Through the years, we've seen computing businesses come and go. Aureal, 3dfx, DEC...we've seen plenty of companies that made some awesome products that later went down the tubes, usually for financial reasons. With this is mind, it's very comforting to see a company that makes a great product and survives in the market without behaving like a corporate shark, like so many others we see these days.
CH Products has been around for years, producing quality flightsticks, yokes, rudder pedals, and throttle/weapons systems for flight-sim enthusiasts. Up until recently, they had competition only from Thrustmaster, until Thrustmaster had to be rescued from financial dire straits by Guillemot. Sure, there's also Gravis and Microsoft to consider, but they don't make joysticks with the same authenticity and attention to detail that CH Products and Thrustmaster put into their systems.
CH Products' earlier version throttles
Times do change, and CH Products has had to change with them. DB-15 is considered ancient these days, and thus CH Products is moving all of its previous mainstay products to the USB interface. Of course, nobody would buy a brand new joystick if the only difference were in its interface, so CH Products kindly elected to give some of their peripherals the once-over and giving them some tuning and improvements before re-releasing them. With that in mind, we bristled with excitement when CH Products allowed us to test out their new Pro Throttle USB.
If you've had any of CH Products' previous...um...products, you'll probably notice that the throttle looks very similar to its predecessors. This is, of course, by design. CH Products had a comfortable and winning design in its older throttles, so they kept the molding the same, but changed the button layout somewhat.
The Pro Throttle USB features three buttons, three four-direction switches, an 8-way hat switch, and a mini-stick, giving you a plethora of controls at your disposal. Initially, one might balk at the lack of buttons, but since the Pro Throttle USB isn't designed to be a primary controller, the lack of buttons isn't as much of a concern. The multitude of switches allows you to easily program in different axes or adjustments that can be logically controlled. For instance, you might set your flaps and gears on one switch, so that you can push down on the switch to put your landing gear down, or push the switch back to activate your flaps.
The mini-joystick is on the right, adjacent to the hat switch.
The mini-stick is the newest addition to the throttle. Effectively, it can be used as another hat switch, but it functions just like an ordinary joystick, which means that, if you were hard pressed, you could use the throttle as a singular controller, and fly with the joystick. Cumbersome, but it does work. It's definitely useful for space flight sims or mecha sims, where you might have a floating targeting reticule instead of a fixed mounted cannon. If configured properly, it can allow you to aim independently of where your flight stick or other controls are pointing, meaning that you can easily turn your mech's torso while still controlling where you're walking.
You'll also notice three LEDs at the bottom of the Pro Throttle USB. These are indicator lights to be used with the CH Products Flightstick Pro, which has a mode indicator switch. This mode switch, when used with other CH Products USB equipment, lets you toggle three different button profiles for not just your flight stick, but the entire control array. The LEDs on the Pro Throttle USB correspond to the button mode you've set on your flight stick. If you don't have the CH Products flight stick, though, then don't worry about the buttons.