All the models we tested incorporate a minimum of essential functions required for any flight simulator. Each joystick needs to offer the following options: an analog throttle, designed to control fuel input and thus, the engine; a directional hat, to allow display of 360° views; and, a rudder bar. When opting for the single lever, the best option is the one introduced by Microsoft, in which the rudder function is linked to the rotation of the joystick shaft on its axis. When you turn it to the left or the right, and combine this with a dipping motion, you can fly your aircraft as effectively as if you had a genuine rudder bar at your feet. In fact, it is a wonder that Airbus planes have not been equipped with such a system.
A good joystick obviously connects to the USB port, a standard that all the makers have adopted out of preference to the game port. Despite this, the drivers continue to remain a source of problems. The software supplied with each stick, which allows you to program its buttons for a particular game, is virtually useless with a plain joystick. That's because all the latest games recognize specific joystick functions, so that you can assign the desired function to each button and save your choices to disk. You are therefore forced to use a specific driver and this becomes something of a handicap. It needs to be installed, it will place icons all over the place and may create compatibility problems in the future. Personally, I would like to campaign for the abolition of this system of drivers, in favor of automatic and systemic configuration, a system for which Windows XP is ideally suited. Drivers are only useful for running the most complicated systems such as the Saitek X45, for which some sort of programming software is vital. Manufacturers need to be able to offer unified drivers, because some drivers still conflict with others that have been installed. You also need to check the compatibility of drivers and hardware with Windows 2000 / XP.