450: VRInsight Flight Master Yoke-II Review

My new cockpit is still far from complete but it is operable now with the “new” VRInsight Flight Master Yoke-II (the Yoke) is in position.

Actually, I bought the Yoke nearly three years ago in October 2014, at which I had an intention to have it to replace my long-used Saitek Cessna Yoke and the Switch Panel altogether, because the VRInsight Yoke has already integrated most of the key switches found on the Switch Panel.

Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work out because I had mis-calculated (or more precisely confused by) the Yoke’s published dimensions.  With 26 inches or 66 centimeters in depth (the company uses Width), the Yoke was far too deeper than my old work-bench could accommodate.  So, it has been kept in the storage for the last three years until I finally get a bigger table to be able to use it now.

What a coincidence that VRInsight has just announced their Yoke-III.   Therefore, a review for the older Yoke-II, I believe, should still shed some light for those who are interested in the new one.   In particular their specifications are almost the same, except the new model has just further included a push-pull Throttle, a Trim Lever (not trim wheel), and a few pounds in weight.

THE BODY

Frankly speaking, I hadn’t any idea how big it was until I actually received the package from delivery. The overall dimension of it, as shown in the photo comparing the Saitek Cessna Yoke, is huge.   It is 15.9-inch (40.5 cm) wide; 26-inch (66 cm) deep; 6.5-inch (16.5 cm) high.

In addition, since almost all of its mechanical parts and components are made from stainless steel or heavy gauge sheet metal, it is very heavy too, which weighs 25.8 lb (11.7 kg).

Due to its huge size and heavy weight, it can sit on a table securely without the need of any clumsy mounting clamps or screws as found on the other products.

Unfortunately, there might not be too many flightsimmers who would be able to enjoy this advantage, because its footprint, in my opinion, is practically a bit over-sized to most home cockpits, even though other stuffs like the monitor or instrument panels can be put on top of it.

For the connection to the computer, there is a standard USB 2.0 port in the back of the main unit.  No external power supply is required.

THE HANDLE

The handle of the Yoke is made from aluminum powder coated die-casting metal, according to the company.   It looks sturdy and is heavy.

In the back of it, there are opening cavities that allow wirings between the handle and the control circuitry via the stainless steel hollow shaft connecting the handle to the main unit.

Unlike the Saitek Yoke which comes with many buttons on the handle, the Flight Master Yoke only has one 8-way hat switch on the left handle, and two 2-way rocker switches on the right handle.

Frankly, the limited switches on the handle is one thing I am in particular unhappy with the Yoke since I’ve accustomed to perform various FS functions, such as ATC,  thru the many buttons on the Saitek Yoke.

THE SWITCHES

On the front panel of the main unit, there are 14 configurable switches for the Cessna 172 type panels, including:

  • one five-position selector switch in grey color for magnetos;
  • two single-position rocker switches in red color for master battery and alternator;
  • one 2-way rocker switch in black color for avionics;
  • eight single-position metal toggle switches for
    • brakes, fuel pump, pitot heat, and
    • beacon, landing, taxi, navigation and strob lights;
  • one single-position flipping switch in red color for flaps; and
  • one single-position metal toggle switch for landing gear.

Cannot say the switches are comprehensive but sort of enough for fundamental needs.

INSTALLATION

Installation is simple and no special driver is needed.   Just connect the Yoke to the computer.   Windows and then later the simulator (FSX or Prepar3D) will recognize it as a “usb pad” (a rather odd name) automatically.

However, users need to carry out assignments for all its axes and buttons manually before the Yoke can function properly, not to mention the need for initial calibration.

Although the assignment process isn’t complicated, users would feel more comfortable if some basic instructions could be provided with the unit.

Anyway, configuration for the switches and axes can be done via the controller Settings in the simulator.   However, I found using FSUIPC for buttons, and Settings in simulators for axes and calibration the most reliable.

After that, the Yoke is good to go.

By the way, there are some “ghost” buttons I couldn’t figure out where they are from in the first place during configuration.   Now I know that they are probably reserved for the extra buttons on the new Yoke-III.

OPERATION

The Flight Master Yoke-II isn’t a force feedback one.   Its movement mechanism relies solely on the six springs attached to the shaft inside the main unit, which enforces the resistance and centering for both the rolling and pitching actions.

Unlike the Saitek Cessna Yoke, the rolling angle on either sides of the Yoke doesn’t come close to 90 degrees.  However, the movement and responsiveness of the aileron axis are still pretty good.   Signals are picked up by a rotation potentiometer under the black metal cover (see photo above) in the front part of the shaft inside the case.

For the elevator axis, signals are similarly picked up by another sliding potentiometer under the same black metal cover.

As for the pitch travel, I believe it has the longest push/pull distance compared to the Saitek and other yokes I’ve ever tried and used.   It extends a total of 3.5 inches (9 cm) from full forward to full backward.

Unlike the rolling action which requires only a slight increase in force to instigate a full roll deflection, the push/push action for pitching on the Yoke does need some forces.   And the amount of force required to overcome the resistance increases substantially when the handle is closing to the limit where the pushing or pulling travel ends.

I dare not say that the Yoke thus correctly mimics the true elevator handle movements on the real airplane.   But it does remind me of what I felt from my limited practices on the real Cessna.

Compared to the Flight Master Yoke-II, the push/pull actions on the Saitek and other brands are too light and don’t vary at all.

DEFECT

Sadly, the Yoke isn’t error-free.

It sometimes has problem returning to the center properly from pitch up and pitch down.  Centering from rolling is fine.

This is due to the clearances on the bearings holding the shaft are too small.   Therefore, applying a high amount of sticky grease onto the shaft inevitably introduces binding to the shaft, which then leads to the centering problem.

In addition, since the main unit is basically a big hollow metal box, any noises caused by the switches on the front plate and springs structure inside the unit are quickly amplified into unpleasant echoes.   Although the echo does no harm to the control, it is in some way annoying.

FIXES

Fortunately, the problems aren’t too difficult to fix by users, and the skill required is minimal.

Since the pitch centering problem is generally caused by the inappropriate use of grease, a direct counteraction is to wipe-cleaning out all the grease  from the shaft and other parts that have grease on them.  And then reapply a sufficient amount of non-grease lubricant (I use WD-40) onto the shaft and parts again.

The result is very favorable on my Yoke so far, even though I probably have to reapply the lubrication again in every three to four months.

For the echoes, I just make use of some plastic foams on hand as noise dampers and put them to wherever possible inside the unit.   This has in general eliminates most of the unpleasant noises.

CONCLUSION

The VRInsight Master Yoke-II is no way perfect.   There are functions it lacks and there are features on it I dislike.   Also, it has pitch centering problem due to poor design and engineering.  Furthermore, it is not cheap — $400 plus shipping when I bought it in 2014; now the price has gone up to over $500.

Nevertheless, I still have to say that it is by far the best yoke (after the problems fixed) I have ever used.

Very likely, it will stay with me for a long time until I can find a better one (maybe a force feedback model) to replace it, because there is nothing best but better.

++++++++++

LIKES

  • Good quality
  • Robust and heavy
  • Realistic axes movements

DISLIKES

  • A bit over-sized in footprint
  • Limited and not pre-programmed switches
  • Centering and noise issues
  • Lack of documentations
  • Expensive

 

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4 thoughts on “450: VRInsight Flight Master Yoke-II Review

  1. Hi Tom, Yes, it seems Saitek products have been taken over by Logitech these days, not sure why some Cessna line up products have been left out so far, maybe Logitech have to negotiate new license terms with Cessna them selves or dont want to? But the old Saitek Combat Rudder pedals with the metal toe Brakes seem to be missing from current line up too, is the trim wheel still available? that had a Cessna logo on it, glad I got mine when I did.

    One things for sure, here in UK at least and I think USA as well, Logitech have great customer support whilst Saitek’s was never very good, even under the MadCatz label, CS seems to vary from country to country with Asus being particularity bad for that in UK (terrible really) to great in other country’s! Mostly Asus produce reliable products though and no need to worry, but if you are stuck where I live, then they are not good to deal with … I digress though :)

    Thanks for the VR Insight Yoke article Tom, very detailed and informative.

    Like

  2. Hi Tom

    Thanks for the comprehensive review of the VR Insight Yoke II, always wondered about it and never realised it had such a large footprint! I bet a few users who ordered one got a shock when it arrived.

    Since there is a newer MK III version out now may consider one sometime, but happy enough with my Saitek Cessna Yoke for now, had the previous Saitek yoke too, but the Cessna one has the fuller roll throw I prefer.

    Like you I prefer more switch functionality on my controllers, Thrustmaster HOTAS such as the Warthog are perfect for this, Saiteks Yoke goes some way too for multi switches, not accurate on their yoke compared to real life, but more practical for home simulation use unless you focus on a 100% accurate home replica of a certain aircraft I suppose …

    So, I wonder if it would be possible to transplant the switches from a Saitek Yoke (either version) to the VR Insight Yoke with wiring that might need to be extended too … I guess anything is possible, but would it be practical? Even if you just use the switches and wiring and use just the Saitek donor switches as a separate USB device, might need to keep the pots and PCB in the loop, but as they would not be used and if they could be hidden away in the big VR Insight box they would be transparent, perhaps that might work.

    Seen more ambitious HOTAS mods on places like SimHQ, so perhaps.

    Been hankering after the Slaw RX Viper rudder pedals for a while now though and should get those soon I suppose.

    Like

    1. Hi Colin,
      I don’t think it is easy to integrate the Saitek switches to the VR one because the VR is made of metal which is hard (even though not impossible) to drill and modify.
      Instead of doing that, I got a USB component bar which consists of 12 push buttons (Sorry I don’t have access to it now) which should solve the limited switch requirement.
      Truly, the 90-degree rolling on the Saitek Cessna Yoke is hard to beat.
      BTW, it seems that Satiek has given up the Cessna Yoke and Rudder from the product line. I don’t see them available any more.
      Tom

      Like

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