Control Manager Programming Utility
If the Pro Throttle USB is the centerpiece of the CH Products USB HOTAS system, then Control Manager is its heart. The CH HOTAS would not be “alive” without it. This well thought out piece of programming software enables four significant functions with the appropriate CH Products USB hardware. First is the ability to assign axis and keystrokes to CH Products USB controllers. Second, it provides a way to tweak certain joystick functions like “Dead Zone” and “Sensitivity”. Third, it enables the combination of several CH Products controllers into ONE virtual controller for compatibility with games that only recognize one Joystick. Fourth, Control Manager enables the “Mode” function of the Pro Throttle USB or FighterStick USB.
Control Manager’s first and basic function is to assign all control axes and button keystrokes. The software does this through a “MAP” file. To create a “MAP” file, select the CH Products controller(s) you want to include in your game profile and program each button and axis. The programming protocol is generally intuitive and similar to the CH Products SpeedKeys utility, but it does have some significant changes in order to improve capability. These programming protocols are relatively simple and are well described in the “on CD” manual. When you are finished assigning all your keystrokes and axes, save the “Map” for future use. When you want to use a “MAP”, simply open the file and “activate the “MAP'”. You can then close Control Manager.. There is no need to have it running in the background. All the “MAP” functions will still work after Control Manager is closed, unlike some of CH Products competitor’s joysticks. This has the obvious benefit of reducing the load on your CPU, resources that are better used to run your game!
The second function of Control Manager is the ability to adjust some joystick parameters. This can really make a significant difference in the quality of HOTAS output/operation; nothing is more frustrating than a joystick that is over sensitive… and not being able to correct it. This also provides a way to limit pilot induced “over-control” in simulations that are very sensitive to normal control input. Control Manager allows the fine adjustment of “Dead Zone”, “Gain” and “Sensitivity” for HOTAS axis output. I did not realize how valuable this function could be until I used it to reduce the sensitivity of the mouse in Janes USAF. I was able to adjust mouse (cursor) movement to very fine and accurate nonlinear control levels. Unfortunately, now I don’t think I’ll be satisfied with any HOTAS does not have this ability.
Control Manager’s third function is its ability to create a “virtual” controller. When you connect your CH Products HOTAS to your computer, Windows will recognize each one as individual USB controllers. This is bad if the game you want to play does not have an organic ability to use more than one controller at a time. (Many “Retro” sims will only recognize the controller designated as “Joystick 1″ in Windows) This is where Control Manager rides in to save the day. When you programmed a game profile (MAP) part of it included the selection of various CH Products USB controllers. When you “activate” your “MAP”, Control Manager combines ALL the CH Products controllers you selected into one “virtual” controller. After “MAP” activation there will only be one controller listed in the Windows Gaming Options appellate. (Assuming all the controllers physically attached to your computer are included in that “MAP”) This may sound a little confusing at first, but look at some of the accompanying illustrations and it should be more understandable. When I first read about this “Virtual controller” I was a little wary of how well it would work. My concern was wasted, this aspect of Control Manager worked fantastically!
The last function of Control Manager is to enable the “Mode” capability indigenous to the Pro Throttle USB and the FighterStick USB. The three-mode capability was explained in detail in the FighterStick USB section, but basically it is the ability to program each button in three separate and distinct modes. The objective of this is to increase the programming capability for whichever CH Products USB units you decide to include in your HOTAS system. Control Manager is where you configure the “Mode” function. You can select either the Pro Throttle USB or the FighterStick USB to provide mode capability, both work fine. It is really personal preference on how you want to activate modes. Simply check the appropriate mode boxes in Control Manager when you build your “MAP”. The only limitation I found with Control Manager is the inability to add non CH Products USB hardware to the mix.
I am very impressed with Control Manager software; it is extremely effective and easy to use. This is a BIG factor for me in the selection of a HOTAS. I should not have to be proficient in several programming languages in order to install and use gaming equipment. I remember my first experience with a competitors programming utility, it was ugly! My brother and I had both just purchased a brand new Joystick / Throttle unit; we spent many frustrating hours trying to configure it. The next day when we finally got through to customer help, we were informed that the instructions were incorrect and we had to perform the “double secret handshake” in order to “wake up” the stick! What a pain in the burner can! I almost returned that unit out of disgust with the “logic” behind the software (The hardware worked just fine!). Later software/driver versions improved that joystick’s functionality to the point of usefulness, but the memory of all those wasted hours is vivid. You will not have this trouble with CH Products Control Manager!
Summary and Conclusions
The choice of any gaming controller, especially a HOTAS for flight simulations is a very, very, subjective proposition. Not everybody will agree on what is “best”. Unfortunately, there is very little competition for the upper end of the flight sim controller market, so the choices are very limited. I would even argue that at the time of this writing there is but ONE HOTAS choice; CH Products. This is due to the fact the only other competitor, the Thrustmaster Cougar, is becoming a little bit scarce, and the Saitek HOTAS controllers do not include real rudder pedals (Yet! That MAY change!)
CH Products offerings have many advantages; the most important one being that it is currently available in realistic quantities just about anywhere in the world. The technical arguments are just as persuasive. All of the units tested performed as advertised, on several computer systems, without any problems. Several games were tested and all worked fine; I did not experience a single compatibility issue.
The range of the CH Products USB joystick line provides choice and the ability to customize your HOTAS. Any gamer can design a HOTAS system as complex or as simple as either their requirements or budget dictate. You can also build it as your budget allows… get the FighterStick USB and Pro Throttle USB now and add the USB Pro Pedals when you can afford to. The selection of what manufacturer’s hardware is best for your HOTAS will generally boil down to personal taste, but if you decide to go with the CH Products you will not be disappointed. The “fit”, function, quality, reliability, and company support are outstanding. I highly recommend them.
Other Suggested Links:
- CH Products
- The CH Hangar
- Control Manager for Dummies
- SimHQs Review of the CH Products Quadrant Throttle is here.
- AMD Athlon X64 3700+
- EPOX EP9NA3 Socket 939 motherboard
- ATI X800 AIW AGP video card
- Audigy 2 sound card
- 2 GB RAM
- Windows XP Home
- MiG Alley
- Battle of Britain 2
- IL-2 / Pacific Fighters Series
- Janes WW2 Fighters
- FS 2004
- Strike Fighters / Wings over Vietnam
- Comanche 4
- NASCAR Racing Season 2003
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