Making it Real
This review is my none sponsored independent review of the Sim Panel button box. What is included or not in this review is my own opinion, and your mileage may vary due to the ongoing driver and SCS game updates.
The SIM Panel is not a standard USB device that you plug and go like other button box-type controllers. The SIM Panel Game Controller incorporates the Arduino architecture and will require the Arduino drivers to be installed on your PC. SIM Panel (AppCentrlX) claims these drivers are most likely pre-installed on newer Windows 10 machines. I have the most recent Windows version, and the Arduino Driver is not installed, and thus Windows did not recognize the SIM Panel when plugged in.
- AppCentrlX has a link to download the Arduino Driver, provided in the included setup brochure. However, the URL to the driver is not an executable but a .inf file: Second Problem
: Windows will not install unsigned drivers. The .inf is unsigned and requires elevated privileges to override windows 10 security. Even after overriding unsigned drivers, Windows did not recognize the SIM Panel. After 10 minutes of searching for Arduino drivers, I located the Arduino site with the correct installable drivers (link is below). Another misleading step in the install process from AppCentrlX is to look for Other Devices in Device Manager. My Windows 10 does not have "other devices." I found the CORRECT location using Device Manager Ports (COM &LPT); this is where the Arduino Leonardo driver will be installed to establish an Arduino Leonardo com port; mine was COM 7.
Following the initial frustration of getting the drivers installed and Windows to recognize the button box controller- now it was time for the fun part, set up and using the controller.
The USB Cable: The cable is hard-wired into the controller and is a non-user removable cable, measuring about 10 feet—plenty long for my game rig set up.
Mounting Options: You have a few ways of mounting the box. (1) You can do your own custom mount solution, (2) Buy the optional table Mounting Hardware @ $20.00, or (3) buy the optional Vesa Mounting attachments @ $10.00. I went with a Vesa mount and mounted a VESA plate to my gaming rig using a screw-type clamp making for a very secure wobble-free connection.
The SIM Panel: The SIM Panel is a somewhat large Plastic enclosed Button Box Controller customized for ATS/ETS2, measuring 10"w x 6"h x 4.25"d and weighs 3.75 pounds, so you need to keep that in mind to accommodate installation for your Rig Setup. The Button Box Controller is comprised of a textured plastic matte-like finish and looks pleasing with no noticeable flexing or weakness, and should mechanically last for many years.
The Front Panel: Pressing the Panel Lights knob inward turns on the backlight for the buttons and switches by default; all backlighting is Blue. If you prefer a different color, you can customize the lighting color overall or setup individual colors making this feature is unique. The instructions on how to customize RGB colors are in the included instructions.
Set-Up and Operation: Needless to say, this Button Box Panel is a customized controller for ATS/ETS2, and the buttons and switches are pre-labeled and can not be changed, but you can assign a different function to a button if you so desire during the button mapping procedure. Mapping buttons within ATS/ETS is rather straightforward - select the controller and assign functions to each button. Setting up the controller within ATS/ETS is no harder than mapping keyboard keys.
Buttons Switched, and Knobs are mechanically sound but not exceptional; some exhibit some play when using them but no real complaints except for the rocker switches, which I find hard to manipulate and too small.
The rotary knobs have indents with no stops, with audible clicks when turned except, but for some reason, the Retarder does not have auditable clicks. The Rotary Knobs offer minimal resistance when turning. I have no serious complaints about the rotary knobs. In addition to the left/right rotation of the rotary knobs, each knob offers a push function, and thus, you may assign each rotary knob a separate function for the push feature. The Radio Rotary can control the radio volume up and down via rotation and pull up the Radio List with a push if you so desire. Having a push feature for the rotary knobs does make them more functional.
Accessory Buttons: There are 2 accessory buttons you can map to any function that ATS/ETS supports. In addition to acting like traditional buttons, these special buttons can be set up as an On/Off switch or when held down and off when released.
Ignition Switch: This switch comes with a real insertable key which you map to turn on or off the engine - don't lose your key.
The remaining Buttons: Lights, High Beams, Hazard, Wipers, Beacons, Map, and Activate all function as labeled if you map the button to the corresponding ATS/ETS2 control.
Push-Pull (brakes): Employs two braking push-pull switches (Red & Yellow) and functions as so labeled "Parking" and "Trailer Air."
Toggle Switches: This Button Box has four up/down toggle switches to facilitate attaching/dropping trailers, Locking the Diff, Dropping Truck Axl,e and one for dropping Trailer Axle.
Rocker Switches: SIM Panel offers two spring-loaded centered returned rocker switches that most Trucker will assign to rolling up and down left/right windows.
How Does SIM Panel Work In-Game? Excellent Overall. The buttons and switches are easy to map to ATS/ETS and make the Truck Simulator much more engaging. After setting up the SIM Panel, I rarely find myself reaching for the keyboard when driving my truck. The SIM-PANEL is an engaging add-on for your trucking experience.
- A solid customized control box offers the average SIM Trucker what is needed to make the game simulation more immersive and removes the keyboard's need when driving on the open road.
- Driver install was cumbersome and frustrating more than the instructions stated.
- Rocker Switches seem too small and too hard to push, and too close to the brake switches.
- It would be nice to have removable faceplates to allow easier uses in other simulators/games.
Overall: This is a piece of dedicated ATS/ETS2 trucking simulator hardware, and thus if you are a die-hard ATS/ETS2 fan, I would recommend you consider giving this piece of hardware a try. I certainly enjoy using mine.
I can recommend this SIM-PANEL as an add-on to your ATS/ETS gaming rig.
If you are wondering if you can use this button box with other simulators the short answer is yes. I also use mine with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Any simulator that supports multiple input devices can be used with this box. The downside is the buttons come prelabeled.