Why You Should Buy a Sim Racing Button Box
Why You Should Buy a Sim Racing Button Box
Sim racing requires a lot of buttons. No matter which sim you use, whether it’s Assetto Corsa (either flavour), iRacing, rFactor2 - whatever. There are far more functions than a standard sim wheel can cover.
After all, real race cars are absolutely covered in buttons. Ignition, starter, wipers, brake bias, throttle map - the list is as long as your arm.
So what most people do, is select just enough to get by and map those to the wheel. And then for the rest, map complex keystrokes or rely on the inbuilt menu systems.
But you don’t want to be reaching for either of those things when doing 300kph down the Kemel Straight. You don’t have muscle memory for these things and you end up looking somewhere other than straight ahead - and we’ve all tried to do something like that, only to find ourselves kissing (or hitting) the barrier.
Button boxes are the perfect solution to this, let me explain.
Just like the indicator stalk on your car, controls are much easier to use when they only require feel. Not your sight too.
So a button behind your wheel is going to be way quicker to hit than a complex keystroke or flicking through the menus.
It allows you to keep an eye on the road and use one hand to feel for the button and hit it.
But there is more to this than getting to the control - lots of adjustments on the car aren’t an on/off thing. So a rotary encoder is very useful to fly through a lot of adjustments very quickly.
My favourites for this are adding fuel (anyone who has added this litre by litre with a mouse feels my pain), as well as in-game (or voice chat) volume and adjusting camera position. Sometimes you need small changes, but other times you need a full rotation of the knob - encoders are great at both.
But brake bias or ARB adjustments require more precise up/down increments. So a toggle switch is my go-to.
And finally, this issue is one that certainly falls within the category of ‘nice issues to have’ - but those of us that have several wheels. Formula rims, GT wheels or even those huge NASCAR wheels. They all suit different cars, which also all require different button mappings.
Most cars share a lot of common controls. Brake bias, ignition, starter, camera adjustments, wipers, tear off - the list goes on.
So why not have those on the button box and leave the more specialized ones to the wheel itself. Then you don’t need to map the whole lot every time you get into a new car. That then frees up space on the wheel for things that you need to be able to reach mid-corner - things like push to talk, flash lights or DRS.
Button boxes also free up a whole load more functions too, and this is something that the top drivers will be making use of.
There are a lot of companion apps that PC sim-drivers will use, and each have a whole load of functionality that is often left unused. Crew Cheif is a popular program that covers your spotter, ‘virtual engineer’ and telemetry reporting all in one.
But did you know that you can map a button to tell you when your pit window is open? Or what your rival’s last lap time was? Well, all of these things can be mapped, if you have the buttons for it. The same goes for overlays as well.
Discord allows this stuff too! You can map buttons for mute, deafen etc but also for changing Voice Channels and a load of other stuff. Essentially any program that will allow you to map keystrokes will accept.
Then, if you’re like me - and you listen to music while practicing. You can configure Spotify (or other application) controls to the box.
Now this functionality can also be *even further* extended with the use of a StreamDeck - where you can have responsive buttons for all this stuff. So the screen literally changes, showing you whether the setting is as you want.
So we would recommend starting with a Race Deck Button Box. This gives a load of controls for not a lot of money.
But if you want to go further, and you have a compatible wheelbase, go for a dashboard. An all-in-one solution to give you a tonne of buttons to map AND make your setup look absolutely KILLER.
- Extra Buttons
- Cheaper sim wheels don’t have that many buttons
- Useful doesn’t mean you’re always using them
- Having it to reach is always easier than mouse or hotkeys
- Buttons can be common across all cars and wheels
- You’re always going to need:
- Engine Start + Ignition
- Sorry buttons etc
- Switch radio
- Turn on Crew Cheif, overlays etc
- Keyboard and Mouse are hard to use in Racing Gloves
- VR Friendly
- Can’t reach for buttons on a keyboard when you can’t see
- Button boxes are a good, fixed place where you can develop muscle memory for.
- There are way more keybinds than you think
- Crew Cheif
- You can ask for data on:
- People around you
- iRating gain
- Pit details for iRacing, ACC, AMS
- Car Stuff
- Changing FOV
- Changing view controls
- Moving mirrors
- Unlock overlays
- To move them around
- Change VC
- Disconnect etc
- Some buttons need reaching faster than others
- Brake bias can need changing between corners
- Not all functions are in need of buttons
- Some need dials
- Some need rotaries
- Some need toggle switches