By – John Williamson

Thrustmaster GPX Lightback Ferrari F1 Review He

The PC is home to a copious supply of flight simulators including X Plane 10, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Rise of Flight and more. While the genre has been rather barren over the last few years, it appears space sims are undergoing a resurgence as shown by Star Citizen and Elite:Dangerous. Manoeuvring any aircraft relies on precise, reliable navigation which is extremely difficult with the digital input of a keyboard. Therefore, a joystick is recommend for flight simulator enthusiasts or gamers opting for an authentic experience. The Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog is an accurate replica of the Fairchild A-10C Thunderbolt and constructed from robust metal components. Coupled with an unparalleled movement mechanism and weighted buttons, it doesn’t take long before you realize the Hotas is a perfect match for experienced pilots.

Thrustmaster have adopted a military theme to the outer packaging containing a large image of the A-10C’s fuselage. Embossed over this is a cartoon Warthog which evokes a sense of speed and precision. Additionally, there are clear technical diagrams on the sides which provide important information about the functionality of each button and control switches. This visual depiction helps users who aren’t accustomed to throttle control panels.  In terms of protection, the box utilizes 3 cardboard tabs and flaps to ensure the top doesn’t come undone. Inside the package is exemplary as Thrustmaster opted for 2 individual, strong boxes to surround the throttle and joystick. These white boxes are extremely durable and use supporting polystyrene which protects against any sudden impact during delivery. I applaud Thrustmaster for going the extra mile with packaging materials and highly doubt the item could suffer any damage due to its high-grade materials and more than ample support.

Building the joystick is surprisingly straightforward as the package is pre-assembled for your convenience. All you have to do is carefully align the base pin connector with the joystick, then gradually tighten a circular disc. Ensure you don’t overtighten the joint and perform a 360 degree rotation to make sure the stick is secure. Then, install the T.A.R.G.E.T software and connect the USB cables for both the joystick and throttle. It’s also advisable to check the firmware version and update it if required to reduce any possible software conflicts.  Thrustmaster’s premium joystick is characterized by a heavy feel due to the all-metal construction. While this can be a bit strange if you are used to plastic joysticks, it massively improves the smooth movement and reduces any instability during a flight path. As a result, subtle alterations are more consistent and you feel better connected to the aircraft. In its simplest form, the Warthog should be thought of as a serious piece of flight equipment instead of a gaming peripheral.

The joystick features 19 programmable action buttons and an 8-way “point of view” hat. In total, there are 1 x 8-way “point of view” hat, 2 x 8-way hats, 1 x 4-way hat with push button, 1 x metal dual trigger, 2 x push buttons and 2 x pinkie push buttons. Each button is accurately balanced with just the correct amount of tension creating a feel that resembles a real aircraft. For example, the 2 pinkie buttons are fairly light requiring little actuation force whilst the weapon release is weighted and impossible to press by mistake. The Target Management and Countermeasures Management switches offer a precise hit point and makes it easy to scroll through in a natural manner. On another note, the 2 stage tactile trigger switch is flawless due to the reinforced metal construction. This allows for a progressive touch as you can physically gauge the degree of force required to implement missile commands.

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The Warthog is attached to a strong base at over 3KG to keep the unit straight and avoid any sliding on a standard desk. Ideally, I would recommend using a cockpit, but the metal base does a fine job of keeping the unit true. Thrustmaster’s ethos revolves around user customization, and you can either manually screw the base to your desk with the 4 hole cutouts, or remove the joystick altogether and attach it to a custom rig. Personally, I would only unscrew the stick if you have a professional cockpit since the rubber pads on the base do a fantastic job of keeping it properly aligned.  Embedded in the Warthog is the new innovative (H.E.A.R.T) HallEffect AccuRate Technology built on a 5 coil spring system with firm, linear and fluid tension consisting of no dead zones. Additionally, there are 3D magnetic sensors (Hall Effect) on the stick employing a 16-bit resolution (65536 x 65536 values) offering surgical precision that eliminates any mechanical wear over time.

So how does this translate into performance? The movement is gradual, smooth and a complete joy to use. Self-centering is responsive due to the mechanical springs and instantly retracts to its precise neutral point. Flying a wide range of aircraft with the joystick is unlike anything I’ve ever tested before. There is a sense that the stick is reliable and responds how it should, which heightens your confidence and approach during landings and take-offs. Furthermore, the 360 axis is completely silent and able to withstand dramatic directional changes in war-themed flight sims.  Thrustmaster’s engineers also spent a significant amount of time emulating the A-10C’s dual throttle system. This element is technically similar to the joystick barring the 14-bit resolution (16384 values) on each throttle. Once again, this recreates a faultless motion with unrivalled longevity. In all honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if my press sample was still operating flawlessly in 10 years time. Both throttles feature a metal coating to add a luxurious finish as your palm brushes against the front. However, the base materials are plastic which have a propensity to flex, especially when the throttles and ganged together. To pair the throttles, you have to slide a metal switch which releases a chrome mounting bar.

The throttle contains realistic idle and Afterburner detents so you can engage and disengage the aircraft’s motors in compatible software.. When set to Idle, you need to raise the throttle levers slightly before selecting an off position. To reinitialize the motors, push the levers forward and down in the idle state.  Using the Afterburner is possible but requires you to undergo a few steps before proceeding. Firstly, unscrew the 2 Allen screw points and remove the covering plate. Then, take out the Afterburner module, located underneath the plate and turn it upside down before reassembling. This allows you to properly raise the throttle levers over the stop gap and push forward.

Overall, there are 17 action buttons, plus 1 mouse hat with push button and an 8-way “point of view” hat. In a similar vein to the joystick, each button is beautifully made featuring a completely accurate degree of resistance. Included is 1 x mouse hat with push button and 3D magnetic sensor (Hall Effect), 1 x 8-way hat, 1 x 4-way hat with push button, 1 x push button, 1 x 3-position switch (2 momentary + 1 permanent), 2 x 3-position switches (3 permanent) and finally, 1 x 3-position switch (1 momentary + 2 permanent). My only area of complaint is the 3 way pinky switch on the left throttle which feels quite delicate and has a small gap between each position. This reduced area of click means it’s quite easy to switch from phase 1-3 whilst aiming for position 2. Thankfully, this is a very rare occurrence and the other key switches such as the China Hat, Coolie, Boat Switch and Speedbrake have a reliable and strong finish.

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The throttles are connected to a gorgeous control panel with a military insignia on the front and stamped serial number. This panel is constructed entirely from metal and opts for a glossy, premium black finish which looks fantastic. The base is extremely heavy at over 3 KG and doesn’t move even if you flick the switches in a harsh manner. In terms of buttons there is 1 x TRIM wheel, 2 x push buttons,5 x 2-position switches (2 permanent),2 x 3-position switches (1 momentary + 2 permanent) and 2 x 3-position switches (3 permanent). The quality of the switches is ludicrously high and have a satisfying click. I was surprised to see how thick the switches were which even rivals audio editing apparatus I’ve used in the past. The panel adopts a vivid green LED aesthetic which highlights all the text on important commands. As a result, it’s perfectly viable to engage in night flights and turn off the lights to create a more engaging experience.

As mentioned previously, you can alter the function of each switch, but the default method includes a variety of functions from the DCS: A-10C. There is an Enhanced Attitude Control (ECS) switch which stabilizes the altitude based on crosswinds. Other options include RDR ALT, Autopilot Engage button, Landing Gear Silence button, APU Start, Engine Fuel Flow L+R, FLAP, Engine Operate L+R and Autopilot Select Switch. This comprehensive range is stunning and reflects the A-10C in glorious detail.  There is also a friction meter for the throttle that sets the level of resistance when pushing and pulling the levers. To fine tune your setup, simply rotate the friction dial a maximum of 10 turns and use the small white indent to count each run. By default, the friction is set to minimum so it might take a few flights before you encounter a setting which suits your preferred aircraft or style. In reality, I didn’t detect a massive difference between the values but at least there is an option without having to mod the device.

The Warthog heavily relies on Thrustmaster’s Advanced Programming Graphical Editor (T.A.R.G.E.T) to customize the button layout through a pleasing GUI. The software package allows you to map keyboard and mouse commands to a plug and play Thrustmaster device which is usually restricted by DirectX’s limited functionality. At first, the software can be extremely daunting as it is exceptionally powerful with a vast quantity of options. Thankfully, there is a simple setting for basic users, and advanced attributes including script editing if you want to create a complex custom profile. Despite the amount of variables, the UI makes it extremely easy to understand, due to the 3D models showing where each button is and what it will be remapped to.

Providing a succinct overview of T.A.R.G.E.T is impossible so I would refer to Thrustmaster’s superb online documentation for detailed advice and a step-by-step guide. Once you get to grips with the software, it becomes almost second nature to tweak deadzones, response curves, button arrangements and axis angle. The only reservation I have is the distinct lack of precompiled plane models. For example, Flight Simulator X requires a good 20mins of configuring via a manual profile as there isn’t a way to choose a basic, generalized setting which works for beginners. Given its popularity, I would have expected slightly better out of the box support. Nevertheless, this software is designed to give you total control and pre-built profiles may detract from the learning process and satisfaction of creating your own setup.

Another invaluable tool is the Device Analyzer which lets you view your commands and check that a button/switch press corresponds with the correct result. Additionally, it’s possible to access technical plan drawings which you can print and glance at during gameplay without having to ALT+TAB and check those custom key entries. The feature I particularly enjoyed was the LED illumination level which ranges from off to an unbelievable degree of luminance. Similarly, you can program 5 LED indicators to flash and could be used to display an altitude warning or radio messages. As you can evidently see, the software is fantastic and an flight simulation enthusiast’s dream.  To test the Warthog, I tried a number of flight simulators, including Microsoft Flight Simulator X, IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad and Rise of Flight. Virtually every sim worked flawlessly providing I set a suitable profile and patiently tweaked settings on-the-fly. The core experience across the board is frankly mindblowing as I became mesmerized by the 0 latency. The level of realism is beyond anything I’ve could have imagined and it’s difficult to describe the how much the hefty construction adds to the sense of being in a real aircraft.

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Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

The Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog is absolutely astonishing and the best product I’ve ever encountered in terms of build quality, ergonomic design and durability. Furthermore, the high-resolution sensor on the throttle and joystick provide a silky, smooth motion and unprecedented feel throughout every major simulator. At £269.99/$399.99, it is a considerable purchase, but one you will never regret and continue to use for years to come. Buy it now, and take your flying experience to a whole new level!

Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Review Summary:

TPG Hardware

  • Time Used – 16 Days
  • System Specs – Intel i7 4770K, 16GB RAM, Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 980
  • Acquisition Method – Review Unit
  • Availability – Amazon, Newegg
  • Warranty –
  • Games Tested – Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Rise of Flight, IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon
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