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CH Products CombatStick 568 USB

The CombatStick 568 USB is the middle product in the CH USB joystick lineup. It is a representation of the USAF F-16 Falcon side stick… not an exact replica like the Thrustmaster Cougar, but similar enough to have fooled a couple buddies who are former “Viper” pilots. Therefore… It is close enough for “government work”.. And good enough for me too! It also has a respectable feature set.

Here are the CombatStick 568 USB specifications:

  • 3 Axis, X+Y, and Z
  • 18 Buttons, they are: 6 push buttons, one 4-way hat, and one 8-way POV hat
  • 34 programmable functions using Control Manager software
  • 102 programmable functions with CH Products Pro Throttle USB Mode Switch
  • Trim Wheels on the “X” and “Y” axis

Included in the box is:

  • CH Products CombatStick 568 USB
  • Instruction pamphlet
  • Driver and CH Products Control Manager CD

The CombatStick 568 USB, like all USB CH Products I have used, installed and functioned flawlessly. I strongly recommend you use CH Products Control Manager Software; it has drivers for all applicable CH Products controllers. The instructions on the included pamphlet are not that clear, but the installation utility for Control Manager will lead you through it. (Get the current version from the CH Products web site, skip installing the version on the CD). Just be sure to follow the instructions Exactly! The CombatStick 568 USB works just fine as a “standard” 18-button joystick, but that was not the intended purpose. This thing “demands” to be programmed. Control Manager will allow you to do just that. You can program any button and axis to whatever you want. If there are limits to what can be done, I have yet to find it.

The CombatStick 568 USB is designed for right-handed use only. This is not totally unrealistic; left-handed USAF F-16 pilots have to make this compromise also. (As a matter of fact ALL US fighter pilots have to adapt to right-hand stick, left-hand throttle configuration!) The actual “handle” is somewhat larger than other joysticks. This means that folks with small hands/short fingers will find themselves “stretching” to reach some of the buttons. That can be a blessing in disguise, as it will sometimes prevent the inadvertent actuation of an unwanted command. Again, this is not totally unrealistic; I can remember “stretching” to properly actuate some buttons on the real F-16. All of the buttons are located in a logical order, and they function with a noticeable feel of quality. In all the years I have used CH Products joysticks I have YET to have a button malfunction.

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The CombatStick 568 USB has very precise control capability, but some users have noted/complained about a noticeably long “throw” and “light” spring tension. The stick radius of movement is about as large as any I have experienced, and the spring tension is relatively low. I personally prefer this, as it allows me to be more exact on my control inputs (In my mind anyway!). My brother, who used a COUGAR until very recently, has expressed his dislike of large control input requirements. Conversely I do not really care for the very short throw of the TM unit. Both designs have advantages/liabilities; this could be argued indefinitely without resolution. It all boils down to personal preference so be advised the CH Products line have “Light and Long” control loading.

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This unit also has the CH Products “standard” X-Y trim wheels, very useful for trimming during game play. It also lacks an “R” axis, but I do not think it is needed on the CombatStick 568 USB. This stick is really designed to be a part of a “realistic” HOTAS setup, and by definition that combination will include a separate rudder pedal control. I believe the inclusion of an indigenous “R” axis, as in the form of a twistable stick, would actually be a negative factor. This function, in My NOT so humble opinion, does not belong on a HOTAS system Control stick.

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The Throttle wheel (“Z” axis) is located on the left side of the stick base. It too is programmable under Control Manager. I was able to assign another axis to it and used that axis for prop control in Rowans “Battle Of Britain”…. neat stuff! The real beauty of this controller is realized when it is combined with the CH Products Pro Throttle USB. The result is a synergistic increase in total capability. The Pro Throttle USB has three separate, selectable modes that allow a separate assignment, in each mode, for all the CombatStick 568 USBbuttons. That will permit you to program a NAV, A/A, and A/G profile and be able it select what you need .. when you need it. (As I said previously.. more on this later in this article!)

CombatStick 568 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
  • Good number of programmable buttons/hats
  • Fully programmable with Control Manager
  • Compatible with other CH Products USB Controllers
  • Good choice for a mid-range integrated CH Products HOTAS system
  • X-Y Axis Trim
  • Documentation is adequate for the CombatStick 568 USB complexity level
  • Cost is Appropriate/Reasonable

Liabilities:

  • 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 $109.95, “Street / Internet Price” about $75.00

The CombatStick 568 USB is a fine choice for a mid-range CH Products HOTAS system. The basic assumption here is that folks considering these units are interested in a complete HOTAS system… NOT a single controller solution. That means a separate joystick, throttle unit, and rudder pedals. The CombatStick 568 USB meets that objective well. It will provide more than enough programmable functions for the majority of hard-core flight sim enthusiasts… and at a reasonable cost! CH Products has a 2-year warranty and great product support; this should be a consideration when selecting your next HOTAS. I would recommend this stick to simmers that tend to play prop Sims or the “simple” jet Sims. It is also a great solution for folks on a budget who cannot afford the slightly higher cost of the FighterStick USB.

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