There are so many parts that go into building a complete sim racing rig. Parts like the wheel, the cockpit, the pedals, shifter, stands, and PCs or screens. Another critical piece of a racing simulator rig that is usually overlooked is the button box. What exactly is a sim racing button box? A button box is a tool that will allow you to assign car controls to some buttons, switches, and knobs. Tasks like the car start button, wipe function, and switching on headlights function, you name it, a button box, can make it happen. There are a lot of sim racing button boxes, and some people even build these boxes from scratch themselves. Because there are button boxes suited to various types of racing rigs, you will have to make sure to get one that is not only compatible with your console but is also compatible with the game that you are playing too.
Yes, there is a lot to consider when you want to buy a button box, first you will need to know what one does. Check out the benefits of button boxes below.
The benefits of a button box
For racers who pay attention to every detail, a button box will be essential. While customizing your game, some in-game control options might get left out if you do not have enough buttons on your wheel and controller for them. This can be very frustrating because you will have to pause the game in order to adjust the setting that you would have been able to control if you had more buttons. Imagine a situation where you don’t have to do that anymore. That is the kind of opportunity that a button box provides.
Settings like changing the fuel ratio, switching cameras, and request pit can be easily customized when you add a button box to this mix, and this may change your gaming experience and ultimately make you a better player. Button boxes do not only let you customize. Some also come with the key switches to let you immerse yourself in the racing sim, imitating the real experience. When getting a button box, along with price, you should also consider whether you are a button person or a switch person because some boxes will have buttons only with no switches and others won’t have enough buttons. It all has to do with what you are comfortable with, but knowing this beforehand will help you make the right choice.
As earlier said, button boxes will only be handy to someone who takes customization of the game very seriously and pays attention to detail. As such, it may not be needed if you are a sim racing beginner and you don’t use the extra game settings; you can do without it. If you want to get in on the real fun of setting up your sim racing to a particular standard, you should totally go for a button box.
The Product Review Of Top 5 Button Boxes
Button boxes usually cost from 25 dollars and up to 300 dollars. Of course, the materials the box is built with and its range of function will vary according to the price, but it is good that there are cheap boxes for people who are not really sure if they benefit from a button box, you can always upgrade later if you want a better deal. These are examples of some of the best button boxes to make your choice from.
ELGATO STREAM DECK
As the name implies, it is handy for streamers who play video games live on some streaming platforms like Twitch. It really isn’t originally invented for sim racing, but because it is versatile in its uses, racers use it as a button box. It is a 15-button box, that displays an image icon to represent an in-game option. Again, streamers will get the best out of this stream deck, but it is so easy to use that racers may beg to differ. When you connect the deck to your gaming programs, you can just drag the command key icon to one of the empty 15 slots. After doing that, you can select an image to represent the function for easy identification.
One of the best things about the Elgato stream deck is that you can create folders within these buttons. This means that you are not limited to 15 functions. You can get the stream deck to do essential functions like volume or more complicated functions like car control. You can also upgrade to an extra-large version of the Elgato stream deck which offers a lot more button spaces than the original.
- The LCD display behind the button space that lets you create an image to represent the button function is handy when you don’t feel like memorizing what each button does.
- You get to assign a number of functions to one button.
- It is flexible with it’s uses, not being limited to sim racing alone.
- The stream deck comes with a stand. Because the design was not targeted towards sim racers, this isn’t exactly a disadvantage to everyone, it is a plus to some. But as a sim racer, you will have to find a creative way to mount it to your cockpit.
- No varieties, instead only LCD buttons are available.
- It may be expensive to some people at 150 dollars for the small version and 250 dollars for the extra-large.
APEX STREAM RACING DECK
The apex sim racing deck button box comes in a modest and extra-large version. What is really impressive with this button box is that it comes with a delegated space for the Elgato stream deck too. You get the best of both worlds in the form of traditional push buttons, rotary encoders and an Elgato stream deck. Of course, you will have to purchase the Elgato stream deck separately, the larger sized Elgato stream deck will match the larger apex stream deck while the smaller one will match the small apex stream deck. You can choose to use it without installing the Elgato stream deck if you are satisfied with the buttons already provided, but to take full advantage of its intended purpose, buy an Elgato stream deck alongside your apex button box.
To install the Elgato stream deck into the apex button box, you will have to lose some screws to open it up, connect the Elgato stream deck to the cord inside the button box, place it on the space provided (it will fit perfectly) then close it back. There you have it, your apex button box plus an Elgato stream deck.
Although the 2 in one feature is pretty cool, the apex stream racing deck button box has some cool properties on its own. It is made with genuine carbon fiber which is really high quality and the buttons are aluminum bodies, to top it off, the rotary encoders have an audible click when you turn it, this will ensure that it is not lose enough to be turned by mistake. The possibilities are endless when using this stream deck, all the functions you can assign to an Elgato will be assigned along with extra functions like brake bias, turning on and off your microphone and so on to your extra button.
A lot of people will be satisfied with the Elgato stream deck only because of the folder option it has. Apex stream deck was explicitly made for stream racing so it also has a mount that can be affixed to your cockpit for easy access. The extra-large apex stream deck can hold an Elgato XL which has 32 LCD buttons, 4 rotary knobs and 10 push buttons costing 215 dollars minus the Elgato stream deck while the smaller version will hold a 15 button Elgato stream deck, has 3 rotary knobs and 5 push buttons costing 160 dollars. Depending on how much function you can delegate to your button box, you can get either of the two.
- Gives you two button boxes in one compact form.
- Has unlimited choices.
- It is a handy shortcut tool for serious racers only.
- It is expensive, mainly because you have to buy an accompanying Elgato stream deck too.
SIMRACING4U BUTTON BOX
This is another button box that is made with the sole purpose of sim racing in mind, because considerations for sim racers was important while making this box, there are several switches and buttons alike. There is the start button which is clearly specified, latching toggles, encoders, toggles and push-buttons. They each have a different feel and can be fun to turn, push and flicked. The rotary dials will work great with functions that need adjustment rather than switching off, such as adjusting the brake bias. Because this button box is tailor-made to suit your taste, after making the order to your specification, you can also opt for the attachment of stickers so that you will remember what the use of each button is.
Although this button box does not have as much button delegation options like the Elgato and apex stream deck, having a box tailor-made via your specification feels like a particular type of customer service that you will not experience with other companies due to large production. It is perfect for racers who don’t really need more than 30 extra buttons. It may range from 100 to 150 dollars in price, simracing4u is truly a good racing button box.
- Personalized service.
- Has various types of buttons.
- It is very affordable.
- It has only 31 buttons, which may not be enough for some experienced racers.
RIMOTECH REALGEAR RACEPRO H22
This button box comes with 36 programmable functions and was inspired by the dashboard of real race cars, the more the realism, the better the simulation. The cool thing about this box is that all buttons, toggles and switches are programmable to any function, this means that you can program a radio function to the rotary knob in order to find the right channel. Instead of the usual on and off assignment to the volume function, programing it to a rotary encoder will also let you reduce the volume instead.
You also get the choice of pre-printed labels when purchasing this button box for about 230 dollars. There are multifunction encoders, toggle switches (safety, one way and two way) and heavy-duty push buttons available on this button box. It is also made with quality metal that is sure to last a very long time and also has multiple mounting options.
- It imitates a real race car set of buttons meaning that you get the complete race car package with your cockpit and wheels.
- It has some more variety of every type of button.
- Has little buttons.
- It is expensive compared to other boxes.
BUILD YOUR OWN BOX
A lot of these button boxes are great choices if you want to have more ease while racing, while companies produce button boxes for sale, some people make their own button boxes. To get started you will need to buy, buttons, rotary encoders, the encoder knobs, toggles, USB cables and wires. The best thing about making your own button box is the fact that you get to pick the colors of buttons you want to use. The next step is to line up your buttons, switches and whatnots, delegate spaces to each one and make the points, you can use a ruler to make sure that they are all going to be fixed on straight rows and columns otherwise it will end up looking unprofessional. You can then drill holes for each space specified and layout your matrix (creating a matrix is more time saving), labelling each input will also make the work faster, wire your matrix and link each component. After handling the physical aspect, you will have to write the code that lets the game function transfer to the button box.
Building your own box is in no term easy, it is better to follow a step by step video guide where you see what is happening and immediately obey the instructions given. When you make your own button box to your specification, there is a feeling of fulfilment that comes with it.