Steam Gauges by FlightSimBuilder

We’re diving into a brand-new product from Flights and Builder: the Steam Gauges Panel. This pack of gauges and dials is designed to enhance your flight simulation experience with Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane on PC.

We’ll be unpacking this product, discussing the pricing, features, build quality, application value, and both the good and the bad points to help you determine if it’s worth your investment. Just to be transparent, FlightSimBuilder sent me the Steam Gauges panel for review purposes. However, everything shared here is entirely my own opinion.

Let’s start with the price: this Steam Gauges panel retails for around $480 USD. Now, this may seem a bit steep, especially considering there are other options out there, like Air Manager. However, there’s no direct comparison, given the additional features, plug-and-play convenience, and build quality you’re getting here. So, hold off on your judgment of the price until the end of this review.

So, what can this little gem do? Currently, it works exclusively with Windows. To use it on a Mac, you’ll need to pair it with Air Manager. The panel comes with nine gauges: airspeed, altitude, attitude, turn coordinator, heading, vertical speed, two navigation gauges, and RPM—covering all the basics and then some.

You’re looking at the default setup here, but there are customization possibilities using Air Manager, and FlightSimBuilder plans to release more configurations. The FlightSimBuilder software used to launch this panel is incredibly stable—I’ve never experienced a crash or malfunction in over a year of use. A new version with a “boost mode” promises less lag, making the unit much more responsive than older software versions.

The display operates at 60Hz, and the dials are smooth, although there is minor latency with the actual inputs, however its almost un-noticable. The screen resolution is 1024×768, similar to the original G1000 unit, but the gauges are about 20% smaller than standard dials found in a Cessna 172, for example. Despite the smaller size, the resolution is adequate for the price point, and the minor pixelation doesn’t detract from the overall experience. The lower resolution also helps your PC run the simulator more smoothly which is always a plus.

The front panel features a nice, soft matte plastic finish. The rear has a hard plastic finish similar to the original G1000 unit. The panel includes standard HDMI and USB port, along with a power input at the back. The mounting system uses threaded inserts and screws on the tabs, keeping the front plate clean and screw-free.

The buttons, likely 3D printed, are of exceptional quality, almost indistinguishable from injection-molded parts. They have a satisfying feel and audible click. The metal stand provides stability, with minimal movement when using the top click functions.

The build quality does align with the coast of the unit with a good amount of attention to detail with  nice fit and finish on all the parts.

Flying with the Steam Gauges panel has been a joy. Transitioning from a G1000 to steam gauges presents a rewarding challenge, engaging your brain differently. The gauges perform well for their price, with the VS (vertical speed) function being particularly satisfying. The viewing angles are excellent, maintaining color integrity even from different viewing angles—an often-overlooked but crucial feature if you have the unit mounted at the right height. There’s something about flying with physical buttons and dials that cannot be replicated in any other way.

Starting with the positives, the ease of use stands out as a major plus. The setup process is straightforward, making it accessible to anyone, regardless of technical expertise. The build quality is impressive, with high-quality materials and construction that give the panel a premium feel. The rotational dials also contribute to this high-quality experience, especially with the new software’s responsiveness. The screen provides good viewing angles and sufficient resolution, ensuring a clear and immersive simulation experience. Additionally, Flights and Builder’s customer service is top-notch, providing reliable support as reflected in numerous positive reviews.

On the downside, the lack of native Mac compatibility is a significant drawback, though there are workarounds with Air Manager for X-Plane users. The price is another consideration—it is on the higher side, but this is balanced by the quality and features offered. Despite these points, FlightSimBuilder remains a value leader in the avionics market, especially when compared to competitors whose products can cost two to three times more and the Steam Gauges unit is another great addition to the FlightSimBuilder line up.

The Flights and Builder Steam Gauges panel is an excellent addition for anyone looking to create a more immersive, hands-on flight sim setup. It’s a niche product catering to a specific segment of the flight sim community, particularly those willing to invest for a more tactile experience. The physical interaction and tactile feedback it provides are unmatched by anything else you might be able to set up like touch screens or VR.

Integrated seamlessly with FlightSimBuilder’s software, this panel is mostly plug-and-play, reliable, and supported by excellent customer service. If you already own their GNS 530, the Steam Gauges panel is a worthy addition to your setup. It offers a hands-on, immersive experience that truly enhances flight simulation.

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