Review: Knobster by Sim Innovations

Have you ever wished you could have an easy way to change the frequencies or the NAV heading on your aircraft? The Knobster is here to the rescue. But does it deliver?

Sim Innovations Knobster

I won’t do any of those elaborate introductions I sometimes do. Let me get you up to speed about this little gadget right away.

The concept behind the Knobster is very simple: have a small, USB-connected piece of hardware that houses 2 rotary encoders and a push button. Do you know the knobs on the GTN 530 that have an outer and inner knob and you can push the inner knob as well? That’s the thing.

Now imagine you can have that to control any rotary / button in a panel. Which panel? A virtual one, that you have on another screen, perhaps on a touch screen computer like a Microsoft Surface, for example.

A panel that you can get or create yourself using Sim Innovations other product, the Air Manager [https://www.helisimmer.com/reviews/panels-made-easy-air-manager] (please note that our review is for a previous version but the product maintains its quality). And yes, it only works with Air Manager right now.

But here’s what you can do: you can tap the CRS knob on the beforementioned GPS and use the Knobster to do the actual course change. Or change the standby frequency and use the push button to make it active. No more need to keep tapping the screen or using your mouse to change that stuff. The Knobster gives you a physical interface. And you can use the same Knobster for all the instruments.

It’s that simple.

The hardware

The Knobster is really simple. It’s just a small box with the rotary encoders and 4 holes which you can use to screw it to a surface (the screws are included) and it comes with an USB-C cable.

Sim Innovations Knobster

It’s compact, the plastic is of great quality and it just feels great when used, both while rotating or pushing the button.

Top-notch quality, folks.

How does it work?

Well, first of all you need to have Air Manager, version 3 or higher, installed on a computer. Get or make your own panel and connect the Knobster to that computer as well.

On the panel settings, scroll down to find the Knobster panel. You can select your Knobster there so that you can use it with that particular panel.

Air Manager -- setting up the Knobster

Start your panel, so that you can use it as usual and you can then select a button that you will then control with the Knobster. I made a small video showing how I did it using my own instrument (which I made available, for free, through Air Manager – it’s currently pending confirmation from the team but it should be online very soon).

Meh… It would be cool if we could use it with VR

Me too. But don’t let the fact that you need to use a panel fool you because you may NOT need to look at the panel at all.

In fact, I came out with a solution.

I build my own instrument, which you can download, for free, through Air Manager. I replicated the Knobster and all the instrument does is act as an interface between the physical unit and my sim. In this case, X-Plane.

I just need to select the function for the knobs and the button.

If you want to use it as well, for any other sim, you can always get it and edit it so that it sends the correct information to your sim.

This way, I can use the Knobster in VR easily (there’s no need to use multiple instruments as I can set it for COM, NAV, CRS, etc. Pretty handy, right?

A bit costly?

I will be the first to admit it: between the €65,00 for Air Manager and €90,00 for the Knobster, the solution is not cheap. But it works REALLY well out of the box, even on a remote computer and you just have to plug and play.

Yes, you can get a board, some wires, some potentiometers and do something similar. But here’s the thing: a good double rotary is not cheap either. Between the double rotary encoder and the board, you’re looking at something like €40 - €50. It’s still 1/3 of the total price, yes, but you still need to build it and then you need to code it.

And to make that DIY piece of hardware manage several commands (on several sims if that’s the case)… It’s pretty hard.

The Knobster offers you a turnkey solution for the problem (if that’s a problem for you) with multi-sim support that you can change on the fly.

And you still get some amazing panels on top of it.

For me, it’s just an amazing little piece of hardware that I am now using a lot just because it’s so much easier for me to, for example, change my heading. I did have a bit more of work, because I did my own instrument but hey… I have done a lot of the hard work for you already.

You can just get the Knobster from Sim Innovations (they made it available for everyone) and use it as it is or edit it yourself. I hope you enjoy it.

In conclusion

Sim Innovations KnobsterSim Innovations Knobster

I LOVE the Knobster. I am placing it on the head of my collective to have an easier access to it. Yes it’s a bit of an investment, but it works very, very well.

Our rating

Positives

  • Everything! I love it!

Negatives

  • The only downside is the overall investment you have to do (Air Manager + the Knobster itself)

Bottomline

    The Knobster is a great solution, out-of-the-box. It's easy and simple enough for anyone to install and use it. If you can't make your own thing or don't want to fiddle with electronics and all that stuff, this is a great solution.

Installation 10
Build quality 10
Design 10
Performance 10
Total score
10
Click here to purchase/download or more information

Please note: the link above was either provided by the author of the product, the store that sent us the review copy or a personal choice of the article writer. It does not, in any way, indicate an endorsement of HeliSimmer.com to the website hereby linked.

Sérgio Costa

About Sérgio Costa

Sérgio has been a flight simulation enthusiast for nearly 25 years. His passion with helicopters developed during MSFS 2000 when he discovered the complexity of these aircraft and the challenge it was to control them. Since then he has been primarily a helicopter flight simmer, trying his best not to crash and kill all his virtual passengers. Sérgio is HeliSimmer's editor and writer and one of the Three Grumpy Simmers, a YouTube series and Podcast produced together with YouTubers Bel Geode and NovaWing24, obviously dedicated to flight simulation.

Proud partner of