The kit we got access to is not the HOTAS one (with the joystick + the separate throttle) but rather the single joystick. I hope someday I'll be able to review the throttle as well as I am very curious about it and how it behaves with helicopters.
The T.16000M FCS is an ambidextrous (meaning both right and left-handed simmers can use it) with 16 buttons, 4 axis (pitch, roll, yaw and throttle) and 1x8-way POV hat.
The package is nothing new for Thrustmaster's products. It's simple, yet effective. The box contains the stick, a small bag with some parts for you to replace the ones on the joystick so you can use it even if you are a lefty (more on this later) and a sheet of paper.
There are no user manuals, no installation CDs, nothing, which I welcome. Everything is downloadable so you'll know you'll always get the latest version. Let's be honest: All the CDs that come with hardware I buy end up being thrown away. Or in that weird drawer filled with ancient drivers in CDs and floppy disks.
Installation is quick and easy. You will need to download the drivers and the T.A.R.G.E.T. software (as there are no CDs like I mentioned above) and you'll be all set to go once you plug it into a USB port. The usual with any modern kit, so no big surprises here.
Like all the other Thrustmaster products, the T.16000M FCS is amazingly well built. It's very sturdy and feels pretty heavy, which is great for preventing the joystick from wobbling when we need to quickly change directions.
If you do need some extra grip, though, Thrustmaster equipped it with a couple of holes at the bottom of the base so you can actually screw the joystick to a table or any other surface in your home cockpit. Handy!
The stick feels very good in your hand. There are a couple of parts on the left and right side of the actual stick that are made of rubber which increases hand grip and provides extra comfort while using the joystick. These parts are ergonomically built so they can be a bit of an hassle for a left-handed simmer. Or they would be if Thrustmaster didn't ship the joystick with a couple of parts that can replace the ones that come in the stick for those that are left-handed. Again, handy (no pun intended)!
You know what else is handy? The "Left Handed / Right Handed" switch at the bottom of the joystick base! You can configure the stick and then switch everything from right to left and vice-versa by simply switching it. Do you have a friend that's left-handed and likes to spend some time simming with you? Switch the stick from right to left-handed and he'll have the exact same button position as you -- except in the correct position for her/him.
Thrustmaster puts a lot of effort on the quality of their products and the T.16000M FSC is no exception. It is well built and it feels pretty solid.
I've tested the joystick with FSX, X-Plane and DCS. Did some normal flights with the FSX default B206 and Camille Backmann's Alouette III, Dreamfoil's B407 and S-300CBi and the DCS Huey. The 3 sims provided me a way to test the joystick in different realism settings and conditions.
One thing that I immediately noticed was how accurate and interference-free this stick is! The axis are smooth as butter and the throttle control is very light so I could control the collective extremely well.
The twist grip spring is a bit too stiff for heli operations so it needs you to get used to it. On longer flights you might get tired from forcing your wrist to keep up with the anti-torque necessary to counter-act the rotor torque. This is not the stick's problem, though. This is something that you'll have with any twist-grip stick and that's why you should really invest in some rudder pedals (I will do a review on the Thrustmaster TFRP pedals soon) if you are serious about flying helicopters.
The only thing that I will actually complaint about this joystick is the inability to reduce the XY axis spring strength or to remove the spring at all. While flying helicopters, we will need to constantly make small adjustments on the cyclic. By having a free-flow joystick or one that does not force you to get into a fight with it the whole time, you will be able to better control your helicopter.
This said, though, I have to admit that the spring strength on the T.16000M FCS is not too high and I was able to control the helicopters with my fingers like I usually do instead of gripping the stick. Granted, I did have to get used to it and it may get a bit of a nuisance on longer flights, if you don't have trim in your helicopter, but I don't fly for long periods of time on non-trimmed helicopters anyway. A joystick without a spring has its issues as well -- like not having anything to center the stick and hold it in place for when the heli's trimmed.
The Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS is one of the best joysticks I have tried in quite some time. It's sturdy, accurate, has no deadzones and allows me to be in control of my helicopters the whole time.
Could it be any better? Yes, it could. If Thrustmaster could make a joystick with interchangeable/removable springs, that would make me and a lot of helicopter simmers out there very happy. But that's something most of the helicopter simmers won't even notice so, for the majority of simmers out there, this is a non-issue.
Does the lack of this feature hurt this joystick? Definitely not. The T.16000M FCS is an impressive joystick, very well built, feels great and provides you with anything you need to fully enjoy your simming sessions.
Be it in a fighter jet, a small propeller plane or an amazingly superior helicopter, the T.16000M FCS is one heck of a buy and a great joystick for all your simming needs.