The Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X is an entry-level flight stick and I am someone who, before this review, had never used a flight stick before in my life. So if you're well versed in the flight stick world and are looking for expert analysis, this is not the place. Instead, this should be useful for other flight stick newbies to know whether it's even worth getting involved at such a cheap price point (£50/$60 stock permitting). Thrustmaster is incredibly well-known for its gaming peripherals, from steering wheels to controllers and headsets, but its flight sticks are the most niche product they provide. So how does the base option fare?
The full T.Flight HOTAS X set-up comes with the right-handed stick section and the left-handed throttle. Both parts have a number of buttons on and can't be switched around; thankfully I'm right-handed so didn't have any trouble, but if you're left-handed, this is already an unwise purchase. They're simply not suited for someone left-handed, although you could probably make it work if you had to, albeit uncomfortably.
The two sections are easily attached via two screws, if you'd rather push your keyboard aside and just use the HOTAS. Alternatively, you can keep them split apart, either side of your keyboard for easy access when you need any extra keys. It's entirely made of plastic, so it feels somewhat cheap on the exterior and some of the button presses are soft and not particularly convincing. It connects via a single USB cable protruding from the rear and if you keep the throttle and stick apart, another cable connects the two. There's a tidy space underneath to keep that cable coiled and out of the way when the two are together.
For a starter HOTAS, I can't say this is bad. The problem is that it doesn't make me want to continue using it, nor upgrade to something better. It does everything you'd ask of it; plenty of buttons (12 in total), functioning throttle and joystick, and it looks good with the curved rims on the bases and red stripes on either side. It will take a while to remember where all the numbered buttons are though, especially since they're mainly just numbered and a few of them are hidden round the back.
The main issue I encountered while using the T.Flight HOTAS X are the dead zones for both the stick and the throttle. There's a noticeable amount of leeway where moving either won't have any effect. It became most frustrating in Star Wars: Squadrons; trying to adjust my aim very slightly to lock onto TIE Fighters often resulted in oversteering way too much, because subtle movements aren't really possible.
Due to the plastic material it's made out of, the T.Flight HOTAS X is also very lightweight. Obviously, this can be a pro because it's easy to move out of the way when you're done, but the downside is that quickly accelerating or reversing with the throttle — or pulling down sharply on the stick — can cause it to lift off the table slightly. Not ideal when you're about to jump through hyperspace.
If you're set on getting yourself a flight stick and want to see if they're a good fit for you before forking out for a higher-end model, the Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X is a great choice. It's relatively cheap and provides a full flying experience. Don't bother picking this up if you're just curious though, because similar money can well be spent on something better. I'm going to continue my Star Wars: Squadrons journey, but I'll be doing it with a controller because it's not worth the effort with the HOTAS X. Also, it's only compatible with PC and PS3, which isn't ideal in the year of the PS5. The T.Flight HOTAS 4 is almost certainly a better option, even if just for the PS4 compatibility, at a similar price.