CH Products USB Joysticks Page 4

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CSvFS

FighterStick USB on the left, CombatStick 568 USB on the right.

CH Products FighterStick USB

The FighterStick USB is the flagship of CH Products USB Joystick product line. It is designed to provide the maximum programming capability that can be incorporated into a Joystick. As part of a CH Products HOTAS, The FighterStick USB will do just about anything a serious flight sim enthusiast could want.

Here are the FighterStick USB specifications:

  • 3 Axis, “X”+ “Y”, and “Z”
  • 24 Buttons; Three push buttons, One mode switch/push button, Three 4 way hats, one 8 way POV hat
  • 132 programmable functions using the CH Products Control Manager Software
  • Three programmable/mutually exclusive modes that are selectable during game play
  • Three color LED’s to indicate selected mode
  • Trim wheels for the “X” and “Y” axis

Included in the box is:

  • FighterStick USB
  • Instruction pamphlet
  • Driver and Control Manager CD

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FighterStick USB on the left, CombatStick 568 USB on the right.

The FighterStick USB, like all other CH Products USB units, installed without any problems what so ever. You will want to use Control Manager with this fine piece of hardware (I believe it is a felony NOT TO!), but please visit the CH Products web site and download the most current version. The only problems I had, and they were minor, was when I failed to properly uninstall all the remnants of the “old” driver / Control Manager software. This must be accomplished prior to installing newer versions to avoid a corrupted installation. There is a utility, called CH Delete, that will insure you have eliminated the bad CH Products “Hoodoo” from your hard drive. I highly recommend you use it if you have any previous CH Products software installed. When you install Control Manager be sure to follow the instructions EXACTLY; not doing so could result in experiencing self-induced software glitches. Once Control Manager is up and running you can unlock the full capabilities of the FighterStick USB.

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FighterStick USB on the left, CombatStick 568 USB on the right.

The physical characteristics of the FighterStick USB are exactly the same as the CombatStick 568 USB except for the addition of LED Mode indicators and the substitution of a more complex button arrangement. All the comments made previously about the size, control throw, button placement, right-hand design, and trim wheels apply here too. It also has the same feel and “F-16 style” of the CombatStick 568 USB but with much greater programming capability.

FSLrear

The documentation included in the box was less than I expected. The FighterStick USB is a complicated piece of equipment; it should have a better manual. I had some confusion while attempting to use the mode function; I was unaware how to cycle between different modes. Eventually I found references to the “Mode Switch” and solved my problem. It is NOT on the documentation pamphlet included in the box. This important operational fact should have been obvious, even in the most generalized instruction manual! The FighterStick USB needs better illustrated instructions, either printed or in a downloadable form on the CH Products web site. This is a minor detraction from a real good product, and CH Products is known for good product support. I am sure there will be a remedy in the near future.

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The unique asset of the FighterStick USB is it’s three independent modes. The Control Manager utility provides the ability to individually program each button for three functions, one function in each of three mutually exclusive modes. The individual program “Maps” complexity is only limited by the users imagination. For example, in “mode-red” button 1 drops bombs; in “mode-green” button 1 opens the AAR door; and in “mode-yellow” button 1 fires AA missiles. This permits the design of three distinctly different “weapons” configurations; A/A, A/G, and NAV; each selectable with one simple button push. The ability to “shift” your program profile through mode selection significantly increases the utility of the FighterStick USB.

FSRside

The modes are cycled with the “upper-outboard” index finger button; the illuminated LED indicates your current mode selection. The LED’s are located on the stick’s base and are three colors: red, green, and yellow. The only disadvantage I found was CH Products choice of mode selection switch. I prefer to keep things as standardized as possible and the “upper-outboard” switch on the real F-16 was the “Missile step” switch. I generally assigned it to that same basic action in all my game profiles, but couldn’t if I used the FighterStick’s USB mode function. This is really only a problem if this stick is used as a stand-alone controller. The solution is easy, combine it with the Pro Throttle USB and use the mode select switch on the throttle! This will make the “upper-outboard” button free for programming!

PT&FS

The FighterStick USB is designed to be part of a complete CH Products HOTAS system (Pro Throttle USB and Pro Pedals USB). The capability of this integrated CH Products HOTAS is noteworthy; the number of options available could easily exceed the needs of most current flight simulations. I have found that I do not often use all of the capability of my old “single mode” Gameport FighterStick. Many games simply do not have that many keyboard commands. This is especially true for most “prop” simulations, they tend to have less complex “system” controls; but for very realistic “Jet” simulations like Falcon 4.0 and Janes F/A-18 this expanded programming capability is a welcome blessing. In this case I have to agree with the “old American standard” which states: “If a lot is GOOD.. MORE IS BETTER!”

Fighterstick USB Summary

Assets:

  • Accurate and precise USB Joystick
  • Quality design and construction
  • Easy installation and calibration
  • F-16 Type stick design, comfortable and functional
  • Well designed and logical Button/Hat placement
  • High number of programmable buttons/hats
  • Fully programmable with Control Manager
  • Three independently programmable and selectable modes
  • Compatible with other CH Products USB Controllers
  • Best choice for an integrated CH Products HOTAS system
  • X-Y Axis Trim
  • Cost is Appropriate/Reasonable

Liabilities:

  • Documentation could be better for a controller this complex/capable
  • Long control “throw” and somewhat light spring tension
  • Not inexpensive — but you get what you pay for!

System Requirements:

  • Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP (or Mac OS 8.6 and above)
  • Newer Windows Drivers/ Control Manager versions available on CH Products web site.
  • Direct X 7.0a or above (Mac Input Sprockets 1.7.x)
  • One free USB port

Availability & Cost:

  • Available through most major gaming hardware suppliers
  • MSRP $149.95, “Street / Internet Price” about $97.00

The FighterStick USB is an improvement on a great product… The original CH Products Gameport FighterStick. I have utilized the Gameport version with great satisfaction for several years, and other than USB benefits and better programming protocol, there is not much that can, or should be improved. If I could “magically” have anything I wanted in a Joystick it would not have any more features than the FighterStick USB. If you are a serious flight sim enthusiast and want the best HOTAS system available, the FighterStick USB is a great place to begin!

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