Track IR by NaturalPoint - Review

Submitted by skipclarke on 27 February, 2009 - 19:37

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Well, I think it’s about time I actually got around to writing this review. It’s taken me long enough, when all is said and done. First, I’d like to apologise to NaturalPoint for not being able to write this up sooner. I make no excuses, but trust me; the life of the grad student is nothing like makes out. Having now left the lab to write up, I’ve got… not ‘free’ time, but there are times I’m certainly not going to want to be thinking about science.

So… anyway. I’m sure right now you’re all wondering what on earth this thing is, right? Put bluntly, it’s an infrared head-tracking device for use in games.

The TrackIR is a neat idea, particularly for those among you who are driving simulator or flight simulator enthusiasts. There are a couple of possibilities in the first person shooter (FPS) genre, also, but as it stands at the minute the only FPS game that supports it fully is ArmA – Armed Assault. (Which is both multiplayer dominated and StarForce protected, but I’m not going to go there…)

If you’ve had a chance to look at the box, you’ll probably notice that one of the screenshots is from Half-Life 2. Unfortunately, development for the mod that allows TrackIR support in Half-Life 2 is still underway, and when I asked about it, NaturalPoint were (understandably) reticent to give a reviewer code that wasn’t quite ready yet.

Anyway, that is water under the bridge.


Let’s get to the pictures of the hardware itself, and then follow it up with some eye-candy!

The TrackIR relies on two main parts – the IR transceiver, which sits on top of your monitor (I had no trouble installing it on a Dell 2405FPW, which while not a ‘deep’ monitor, is certainly thicker than some TFTs that I have encountered) and a ‘tracking clip’ which clips to a baseball cap or similar so that it can track your head movements.


Installation of the headset software was painless – as was grabbing the updated software – and configuring the headset and checking that it worked was the work of a few seconds. I admit that I sat in front of my monitor for a while with the cartoon head up watching it move about as I looked around. The movement of the screen in games as I looked threw me off for a while until I got used to it, I will admit that. Flight Simulator 9 seemed particularly sensitive to any head movement.

Gameplay & Testing

I’ll just say that I’ve tested this out with two games; Microsoft Flight Simulator 9 and GTR2. I was waiting for the release of Armed Assault, to see what playing a FPS shooter with it would be like, but even for a review, I am not letting StarForce near my system. Since, other games have come out that support TrackIR, but I got the best taste of the system with FS9 and GTR2.

Before we get to the screenshots, I’ll own up to a bit of an oversight: I forgot to turn on the Virtual Cockpit in FS9, and spent a few minutes getting completely confused why I couldn’t get the TrackIR working. Needless to say, I did eventually work it out – but for a while I was worried that something was wrong with either it or me. That’ll teach me to read the small print, won’t it?

With GTR2, using the TrackIR was like a revelation – in one easy move, the game no longer played like your head was in a neck-brace and gaffer-taped to the headrest of the seat. Being able to look around made anticipation of the track easier, it made determining where opponents were when cars were bunched together a lot easier… without it I had a couple of nasty scrapes in the process of overtaking opponents where one of the others behind me had a similar idea, but with it made it a lot easier to check your environment.

And that is what a simulator is all about, isn’t it? To simulate reality.

While computers still aren’t perfect on that front yet, the TrackIR is certainly a big step forward for any sim fan, be it flight or racing sims. Another good point is that despite the extra input – and therefore complexity – of the TrackIR system, I noticed no decrease in performance of the games I tried. The TrackIR seems to be very light on system resources, which is a very good thing indeed in my book.

Sadly, I’m perhaps not the best person to review this device, as I’m not too good at keeping stock still when I’m gaming and the ability to keep you head still – particularly in Flight Simulator 9 – is necessary. I found myself tapping the F12 key to centre the device fairly frequently, but I honestly think that it’s my fault that it needed doing half as often as it did. Even playing a turn-based strategy game, I can’t keep my head still. I just fidget too much, I guess.

NaturalPoint do now offer a tracking clip that can attached to a gaming headset, so if you wear headphones gaming, you can purchase one of them and forgo the necessity of the hat.

Photos & Videos

There are screenshots rather than videos as despite having used FRAPS in the past to record short clips, I couldn’t get it to correctly record the TrackIR Preview window (the ‘head’ was moving normally on the screen, but in the video was bouncing around like something on a sugar high) but I’ll admit that really the best way to get a feel for how the TrackIR improves the games it works with is… actually, the best way is to try it out. The next best way, though, is to watch a video. To this end, pop on the NaturalPoint website and have a gander at the videos:


So I’m going to try wrapping up now. From my experiences of the TrackIR, if you’re a serious sim fan, and tend to play the games that NaturalPoint lists as supported ( then the TrackIR is a purchase well worth the money. They do support every big flight and race sim I can think of. I can’t really think of a decent computer analogy to go with for this device, as there really isn’t one outside of other specialist kit like the Matrox TripleHead2Go (which, I think, would pair so well with the TrackIR for sim fans that at some point I really, really want to try the two together – proper peripheral vision and the ability to move your digital avatar’s head in a realistic manner?

Gaming gold for any flight or racing fan.


  • Easy to set up hardware
  • Smooth as silk
  • Sensitive in six degrees of freedom
  • Affordable – about the same cost as a sim-worthy HOTAS system, or cheaper than a Logitech G25
  • Fantastic support from NaturalPoint and their website
  • Adds a level of depth in racing sims that I just didn’t expect


  • Provided manual fairly sparse; website covers anything the manual doesn’t though
  • Sensitivity is somewhat variable, getting it ‘just right’ can take a lot of tweaking

Overall, tweaking the TrackIR to get it perfect takes some time… and this is after you’ve got used to having your movements in life translate into actions in the game (beyond the basic keyboard/mouse/wheel/stick input) but once it is there, I don’t think there is a sim fan who would want to go back to not having the extra depth that the system provides, much in the same way as Triplehead gamers have commented that going back to a single screen just isn’t good enough. While even after several hours I still wasn’t used to it, I think it would be worth the effort.

For anyone after even greater immersion in games, the NaturalPoint TrackIR system is worth the cost in both time and money to increase the depth of gameplay experienced.