The CH Products Fighterstick USB joystick is CH products top of the line consumer joystick. It is modeled faith fully of the old F-16 Joystick. What this means is that it is the same size and feel in the hand as the real thing. It has all the buttons, hats and switches that you would find on a real F-16 joystick. The CH Products Fighterstick USB is not a new product, in fact it has been out in the market for at least 10 years, starting with the gameport version and remains largely unchanged.
What does this say about the joystick? Many things…
Firstly, it means the basic design of the joystick has stood the test of time. It has all the buttons and hats you could ever need, in fact fit on to a joystick. You won’t be struggling to map controls on to this joystick. The CH Products Fighterstick is right at home on your prop planes all the way up to complicated combat simulators like DCS A-10C, in fact the only thing you will miss out on the CH Products Fighterstick USB is that the trigger is not dual stage (which you can now mod on anyway).
Secondly, if you don’t know, CH Products have a brand name synonymous with quality and long lasting products. The f-16 fighterstick feels exactly that in your hands. Although it is made from plastic it is a very sturdy industrial plastic. You can grip it in both your hands and no matter how hard you squeeze down on it, you won’t hear any plastic creaking sounds. The joystick is solid. The buttons and hats all move and respond as you expect. Trigger action is short and light.
CH Products Fighterstick USB Review
Out of the box you get the fighterstick and an installation CD. The fighterstick is true plug and play so you can plug it into a USB port and hit the ground running, it is not necessary to install any drivers or control managers.
The fighterstick is big. A lot bigger than what you expect based on all the pictures of it you see floating around on the web. In fact, it is too big for those with smaller hands. For me it was a real stretch to reach all the hats on the top of the joystick with my hand resting on the base. Arguably this is not really a CH Products design fault, as much as it is a concession to realism considering the stick is modeled accurately on F-16 joystick specs. The best solution is to add a little bit of custom cut foam to the base so that your hands sits up higher. Those with big F-16 hands will find the size perfect for their needs obviously.
The joystick has 3 axes and 24 buttons. One of the axis sits to the left of the unit and allows you quick access to throttle. There is also a mode switch button which allows you to set up to 3 different button assignments, one for each mode. The current mode is very thoughtfully indicated by the 3 color led on the base of the unit. To access the mode function you need to install the CH Control Manager, otherwise the mode button will function as an extra in game assignable button. The joystick does not twist (thank god) like a lot of the more gamer orientated joysticks, so if you want rudder you will need to assign it onto a hat or button. In reality you should be buying rudder pedals anyway. For those on a budget you will balk at the lack of twist, however I have always found twist rudder impacts greatly on flying precision.
There are also 2 physical mechanical trim wheels on the joystick. These trim wheels actually move the pots in the joystick. Which in the good ol DOS days was useful for games which did not offer trim or proper joystick support. However, as these physically alter the range of motion of the joystick and the fact most games support trim in game, you are best to leave them at center and forget about them. The resistance on these trim tabs are quite strong and it is unlikely that you will move them about accidentally during play. They also have a center detente to make centering all that much easier.
CH Products Fighterstick USB Features
- 3 Axes
- X, Y and Z (Side throttle wheel)
- 24 Buttons
- 3 x Push buttons
- 1 x Mode button
- 3 x 4-Directional HAT
- 1 x 8-Directional POV HAT
- 3 Color LED mode status indicator
- 2 x Mechanical trim tabs for X and Y axis
- Modeled after F-16 Joystick
- 176 programmable functions when used with Mode button
- Large sturdy base
- Dimensions: 10.8 x 9.2 x 8 inches ; 10.1 ounces
- 7 foot USB Cable
- Works with Windows (All versions) and Mac OSX
- Standard 2 year warranty
- Buy CH Products Fighterstick USB at Amazon
Now to the most important part of this review, the joystick itself. From a technical viewpoint, it seems lacklustre by comparison. The fighterstick only puts out a 0-255 data range on each axis, by comparison newer joysticks are putting out data at resolutions of 60,000+ Nonetheless, in game you will be hard pressed to really notice a difference.
The throw of the stick is quite large, you can get quite a good deflection on all axis. However, this throw is very light. There is almost no resistance to it. You can quite comfortably move this joystick around using one finger. Some may be put off by this initially, compared to the TM Cougar and Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog which require a real muscle work out to keep the joystick moving around its something like 16lb of force on the springs. However, this initial weakness becomes a real bonus when you are 2-3 hours of play into any combat simulator. You will tire less, fatigue less and your hands and arms will not ache from long sessions of play. Joysticks with high amounts of tension on them make them difficult to use over long periods of time. Especially when you slap the joystick a little bit higher up during play on a keyboard tray, you will feel the fatigue in your wrists quite quickly. The ch fighterstick’s light throw allows you to make constant small adjustments without getting tired, no matter where you place it.
The fighterstick has a good salient center and centering mechanism. When centered I could feel about a very small 1cm diameter center wobble around it. Due to the light throw, it does not take much to deflect the joystick from its center position.
The fighterstick is a little bit strange in that the X and Y axis have a very strong positive and independent feel. As you cross over the axis at the mid line you can hear and feel a distinct shift from where the springs start to take over on each axis. It is not a smooth circular motion around the joystick. If you were trying to move the joystick diagonally it feels more like you are making small separate x-y increments. The feel is hard to explain but you can imagine it as walking up the stairs vs going up a smooth escalator. I personally like this feel, I can draw straighter x and y axis movements. I can pull up and down straight without worrying about accidentally banking my wings.
- Just works, plug and play. High quality with reputation for long lasting components. Sturdy industrial plastic.
- Light throw, less fatigue = Good for long play sessions
- CH Control Manager software allows you to program buttons and switches to do literally anything you want. The best programming software bar none.
- Very precise joystick and easy to control joystick.
- A stretch to reach all controls if you have small hands
- Light throw, some people want to workout while they play. There is a “condom” stiffness mod that increases resistance.
- A little pricey but you pay extra for the quality component. Not good for a 10yr old son who will lose interest in a week.
- No twist (get pedals)
Check out what other users had to say…
I bought this to compare with my Thrustmaster Cougar. I use it with the USB Pro Pedals and USB Pro Throttle as a HOTAS.It is a very accurate low noise joystick. I have used it with all sorts of flight simulations. Easy to program and once you understand how to make it appear as one virtual flight controller it works like a charm with Longbow II and other older flight sims. I just wish the software would allow me to swap in my MSFF2 joystick for those older sims where forcefeedback makes a big difference such as RedBaron 3D. Getting back to the subject, the CH Products Fighterstick USB is high quality and you cannot go wrong with buying one.[…] Read the rest of the review >
Bought this together with the rudders and throttle after many months of research. I’d previously had Thrustmaster F16 FLQS and F16 TQS and the FLQS had lost accuracy very quickly and didn’t impress, so I wasn’t in a hurry to buy the Cougar. I’d had a CH Flightstick years ago and still remembered that as a solid, no-nonsense controller that worked everytime. The new generation of CH Products is just as good. This stick will last for a very long time, is solidly constructed and easy to program (just press the button on the controller and enter the key that you want to assign to it). […] Read the rest of the review >
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