Selecting the right joystick is a central part of the flight sim experience and today I’m very pleased to bring to you my full review of VIRPIL’s desktop oriented WarBRD Base and WarBRD Grip. This base and grip combination is one of the newest to the market and I put it through its paces to try and help answer the question if this might be right for you. Let’s check it out!
VIRPIL was nice enough to send me the WarBRD Base and Grip so that I could write this review. I want to assure my readers that there were no strings attached when VIRPIL provided this to me and that my views expressed in this review are entirely my own.
The history of WarBRD
VIRPIL is one of the newest flight-sim oriented companies out there. It was started three years ago by flight sim enthusiast Andrei Lukyanov. Since then, VIRPIL has put together a really well-rounded portfolio of gear and opened their own factory to try and keep up with the demand. Though VIRPIL products are priced at a premium over some of their competitors they also offer a premium experience to match.
In August of 2017, VIRPIL announced that they were partnering with Sochi based flight sim hardware developer Roman Baur (BRD). Baur was well known for producing some limited production runs of the very high quality BRD-N Black Stork Joystick and is now VIRPIL’s chief designer. He has, together with the rest of the VIRPIL team, produced a series of peripherals under the WarBRD line-up including a base, a grip and some recently announced rudder pedals.
That’s the background so let’s get to the actual hardware and see what it’s all about.
WarBRD Base features
Let’s start with the core of the WarBRD experience – the WarBRD Base. To do that, however, we need to start with how the WarBRD Base differs from another VIRPIL product. The MongoosT-50 Base is a similar product, however, it is meant almost exclusively for a cockpit setup with or without an extension. By contrast the WarBRD Base is more suited to being used on a desktop or as part of a sidestick arrangement. It’s this desktop arrangement that I personally use and will be commenting on.
The design is more compact than the MongoostT although it is still chunkier and taller than the average stick. The gimble is made of aircraft grade duraluminum with a dual cam per axis arrangement. The cams can be swapped for one of three types of setups with one being oriented towards space-sim pilots while the other two are aimed at flight sim pilots. In this review I tested the two and three notch versions and I will have a separate review on what the CosmoSim cams are like.
The WarBRD Base is compatible with all of the grips that VIRPIL has sold so far. That includes the four grips currently on sale in their store:
- VPC MongoosT-50CM2 Grip
- VPC MongoosT-50LH BE Grip
- VPC Constellation DELTA Grip
- VPC WarBRD Grip
As a bonus, WarBRD is also compatible with the Thrustmaster Warthog grip as it uses the same mount and gameport connector. VIRPIL’s software supports the grip’s button configuration making this process relatively easy.
The WarBRD Base is sold for €169.95 on the VIRPIL ‘Rest of World’ webstore (or approximately $189 USD at current conversion rates) plus any import fees you might need to pay if you live in North America and elsewhere. EU customers should have an easier time going through the EU webstore.
WarBRD Base build-quality
The thing that immediately struck me with the WarBRD is how solid it is. The WarBRD Base has a very industrial design ethos to it with exposed screws and precisely machined components. The exterior edges feature a chamfered edge similar to that on MongoosT-50 throttle. Its clean, smooth and elegant. There’s also no flexing or warping on any part of the base.
The exposed screws and industrial design of the WarBRD aren’t just for looks. VIRPIL expects that their users may want to use an Allan-key to open the unit up and adjust the springs or change the cams. VIPIRL ships the WarBRD Base with two sets of springs and cams that can be used to alter the feel of the unit.
The WarBRD’s axes are adjustable with two types of springs included in the package:
- Standard (factory installed)
There are also 2 included cam profiles:
- Soft center (factory installed)
- No center
Changing cams and springs does take a little effort and some coordination and is best done in a clean well lit work environment along with a couple of tools so that you can position them quickly and easily. It’s not hard but it can require a little extra effort to make sure that you have everything just right.
WarBRD Grip features
The WarBRD Grip is based closely on several mid-century Western aircraft. The grip closely mimics that found in the F-86 Sabre, F-4 Phantom and F-8 Crusader. There’s an elegant simplicity to the configuration with just the right number of buttons without being overwhelming. It’s a clean, no-nonsense design which is something I really appreciate.
The WarBRD Grip has a useful array of buttons and hat switches:
- 1 x Dual-stage Trigger
- 1 x 8-way POV Hat + Push
- 1 x 4-way Hat + Push
- 2 x Buttons
The grip also features an all-metal twist-axis with contactless sensor shared with the Constellation Delta.
At €89.95 on the VIRPIL webstore (that’s approximately $101 USD at current conversion rates) the WarBRD Grip is the cheapest of the four grips that VIRPIL currently offers.
WarBRD Grip build-quality and ergonomics
The WarBRD Grip features a plastic exterior using high quality injection moulded plastic. The exterior features a slightly matte finish with some texturing on the right side of the grip. Everything else is smooth to the touch with just the right amount of texture for easy handling – vital when the pucker factor goes up during tense combat or flying moments.
There are no mismatched panel lines between moulded pieces and everything fits together with precision. Contrary to some early reports that I read about VIRPIL’s hardware manufacturing, everything about this grip is put together with tight tolerances and I tend to be fussy about these things.
I appreciate the attention to detail on the construction and I feel that VIRPIL went above and beyond on making sure that this was a well crafted piece of hardware.
The trigger on the WarBRD Grip features a comfortable two stage trigger. As you press the trigger down there’s an audible click which you can both feel and hear. The second stage of the trigger is activated when you press it all the way in. It’s simple, effective and it works great for the variable fire rate of the A-10C’s cannon or for activating full guns on a WWII aircraft.
The eight-way hat switch on the top of the stick is easy to use and works great for things like setting an aircraft’s trim (though it could be used to pan around as well). Handily, the hat switch can also be pressed in for an additional button and this works great as its easy to activate and makes an audible click.
Further down on the left side of the stick is a four-way hat switch with button press. This feels similar in feel and quality to the hat switches on the MongoosT-50 Throttle Control System and is easy to work with. Each direction on the hat has a subdued yet satisfying click.
The top mounted thumb button is easy to reach and has a subdued click. One of my few complaints about this grip is the travel of the button prior to actuation. It’s just a little too long. The button can move at least a few millimeters (or 1/8th of an inch) before you feel it meet the switch. It’s easily compensated for by half pressing before you need to use it but I would prefer it to actuate more quickly.
The same can be said for the switch located on the front of the grip. It’s just a little too far away for me to comfortably use as a pinky switch. My average sized fingers just couldn’t quite reach that button and that button also has the same push to actuation travel issue that the top switch does. In this case its magnified because of the difficult to reach spot. It’s hardly a deal-breaker but a slight repositioning would make it easier to use and these are the only real blemishes on an otherwise excellent stick.
Something that I thought may be an issue turned out not to be one at all. The side hand rest is nonadjustable, however, I found it to be comfortable and the height of the stick was ideal for my hand. My greatest concern going into this unit was the slightly extra height over the very compact VKB Gladiator that I was used to using and as it turns out, the height here is just as comfortable.
WarBRD precision and feel
I’ve put the WarBRD through its paces using DCS World, IL-2: Great Battles Series, and X-Plane to see how the grip and base feel in use flying both basic flight as well as in tense combat situations. I’ve flown with the stick on Knights of the Air, Wings of Liberty, Georgia at War, Persian Gulf at War and through dozens of single player missions and training scenarios over the last several weeks.
My first impression of the grip in action was not ultimately the same as my longer term reaction. The feel is different than first I expected and using the default cam and spring arrangement together with the WarBRD Grip took some getting used to. The WarBRD combination offer an extremely precise input but its was also remarkably taught and it takes some force to move the stick with the WarBRD Grip attached. Other grips may change the way this feels so for the moment I can only comment on the WarBRD Grip’s feel with this base.
Though I was at first skeptical that I would like the stiffer feel, my opinion quickly changed.
Why is this stick as stiff as it is? VIRPIL’s done a very cool thing where the WarBRD is simulating back pressure from control surfaces like in a real aircraft. It’s using the cams and springs located in the base to achieve this effect and it means that you always know intuitively, based on the pressure, how hard you’re pulling or pushing on the stick. This leads to some big improvements in flying.
Snapped F-14 wings and precise landings on the carrier deck in the F/A-18C Hornet are much easier in DCS World with this arrangement. So too is flying a Yak, Bf109 or Spitfire in IL-2. Performing a tight turn in a pitched dogfight is far easier with this arrangement. Greasing the runway in a Cessna 172 in X-Plane is a piece of cake.
One suggestion I have for all of you with the WarBRD is to go back and readjust your sensitivity settings in DCS and IL-2. Some aircraft that were overly twitchy in both series now react precisely and intuitively and where I previously needed to dull the sensitivity I now have far more control.
The Z-axis is a welcome addition to this product for me as I currently don’t own rudder pedals or have an office setup that makes implementing them easy (a new desk and setup is probably due). If you’re like me and want the premium experience but just don’t have pedals right now this is a great option.
So how is that Z-axis? The answer is that the WarBRD Grip has the best Z-axis twist stick I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. Its contactless sensors feel just as precise as the axis sensors on the WarBRD base and it has just the right amount of tension to it. If you do have pedals the Z-axis will, in my opinion, probably not get your way either as its difficult to activate without intentionally using it.
VIRPIL’s software has gotten a little easier to use since I first used it with setting up my MT-50 Throttle Control System a few months ago. Firmware updates are quick and far easier to perform than before.
You do have to walk through a calibration process when you first get the stick but after that you probably won’t need to do anything with that for some time. My WarBRD setup has retained its calibration without issue for several weeks and through dozens of hours of simulated flying.
I did have an issue early on with getting the stick up and running but that was entirely my fault – the gameport connection between grip and base wasn’t connected firmly enough to the base leading to only partial functionality. Check the following video out for information on how to more firmly attach the grip in-case you have trouble like I did
VIRPIL’s software is not flashy with its interface but it certainly does get the job done. The more advanced functionality also lets you make all kinds of custom configurations – none of which I felt like I needed to do to get up and running with full functionality in IL-2, DCS, or X-Plane.
The WarBRD series has become a core part of the VIRPIL hardware portfolio with their base, grip, and the forthcoming rudder pedals creating the trifecta of the flight sim hardware experience. My review of the essential first two parts has left me impressed with both grip and base.
The WarBRD Base is extraordinarily well built and it comes with enough adjustments thanks to the adjustable cams and springs to give you a chance to set it up the way you want to. The construction is tough and it looks made to last a very long time. The cam and spring setup may take a little effort to change but the custom feel that they provide in different situations are a huge bonus.
The WarBRD Grip is also an excellent product with just a few minor issues that set it back. The placement of the pinky switch and the long press travel of the two buttons are my only real issues. That aside, the WarBRD Grip is a quality grip that thematically and practically works with a wide variety of combat aircraft offering a great selection of buttons and hat switches without being overly complex. There’s a restrained minimalism and a non-nonsense approach to the design that I love.
This Grip also has the best Z-axis I’ve ever experienced to date which certainly adds to the appeal for anyone without rudder pedals that still wants a premium experience. I’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time and it’s finally here!
The WarBRD series commands a premium in price and so one of the things I set out to learn is if it was worth that price premium. The exceptional build quality, the precision, the serviceability of the interior components and the improvement that the unit as a whole made to both my immersion and to my ability to pilot virtual aircraft across multiple sim products leads me to be believe that it is indeed worth it.
The WarBRD Base and Grip together pair together extremely well in a high quality, robust, precise experience. WarBRD is a piece of hardware that will last a long time and comes built-in with some great customization features that change the whole feel of the stick depending on your sim needs. Taken together, WarBRD is a combination of features and precision that is difficult to beat and that’s why the VIRPIL WarBRD Base and Grip offer a premium flight sim experience that I can heartily recommend to any serious sim pilot.