Originally Published April 11, 2002
Updated April 24, 2006
CH Products has probably earned the title of being the FIRST Company to offer a complete USB HOTAS system for the retail market. Saitek’s X-36 / X-45 / X-52 could be considered for this distinction, but not in the purest sense of the term “realistic HOTAS”. It lacks a separate rudder controller; I do not know of any real aircraft that have been produced with a “rocker” bar for yaw control The Thrustmaster Cougar has to be classified as a true HOTAS, but it was not available as early as the CH Products controllers. This, in my opinion, gives CH Products the “crown” for producing the first true USB HOTAS system for flight sim enthusiasts.
CH Products is a family owned US Company and has been in the PC joystick business for many years. Their experience in design, production, and support of high quality, reliable gaming hardware is legendary. The first Joystick I ever owned was the CH Products F-16 CombatStick Gameport. I purchased it shortly after acquiring my first computer in 1992. I think I paid $85.00; fairly expensive considering it was in “1992 dollars”. That new “toy” was not anything close to being considered bargain basement; and to be totally honest I was a little concerned about the price / value / quality ratio. Boy was I wrong! That stick received heavy, long-term use (Pronounced abuse!) and is still working well. I never had a single problem with it. (That old F-16 CombatStick has been donated to a friend of mine… he is going to use it in his high performance aerobatic homebuilt aircraft.. Until then it is on his computer!) It was retired only because I upgraded to the CH Products FighterStick. I fell completely in love with my Pro Throttle, FighterStick, and rudder pedal HOTAS. The Speed Keys programming utility, relative to the competition, was absolutely simple to use. My brother, and lifelong LAN buddy, initially chose the Thrustmaster FLCS HOTAS over CH Products. As capable as that unit was, programming it is not something for the faint of heart. Its programming utility is not nearly as intuitive as the CH Products Speed Keyssoftware. It was this previous experience that had me anxiously waiting for the CH to produce a USB HOTAS solution. I was NOT disappointed… Lets explore the CH USB joystick models, feature sets, software, and HOTAS combinations available.
Today we look at four CH Products USB Joysticks. They are:
- FlightStick Pro USB
- CombatStick 568 USB
- FighterStick USB
- Pro Throttle USB
Each of these units have interesting features, assets, and liabilities. They can also be combined, via software, for a truly unique and useful way to configure your HOTAS. CH Products Control Manager, the powerful programming utility used to program and integrate these controllers, will allow just about any CH Products USB controller combination to be recognized by Windows as a single gaming controller. This permits games that recognize only one input device to “see”, and properly use all CH Products USB units as one controller/HOTAS (Up to 16 separate CH Products controllers). More on this later. Lets look at each controller individually, and then how to “combine” and “program” them into a true HOTAS.