Over the past few years, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve seen a huge technological push within our flight simulators. Whether that is the arrival of 64-bit, PBR, or other advanced techniques we didn’t have just a few years ago. Whilst our simulators are becoming more fluid, look more realistic, and actually run better than the average powerpoint, it was time for hardware to start catching up.
Thrustmaster have been known in the flight simulator space as providing hardware that finds the balance between price, quality and performance. I remember my first product very well: the T.Flight HOTAS. Relatively cheap, it ticked all the boxes I was looking for from a joystick / thrust lever set. It was pretty reliable and lasted a fair few years before I then migrated to a newer product.
Whilst my overall hardware collection remained pretty much the same over the past few years, I did notice a trend of hardware manufactures creating middle of the road products with users neither ranting nor raving about what they had just purchased. Then along came the Thrustmaster TPR: Thrustmaster Thrustmaster Pendular Pedal Set (no that’s not a typo).
The branding is strong with this one, with deep oranges and plenty of buzzwords spread throughout. It’s a neat package and one that compliments the product well. Inside, it’s nicely put together with everything easily accessible.
Inside the box, you will find everything you’ll need to get started. Of course, the biggest feature is the TPR Pedals themselves. They also come with an instruction manual, packet of screws and the all important Allen key. I did spend 5 minutes searching for a few key components, only to discover they were tucked nicely inside a polystyrene door which had to be pulled out. Take note of that if you do end up buying the pedals.
Once unpackaged, looking through each piece was pretty self-explanatory for where it went. Both of the feet are separated and need to be screwed into the pendular section of the device. here are few ways to attach them, and I’ll talk about that shortly. Once screwed in, you just need to repeat the process again for the other side and you’re pretty much good to go.
If you’re not familiar with the set up, the instruction manual (available in multiple languages) offers an easy to follow step-by-step process.
Unlike other pedal sets I have used, the product itself is actually pretty tall in terms of height. It’s approximately 15 inches / 38cm tall. That’s taller than an A4 sheet of paper held vertically. As a result, some people may struggle with placing it on the floor inside their desk space. If you have a large desk with no horizontal bar holding it together, you should do just fine. However, for people like me with slightly smaller desks that do have said bar in place, it actually becomes a bit troublesome. The bar on my desk sits around 6 inches / 15cm off the ground, so I can’t place the set of pedals against the wall. I have similar issues with other products, but usually, they’re not as tall as this so I can often get away with it. I know that not everyone will have this issue, but one worth pointing out to those looking to invest in a set.
Very tall piece of hardware so some desks with a bar may struggle.
The back of the plate is almost as long as the product is tall
Assembled, the Thrustmaster TPR is around 20 inches (51cm) in length
Not only are they incredibly tall, but they also take up a good portion of space width-wise. The base alone (without pedals attached) measures in at approximately 15.5 inches / 40cm. Once each pedal has been attached, you’re looking at a full length of 20 inches / 52cm. That’s a significant space to take up under your desk / table. Like I mentioned before, those with small desks will start to feel quite cramped. I did a bit of research and saw that others with pre-built sim desks / pits also had some challenges modifying their areas to fit it with their set-up. Just worth noting for anyone looking to buy them.
With so much space, they also are pretty weighty. In total, they weigh in at 7kg. This is actually a pretty important point as the weight will help counter some issues with regards to the pressure you have to apply to get the pedals to start moving or the toe brakes to act, which I cover a little further down.Once you’re happy with the pedals, it’s time to plug them into the PC via the USB type B cable. If you’re using Windows 10 (or Windows 7), then you won’t need any additional drivers to get the pedals running. Windows will simply recognise it as a game controller with a couple of different axis, which you can then set up inside the simulator pretty easily. However, if you need that extra bit of control, then you can install the accompanying software. The TARGET software will give you the ability to set more refined control movements, which most simulators support these days out the box. If you’re using them for Prepar3D or X-Plane, you’ll be able to set up the controls via the platform just fine.
For me, I fine-tuned mine using payware add-on FSUIPC. Of course, it’s not a mandatory purchase as the default control set up works just fine. However, if you’ve spent the money on these pedals, the extra cost will give you a lot more control over the null zones etc.
Refining for comfort
Comfort when using rudder pedals has always been at the top of my priority list. Few, if any, have really managed to get that balance between realism and comfort accurate. Some have come close, but what let them down was the ability to really refine how they worked. In regards to the Thrustmaster TPR Pedals, they have seized this opportunity to give those who buy the pedals the ability customise them to their needs.
By default, I found the placement of the pedals to be too high. I couldn’t really place my feet flat onto the surface of them. This meant I had struggles with using the toe brakes effectively and I often found myself applying either too much pressure and causing the aircraft to freak out, or I would accidentally clip the toe brakes during the departure roll and cause me to RTO. Fun at first, but annoying 3 or 4 times later.
As I said, Thrustmaster have included a range of levels for you to play about with to suit your comfort. There are a few ways you can modify the pedals. The first is to change the angle of where you would place your feet on the pedals. This was extremely useful due to the height of my desk and the proximity of where I need to sit in relation to the pedals themselves. I could be a bit more flat footed and have a lot more control over the amount of energy I had to push into the pedals to get the desired action. In total there are 5 options to choose from, with each change lowering the angle more and more. Along with adjusting where the pedals were placed, I could also adjust the amount of pressure needed to apply the toe brakes. If you’re heavy footed (like me), this is very helpful to avoid those accidental clips. Of course, you can further refine it in the simulator either through the use of null-zones or specialist add-ons (such as FSUIPC).
There are plenty of options to adjust the unit, which is great. However what I found frustrating with the TPR pedals is how you make those changes. There’s a lot of trial and error involved to get it feeling just right. I mentioned earlier there are 5 different angles to try out. So for each angle you wish to try, you need to unscrew multiple parts of the pedal attachment. Now the placement of those parts are pretty tight to the casing of the central column. What this means is that the provided Allen key will often scrape the side of the unit. I’m not too precious about scratching the $500 product, but I know others will be. Plus it’s just too fiddly and frustrating when you’re dealing with such small parts. Once you have adjusted both sides, you need to boot up the sim, run some tests, and see how it feels. It is a case of trial and error throughout, but a bit of a challenging process. Of course, once you have got the comfort just right, that’s the last time you need to use the stumpy Allen key and wrench.
Further to adjusting the placement of the pedals, you can also make amendments to the amount of tension in the springs used to control the pendular motion. The springs are locked into the unit itself, but on the back is a simple way to adjust them. You simply move the springs up or down depending on much tension you require from them. If like me you want it relatively pressure-free, you can do that, or if you want to really force your energy into it – that’s also possible.
Fiddly adjustments aside, once they were to my liking, they were incredible. The comfort, the amount of control and flexibility I had was incredible. My feet rested on them like a hand in a glove – wrapped nicely and enough movement to get the motions right, but also stable enough my feet didn’t come sliding off at the slightest movement.
The final piece of the puzzle is really down to you at home. You can either have them pressed up against the wall of your room, or you can bolt them down on a wooden surface. I don’t have the possibility to nail it to the ground, so the wall had to do. The 11.5 inch / 29cm depth of the base meant that even with full pressure on them, the pedals never were restricted by the wall from hitting it. This is actually a clever piece of engineering I haven’t seen on other pedals before. I had to adjust my foot slightly, but it didn’t really impact my usability.
Using them in-sim
Cables out of the way, instructions packed up and sim booted up, it was time to really try out the pedals in flight. As previously mentioned, I used FSUIPC to set up the controls. It was pretty easy, rudder pedals were assigned to one axis, and then I selected left / right brakes accordingly.
One of my most anticipated uses for the Thrustmaster TPR Pedals was for GA flying. The limited number of flying lessons I have had all taught me that the rudder acts very complimentary when making any kind of banking turns. Obviously its pivotal for the taxing of the aircraft and also for those challenging cross-winds.
Loading up one of my favourite A2A Simulation planes, the Commanche, I was quick to start engines and get this thing rolling. As I taxied away from the parking stand, I immediately applied the toe brakes to see how they reacted, and as expected, they worked very well. It was neat to watch the toe brakes function in the sim as it reacted to the amount of pressure I pressed on them. A light tap caused the plane to brake softly. I was finally away from the concept of using the trigger button on my joystick to instigate the command. I really had a lot more control than before. Depending on the plane you use, I also enjoyed the differential braking using left and right toe brakes. Stomp on one more than the other and enjoy watching your aircraft spin.
Hurtling down the runway was also a new challenge. As I attempted to twist the yoke, I remembered that it wasn’t going to work and instead needed to use the pendular motion from the TPR set to set me back on the straight and narrow of the runway. I wasn’t foolish to use a thin runway to test this, so no disasters occurred from my new found toy (phew!). The amount of pressure applied felt right and within the tolerance I would expect for the amount of wind blowing across the runway for takeoff. Because I spent all that time setting up the pedals, I knew the amount of force I needed to apply to get a full left-rudder deflection without causing the plane to react too violently.
Flying around and using the pedals was a sheer delight. I felt I had so much more control and freedom over the input with almost zero delay in the simulator responding. If you’ve never tried a set of pedals before in your simulator, they do take getting used to. Not because it’s hard, but because your brain has to function with a new axis in mind. But once you get your head around it, the comfort and joy experienced isn’t something I’ve felt before.
Even taking up the larger aircraft such as the A320 has a new found level of enjoyment. Tackling some of the recent storms in Europe, I decided to give them a try at Amsterdam (EHAM) airport. Best known for the crosswinds and changes to wind direction, what better way to put the pedals to the test.
With a strong gusting crosswind between me and the runway, I was applying full rudder to crab my approach into Amsterdam, and as the winds shifted between 14 and 29 knots, the amount of deflection changed. Luckily the quick response time between my actions and what happened on screen ensured that the arrival was relatively uneventful (apart from a few bruised bums in the back). Until the Thrustmaster TPR pedals, I had never really realised the challenge pilots face when attempting these types of landings. There’s a lot to think about with your eyes, hands and now your feet. I never really understood why having a set of pedals would impact my simulator experience. I was under the impression that paying a price for something with a single axis and some other ‘buttons’ acting as brakes would never give me the satisfaction I needed to justify them.
That price tag…
There’s a lot to love about these particular pedals. Something that needs to be considered is the price tag. Like I said near the start of the review, there have been a lot of mid-range products that provide a functional experience. However, Thrustmaster make it no secret that these pedals aren’t intended to be that end of the scale. At £449.99 / $549.99, they’re pretty high-end. Whilst the digits are off-putting and scary, the TPR Pedals have provided me with one of the best experiences possible.
The build quality and functionality of the TPR Pedals are unparalleled to anything else I’ve tried in this space. They’re adaptable, stable and provide a comfortable experience regardless of height or location. The price certainly means a cut back in add-ons for a while, but the new levels of immersion make up for that. With that being said, it’s likely you may feel a sense of regret putting down that much for a singular product at first, but as time goes on and you realise how much use you’ve had from them, you may feel differently.
As far as flight simulation hardware goes, it’s right up there with some of the best. It offers a great feeling, provides a more innovative approach to rudder pedals and works very well in use. The offset will always be that high price tag which comes attached. At 2/3s of the price, I’d feel a lot easier about recommending it to most simmers, but at the current price tag, I think the more dedicated customers will feel more comfortable with their purchase. It’s a great product, but it is let down by a high entry fee.