If you’re looking for a Hands on Throttle-and-Stick setup, there are few names more recognizable than Thrustmaster. While the company produces more entry-level HOTAS like the T.16000M, their flagship product is the Warthog.
The Thrustmaster Warthog is a carbon copy of the throttle and stick from the A-10 which is currently flown by the United States Air Force, down to the materials used. This beast of a HOTAS is all metal, and despite its massive array of buttons, switches, and features, the Warthog is probably the cheapest enthusiast-grade product out there.
Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS Review: Metal Warrior
I’ve owned a few HOTAS before the Warthog, and the difference between them is night and day. My previous goto was the Saitek (now Logitech) X56 Rhino, which is similar to the Warthog in button placement and dimensions and makes for a good HOTAS to compare it to.
I cannot overstate the build quality of the Thrustmaster Warthog. Even though the X56 and Warthog are similar in size, I’d say the Warthog weights around twice as much. This boils down to the fact that the Warthog’s shell is metal compared to the X56’s plastic. It’s not thin pot metal either, the Warthog just feels substantial in a way that most peripherals don’t.
Even the switches and buttons on the Warthog have a better feel to them than the competition. When using it, I never worry about accidentally putting too much stress on any components. The downside to the beefy construction is that the Warthog takes up a lot of desk space. However, unlike pretty much any other HOTAS on the market, you can remove the joystick from the thick metal base for an alternate mount. The throttle also has mounting points that allow you to use it in a cockpit-style setup.
Since the Warthog is so heavy, you don’t have to worry about it going anywhere. I’ve had issues in the past with HOTAS setups sliding around unless I was positively dainty with them. Even the relatively large X56 tends to move around on a desk if not mounted. The Warthog stays put, though, and I never felt the need to mount it during my time playing with it.
Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS Review: A Joystick
Between the throttle and stick the Warthog has 55 buttons, toggles, and switches you can program to do whatever you want.
The stick has four hat switches, two of which are eight-way, and two that are four-way. One of the four-way hat switches can be pushed in as well, which technically makes it a five-way I guess. You also get a two-stage trigger, a pinky trigger, and two single-press buttons.
The joystick uses 16-bit magnetic sensors which give an astonishing amount of accuracy. It’s quite stiff and quickly returns to center, which is a far cry from some of the joysticks I’ve used in the past. You don’t have to worry about changing out springs and all that mess either, which is excellent.
One thing to note with the joystick is that it doesn’t have a twist to control the Z axis. This means you’ll either need to map the Z axis to buttons on the joystick or throttle, or you could get foot pedals. I opted for the foot pedals, and after getting used to them, I’m happy I did. It made me realize just how much twisting a joystick for rudder control threw off my flying, and using pedals just gives you more control over the spacecraft or aircraft you’re flying.
Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS Review: Throttling the Competition
The Warthog throttle matches the quality of the joystick and has an immense amount of controls located on it. The throttle is divided into two parts, which can be locked together to control total engine thrust, or separated so you can control engines independently.
There’s a dazzling array of switches, buttons, and toggles located on the throttle. On the throttle lever itself, you’ll find one button, as trackball which also clicks in to serve as a button, two eight-way hat switches, three switches, and a three-way toggle switch. All of these are immediately within reach when your hand is on the throttle, and between the joystick and throttle, there are enough input options that you’ll rarely have to move your hands off the controls for most games.
On the base of the Warthog throttle, you’ll find even more controls. There are five flip switches with two possible positions and three with three positions available. Additionally, there are two push buttons, a dial which rotated, and a three-way switch for flaps (or whatever else you choose). There is also a row of LEDs that can be programmed using the T.A.R.G.E.T. software.
The throttle also has a dial that allows you to adjust resistance, which will enable you to move the lever quickly for high-speed, combat-oriented games, or slowly for flight-sims that require more precise adjustments. Another exciting feature of the Warthog throttle is that you can configure a separate idle and off position. If you return the lever to the idle position and pull up, you can then move it further back into the off position. There also exists the option to adjust the throttle to have the same action at the opposite end of its travel which is useful for activating afterburners.
Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS Review: Finding a T.A.R.G.E.T.
The real downside to the Warthog has practically nothing to do with its design. Instead, the most significant difficulty in using it comes from something that really isn’t in Thrustmaster’s hands. Games can be notoriously fickle when it comes to controller mapping and learning the quirks of each one you want to use the Warthog with can be frustrating.
Older games, in particular, don’t offer an option to use multiple control inputs natively. This means you either have to use the T.A.R.G.E.T. software to map keybindings manually to both the joystick and throttle, or allow it to present the two as a unified device. There are issues with both approaches, and basically, each game requires its own configuration. Newer titles like Elite Dangerous, Star Citizen, DCS, and X-Plane all play a little nicer with the Warthog but still have their quirks.
DCS, for example, has a tendency to map all axis controls to all axis available. This leads to both your joystick and throttle simultaneously controlling the rudder, throttle, and pitch/yaw with every move. So, even though it nominally sets up your controls automatically, you still have to go in and fix them the first time you use a plane. Star Citizen is more forgiving but can have issues when you add pedals into the mix, and since it’s continually adding new features, you may find that a control scheme you spent an hour or more perfecting is suddenly invalidated.
The T.A.R.G.E.T. software is also quite intimidating. It allows for a ton of options when it comes to creating macros, customizing and mapping controls, and more. However, it’s not super intuitive, and it takes time to figure out the nuances of the software.
However, these issues aren’t limited to the Warthog. Compatibility and obtuse software is part and parcel with joysticks. It’s just the nature of the hobby, unfortunately.
Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS Review: A Hog Without Warts
The Thrustmaster Warthog is the best HOTAS I’ve ever used. The build quality is top notch, and it ticks all the boxes when it comes to what I’m looking for in a peripheral. It’s a bit expensive, but when you line it up alongside the competition, it’s obvious why. There’s no out of the box HOTAS on the market that can compare to the Warthog, and it’s worth the extra money to get a quality product.
It is worth noting, though, that the Warthog joystick lacks the twist function that many others on the market come standard with. This means you’re going to have to find an alternate binding or buy a set of pedals. However, by losing the twist, you gain stability, so it’s not a real loss in my book.
If you’re serious about getting a hands on throttle-and-stick setup, the Thrustmaster Warthog is the product to get. Anything else will just make you wish you had gotten a Warthog.