I’ve been asked to provide some picture of my setup as an update. It’s been a while since I have done any hardware reviews, mostly because I haven’t been able to afford any new hardware and just general circumstances….however, I can provide an update on the longevity of the kit that I’ve bought.
Given all that has happened since 2020 my working arrangements have changed pretty dramatically, besides the pandemic I’ve moved house. As I’m now working from home I actually use my set up on a daily basis for working as well as playing…and yes, I am sat under the stairs!
I’ve rejigged things and reattached the Mac Mini to the panel that I created behind my monitor. I’ve recently added a Thunderbolt 3 Card to my PC to allow me to start using my 27″ Apple Thunderbolt Display. I have to say I love this monitor and just wish it was easier to use with any system…but it’s not really made for PCs! However, I’m now able to use it without issue with the PC and switch between it and the Mac Mini for work (much lower power than my PC!) While I have a 4K monitor, and it can look great when watching something in 4K I just didn’t like it. It’s not being used by the kids and I’m really happy with this set up.
The Obutto Ozone is holding up really well. The seat is still comfortable and it’s great for being in for long periods of time and it’s straight forward to take out the flight sim gear and put it out of the way while I am working. Having said all of that I have plans to change the set up and start to build a simpit…but I’ve been saying that for years!
The B-explorers have been invaluable. Though I use Voice Attack for a lot of commands it’s still very useful to have the switches, dials and axis that I can. As a result I use these in every sim and have a large number of commands assigned to them.
The question is regularly asked, how do you use these things in VR? It’s really easy with the B-explorer being located where it is, right in front of the throttle. The mounting plate comes with the order and it sits underneath the throttle. It’s capable of holding two control units and it’s a really clean set up. You quickly get used to where the switches are and you can add your own tactile feedback. I’ve seen a couple of ways of doing this, but I’ve never actually done it. I’d still really recommend the controllers.
I’ve often seen posts on Social Media regarding rudder pedals, and which ones should be bought on a budget. I’m still using the set I got in 2017 and I’m not seeing any ill-effects. The Thrustmaster TFRP rudder pedals were inexpensive. I had no plans for them to last for ever but I needed some new ones when my CH Pro Pedals had gotten too glitchy and I’d run over a cable inside while using them! They’re still holding up well. They’re not sticking they’re not glitching.
I’d still recommend the pedals. They’ve even held up well with the introduction of my partners’ cat! He seems to have taken quite a liking to my setup. The pedals don’t seem to have suffered any ill-effects. However…I plan on replacing them when I do actually get around to making my simpit. I’ve got my eye on the Thrustmaster TPR pedals, but they won’t fit on the footplate in my set up.
Unfortunately, just after I’d finally got this to sit properly and comfortably on my seat the cat decided to get himself tangled one of the cables to the control box and ripped it out. This part can be replaced but it has not been a priority as I’ve had to do some work on the house. I will get a replacement part though as it was working really well and it was adding to the immersion quite nicely.
As much as I would like to add the Hornet grip to my set up I hadn’t been able to justify the cost, then when I could afford one there were none in stock anywhere. The stick is holding up well, I’ve no idea how old it is now as I got it second hand, but it’s having no stiction issues and the throttle is as solid as ever. I’ve not done the upgrade to the X/Y Axis that you can get but it’s certainly tempting. I’ve now had this set up since about 2016.
I’d read about the stiction issues when I first got the stick and thought that there must be a way to prevent it. With the stick extension on it seemed to make sense to see if there was something I could do with one of the covers you see on a gear stick in a manual car. It cost less than £10 off eBay and looks smart enough, though I could probably replace the blue cable ties that hold it in place!
HP Reverb G2 & Lenses
The last review I wrote was about the HP Reverb G2 and the issues that I was having after a trying to get it returned for being defective. Well, I did eventually get a replacement and it’s working without issue. The image quality is superb and it’s a great headset for DCS and IL2. I’ve still not used it for anything other than some form of flight sim (if you can call Star Wars Squadrons that). What I have added though are prescription lenses. I tried wearing contact lenses but found that I was not blinking enough. As a result of this the lenses would get dry and then they’d be uncomfortable and I’d have to blink at the most awkward time, then they’d shift and I wouldn’t be able to see clearly for a moment. They were no good for what I needed. I saw an offer on Facebook for VR lenses. What had prevented me from buying them before was the concern about import charges after Brexit (it seemed they were mostly made in Germany and it’s really not clear what I charges I would end up paying). This company assured me that there would be no import charges so I took the plunge. I have to say I thought they were coming from the US, but they have come from China. The delivery route, I was assured, did not go through the Suez Canal – this was pertinent as it was blocked at the time. However, what made no sense was the route it took to get here. According to the tracking data it went from China to Lancashire, UK, to Hong Kong, to London, to Atlanta (US), to Washington DC, to London, to Manchester and then on to me. These lenses are very well travelled. When I queried how this made any possible sense I got some interesting interpretations of customer engagement and it was pretty derogatory about me, as they thought I was American, then when they discovered I may have some idea about geography they were just derogatory about Americans in general. It was not quite what I expected in all honesty. Anyway, main thing is that they have made a great deal of difference to the VR experience. The Reverb no longer catches my glasses and I can see really well in VR. I’d recommend prescription lenses to those that are interested. They do make a big difference, but maybe don’t buy from China.
One thing that is a pain in VR is ejecting. Finding Ctrl+E quickly is awkward. I saw the Reapers did a review of an ejection handle, and it was something I wondered about making (though I have no idea where to start!). Anyway, I succumbed and I’ve bought one from Etsy. I didn’t know what to expect, I knew it was 3D printed I wasn’t expecting all metal construction or anything out of this world but I’ve been really surprised how much better it has made the experience. Although the store page says sold old they’re made to order, you need to contact CigarBear and it will be made for you.
Initially I had the handle mounted centrally with in front of the stick, but I was finding I was knocking it when I was getting into my seat and sometimes it would flop forwards and when I needed it I couldn’t find it! So I moved it to the side as you can see it above and it’s really easy to find. There’s not a lot to be said about it, it has three buttons (one of which is the pull to eject). The other two are on a rocker switch. I generally use the other two buttons to adjust seat height when it’s available. There is a mounting kit to attach it to a more standard seating arrangement, but I didn’t need this and have no intention of using it, but it is very solid. While this is not a necessary add-on it’s useful to have in VR. I wouldn’t want to be without one now.
All in all the kit is holding up well and I’m still really happy with the set up, but I do intend to build on it and adapt it more to flight simming than it is now. I’ve drawn up my plans and I know how I want it to look. I don’t know how to make my own buttons or switches but I would like to learn. As a result I think that this is likely to be my next project. My plans will tidy up the cables so they’re no longer visible and will split the B-explorers so that there is one on either side, it will also be able to mount the new rudder pedals. It’s a long way off though…I don’t even have the tools yet!