Final Thoughts and Conclusion
Every since I was a little kid, I’ve had this deep fascination with airplanes. It doesn’t matter if it is civilian or military, I like them all and with that, I’ve been a huge flight simulator fan since the first Microsoft Flight simulator. Combat flight simulators are where I can get my fix of a mixture of flight simulation and some FPS action. My favorite jet to fly in combat simulators is the F-16. There are currently two combat simulators that offer the F-16 for flight. Falcon BMS, is based on Microprose’s Falcon 4.0, and Eagle Dynamics Digital Combat Simulator.
In DCS, I’ve been flying the F-16 since it came out. Prior to the Winwing Orion Throttle F-16EX I was using a Saitek X56 as my throttle. It worked fine but it lacked quite a few things. The X56 is a great throttle to jump into flight and space sims. However, I wanted more from my throttle. While I don’t fly in VR, and VR players don’t have many opportunities to look at their controls sitting on their desks, I do like having a 1:1 mapping for my controls and allows me to keep my head in the game vs. looking for a control. This fits the bill. While it will take me a little more time to break the muscle memory of where I had things mapped on the X56 as I transition over to the new throttle it is a quick process.
Overall, I’m am extremely pleased by the build quality of the Winwing Orion Throttle F-16EX. Granted, so far, I only have about 10 hours of time playing in-game with it, so far it is quite a step up. All of the axes are buttery smooth. The throttle detents work well and map 100% of the movement to 100% of the movement in the game. The switches are top quality from what I can tell and give a satisfying audible and tactile click on both the throttle and the grip except for the Comms switch and the 4-way switch located above the MAN RNG encoder on the grip. These switches give a bit less audible and tactile indication that they have been pressed. It is still there just diminished.
When I compare the throttles from Winwing, Thrustmaster, and Virpl, they are in a similar price range and with similar build quality. Thrustmaster’s A-10 Warthog is focused more on the actual A-10 aircraft whereas Virpl has more of a generic throttle and Winwings throttle is sort of generic but with swappable handles you can mimic the F-18 or the F-16. For me, it was the F-16 that did it. The last time we had a replica of the F-16 throttle was back in 2002 when Thrustmaster released the Cougar throttle and stick at $299. I know more than a few people that are still using it.
I mentioned in a few places that Winwing took some liberties with the Orion F-16EX by adding buttons that aren’t there on the real F-16 throttle grip and this isn’t a bad thing. After all, I’m flying virtually in a simulation, and having a few extra buttons tend to help keep the hand on the throttle.
Flight sim controls, along with steering wheels are sort of a niche market, more so for the flight controls. Currently, there are a few options out there for controls of this level. Thrustmaster has the A-10 Warthog kit that includes both a throttle and stick and depending on where you buy it will cost you around $550-600. Virpl has a slew of sticks, bases, and throttles that will cost you upwards of $800 for a complete combo, in comparison, the stick, base, and throttle from Winwing for the F-16 is $549+shipping. My best guess is to add an additional $120 for shipping as this combo comes in 4 boxes. However, Virpl’s current throttle is going to run you around $400 plus shipping. The Winwing Orion Throttle F-16EX cost me $329.90+$60 in shipping from China and arrived from order to delivery in 7 days. Price wise, I think Wingwin sits in a good spot in the market. I think their shipping prices are a bit high but not horrible. I’ve ordered stuff from Virpl and shipping is about the same. Getting something from outside the US isn’t always cheap. If you fly the F-16 or the F-18 for DCS, the Orion throttle is going to get it done. You have options to modify the throttle to fit what you fly. The throttle and the grips are top-notch build quality and should last for years to come.