Now I will offer you my opinion about specific products and their manufacturers. I don’t aspire to be the ultimate truth, but there are no so many different joysticks available on the market and quite a lot of them have passed through my hands, so I hope I know something about the subject.
First off, I cannot recommend you products of firms like Trust (do not confuse it with Thrustmaster), SpeedLink (the Back Window being the only exception but it will only be good for people who want to have dedicated loading of the control stick axes and don’t care much about the overall functionality and quality of electronics), Sweex, HAMA and others of the kind.
Genius hasn't gone far from the abovementioned brands. The only joystick of this firm that I might recommend to users who want to save a few bucks at the expense of their own comfort is the MetalStrike 3D, the junior model in the MetalStrike series. The design and mechanics of the series betray the Saitek Cyborg EVO's features but Genius's joystick are far inferior in the quality of their electronics. Their controller has a lower resolution and they have dead zones in the near-zero areas. The axis polling frequency isn't high, either. The senior models of the series can only offer you some useless bells and whistles (and a poor implementation of force feedback in the appropriate model) but cost much more. Well, Genius is currently producing but one, wireless, version of the joystick which comes at an unattractive price. The rest of the models are but leftovers from the previous shipments.
I wouldn't even consider the products of the older Genius Flight2000 series. Even prior to their transition to the USB interface, they had acquired a reputation of shoddy products among virtual pilots. Granted that many gamers started their flight career with the cheap F-16 (that was my first joystick, too; I had worked for 2 weeks until a mechanical failure) and later moved up to more advanced models, it would be better to buy something better right away.
The junior models of the first-tier brands, e.g. the Thurstmaster USB Joystick or the Logitech Attack 3, should also be disregarded as not being functional enough for realistic flight sims. They are quite good for flight arcade games, though.
So, I think there is only one entry-level product that is optimal in terms of price, ergonomics and functionality. It is the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro. This is the most affordable model among the offers from the first-tier brands. It has good functionality and is free from obvious shortcomings, at least in its out-of-the-box state. The main problem is that its service life is too short, which refers to both the resistors and the mechanics. Still, it really seems to have few, if any, opponents as a first joystick, and none of those opponents can boast such splendid ergonomics.
There is a force-feedback variant of the previous model. It’s called Logitech Force 3D Pro. You can find it in shops somewhere, although the model itself is already out of production. It is quite good in terms of force feedback, functionality and ergonomics whereas its price is affordable enough. Besides the short service life, its downsides include a very small angle of inclination along the X axis. The plane careens dramatically on a slightest deflection of the stick sideways. On the other hand, the single affordable alternative with full-featured force feedback, the Genius MetalStrike FF, is far inferior in its force feedback implementation and electronics and comes without software for programming its buttons.
If you want an inexpensive joystick that would live longer but have no desire to pay much more for it, you can consider the Thrustmaster T.Flight Stick X. It is just as good as the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro in functionality (except that it lacks exclusive software for programming its features) and is close to the latter in ergonomics.
The Saitek Cyborg V.1 Stick is also an inexpensive and relatively reliable product. It is cheaper than the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro but has only half the latter's buttons. The number of buttons isn't as critical and the number of axes, though. And they have the same number of axes.
The more expensive Cyborg F.L.Y.5 can hardly be recommended. Its folding design makes the details loose whereas its price grew to inadequate level after the Cyborg X was rebranded as Cyborg F.L.Y.5.
Saitek’s Aviator series have progressed since the first model with that name in a rather ambiguous way. It has changed unprecedented functionality (for an inexpensive single-piece device: the three independent modes for 12 buttons (four for the control stick and four dual-position ones on the base) provided huge opportunities for assigning lots of commands) for compatibility with game consoles. I don’t think it’s a fair exchange. The rich functionality made up for the original joystick’s mediocre ergonomics but now the abovementioned Thrustmaster seems to be a better option even for TV-connected consoles. The only point in favor of the Aviator is that one of its versions is compatible with the Xbox 360 (the T.Flight Stick X is only compatible with the PS3).