Button boxes for sim racing are some of the most interesting and often overlooked additions to any setup. They let you map in-game functions to specific buttons to give you more control over your racing experience. But you may wonder if you need a sim racing button box and what the benefits are.
While you don’t need a sim racing button box to enjoy playing or to be competitive, they can add a great deal of immersion and functionality to your rig. They can be found in many shapes and sizes to suit all manner of playstyles, and they come in at a range of different price points too.
The 4 benefits of a sim racing button box are:
- Ease of use
- Gaming efficiency
- Racing aesthetic
These benefits combine to enhance your sim racing experience, and they can bring a new level of fun and functionality to your existing rig. Below, we go into more detail about the benefits of owning a button box, but first let’s consider how to choose one for your setup.
What To Look For In A Sim Racing Button Box
There are lots of button boxes on the market, and they come in many different shapes and sizes. There are button boxes for every playstyle and setup that you can imagine, but if you don’t know what you need for your own setup, you will struggle to find one that fits it well.
Prices vary, and so it is important to find one that ticks all of the boxes from comfort to functionality, as you don’t want to spend your money on something that isn’t optimized for your particular setup. You also have to pay attention to the compatibility of the button box, as most models won’t work on consoles and some only work with certain games.
Look, Feel & Price
There are several brands to choose from, and each will have their own aesthetic and feel. There are carbon fiber button boxes and plain plastic ones, and you will have to choose the one that you think will look best when combined with the rest of your existing sim racing gear. Obviously the high-quality materials like carbon fiber will come with higher prices, and the number of buttons will affect this too.
There is a button box suited to every sim racing rig, but do you really need one? There are plenty of reasons to get one, and some reasons not to as well. There is also the option to create your own button box, but first you need to know what a button box can do for your sim racing experience.
The 4 Benefits Of Using A Sim Racing Button Box
1. Ease Of Use
Button boxes are fairly easy to set up and start using, and this makes them a useful way to get that little bit extra out of your sim racing experience.
Normally you would have to map in-game options to the buttons on your steering wheel or controller, and then cycle through the options menu to select ones that you don’t have room for on your wheel. This takes time, and sometimes it just isn’t possible in the middle of a race.
Button boxes allow you to map controls and options, and even things like pit strategies, to the toggles on the box. This puts them in easy reach while you are racing, giving you the ability to rapidly switch cameras, change fuel ratios, and do just about anything else you want without having to pause the game! For more advanced sim racers without built-in functionality on their wheel, it can be a game changer.
3. Gaming Efficiency
With this customization you can really tune your button box to your specific playstyle, and this can lead to much more efficient racing as you will have easy access to the controls that you need the most. This could make the difference between a win and a loss in tight racing situations where every millisecond counts.
4. Racing Aesthetic
The final benefit of using a sim racing button box is that they can add a really cool racing aesthetic to your setup. There are some excellent choices out there that will make your sim racing rig look and feel like a high-performance car’s interior, with buttons and switches that would be present in a real race car. Some even come with key switches for an even further enhanced racing experience!
However, you have to consider whether or not a button box is suited to your playstyle and your budget. If you are less experienced, and you don’t make use of many of the extra in-game options anyway, a button box might not be essential. However, even if you are a beginner, a cheap button box can be a great way to introduce some of those extra functionalities.
The Average Cost Of A Sim Racing Button Box
Prices for sim racing button boxes vary from about $50 to $250+, and each price point comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. The cheaper ones tend to be smaller and have fewer features and functions, while the more expensive ones are larger with more buttons and customization.
With all of the benefits, the average sim racing button box is not necessarily cheap, but you don’t have to break the bank either. There are several brands to choose from, with the main ones being BBJ, SimRacing4U and Apex Sim Racing. Each has their own selection of button boxes to choose from with their own pricing and styling too.
Entry-Level Button Boxes
At the lower end of the scale ($50 and below), you can expect to benefit from around 5-10 buttons or functions, and this is usually enough for those that want to enhance their sim racing experience without spending too much money. They tend to be smaller, and so they’re ideal for those with temporary or semi-permanent racing rigs.
Mid-Range Button Boxes
The middle of the scale, from around $100 to $200, is where you will find more functionality and usually a lot more buttons. Typically, there might be 10-20 buttons, with key switches and other toggles becoming more common as well. They are usually a bit larger, and they are great for those that want to further enhance their sim racing experience.
Premium Button Boxes
Then, on the higher end of the scale ($200+), you can expect 32 or more buttons, giving you maximum control over your racing experience. There is usually a spot for every option you need, and they tend to be made out of a high-quality materials such as carbon fiber. This can make them look really cool within your racing setup, and they are definitely geared towards the more experienced sim racer.
Usually the main different between the price points is the number of buttons or switches, but price will also determine some other factors about the button box as well. Some will be compatible with specific setups and games, and others will even have the option of being fitted directly to your steering wheel or stand (usually these are made by wheel brands themselves).
There is a button box for every setup. If you want one with just a few buttons, but a key switch is an absolute must for the authentic feel of a race car, you will be able to find one for a reasonable price. Conversely, if you require lots of functionality but are less focused on the looks, you will also be able to find something that gives you everything you need without costing a fortune.
KEY POINTS• There is a wide variety of sim racing button boxes on the market
• They offer extra levels of customization for your sim racing experience
• Button boxes range in price from below $50 to $200 or more
Is It Worth Making Your Own Button Box?
The pricing may seem intimidating, and so you may be wondering if you should make your own button box instead. There are lots of guides and tips out there for those that do want to take on the challenge and build their own button box, but be aware that it is not always a cheaper option.
The main advantage of building your own button box is the near unlimited level of customization. You can make it as big or as small as you want, and you can add as many buttons and switches as you like. You can also choose what materials you want to use, and you can decide on the shape of each component as well.
It’s Not Necessarily Cheaper
This obviously requires time to build, but you also have to consider the rising costs as you add new materials and components into the mix. If price is your main reason for opting to build your own button box, you may quickly find yourself with a limited choice of materials and functionality.
If you are not too concerned about the price and you just want to take on a fun and practical project of your own, a homemade button box can be a great addition to any racing setup. It will require some basic electronics and DIY know-how, but it can be a great way to get exactly what you need from a sim racing button box.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to choosing a sim racing button box, including the price, the aesthetics, and the level of customization. If you need to get more from your sim racing experience and you have some cash to spare, a medium to high-end button box is definitely something to consider. You could even build your own button box from scratch for maximum customizability!
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.