There are a lot of devices available for controlling your virtual flight but it’s hard to choose the one you will take home with you. You have to rely on your intuition, which may fail in this particular case, or collate specifications and prices (so many axes and so many buttons at such a price...) which can be likened to choosing a CPU basing on the number of its cores or a graphics card basing on the amount of its onboard memory. In fact, an inexperienced user can only find whether the device is ergonomic enough for his hand and check it out for loosely fitted details (if he knows that this is important).
You can try looking up product reviews in online and offline media but they often boil down to quoting the product specs from the manufacturer’s description and evaluating the quality of materials and ergonomics. A description of the software included with the device can also be added to the review as bonus material. Such reviews don't have much practical worth, of course.
You can also go to specialized forums and websites to find reviews from experienced users. Written by people whose hobby it is to design floor-standing joysticks with a control stick from a written-off fighter and custom-made steel mechanics with bearings, such reviews may prove to be hardly more useful than the formal descriptions mentioned above. It's because of excessive perfectionism of such virtual pilots who have learned everything there is to know about joysticks and have built a perfect one for themselves but have already forgotten why they wanted to build it in the first place. Such users can often be heard to say that out-of-the-box joysticks are no good until you polish them off with a file, i.e. replace the mechanics, sensors, controller, etc. Of course, an ordinary user does not want to take a soldering iron and screwdriver (or even go to a milling machine!) before actually taking to the virtual skies, so he closes the webpage with the guru's advice and makes a random shopping choice.
In this review I will attempt to compile a more or less exhaustive and, hopefully, comprehensive list of features you should take into account when choosing and buying your joystick. To back up my review with practical data I will glance over some specific brands and their products.
I want to note that this review refers to joysticks for playing true flight simulators like IL-2 Sturmovik or better (IL-2 used to be a revolutionary title in this field but has lost its leading position by now). Arcades like H.A.W.X., Blazing Angels and others can be played well enough with just a keyboard and mouse.
Joysticks differ. There is a number of parameters that affect the functionality, efficiency and service life of virtual flight controllers. I will try to describe each of them for you.