AVSIM Commercial Hardware Review

Thrustmaster T.16000M

Product Information

Publishers: Thrustmaster

Description: An ambidextrous joystick for general flying.

Download Size:
NA

Format:
Simulation Type:
NA
Reviewed by: Benjamin van Soldt AVSIM Staff Reviewer - February 14, 2012

Introduction

I am right handed, always have been. As such, I never had quite a problem when looking for a joystick, because all of them are made to work for predominantly right-handed people. Finding a left-handed or ambidextrous joystick that is within reasonable price limits proved to be more difficult than though. You might ask yourself why I would you want an ambidextrous or left handed joystick when I am right-handed. The answer is simple: Airbus aircraft.

Airbus aircraft have a control stick on the left and the throttle quadrant on the right. For the left seat, that is. I want to fly from the left and not the right seat, so you might see where we start running into trouble. Having a control stick on the left means that it ought to fit in your left hand. Ever tried using a right-handed joystick for left-hand flying? I don’t recommend it. And yet, I had little choice but to fly that way, for my joystick, the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro, is right-handed only.

Enter Thrustmaster T.16000M. After asking around and doing some searching myself, I quickly found that there were two joysticks that would fit my criteria, but of these, the Thrustmaster T.16000M seemed the best. Pity though: I couldn’t find any reviews, and from that the idea was born to do my own. Here I present you with my findings.

I primarily use this joystick in a left-handed configuration for flying my Airbus aircraft. For all other flying I tend to use my Saitek Pro Flight setup which I reviewed for Avsim some time ago. I use it for other flying because my other add-on planes have a yoke, not a stick, and as such it makes sense. In that respect, the Airbus is somewhat unique in my hangar. Let’s see now if I will keep flying my Airbus with the Thrustmaster T.16000M joystick, or whether it will end up getting parked at the edge of a big, lonely tarmac.

Installation and Documentation

The joystick came to me in a big brown box, sent straight to me from Simware Simulations. They have been so kind to provide me with this review copy, for which I’m thankful. The above photograph shows the box of the joystick itself, after the brown packaging was removed. It’s a fairly standard box, and opening it up showed the manuals, safely tucked away inside it, wrapped in plastic bags of sorts.

The way it came.
Opening the box, you find manuals.

We’ll get to these manuals later as they provide some quick button mappings and instructions on how to change the handedness of the joystick. Suffice to say that they are really useful and well-laid-out. Now we will be opening up the “final” piece of the box, to get a look at the joystick proper.

The joystick sits in another of such plastic bags, with the USB cable safely tucked away. In the photograph this didn’t seem to be the case, which is because I moved it around a bit. It was obscuring the joystick, is why.

The joystick inside its box.
Package contents.

Taking it out of the box, the above shot shows the result: the package contains two manuals, seen before, and the joystick. It was held in place rather well and the packing is still on my shelf if I were to transport it sometime in the future.

One nice thing about the T.16000M, is that there is no installation procedure. It’s a plug-and-play device, meaning that you just plug it into the computer using a USB port, and that’s it. From that moment on it will work.

As for the manual, it’s a fairly straightforward thing. The below shot shows two of the pages, which shows a default mapping for use with FSX. As you can see, there are multiple languages, two of them being Dutch and English. The second page shows a quick guide to make clear what joystick axis causes what aircraft control surfaces to move. Although I already know these things, it can be very useful for those that are new to the hobby, and I applaud this easy and straightforward clarification of the basics.

Two pages from the manual.

Joystick design

Basically, it looks like any other joystick, but there are some features that seem out of the ordinary. Two of these are the protruding trigger and the placement of the hat switch in relation to the other buttons placed on the top part of the stick.

I have always been accustomed to a trigger that is fully incorporated into the bulk of the joystick’s top part, not protruding entirely. The T.16000M is different in this respect, where the trigger seems almost randomly stuck onto the joystick instead of being part of “a bigger plan”. It looks weird. Does that mean it doesn’t work? No, not at all. It feels and handled like any other trigger I have used.

The joystick seen from the right.
The trigger.
Top part of the joystick.

Moving up a bit we get to the “top part” of the joystick. I don’t know if there is official terminology for this, so that is what I will call it. I find the design unusual in that the hat switch (“POV Hat”) is placed more at the back (or front, depending on what your perspective is), and there a button right in front of it. A more conventional design by my knowledge is to place the hat switch more to the front, with buttons more or less in front of it, though these would be smaller and placed more to the side.

The current placement felt strange at first, but I rather like it now. This configuration means that when you use the hat switch, you always have your finger over at least one button too. I see this as a good thing, but it can also be seen as a negative characteristic, since you could accidentally press it. As for the POV hat itself, I’m a bit in doubt on its placement. It truly depends on how you grip the joystick.

If you take care in having your hand exactly in the position it was designed to be, reaching the POV hat is not a problem, but if you hold the joystick a bit more loosely, you might run into trouble. As such, I can’t say there is something “wrong” about the POV hat, although I would have liked it a bit more to the front.

Overall, the top part of the joystick is comfortable to hold and easy to use. The rest of the joystick is much the same. Except for the trigger, the hat switch and three buttons on the top part, there are no buttons on the stick itself. There is, however, a multitude of buttons to the left and right of the stick, on the stick’s base.

These are mostly easy to reach and comfortable to press. The good thing is that it doesn’t matter where exactly you press the button, the entire button is always pushed down. I find this an important characteristic, for in a heated dogfight you don’t want to start looking for the exact spot at which to press some lousy button, right?

The joystick is very comfortable to hold (see below). Rough, rubber patches on the sides of the stick allow for easy grasping that prevent your hand from slipping on the stick. Furthermore, the relative thickness of the top part and the shape of the stick feels nice in your hand. A specially designed protrusion on the left or right side of the stick (depending on the handedness) is a great place to put your thumb for some “resting” after using it to meddle with the top buttons or POV hat. This isn’t really a unique thing among joysticks, but I have rarely found that it felt so good to use, being the right shape for my thumb.

Your thumb sits over a button when you reach for the POV hat. You can relax your thumb using the protrusion on the right.

The throttle lever is a little strange, in my opinion. It is not a true lever in that it swivels around a fixed spot, but you push it up and down. This is not necessarily bad though, and due to the shape of the lever it is easy to hold and use, but I still would have preferred an actual lever. A bigger complaint might be its sturdiness.

While using it, I don’t get the feeling that it’s a very solid piece of equipment. The throttle lever can be sort of moved sideways, which to me means that it’s not stuck as rigidly in place as you might want it to be. The movement up and down is smooth though, and while it doesn’t seem like it would fall off anytime soon, I would have welcomed a more rigid construction. Conclusion, the joystick is great to hold. It feels sturdy and fits well into your hand.

Before moving on, I want to discuss the technology used for sensing the joystick’s position and movement. Apparently, its different from other joysticks. It uses magnets, as opposed to the more conventional wheels that are “rolled” when the joystick moves. ThrustMaster claims that the joystick is 256 times more accurate than other joysticks. They call this their “HEART” technology. HEART stands for HallEffect AccuRate Technology. We will soon see if this is true, but keep it in mind. If it indeed is felt, it should be a dramatic improvement!

Changing the handedness of the joystick

A big thing with this joystick is its handedness. As I said previously, it’s sort of the reason I elected to review it. As such, changing the handedness of the joystick is an important topic that shall be discussed.

The way you change handedness on this joystick is by moving around various parts, three to be precise. The first is the “armrest”, which supports your hand while you grasp the joystick. The second and third parts are the rubber parts that helps avoid your hand from slipping. One of these is the thumb rest, the other is positioned across your inner hand.

The first part (hand rest) can be changed simply by rotating it. Although, it’s not that simple. First you have to take out a screw, as seen below.

Loosen the screw…
…then remove it when it’s all loose.

Next you can simply swivel it. Hold it firmly, and turn the hand rest around, as seen below. Then put the screw back in.

Swivel the hand rest around.
You’ll feel a soft kind of “ click” when the hand rest is in the correct position.
Put the screw back in, and the hand rest is firmly in its new position.

The next part is the rubber part that fits in your palm. The thumb rest, the final part, will be switched over simultaneously, as these parts fit in each other’s places. To do this, you first remove the inner hand palm patch, seen below.

The hand palm patch in its fixed position.
The inner hand palm patch removal…
…and now fully removed.

After that, you loosen the screw of the thumb rest. You can’t just place the same thumb rest on the other side though. For that a second thumb rest is supplies; one that is a mirror image of the thumb rest we just loosened. This thumb rest we then use. You push it in, and then fasten the screw again. Finally, you put the inner palm patch back, on the opposite side of the thumb rest as seen below.

Loosening the screw of the thumb rest.
Using the second thumb rest that was supplied, we fasten it and put the screw back in.
Put the inner palm patch back.

After putting in the screw and putting the inner palm patch back, you’re almost done. You have to “tell the magnets” that you changed handedness however. As such, you have to flick a tiny switch:

Flicking the switch.

I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest method to change joystick handedness, but it’s a solid construction. It is however complicated enough for me not to want to change handedness more than is necessary, which means I’ll change it from right to left once. Afterwards, I’ll use the joystick for Airbus (left-hand) flying only, reverting to the other joystick for right-hand flying.

Setting up the joystick in MSFS

Now that the joystick has been setup properly for left-handed or right-handed flying, we can configure it in MSFS. This is very easy. The joystick doesn’t seem to come with any software on any sort of medium, meaning that the primary way for joystick setup is via MSFS’s controller set-up pane. I will not go over the entire process of doing this, since MSFS itself provides ample instructions on that.

The point is that the T.16000M is a plug-and-play device. Simply plug it into any USB port and use it. The manual for the joystick includes an image with standard button assignments. Of course you can change them in the controller pane yourself afterwards. And, if you’re feeling creative, you can always use Peter Dowson’s FSUIPC, a payware program that adds huge flexibility to the way you assign controls to axes and buttons. Whichever way you end up assigning controls, it works great.

As for me? I always use FSUIPC. I effectively disable just about all “standard” controls in the MSFS controller pane. That is to say, I delete all assignments except the POV hat. That’s the only thing that I assign within MSFS. The rest is all through FSUIPC.

You might ask why I do this: it is because I find that FSUIPC does a much better job in catering for a wide variety of aircraft, all at once. Using FSUIPC’s profiles feature I can assign a joystick for flying Airbus aircraft and a yoke for flying just about any other aircraft.

Of course, I can do this same thing within MSFS’s controller pane, so why not take the easy route and assign everything via MSFS? It’s because I found that I got some interference from unused controllers. Particularly the yoke. So why not just unplug it? There are two reasons for this.

First of all, and the most important, is that one of my Saitek throttle quadrants is connected to the yoke via a serial port. So, having the yoke connected to the computer is a must in order to use that throttle quadrant. Secondly, the yoke contains a USB hub that I use to plug in just about all my other controllers. So, I end up having to plug in more than just the controller that I’m going to use. Sadly, it’s multiple yokes that give me interference, as such disabling me to fly any aircraft “ just like that”, which is why I resort to FSUIPC.

Using FSUIPC and the profiles feature, I can assign my controllers within specific profiles and use those with specific aircraft. This makes everything easier, because it saves me having to go to the MSFS controller panal and disabling all the unused controller’s assignments, only to start adding them when I use the controller again for another plane. Using FSUIPC is for me, as such, a huge time saver, besides the fact that it supports lots of features that MSFS just doesn’t support.

An example of this would be the option to let a button perform a function upon depressing, instead of just on pressing. This is invaluable for setting up reverse thrust: once I take my throttle levers out of the button-like reverse thrust mode, FSUIPC sends a command to cut throttle, so reverse thrusters are disabled.

I will not go into the ins and outs of FSUIPC and how exactly I use it, but I hope this short overview gives an idea of why I use it, and how it’s useful to me.

Flying with the T.16000M

Test System

Windows 7 64 bit
FSX + Accelaration
Intel i5 Quad @2,79 gHz
ATI HD5750
12GB RAM DDR3

Flying Time: 36 hours

Actually using the T.16000M is an experience. There is a certain smoothness in the handling of the joystick that quite frankly, I have never really felt before. It’s the noticeable lack of friction that enables this, and it’s truly great. The joystick simply “rolls” around. You never have to force it into a position, but when it’s centered, it’s dead-on. The HEART technology mentioned earlier is felt, too. The joystick indeed is very accurate, and every movement, however small, is registered and acted upon. Flying aircraft with this joystick feels truly real. It doesn’t seem to stick, it doesn’t seem to hang, and everything is registered. It just works.

The Z-axis is also of great use. I personally have rudder pedals, meaning I don’t normally use the Z-axis. For those that do not have rudder pedals though, it is a great solution. Like the rest of the stick, the Z-axis is accurate, there is hardly, if any, friction and is an all around a joy to use.

This extreme accuracy could however be a pain to some, because it means that in the relatively small field of motion of the joystick, a rather big movement of the aircraft is made possible. When on approach in bad weather, you don’t want to move the joystick a millimeter, only to see the plane wildly moving into some not commanded direction. I have seen this behavior with some of the other joysticks I have used, but in all honesty, I don’t notice it too much with this joystick.

Alternatively, you could adjust the Sensitivity slider in MSFS’s controller pane, or in my case, in FSUIPC. By the way, FSUIPC gives more control here too in enabling you to control how exactly FSUIPC interprets the joysticks commands.

Finally, how does this joystick apply to the wide array of aircraft you can fly in MSFS? I personally only use it now for flying Airbus aircraft, which works great. The joystick is easy to handle and doesn’t require much pressure to move it around. As such, takeoff and landing feels effortless, especially if your Airbus has a good Fly-By-Wire simulation. In those cases, expect only a need to make tiny adjustments as your plane pretty much flies itself down to the runway. Of course, if your Airbus (like the FSX default A321) doesn’t really have this, you’ll have to move the joystick around a bit more. Still though, even if you fly a “normal” Boeing, the plane remains easy to handle with this joystick.

Overall, the T.16000M is not one of those finicky joysticks that has a mind of its own. The planes handle very well using this joystick and the type of aircraft doesn’t make much of a difference as far as I could see. The great accurateness of the joystick furthermore enables you to make tiny control inputs on which the aircraft will indeed act upon by making small movements. As such, you don’t have to move the joystick a lot to get a control input registered by the sim, although I ought to warn you that you might want to meddle with the sensitivity sliders a bit.

I have noticed that this accuracy, coupled with a relatively small field of motion, can result in the plane making bigger movements than you originally bargained for. By setting the sensitivity slider to a lower value, this effect should be successfully countered.

Summary / Closing Remarks

The Thrustmaster T.16000M is a fine joystick. It’s comfortable to hold and use. Even during that landing into a stormy Kai Tak, your hand clenched nervously around the stick, it registers every move you make and translates it into fine and accurate control inputs that will get your plane down swiftly and safely.

There is no noticeable friction, which eases using the joystick a lot. It makes for a smooth handling experience. The positions of the buttons are generally okay and seem easy to reach. The POV hat feels a bit out of reach, but that’s usually a sign that you aren’t holding the joystick in the correct way. I find it slightly unusual that there is a button directly under your thumb when reaching out to the POV hat, but it feels comfortable and for as far as I could see, there is no danger of accidentally pressing it.

The down side of great accurateness is that, coupled to a limited field of motion, you might accidentally make a bigger control input that you wanted, sending the plane into a heftier maneuver than you wanted. This may be countered by adjusting the sensitivity sliders or taking more care.

While it’s a straightforward process, changing the handedness is a bit of a hassle and may prevent you from actively changing the handedness whenever you want to. I find that pretty much the only caveat though, because no matter what the handedness is, it’s always a pleasure to hold and use.

I can recommend this joystick to both right-handed and left-handed simmers that are looking to replace their old joystick with some new; something that is 256 times more accurate than what they had, feels sturdy, and just plain works.

 

What I Like About The T.16000M

  • Very comfortable to hold;
  • Buttons intelligently placed;
  • Very accurate;
  • Easy to move, feels very precise and fluid;
  • “Z axis” allows for rudder control if you have no rudder pedals;
  • Easy to understand manual.

 

What I Don't Like About The T.16000M

  • Changing the handedness happens in a straightforward but slightly cumbersome way;
  • Hat switch feels a bit “out of reach”.
  • The dark side of great accurateness can mean that sometimes, the plane’s movement can be bigger than you actually wanted.

 

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