Spanish-based flight simulator hardware developer Virtual-Fly has been producing high-quality hardware for many years, including throttles, rudder pedals and their full-cockpit sim set-ups. It’s no surprise that they have built up a huge following of loyal and supportive customers over the years. FSElite has been following the team for a while and we were delighted that they asked us to review various pieces of their equipment from their range of products. As someone who is just getting into serious flight simming hardware, I was thrilled to be able to get a retail build of their Yoko the Yoke. In this review, I’ll tell you everything that you need to know about the product.
Designed originally back in 2013, Yoko the Yoke has proven to be a highly popular device by the Virtual-Fly team. However, the product has been designed for a range of people including flight sim enthusiasts, cockpit builders, and those in the commercial sector.
The quality of the build is nothing short of fantastic. There has clearly been a lot of work that has gone into the design and overall finish of the yoke itself. It was sheer joy to hold and use. It is extremely ergonomical for a variety of hand sizes, meaning everything feels comfortable and well placed. The smooth grip and finger placement on the yoke felt very natural and offered a good sense of comfort for those extended play periods.
Overall, the unit itself is quite large, compared to other yoke system. In terms of width, Yoko the Yoke measures in at 303mm, with a height of 185mm. In terms of length, in a natural position, it measures in at 447mm. However, once you fully extend it, you’ll have a product that is 591mm in length. It closely resembles a yoke you would find in an actual cockpit. As for weight, the product is a sturdy 9 kilograms – most of which because 90% of the material is metallic. The materials used certainly gives the yoke a nice overall finish – one that is missing from other high-end yoke sets that I have tried. One thing I really loved for desk-users is how the box housing itself is the perfect dimension for a regular keyboard, allowing me to still use it for other sim-related tasks. Did I keep the yoke on my desk for day-to-day use? No, but installing / removing is a very simple task. My small desk doesn’t really suit housing large units on a regular basis for other tasks I do on my desktop (writing for example), but it’s relatively easy to clamp back together.
One of my favourite elements about the Fly-Virtual Yoko the Yoke is how it really is a ‘plug and play’ type of product. The USB cable goes from the yoke into your PC and a few moments later, the drivers are installed automatically via the hardware and you’re good to go. There’s no need for any type of power cable, as it’s supplied via the USB cable. When it comes to mounting to your personal desk or cockpit, you simply place it where you need it and use the included clamp to bolt it down. The clamp simply slides into place under the yoke and you can adjust the height of it with the large screw. The rubber base protects it from marking your desk. The process is simply reversed should you wish to remove the product. In less than 5 minutes I had unpackaged the product, clamped it on and had the sim ready to fly.
Because of the sheer size and weight of the product, pulling back full force on the yoke did cause me to almost flip my desk over. Not so much the fault of the product as it is with my light and tiny desk, but I imagine I’m not the only one out there which may experience this issue. The amount of force felt right, but once I reached a certain point of ‘pull-back’, the gravity of the desk was now out of balance meaning the desk wanted to come with me and the yoke. I suppose some may say this would bring the immersion closer to me, but when a hot drink subsequently went flying instead, I figured I needed to be a lot more cautious. Whilst it sounds like a design flaw, the product has been built with the weight in mind. The force required to pull back the elevator has been designed upon feedback from pilots and experience from the team to give you that feeling of resistance found in an aircraft.
Just like any new controller, I had to adjust a few in-sim flight controls. Regardless of which simulator you use (FSX, P3D or X-Plane), configuring the controller was pretty simple. As you would expect, simply open up the in-sim menu for controller options and adjust accordingly. The physical hardware is locked, meaning you won’t be able to adjust any of the settings on the yoke itself. For example, if you wanted to adjust the angles, tension or height of the yoke for your set-up or physical size.
One of the few complaints I have about the yoke is the limited number of control inputs found on Yoko the Yoke. There are two ‘click-switches’ on either side, which are designed to assist with trimming both the elevator and aileron trim. There’s also buttons for autopilot controls, or whatever you may wish to assign them to. Perhaps not the most realistic, but from a user point of view, a hat switch and a couple of other ‘pushsable’ buttons on the thumb pad would be really helpful. As a simple desk user, I don’t have the luxury of multiple screens or the use of track-IR, so trying to multitask while inputting radio information or checking my fuel was a bit tricky. This is particularly important if you’re using some kind of throttle set along with the yoke.
The physical movement of the yoke is smooth with no stickinesss when applying any sort of pressure. Whether you’re using one hand or two hands to control the yoke, it feels great. The rotation has a maximum of 60 degrees either side. As for the pitch control, as I keep mentioning, the more deflection you apply, the more resistance it builds up giving this nice feeling of actually interreacting with the control surfaces themselves. Regardless of movement, the yoke returns to a neutral position nicely in the centre. There’s no click, sound, or other user-feedback to indicate you’re in a certain position – you simply rely on your gut based on what you see on the screen. This is how a real aircraft would operate. This is the difference between a more casual yoke compared to the Yoko the Yoke, which is geared more towards those wanting a product that replicates the actions and feeling of a yoke inside an actual aircraft.
So how does it feel in the simulator? Having used it in both Prepar3D V4 and X-Plane 11, I can safely say that the yoke adds a new level of immersion regardless of your platform of choice. I primarily used the yoke during our recent Low ‘N Slow event, which saw us fly for around 2 hours straight through the Rocky Mountains. It was incredibly satisfying to hand-fly with a realistic feeling control input. The input movements you do in real life are nicely reflected visually as well within the simulator. The hand grips are comfortable even during long-flying sessions. What is impressive is how the slightest of touches are picked up by the yoke. A slight push to the left and your aircraft banks accordingly. Push forward so slightly and you’ll see the nose dip. The sensitivity can be adjusted, but it’s great to see that actual device itself can react to those small inputs. Similarly, the amount of force you need for more aggressive movements feels extremely rewarding when you pull off that challenging landing.
Virtual-Fly is known for their excellent support and product warranty. Whilst I had no issues myself, I know that they have a team of dedicated people ready to respond within 12 hours or less to any issues. Furthermore, each product from the Virtual-Fly team comes with a 2-year warranty. That sort of commitment should be a good indication of how much trust they have in their build quality. For those that need extra help setting up, there’s also the ability to call upon remote aid. All of that is included in the price of the product.
Your mileage will certainly vary in terms of price. For users looking for a good yoke, they may find the price to be outside of their usual budget. It’s an expensive piece of kit. For home cockpit builders or professionals, it’s a top-tier yoke that will satisfy the needs of a serious simmer. The ergonomics, resistance and polish of the product will certainly make it one of the most most-used pieces in your custom build. The overall score for value is a hard one to get right due to the variation in the target audience. For desktop users looking for a well-made yoke, the value score would sit nicely at a 6. For cockpit builders or others looking to build a realistic simulator, the value score would be 9 due to the difference in what else is available on the market. The score below of 7.5 is an average of this.
Yoko the Yoke from Virtual-Fly is an excellent, well-built and stable product. The freedom of movement in the controls and ergonomics of the surfaces are all of a premium price tag. It’s that premium price tag which may put people off. Beyond the cost, it’s a great product which does the type of product justice. A few niggles here and there, but you will be getting a product that does exactly what it says it will do very well.