to Look for in a Joystick

When purchasing a joystick, you obviously want to get the best choice for your money. Here are some things you should consider according to PC Gamer Magazine:

Throttle control

You need throttle control if you're trying to engage in serious flight simulation, and it's the foremost factor that separates a joypad from a joystick setup. By making sure your joystick comes with a decent throttle, you'll be able to access speed and granularity that can be the difference between life and death.

Though it's not necessary, the most respected flight controllers do come with a separate control for the throttle, including extra toggle switches and LEDs.

Others have throttle control built onto the base of the joystick, but as long as there's a decent amount of travel in the throttle, you'll have good in-game control. Another benefit of a separate throttle is that it minimizes or removes your dependence on using your keyboard.

Button configuration

Sims demand a lot of in-flight controls and having plenty of buttons can be extremely useful. Obviously you can use your keyboard if you need extra controls, but it's nice to not be dependent on it.

You'll need at least four buttons on the stick itself and ideally a hat switch on top of it.

Z-axis control

Traditionally, joysticks just have pitch and roll control and can move forward, back, left and right. However, some are configured for 3-D movement, which means that in addition to controlling the X- and Y- axis, you can also twist the stick clockwise or anti-clockwise to control the Z-axis.

This is generally used to control yaw and replicate the rudder controls of an aircraft.

In space, the 3-D control can be crucial for accuracy. While this function isn't as necessary on a stick with other controls that can mimic the rudder, on budget sticks its absence is noticeable. The rudder can also be replicated and controlled using pedals.

Terms You Should Know

HOTAS: This acronym stands for "Hands-On Throttle and Stick" and indicates a dual controller where one hand rests permanently on the throttle and the other remains on the stick.

Hat switch: A multi-directional button akin to the d-pad on a modern controller. On a flight stick, the d-pad has a hat on top which the thumb can easily push to activate the levers. They come in either 4-way or 8-way styles.

With that introduction, here are my top picks for PC gaming joysticks. You'll notice that Thrustmaster somewhat dominates the list.

JoystickCostBest for...Throttle InformationButtons, Hat Switches, Etc...Amazon Reviews and RatingsOther

Logitech Extreme 3D Pro

$34.99

Bang for buck

Lever, smooth control on stick

12 buttons, 1 8-way hat switch

1020 reviews, 4.1 avg rating

Possible durability issues

Thrustmaster T-16000M Flight Stick

$68.02

Lefties + budget

Throttle slider on stick

16 buttons, 1 hat switch

107 reviews, 4.5 avg rating

Ambidextrous design makes some things awkward for righties

Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick

$44.88

Entry-level HOTAS

Detachable

12 buttons, 1 hat, 5 axles

553 reviews, 4.4 avg rating

Joystick has a dead zone, does not work on Xbox 360

Thrustmaster Hotas Wharthog Joystick

$419.99

Top of the line

Dual throttle system, dual throttle control

55 buttons, 2 4-direction hats

115 reviews, 4.5 avg rating

Shipping weight: 20.5 lbs

CH Products Fighterstick and Throttle

$207.43 (together)

Durability

Sold separate from joystick

24 buttons, three 4-way hat switches and one 8-way point of view hat

102 reviews, 4.4 avg rating

Looks aren't everything

Mad Catz Cyborg F.L.Y.5 Stick for PC

$59.99

Backup

Twin throttle

12 buttons, POV hat

149 reviews, 3.3 avg rating

Durability issues

Mad Catz Saitek Pro Flight X-55 Rhino HOTAS

$199.99

Realistic design

Twin throttles with friction adjuster and throttle lock

Tons of buttons, 2 8-way hats, 1 8-way POV hat

110 reviews, 3.8 avg rating

QA issues with buttons

Saitek X52 Pro Flight Control System

$156.99

Saitek afficionado

New throttle design

Buttons galore, 2 8-way hats

206 reviews, 3.8 avg rating

Needs to be secured

Saitek Pro Flight Yoke with Three-Lever Throttle

$125.84

Flying

3-lever throttle; throttle quadrant

POV hat, 14 button controls, and 3-position mode switch

428 reviews, 3.9 avg rating

Some binding issues but best flight yoke for the price

Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick

A Good Budget PC Gaming Joystick for FPS

If you simply want a joystick to use with the occasional vehicle, then this is a worthwhile option. One of the top sellers on Amazon, the Logitech Extreme 3D is durable and fits the mold for FPS, but isn't quite something you'd want to use if you're spending hours every day on a flight simulator.

It has X,Y and Z axes, throttle axis, a hat switch, and enough buttons to not have to use the keyboard with most games, in addition to being a great value.

I've owned one for a few years and will probably just purchase a new one when it wears out because it is so affordable. In this price range you could also consider the Logitech Attack 3, but I like how well-placed all the buttons are on this particular model.

Retail price: $34.99

Demo: Logitech Extreme 3D Pro on Battlefield 3

Thrustmaster T-16000M Flight Stick

considered one of the best budget flight sticks - perfect for starters

For gamers looking for a budget option that does some serious heavy lifting, this is definitely a flight stick to consider. It's one of the only cheap joysticks that has hall sensors instead of potentiometers, which does wonders for its sensitivity.

The T-16000M features great tension, zone control and return to center. Unlike many of the other options on this list, it's built for both right and left-handed players (to some success).

Some reviewers on Amazon commented on the short and awkward position of the throttle, so that's something to be aware of before purchasing. That said, with a rudder twist and plenty of buttons for programming and customizing, like the Logitech 3D Pro, it is a well-liked budget option.


Review: Thrustmaster T-16000M

Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick

An affordable flight stick with plenty of flexibility

It's made out of plastic (instead of metal like the Warthog which is reviewed below) and has less buttons and hats, but this joystick is still a Thrustmaster steal.

Some of its best features include a detachable throttle, Z-axis rotation for rudder control, and plenty of programmable buttons.

One reviewer at PC Gamer Magazine commented that the action on the stick and throttle leave something to be desired and that in the heat of a fight you'll hear plastic grinding on plastic, but overall the joystick still feels solid and is worth the price.

Retail price: $44.88

Review: Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X Flight Stick

Thrustmaster Hotas Wharthog Joystick

A High-End Joystick for Realistic Flight Simulation

If you want the best of the best for flight simulation, then the Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog Joystick (released in 2011) is where it's at.

The Warthog is pricey, but it also gives you a unique replica set of the U.S. Air Force A-10C's joystick, dual throttle system, and control panel. Weighing in at 20.5 lbs shipping weight, this is one joystick you will not have to worry about flying off your desk in the heat of action.

CH Products Fighterstick and Throttle

It's not fancy, but it works and will probably last forever.

With a retro-style design, this flightstick might not immediately scream heavy duty dogfighting action, but it's still a very functional stick with extensive flightstick travel that enables fine-grain control (according to a reviewer at PC Gamer Magazine).

The stick itself has three axes of control and 24 buttons, including X-,Y-, and Z-axes for aileron, elevator, and throttle control. You can switch between three modes for a total of 128 programmable functions with the included Control Manager software (PC only).

It's a plug-and-play device that's built to last, and it will get the job done if the job is destroying enemy aircraft. That said, it's more expensive than some of the other models out there and for the money, you might want to have something that looks more like the real thing than a Game Boy.

A note on the throttle: the throttle has linear motion instead of arching, which can take some getting used to and isn't as desirable as the throttle action from Saitek and Thrustmaster.

Retail price: $109.57

Retail price: $97.86

Review: CH Fighterstick, Pro Pedals, Pro Throttle

Mad Catz Cyborg F.L.Y.5 Stick for PC

Cheap stick with cheap construction that's good for travel

A word to the wise on this stick: one of the most frequent comments on Amazon is that the buttons are prone to breaking quickly and for no reason at all. That said, there are some good things about it.

It's an adjustable stick with a dual throttle and 10 programmable buttons and a foldable base. Some of the negative aspects of the stick include an intense blue light just beneath the hat switch, and the fact the base tilts up when you're pushing the stick forward.

However, the drivers are easy to install, the design of the stick makes it easy to save space, and it has a good feel and texture with lots of buttons. Given that it does seem to break easily, this might be the best option for a back-up or travel stick.

Review: Cyborg F.L.Y. 5 Flightstick

Mad Catz Saitek Pro Flight X-55 Rhino HOTAS

An Upgrade to the x52 that's worth the money

The X55 Rhino from Saitek features a stick layout almost identical to the Warthog except with three hat-switches rather than four and interchangeable coil springs which allow you to tailor the resistance to your taste.

You can alter the resistance on the fly with the throttle—even to a greater degree than the Warthog—and it comes with plenty of mini-joysticks, hat switches, flick switches, and rotary switches that allow you to fully customize it.

The stick is, however, made out of plastic and some reviewers on Amazon have complained about QA issues, with buttons breaking and the parts simply not fitting together correctly. There were also some comments about difficulties getting the software to work.

Those who don't have manufacturing or software issues, however, really love the stick and are happy with their purchase.

Review: X-55 Rhino H.O.T.A.S.

Saitek X52 Pro Flight Control System

A good option (if slightly dated) for an entry-level fully-customizable HOTAS.

If you can't afford the Thrustmaster or the updated version of this joystick, then this is a solid bet.

With the Saitek X52, you can program your controller for each game. The system also features precision centering mechanisms, with no-contact technology on X- and Y- axes and a constant spring force to improve control. The light-up buttons are also a plus.

Review: Saitek X52 Pro Joystick

Bonus Yoke: Saitek Pro Flight Yoke with Three-Lever Throttle

A Yoke Worth Considering

It may seem somewhat expensive but for the money the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke with Three-Lever Throttle will get you as close to reality as you can be for around $100. It features a POV Hat, 14 button controls, and a 3-position mode switch.

Like other Saitek models, some reviewers on Amazon have complained of manufacturing issues and the need to send their units back or get a refund, so do your due diligence on this product before purchasing.

Another option if you're considering a yoke would be the CH Flight Sim Yoke, which (like the CH flight stick and throttle) looks less legitimate but has excellent manufacturing standards and is cheaper.

What Joystick do You Use for PC Gaming?

Flightsimmer on March 24, 2017:

Great review, you even mentioned CH products; kudo's! Keep an eye out for VKB sticks, they are top notch but often sold out. I also wouldn't recommend the T-flight hotas X, it's cheap but breaks down easily (buttons falling off, very inaccurate).

If you're looking for joysticks for flight sims like Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous, you might also want to check out http://starcitizenreferralcode.net/star-citizen/be...

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