If you’re a flight simulator enthusiast and/or love flying games, you absolutely have to invest in a HOTAS joystick. HOTAS stands for Hands-on Throttle and Stick, and as the name suggests it combines the throttle mechanism with a joystick to offer the ultimate flight control experience.
Best HOTAS Joysticks for PC Flight Simulators Reviewed
There are several manufacturers of great HOTAS joysticks out there. Buying one isn’t as simple as you think though, as many of the cheap models can break down after just a month’s worth of use. We’ve made life easier for you by reviewing the 5 best HOTAS joysticks available right now.
Before we get into the reviews, here are a few things to consider when buying a HOTAS flight stick:
Best HOTAS Joysticks – Buyer’s Guide
The build quality of any flight stick is the most important factor to consider when you’re purchasing. HOTAS flight sticks have a lot of moving parts, which means parts that will wear and tear over time with excessive use. For this reason, the build quality and material choice of any flight stick is extremely important in determining how well it functions and its longevity.
The material usage also dictates how the flight simulation stick feels in your hands. A heavier, more robust stick with a high-quality spring system will feel sturdy and stable, with just enough resistance on the joystick to offer smooth control.
A lighter joystick made of plastic will not only become unbalanced and fly around with every serious maneuver, it will also be much more prone to breaking because of the cheaper plastic materials used in it.
For this reason, you should ideally opt for a heavy flight stick to ensure it is stable and doesn’t move when you tilt the joystick. Additionally, any thrust lever (separate or integrated) needs to have some resistance, yet also have a smooth enough operation to allow for precision control.
The input options on HOTAS joysticks vary greatly. Some give a lot of buttons and input options, while other models keep it simple and minimalistic.
When determining how many buttons you need on a HOTAS flight stick, you need to first assess what kind of videogames you’ll be using it for. If you plan to use your flight stick with a flight simulator like Prepar3d, you’ll want to have as many input options on the HOTAs flight stick system as possible, covering all essential controls like brakes, flaps, trim, autopilot, and more.
Of course, you don’t want a flight stick that is overloaded with buttons that results in accidental presses though. For this reason, you should opt for as many inputs as possible without them ever hindering your experience.
Precision and Control
The precision and control of your joystick will largely depend on the build quality and hardware design as well as the software. Costlier HOTAS flight sticks will have higher quality hardware and excellent software that gives them the accuracy and precision that you’ll require.
Ideally, you want a HOTAS joystick that can provide variable resistance so you can adjust it according to your own preferred sensitivity. You should also pay attention to the software aspect of any HOTAS flight stick.
The hat-switch is an underrated and overlooked part of a HOTAS flight stick. It is one of the most important parts. Unless you have a head-tracking system that you use during flight simulations, you’ll have to rely on some form of manual input to look around. That is where the hat-switch comes into play.
It is usually located on the top of the joystick and is designed to be manipulated with your thumb. It essentially behaves like a D-pad and used for looking around in the simulator. You should ideally get a HOTAS flight stick with as many directions on its hat-switch as possible for the best control.
Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog
Brilliant Design and Performance
The Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog can be considered the dream choice for any flight simulator enthusiast. It utilizes premium materials for its systems, offers a dedicated, separate throttle, and a plethora of switches and buttons for ultimate control and immersion.
The Thurstmaster HOTAS Warthog looks premium, feels premium, and functions as a premium flight stick. It is by far the best overall HOTAS joystick you can buy right now.
Thrustmaster’s Warthog is the dream choice for flight simulation enthusiasts for its combination of build quality, performance, and a plethora of input features. It has a full metal construction that makes it heavy and stable, and it is cable of withstanding abuse like a real flight control system.
Thrustmaster Warthog features realistic controls with its high-quality joystick and dedicated dual throttle system. The Warthog’s design is based on the United States Air Force A-10C aircraft, so the realism and immersion are enhanced knowing you practically have a replica of a real aircraft on your desk.
With this flight stick, you get a total of 19 programmable buttons and 7 different axes, making this the most feature-rich HOTAS joystick you can buy right now. The handle-base of this model is also completely detachable for additional configuration options.
Thrustmaster has also integrated its own proprietary H.E.A.R.T HallEffect AccuRate Technology that utilizes a magnetic system for incredible precision that is simply unmatched by other HOTAS joysticks. The buttons and triggers are pressure-sensitive to add realism and enhanced precision to the user.
Another great aspect of this flight stick is its software. The Warthog uses the T.A.R.G.E.T. software through which users can set up different configurations based on their preferences. You can work at your own required level and make this HOTA joystick as intuitive or advanced as you like through the software.
Given the reviews and what we have to say about the Thrustmaster Warthog flight stick, it seems this product is simply flawless. And that’s true for the most part.
It’s only when you look at that price that you’ll probably feel a little ache in your heart. This flight stick can cost upwards of $400, making it ridiculously impactful on your wallet. However, it is designed to be the enthusiast’s flight gear, and we have to say that it does live up to its price.
Logitech G Saitek X52 Pro
One of the Most Popular Flight Sticks
The Logitech G Saitek X52 Pro is a popular Logitech HOTAS joystick with advanced features and a dedicated throttle. The throttle has its own LCD panel to enhance and adjust different variables on the fly.
Though not perfect, the Logitech G Saitek X52 Pro continuous to be a viable option for many flight simulation lovers because of its thoughtful design and advanced features.
The Thrustmaster Warthog gives you the ultimate flight stick experience available for consumers at the moment, but its price is a major factor in forcing interested consumers to look for alternatives. While no true alternative exists that can match the Warthog’s quality design and function, the Logitech G Saitek series of flight sticks are mainstream options worth considering.
Of the lot, the Logitech G Saitek X52 Pro is the most popular. The Pro version improves upon the tried and tested features of the regular X52. One of the distinct features of this flight stick from Logitech is the LCD panel on the dedicated detached throttle stick. You can customize and enhance your simulation experience on the fly (pun intended) with up to 282 different programmable commands through the panel, negating the need for software within the OS. The throttle system in this HOTA joystick is progressive and features a customizable resistance.
When you adjust your afterburners or let the engine idle, you’ll feel realistic feedback through the built-in detents. All the buttons of this Logitech joystick are illuminated for clear indication of what you’re pressing as well, so the visual and sensory feedback is fantastic.
There are five different handle positions in the main joystick for ultimate comfort. This means you can adjust the joystick to meet the size and ergonomics of your hand. The self-centering mechanism of the joystick is also precise and accurate. Through this system, the X and Y axes provide a constant spring force for fluid movement.
Of course, there’s a reason why it’s not perfect. Quality control issues and unreliable customer service from Logitech can make purchasing this flight stick a Russian roulette. You could end up with one that fails after a few hours of use, or you could have one that lasts years. This is one of the major downsides of the Logitech G Saitek X52 Pro, and if you’re buying one, be sure your warranty is easy to claim and make sure you buy it directly from a reliable retailer like Amazon.
A WWII KG12 Grip Replica
The Gladiator joystick is modeled on the stick of an actual World War 2 KG12 grip. It has an excellent build quality and a lot of features packed a compact design.
The Gladiator joystick comes at below $100 but offers premium build quality and a fantastic design that meets the needs of most fighter sim enthusiasts.
The Gladiator joystick is a replica of a real aircraft’s control system, the popular World War 2 KG12 grip,, so you know right from there that’ll it’ll be an enticing option for any enthusiast who loves old-school aerial combat videogames and fighter jet simulation programs.
Even though it may not look it, the Gladiator joystick is surprisingly heavy. Yet this heaviness, combined with the silicone grip on the base of the joystick, ensures that it doesn’t move around even when you’re making the craziest maneuvers. The heavy weight of the flight stick also gives it an extremely sturdy feel.
But the focus isn’t on the durability and quality of components alone. With the Gladiator HOTA joystick, you get three axes: pitch, roll, and twist. The throttle is located to the side of the stick, and while it isn’t as immersive as a separate throttle pedal that comes with other HOTA joysticks, it performs well and feels solid. It’s far better than many of the throttles you’ll find in the sub $100 range of HOTAS flight sticks.
For input, there are a number of different buttons layered around the main joystick – all of which are programmable. What makes the Gladiator stand out from the rest of the crowd is the intricate layout of the buttons. Not of them feel oddly placed, and all of them are easily accessible and arranged in a way that makes sense
The performance of the joystick is smooth and efficient with a great self-centering mechanism. You can also change out the springs and cams for more customizability. Overall, there’s very little negative to say about the Gladiator joystick here, and it’s a great contender for being the best flight stick you can buy for around $100.
Best Mainstream Flight Stick
Thrustmaster T-Flight HOTAS X
A Great Value HOTAS Stick
The Thrustmaster T-Flight HOTAS X is the company’s more affordable flight stick. This flight stick combines a large throttle with a contemporary joystick in an ergonomically designed unified body. It features a total of 12 programmable buttons and 5 axes for ultimate control and precision.
You don’t have to pay a premium price for a great HOTAS joystick. Thrustmaster’s T.Flight flight stick comes at an affordable price with the company’s signature performance and functionality.
There’s nothing truly fancy about the T-Flight HOTAS joystick. With this Thrustmaster product, you get all the basics you need. There’s a reason this flight stick is the number one seller on Amazon for PC game flight controls.
This flight stick comes in a combined throttle and stick combination out of the box, but the throttle is removable for a more flexible desktop arrangement and better access. Unlike the more expensive, premium Warthog, the T-Flight HOTAS X also comes with the Z-axis rudder spin control for additional precision while flying in realistic flight sims.
The T-Flight HOTAS X has five axes and a total of 12 buttons, all of which are programmable. Built into the joystick is a mapping button that you can use to switch between different functions easily. Furthermore, the resistance of the joystick is completely adjustable for the ultimate comfort and precision.
Of course, you shouldn’t expect fancy LED lighting or pressure sensitivity with the price you’re paying for this Thrustmaster HOTAS joystick. You also don’t get the slickness and smooth operation of the throttle and stick as you would on a more expensive model. However, this is one incredible product for its price and represents everything great about what Thrustmaster does. It’s one of the most highly acclaimed mainstream flight sticks, and we can’t help recommend it if you’re unwilling to spend beyond $100 on a HOTAs joystick.
Mad Catz V.1
For Space Battle Lovers
The Mad Catz V.1 is a great budget pick flight stick with an ambidextrous design. It has a POV switch integrated into the joystick and comes with a stylish design that screams space battles and starships.
We fancy the Mad Catz V.1 because of how stylish it is, how affordable it is, and how well it works for multiple purposes.
A great budget option for those unwilling to spend a ton on a HOTAS joystick is the Mad Catz V.1. Known for their crazy and edgy looking products, Mad Catz sticks to its design philosophy with this flight sticks. It looks less like the controls of a modern aircraft and more like that of an alien spaceship. Yet this joystick is versatile enough to be used in both sci-fi flight games as well as realistic flight simulators like Prepr3d.
With this Mad Catz joystick, you get a sturdy ambidextrous experience that works incredibly well for dual-stick flying. Pop two of them together and control your vehicle with ultimate precision. There is also a POV switch integrated into the joystick that lets you instantly see everything around you while you’re flying.
Built to the sides of the stick is a pinkie switch that operates as a normal control or can be programmed as a shift button for additional options. The LED lighting is bright and flashy, but it can be overbearing at times as it tends to shine right at your monitor or TV screen if you’re sitting close enough.
The lever of the throttle of the Mad Catz V.1 is located behind the stick, which we found a little awkward. Once you get used to it, it does work quite well, but we’re guessing only the commercial aircraft simulation enthusiasts won’t mind its strange positioning. The throttle lever, however, is one of the better levers built into regular mid-to-low priced HOTAS joysticks, so its quality and functionality aren’t hampered by its design but by its position.
The great design and competitive pricing make the Mad Catz V.1 an attractive package for most users. We recommend it as the best budget pick if you’re looking for a flight stick for less than $50.