If you’re a flight simulation enthusiast, chances are you either own a HOTAS joystick or aspire to get one. We completely understand, as the precision and accuracy required for flight simulations is simply not provided with regular gaming controls or the mouse-and-keyboard setup.
Whether you’re flying around casually in videogames or learning how to fly in Flight Simulator and Prepar3d, you’ll want to invest in a HOTAS joystick that can provide the best experience possible.
Best HOTAS Joystick Reviewed
HOTAS joysticks not too long ago were notorious for being few in number with none of them being adequate enough for a truly immersive and engaging flight simulation experience.
Things have changed in recent times and better products have been released lately. The market is still littered with poor quality products and some that don’t provide what you pay for. We’ve reviewed the 5 best HOTAS joysticks you can buy right now based on their performance and reliability.
There’s also a buyer’s guide at the end to help you make a better decision with your purchase.
Thrustmaster HOTA Warthog
Best HOTA Joystick Money Can Buy
The Thrustmaster HOTA Warthog offers a record number of programmable buttons in a metallic build that is both stable and extremely durable. It comes with high-precision technology that allows for fine maneuvers. It also features a unique dual throttle for ultimate control.
The Warthog buy Thrustmaster is the ultimate HOTA joystick money can buy. It comes at a high price point, but it’s the ideal choice for all flight simulation enthusiasts.
Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTA X
Ideal for Most Gamers
Coming at an affordable price, the T.Flight HOTA X is a detachable throttle and joystick combination that covers all the basic requirements of a HOTA joystick. You have z-axis control in addition to a large set of programmable buttons along with adjustable resistance.
If you’re unwilling to spend a large amount on a HOTA joystick, the Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTA X is the best choice for you as it covers all the basics and performs up to mark.
Thrustmaster’s Warthog is the premium pick for all flight simulation enthusiasts for its performance and set of features. With a full metal construction and unparalleled number of input options, there’s a reason why this is the go-to choice for all individuals serious about their flight simulation endeavors.
It features realistic controls with its high quality joystick and dedicated dual throttle system. The Warthog takes heavy inspiration from the United States Air Force A-10C aircraft for its design. The handle-base of this model is also completely detachable for extra configuration options.
You get a total of 19 programmable buttons and seven different axes, making this the most feature-rich HOTAS joystick you can buy. Thrustmaster has integrated H.E.A.R.T HallEffect AccuRate Technology that utilizes a magnetic system for the most accurate precision unmatched by other HOTAS joysticks. The buttons and triggers are also pressure-sensitive, adding to the realism and giving precise controls to the user.
The Thrustmaster HOTAS utilizes T.A.R.G.E.T. software with which users can set up different configurations based on their own needs. You can work at your own required level and make this HOTA joystick as intuitive or advanced as you like.
Because of the brilliant performance and incredible build quality, this Warthog also demands a premium price. It’s designed for the ultimate flight enthusiast, providing the best flight simulator experience out there. It’s the closest any brand has come to designing the ultimate HOTAS joystick.
- Great durable and weighty design
- Incredible precision
- Dual-throttle system
- Huge set of buttons
- Exceptionally expensive
- No Z-axis rotation
With the Thrustmaster you get the ultimate HOTAS joystick money can buy right now, but if you’re unwilling to spend a premium price, the Logitech Saitek X52 Pro is a great option. The Pro version improves upon the tried and tested features of the regular X52.
Featuring an integrated LCD panel with 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. 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 realistic built-in detents. All the buttons of this Logitech joystick are illuminated for clear indication of what you’re pressing.
There are five different handle positions in the main joystick for ultimate comfort. No matter the size of your hand or preference, you get enough options to suit your need. 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.
The Saitek X52 Pro is an excellent HOTAS joystick for the majority of the flight simulation player-base. It doesn’t demand a premium price like the Warthog and comes with a great set of unique features that make it a fan favorite.
- Multi-function LCD display
- Handle adjustment for ultimate comfort
- Great throttle resistance adjuster
- Difficult to setup
- Inconsistent customer service
You don’t have to pay a premium price for a great HOTAS joystick. Thrustmaster’s T.Flight flightstick comes at an affordable price with the company’s reliable performance.
With the T.Flight, you get all the basics you need. It 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 move coveted Z-axis rudder spin control.
The number of axes on the T.Flight X HOTAS joystick are 5, and there are a total of 12 buttons, all of which are programmable. You also get a mapping button built into the joystick through which you can instantly switch between different functions. 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, it remains sturdy and still performs solidly for most simulation experiences.
- Great value
- Detachable thrust control
- Comfortable design
- Not as many hat-switches
- Plastic-y construction doesn’t make it very durable
Another great budget option for those unwilling to spend a ton on a HOTAS joystick is the Mad Catz V.1. Known for their crazy, elaborate designs, Mad Catz sticks to its philosophy with this joystick. It looks less like the controls of a modern aircraft and more like that of an alien spaceship.
With this Mad Catz joystick, you get a sturdy ambidextrous joystick that works incredibly well for dual-stick flying or if you are left-handed. 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 the screen.
The level of the throttle of the Mad Catz V.1 is located behind the stick. It’s an awkward position for individuals used to a detached, dedicated throttle, but it does the work quite well. The throttle lever in fact is one of the finer levers that are built into regular mid-to-low priced HOTAS joysticks.
The great design and competitive pricing make the Mad Catz V.1 an attractive package for most users. It’s not a HOTAS joystick that will appeal to the civilian flight simulator, but anyone looking for a flashier setup that offers great base performance will be appealed by this product.
- Good value
- Cool design
- Throttle is solid for the price
- Pinky switch too easy to accidentally press
- Not the greatest trigger
The Gladistor joystick is practically a true replica of a real aircraft’s control system, so you know right from that information that it’ll be an enticing option for any flight simulation enthusiast. It is based on the WWII Luftwaffe KG12 aircraft grip, featuring the iconic ergonomic grip angle that feels comfortable on the hand no matter how crazy your maneuvers are.
The silicone grip on the base of the Gladiator joystick ensures that it doesn’t move around even when you’re making the craziest maneuvers. This is also due to its heavy weight which gives it a sturdy feel. 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.
There are plethora of different buttons that are all programmable as well. 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 and is practical.
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.
- Great design
- Excellent layout of buttons
- Great performance
- Requires rudder pedals
The build quality of a HOTAS joystick is perhaps its most essential feature. Because joysticks consist of a lot of moving parts, it is paramount that they are made from materials that can withstand rough handling.
You don’t necessarily need one that is made of industrial-grade metals, but having one that is robust, heavy, and made with high quality materials is essential.
Speaking of heavy, the weight matters a lot. You want a heavy HOTAS joystick, so it doesn’t tilt and move around as you maneuver the stick itself. Many of the cheaper models are guilty of this problem because they use lightweight plastics.
Additionally, you want the spring mechanism to be smooth yet durable. Springs tend to lose their elastic potential as you use them, so having one with a heavy spring or a different mechanism is highly recommended.
Finally, the throttle should be weighty enough (even if it is a single unit instead of one that has a separate throttle) to withstand moving around. A throttle that becomes loose after a few hundred uses is practically useless.
Sometimes more is good, and sometimes more is bad. Even though we ideally want as many input options as possible, it can be quite a hindrance. There should be as many buttons on a HOTAS joystick as possible without them being intrusive.
Many HOTA joysticks feature too many buttons that are prone to accidental pressing when using the joystick. For this reason, the input layout is arguably more important than the number of buttons. Of course, this doesn’t mean there should be too few to cover all the essentials.
Finally, there’s precision and control. This largely depends on the build and design of both the hardware as well as software. Costlier HOTA joysticks have high quality hardware and software that makes them very accurate and gives adequate control.
You want a HOTA joystick that provides you with a variable resistance, so it can be adjusted according to the sensitivity that is most comfortable for you. Additionally, how the joystick is programmed also makes a huge difference to the accuracy and precision of the motion.
What does HOTAS stand for?
HOTAS stands for Hands on Throttle-and-stick and is the concept of placing buttons and switches on the throttle lever and flight control stick of an aircraft’s cockpit.
What does a hat-switch do?
The hat-switch is a small toggle switch typically located on top of the joystick. It is designed to be easily manipulated with your thumb and behaves like a D-pad. It is typically used to look around in flight simulators.
Should a HOTA joystick always come with a distinct throttle?
While it helps in control and immersion for a HOTA joystick to have a distinct throttle, it isn’t a deal breaker, especially if you are using the joystick for civil flight simulation. It is important though that the throttle features a lengthy distance to travel (its amplitude) for more control of power.
How many axes are absolutely necessary?
We believe that three axes are necessary: X, Y, and Z. X-axis controls the roll of the aircraft, Y-axis controls the pitch, and the Z-axis controls the yaw. Some joysticks don’t come with a Z-axis control or have it integrated separately in rudder controls/buttons.