Here’s the promised follow-up on the construction of the budget simpit frame I received last week.
This is kind of a crappy photo because I was sitting in my chair when I took it, so you don’t really get the full impact of the setup. Instead, let’s look at it unconnected.
The frame consists of one rectangle which can resize along the long axis, a plate at the far end for the rudder pedals, and three risers: one in the center for a keyboard, and two on either side. The idea is that you BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair) and sidle up between the side risers in such a way that the risers offer the flight sticks and keyboard at a reasonable spread while also allowing for a comfortable leg extension to reach the rudder pedals.
The base adjustment can work hand-in-hand with an adjustment to the rudder platform so the “effective area” can be adjusted for comfort.
The good news is that with proper tweaking I expect this to be quite usable. That is all for the good news.
The bad news is that this is not the most comfortable device in the simpit world, I think. I am used to setting up the rudder pedals and two flight sticks in relation to my desk, and also individually, meaning that I don’t have to do a lot of work to get comfortable. The sticks were always a full keyboard’s width apart which happens to also be the distance between the arms of my chair — coincidence? Ergonomics gurus may say “no”.
As you might be able to see in the image above, the platforms on which the flight sticks rest flange outward. If the chair is meant to fit between the risers, then that means the flight sticks are going to be on either side of the arms of the chair and not in-line with them. When I tested the setup in free flight in Arena Commander, this felt very, very weird; not unusable, but very weird. I will need to look at actual cockpit images to see if this positioning of the sticks is more in tune with reality, or if this is just way off base. In addition, the attachment point of the SEM (side module) on the right flight stick necessitates that the right stick be mounted a bit more to the outside than the left. I did try rotating each riser 90 degrees, but that threw off my ability to mount the sticks on the plates.
Speaking of which, if you’re in the market for a cheap-slash-inexpensive simpit setup, be sure that the description of the rig mentions support for your specific flight controllers. I erroneously assumed that there was some kind of standard in the flight stick world, and that the myriad of holes on the mounting plates meant that no matter what devices were listed for the rig, they would ultimately support any device. This is not the case. I managed to secure my sticks with screws and bolts through a few of the mounting holes, but neither plate had holes in places that supports all of the holes in the base of my VKB Gladiator NXT. As you can see in the image above, the right stick has two unsecured holes there. The left stick is the same. Ultimately, I wiggled some zip-ties through the holes and around the edges of the mounting plate, but I really wish I didn’t have to do that. Mea culpa for making gross assumptions. Finally, in regard to the risers, the actual “rise” isn’t very far. The vertical position of the side platforms that you see in the images above is the full extent of the extension. I have to drop my chair all the way down, as low as it can go, in order to use this contraption. It’s not a terrible situation, but it puts my current monitor a bit higher than I am used to and screws up the head tracking on the Tobii.
I added the swing-out mouse pad because there’s just no provision for a mousing surface. I opted to use my 10-keyless keyboard in place of the Tartarus because I couldn’t find a good way to mount the Tartarus so it wouldn’t move when I need to slide the rig around. The keyboard also isn’t mounted, so I am anticipating dropping it when I forget this fact and attempt to slide the rig beneath the desk. I could use the keyboard attached to the PC already, but the height discrepancy between the simpit frame and the top of the desk is just great enough to be awkward to use.
I had to do some creative wiring as there’s no good way to manage cables here. I bought a 7-port USB hub and mounted it beneath the keyboard plate. This will drive both sticks, the StreamDeck, the rudder pedals, and the keyboard. The hub will then plug into a single USB extension I have clipped beneath my desk. There would be no point to this project if I had to connect each device to the PC every time I wanted to use the setup, so this was critical. And because the frame might need to expand or contract while I attempt to find a comfortable fit, I couldn’t reliably secure the wires in a way that would get them completely out of the way, at least not until I am absolutely certain I don’t have to resize any components and stretch the wires too far.
I am not disappointed with this cheap/inexpensive frame, and although the metal is solid (and heavy), there are some weird design choices like the position of some of the knob holes and where the instructions insist on using them (not where they would be best used, IMO). I replaced the rubber feet that came with the rig and which I had stupidly applied, switching to felt coasters so I could push the rig around on my basement floor. This meant I had to remove the rug beneath the desk, which also means that my chair now rolls easily when I’m just sitting here, typing (Like now. And now. Annnnnnd now). I am going to have to fiddle with the distance of the rudder pedals and the flight sticks in order to achieve a comfortable position when seated. I have been contemplating removing the arms of the chair entirely, as they no longer align with the flight sticks and just get in the way of sliding myself into position. Unfortunately, this process is done in fits and starts, involving screwing and unscrewing the rudder plate, tromboning the moveable base portion where the risers connect, and getting into and out of my chair to test the comfort. I am now a bit sad I didn’t just save up for a solution with an integrated chair, because at least I’d know then that the whole thing is designed with one adjustable piece, and everything else should be good to go. I also have to remind myself that this is not the end game. Eventually, when I am able to upgrade my PC, I am going to try and provision for a new, larger monitor, maybe a gaming TV, and a simpit mounting bracket. This way, the frame and chair will be set up in such a way that I don’t have to try and fit my “working” desk into the equation, and everything should hopefully feel more natural as a result.