User:Johan G/Hardware Review: CH Products controls (Combatstick, throttle and pedals)
|Note This review was mostly written about 2012 and in regard to controls bought about 2010.|
This is a review of the 586 Combatstick, Pro Throttle and Pro Pedals made by CH Products on Windows 7 a by Johan G
I use my own configuration file, mainly because I want trim controls to be placed as on the aircraft I fly most (Petar Jedvaj's Pilatus PC-9M). In the default configuration the top hat rocker switch is used for view control instead of pitch and aileron trim as in real live.
Why I bought them specifically
I usually plan to stick with my stuff for 5 to 10 years, and want to by high quality gear. In order to do so I did some research on the net comparing mainly CH Products, Logitech, Saitec and Thrustmaster.
What I was aiming for was a joystick, throttle and pedal setup with enough buttons for a HOTAS setup, possibly later getting a throttle quadrant and a yoke.
After having looked at their competitors and after seeing that CH Products line, apart from getting USB instead of game port connectors, seemed to not have changed since my early Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.1 days and most of all having seen an excellent and thorough six-page review I settled for them. At the time I bought them (2010-ish) CH Products was a family owned business and the gaming joysticks was a side business to their real business, industrial joysticks. They were a bit on the expensive side though, and here in Sweden surprisingly hard to find.
As a side note CH Products at the time was the only one of the larger joystick manufacturers that also sold spare parts for their stuff, like cords and potentiometers.
Installing drivers, or maybe not
I found out the hard way that button numbering will shift when installing the drivers.
The stick, throttle and pedals worked well right out of the box, so I configured them up to my liking. I did all the button assignments and other configuration work before installing the drivers. But when installing the drivers all button assignments shifted. *Sigh* I had to do all the configuration again, but now had the experience of doing that the first time, and the help of their setup and calibration software.
I will note that
js-demo is not for mere mortals that think in decimal.
If you have small hands, this is not for you. The stick is huge. While my hands are not that small, I sometimes have to change grip while flying in order to trim the aircraft etc. When flying helicopters, which I for the record is very bad at, and I rest my palm on the base the buttons are very far up.
For now the throttle wheel and smaller trim wheels on the rather large joystick base is not in use as I have a separate throttle and have mapped the aileron and rudder trim to the top hat rocker and the rudder trim to the cone hat rocker on the throttle.
All the buttons and hat rockers have a distinct feel when pressed, while the are easily pressed. The only thing that I would consider worth altering is perhaps a slightly less hard centering spring.
This is the best thing in the setup. The throttle has about 5 centimeters/ 2 inches of horizontal travel. Having very fine control over the throttle is fantastic as it makes it a lot easier to control both horizontal and vertical speed, specially when I trim up the aircraft properly.
The multitude of buttons makes it more easy to set up the controls in a HOTAS way. Like the joystick, the throttle has a rather large base and all the buttons and hat rockers are distinct, yet light to press.
The pedal base are a bit on the heavy side, but that helps to keep it in place. The pedals move horizontally and differentially in parallel, when one of them is pushed forward the other moves backward along two "tracks".
The pedals are big enough for me, but are placed a bit narrow. Somehow I find toe breaking a bit difficult even though the pedals provide a lot of toe brake travel. I might have to change the braking power in the configuration file.
The biggest drawback of the pedals is that they have a very distinct center position.
Compared to keyboard and mouse
Compared to flying with mouse and keyboard, flying with a setup like this is a dream. You have so much greater control. Formation flying, and even just cruising gets a lot easier when you can fine tune the throttle. And crosswind landings get a lot more challenging and fun with pedals. While I neither do it often or well, flying helicopters get much easier with torque pedals and a throttle stick used as collective in addition to a joystick. Since most of the helicopters have auto-throttle one will not need a specialized collective/throttle control (though I bet a joystick with twist rudder would be great for that).
Crosswind landings and even taxing never get the same again. Consider training taxing before flying in crosswind. Remember to keep the wing on the wind side low, so the wind does not get under it lifting the wing and making steering a lot more difficult. I tended to weather-wane a lot the first days, pointing the nose towards the wind, usually ending up running off the taxiway or runway.
Also having realistic trim controls is rewarding. Trimming a plane up makes for almost hands-free flying for short periods, like when looking at the map (or answering the phone). When changing horizontal or vertical speed, remember PAT REA:
- Attitude and
- Elevator and
Regarding trim, I initially had confused the pitch trim directions. I found out this the hard way when trying out a fixed base Saab AJ 37 Viggen simulator at a museum. In every turn and power adjustment I would initially trim in the wrong direction. I quick Google image search when I got home confirmed my mistake.
- Hands On Throttle And Stick, in essence you will (almost) never have to hunt for keys on the keyboard.
- Vince "Beer Camel" Putze (April 24, 2006). CH Products USB Joysticks. Published by SimHQ. Archived from the original on July 13, 2017. Retrieved April 7, 2020. - An excellent and thorough six-page review of CH Products product line.
- As found in P-764, T-6B Primary Contact Flight Training Instruction (PDF), pages 3-19 and 2-17. Published by Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA). Archived from the original on January 25, 2017. Retrieved April 7, 2020. - This also an excellent resource if you want to learn flying high performance single engine turboprops. Highly recommended.
A few post I've made about my setup at the forum, though I pretty much summed them on this page: