As you can see on the website, the unit itself is about 14 inches wide, maybe 7 inches front to back, and about 4-5 inches high. I'm guessing it weighs in the ballpark of 5-6 pounds, so it's heavy enough it doesn't walk all over your desk when you move the levers, put not too heavy that you'll never wanna move it. The base has rubber feet which also help keep it in place. It connects to your computer by USB port, and it comes with it's own 12VDC power supply/AC Adapter. It has it's own built in sound based feedback system, and the built in sub-woofer gives off the loco sounds, and it vibrates through the controls to simulate the feel of operating a huge diesel locomotive. It's pretty wild.
The style of the RailDriver controls mostly resembles the default DASH-9 locomotive control stand, but since it's meant to work with any type of locomotive.....steam, diesel, electric.....it's specifically not designed to resemble any one locomotive on purpose. If you wish to use a different type of locomotive, you select the appropriate control mapping using the RailDriver Manager utility, then start the game from within the program itself.
From using it a few days, I can tell you that all the levers, knobs, and buttons have a good feel to them. Not loose and floppy, not too tight where you'd have to hold the base with one hand to keep it from sliding while you moved a handle. They feel like they have the proper resistance to them....they stay where you move them. There are a total of 4 levers, two 3-position switches for headlight and wiper OFF/LOW/HIGH, a horn toggle, 6 buttons for things like sand, train bell, pantograph raise and lower, a 3-digit LED that doubles as a speedometer/RailDriver status window. Also, there are 28 configurable buttons in two rows along the base that simulate keystrokes, a 2-way zoom/rocker button and 4-way panning control. They tried to cover all the bases with the controls they've added to this thing. Using the 28 buttons instead of the keyboard has somewhat of a "realistic" feeling to it. I'm not sure how else to describe it.....just not having to use the keyboard is a plus. The manual comes with 4 paper strips that have the 28 default button key legends printed on them....2 for Trainz UTC, 2 for MSTS. You tear them out and install the two for the game you want to play in the molded channel under the RailDriver front panel. It lifts off easy enough, so you can switch back and forth when you need to. The buttons are configured to the default preset to start with, but as I said you can configure them and the other controls any way you wish in the RailDriver's calibration program.
The RailDriver package comes with a pretty thin 7 page manual, but it explains things well enough. There are help files and stuff like that on the installation CD along with the drivers for both games, calibration program, CabMaker and other necessary files/programs. It was pretty easy to install and set up.....took me less tha 30 minutes. After the drivers are installed, the calibration program launches. You have to calibrate the RailDriver twice.....once for each game. Once that's done you don't have to run it again unless for some reason the RailDriver needs to be re-calibrated.
The RailDriver retails for about $149 + shipping & handling. As of now RailDriver only supports 2 games.....Microsoft Train Simulator, and Auran's "Trainz: Ultimate Trainz Collection". (Trainz UTC) RailDriver support for the newest simulation from Auran, "Trainz Railroad Simulator 2004" is coming as soon as Auran releases it's Service Pack 1 for the game. From the RailDriver website:
They are also preparing to support Microsoft Train Simulator 2 which should be released sometime this fall, so buying RailDriver now will not limit you to the 2 currently supported games.Trainz 2004 Technical Bulletin: RailDriver Software
You may expect the new RailDriver software for Trainz 2004 hot on the heels of Auran's release of Service Pack 1. Service Pack 1 contains additional commands required for full compatibility between the RailDriver and the new Trainz software. We are in close contact with Auran and once this service pack is released, we will complete our software, and we will post an announcement to this list and provide a link for downloading.
The last neat RailDriver feature is future support for you scale model train fans. You can run your scale model railroad using RailDriver and either a DCC or analog control module. That sounds neat.....I wish I still had my model trains!!
I think that about sums it up....sorry if I got a bit long-winded. I'm not a product reviewer by trade, but I did the best I could. If you're into train sims, we finally have a controller to use instead of the keyboard. With all the wild devices available to flight simmers, they've had it made for so long. Now at last we finally have something for us. Personally, I think RailDriver is worth every penny. If RailDriver sales are good, we may see future updated versions released, including maybe a dedicated steam engine version!!
**Check out the full sized GP-38 Cab Simulator the RailDriver guys built!
Eventually anyone can build one of these if they want once RailDriver starts selling their full sized "Gauge Package and Custom Control Kits"!! Way cool!!**