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   Joystick Comparison

During development and testing of FS Force, I have had the opportunity of using 4 joysticks :  a Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2,  a Logitech WingMan Force 3D, a Logitech Wingman Strike Force 3D, and a Saitek Cyborg 3D Force.  I thought you might be interested to know how I rate them.  The three most important aspects of a joystick, in my opinion, are smoothness, accuracy, and force strength.



In order to fly smoothly and consistently, the joystick needs to have smooth action, especially when resisting motion.  Mechanical joysticks use springs to provide a centering force, and these are by nature very smooth.  Force feedback joysticks, on the other hand, use motors to provide resistance, and I have found that there is a great deal of difference between the joysticks.  With the lower quality sticks, the resistance has a very "notchy" feel to it, like you are pushing something over a series of ridges.  Needless to say, that makes it very difficult to fly smoothly.  With a high quality joystick, it feels like you're pushing against a real spring.  Here's how I rate the joysticks for smoothness.  (Out of 10, with 10 being the best and 0 being the worst.)
Joystick Rank Comments
Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 9 No perceptible notchiness, except when multiple forces are combined
Logitech Strike Force 3D 9 Very nice
Saitek Cyborg 3D Force 7 Slight  notchiness
Logitech Force 3D 1 Extreme notchiness



Accuracy is also very important.  When you move the joystick a certain amount, the aircraft control surfaces should move a corresponding amount, consistently, all the time.  Moving the stick in one axis should not affect the other axis.  There should be no slop or play in the joystick, especially in the center region.  You should encounter the centering force as soon as you move the joystick off-center.  Here's how they stack up.
Joystick Rank Comments
Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 9 Very accurate
Saitek Cyborg 3D Force 6 So so  (see calibration comments below)
Logitech Strike Force 3D 4 Has a very large "hole" in the middle where no centering forces are encountered. Moving the joystick in one axis causes spurious signals in the other axis.
Logitech  Force 3D 2 Pretty bad


Force Strength

Not much to say here.  Since the Microsoft stick had the strongest forces, I'll give it a 10 and rate the other relative to it.
Joystick Rank Comments
Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 10  
Logitech Strike Force 3D 10  
Saitek Cyborg 3D Force 7  
Logitech Force 3D 4  



  • With most joysticks you calibrate them once and they remember those values, but the Saitek stick for some reason "auto-calibrates" itself every time you boot up, which requires that you move the joystick through the full range of motion on all of the axis.  If you forget to do that, it's basically an un-calibrated joystick, which makes for some very interesting taxiing!

  • In general, the calibration of the Saitek and Logitechs joystick left something to be desired.  I had a lot of problems veering this way and that down the taxi-ways.  The Microsoft joystick was very good in that respect.

  • The centering force in most joysticks can be changed programmatically.  That means you can have the controls feel soft and mushy at low airspeeds, and stiff at high airspeeds.  Unfortunately the Logitech Force 3D joystick does not support this.  The centering force is either full on or full off.   

  • The Microsoft joystick senses when your hand is on the joystick.  If you remove it, the forces stop.  This is nice, but I find it is too sensitive.  Often when I lift my fingers a bit to flex them, it thinks I've removed my hand and the forces cut out with a sudden jerk.  That can be somewhat annoying. 


For the demanding flight simmer, I can only recommend the Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2.  However, if you are on a bit of a budget, or already own a Saitek, I think you will find that joystick to be satisfactory, if you can put up with the poor calibration.  The new Strike Force 3D from Logitech is a big improvement over the regular Force 3D, but that big "hole" in the middle really ruins it for me, and in general it has some accuracy problems.