First of all, a thank you and a disclaimer: the only reason why this crazy batch of reviews are possible is because VIRPIL sent me a ton of stuff for me to try. But, rest assured, I will be completely unbiased and totally honest with both you and VIRPIL. If something is not right, I will call it. But if it is, I will obviously say so as well.
So, thank you very much, VIRPIL, for this opportunity.
Over the next few weeks, I will be going through a list of material, letting you know what I think of it, any issues I find, how it can (or not) be adapted for helicopter flying and, if you have any questions about any of these products or my reviews, you can always hit the comments section below (which I ask you to do so that others can participate in the discussion and get some more information as well) or contact me directly.
So, our very first item is the VPC MongoosT-50CM2 Base. This is a base that is NOT made for use on a table, and it obviously shows.
As opposed to the VPC WarBRD Base, the VPC MongoosT-50CM2 Base does not come with a large base, meaning that if you are planning on using it on a desk, you are in for some serious trouble.
The VPC MongoosT-50CM2 was made to be mounted on the VPC Desk Mount V3 - S, which I also got and will review further down the road.
The first contact
This is not huge base. In fact, it’s quite compact but it’s fully made of metal and extremely sturdy. One of the things I noticed about all the VIRPIL controls is that they are very well built and very robust. Seriously, it’s a pleasure just to hold the base or any other piece of gear from this company.
The weight, the construction quality, even the inner engineering (more on that later) is just a treat, not only for your eyes but also to your touch. That was something that struck me immediately as I went through the boxes and taking everything out.
You will see me repeat this over all the reviews, really, because not everyone will read all these articles and this has to be pointed out. The build quality is really good and that is the first thing you will notice – and something you will certainly find satisfying as your investment seems to start to pay off and you haven’t even used the darn thing.
Some assembly required
The base is pretty simple. You will find the two small brackets we will use to attach the base to the desk mount, the stick connection/actual base and some rubber hatch covers, which are going to be very helpful once we start to find out how to “helicopterize” this thing and a couple of rubber-protected plugs in the front of the base. One labelled USB and another one labelled AUX.
Above you can see the brackets to assemble on the desk mount and the 2 accesses to the screws that we will be using to help replace the springs. Note the 2 rubber hatches were removed.
There are also 4 springs and 6 cams, in a small bag (with lots of lubricant oil in it, so watch out). More on this later.
The grip is connected electronically to the base through a small plug in the center of the base, which resembles an old PS/2 port but it’s actually a type of plug called a 5-pin mini DIN connector.
To attach the grip, you just need to connect the grip’s connector to the base one, place the stick in position and screw the ring of the grip to the base.
At the time of the release of this article, VIRPIL’s grip line consists of 5 different types and they can all be assembled on the 2 bases the manufacturer sells.
The whole process is pretty simple.
Getting it to work with your computer
Connecting the joystick to your computer is pretty simple. Like I said before, the stick has 2 plugs (USB and AUX) and they serve two different purposes.
Both plugs are of a type used in aviation, called XS9. They are somewhat similar to the mini DIN plug I mentioned above but they are clearly different.
You are, obviously going to connect the USB one to your computer. If you were using a VIRPIL Control Panel, for example, you would connect the panel to the AUX port, meaning you would only use 1 USB plug on your computer.
Which, by the, way, is pretty amazing!
And that’s what I did, really. Since VIRPIL sent me one of their control panels, I did just that. I will not go into any details about the panel, as that’s for another review, but I’ll just say that it worked.
I also, obviously, assembled all this into a desk mount but I want to leave that for another review as well as there are other things I want to say about the mounts.
All right. Assembly done. Joystick connected. Time to get this thing to run.
Some (more) assembly required
Woah! Calm down. We are not done.
But don’t stress out. Although there are a few steps in all this, there is a reason why they exist and none of them were bad.
We still need to download and install VIRPIL’s VPS Software and set things up!
To set your joystick up, you’ll have to indicate, on the software, which base and grip you have. Once you do that, you can check for firmware updates. If you’re getting a new unit, chances are that there’s an update out there. It’s a quick task, really.
Above: firmware update progressing
After that, you can calibrate your axis (your joystick will save the settings into itself – which is very cool and very smart) and test your buttons.
Important note: if you have multiple VIRPIL controls, make sure you connect one at a time and set them up separately as to prevent issues, conflicts or even damaging your controls.
My first test
It was time to put this baby to the test. To keep me focused on the product, I used the joystick with my regular controls so that nothing else, except the joystick was used.
Like I said before, I will be doing a full review on the grip itself, and the rest of the material used but, just for reference, I am testing the base with the VPC MongoosT-50CM2 Grip, along with the VPC Flightstick Extension - 200mm, assembled on the VPC Desk Mount V3 - S table mount system.
Above: The set used for the test.
I booted up X-Plane, set everything up in there and jumped into the Cowan Simulation 222B.
The stick is very responsive and smooth, although, of course, I keep on fighting the spring and I have the darn center which forces me to pull some extra weight as I move past it. While checking how I could make it better, I learned something about the base that I found really interesting.
Remember me mentioning the extra springs and cams? Well, this is where they become useful.
The springs offer different strengths, so we get 3 different levels as we have the preinstalled ones and the 4 new ones in the plastic bag (2 sets of 2). So, we can choose between weaker, medium or stronger spring.
The cams, though, allow us to select what kind of “center” feeling we want to have. From a very “round” feeling, to something where the center is stronger and edgy to a linear cam.
This allows for an absolute amazing quantity of different settings 15 combinations. Actually... 18 combinations.
Because, you know...
It’s time to helicopterize it
I have a love-hate relationship with joysticks.
Joysticks have provided me with thousands of hours of amazing simming, of course. But they also made my life a bit of a nightmare while doing so, especially once I started flying helicopters.
Fighting the spring and struggling through that central point has always been my old nemesis. Since helicopters require a lot of finesse, I have had a lot of control issues and sore hands or wrists. It wasn’t until I managed to make one of my joysticks a lot more helicopter friendly that my helicopter simming started improving drastically.
I could not believe the difference that removing the spring actually did.
And so, despite the fact that I use a replica control set (the Pro Flight Trainer Puma), I have been on the lookout for good joysticks (and other controls) that can be used for helicopter simulation. I have people asking me about it all the time and I really want to be able to help them out.
My first question after taking this base for a spin was, obviously, “can I make this model more helicopter-friendly? By how much and how easily?”.
It turns out, yes, I could, by a lot and quite easily!
Going back to the previous section, remember me mentioning the springs and the cams? Well, it turns out changing them is actually quite easy.
I wondered if I could just remove the springs at all, instead of replacing them.
Which I could. So, I did. Opening the base is quite easy. Simply remove 4 screws at the base and you’re all set. You’ll need an Allen wrench to do that.
Once you open it, you get another glance at the remarkable work these folks have done. The amazing black color contrasts with the naked, polished metal parts, which seem to be very precisely machined. Yes, I am nerding out. But it is a thing of beauty.
To remove the springs, you’ll have to take the rubber hatches from the top of the base and unscrew the big screws that are inside. These are the same you need to unscrew to change the cams, by the way.
Springs came off (you’ll need to remove the screws – just make sure you do this in a place where you can make a bit of a mess as there’s some lubricant grease in the screw; VIRPIL does not joke around on the lubrication section here) and the joystick became loose.
While I was at it, I changed the cams to the linear ones, but here’s the thing: I wouldn’t need to do this. As I removed the springs, the 2 parts of the mechanism that contain the cams just become loose as well.
The cams are completely useless here, because those parts also became useless without the springs.
Above: close up of the internal mechanism. You can see the 2 cams installed.
The joystick now has no center and no spring for me to fight. Yes, it does fall over to the side (actually, to the back, since I am using a 200mm extension that causes the CG to move backwards).
Nonetheless, the amount of control I know have went through the roof. This modification, along with the amazing precision of the electronics of the base, now provides me with a ton of control over the helicopter.
Above: the joystick assembled without any spring. Notice how it doesn't fall to the side easily.
The table mount allows me to have the joystick placed between my legs and quite accessible. Again, I will be doing a review on the mount itself, but I’ll just say that the joystick was in a comfortable-enough, although not 100% perfect position. Still, I was able to comfortably use it.
More testing and verdict
The joystick worked flawlessly on all of them. It was pretty easy to set up and the performance was top-notch on all of them.
I continued to circle back to X-Plane as it’s the sim I have the most experience with and tried a few helicopters. I got comfortable with the joystick pretty quickly and the only thing that I really missed about it was the fact that there’s no friction control, meaning there’s no friction.
Which, of course, means that I can’t let the stick go, as opposed to my PFT Puma, for example, which I can let go for a second or two (not something I would do in a real helicopter – at least one without autopilot or someone else to control it while I rest my hand).
But, in all honesty, it beats the heck out of having to fight a spring the whole time. Big. Time.
VIRPIL’s VPC MongoosT-50CM2 Base surprised me. Well, all the gear they sent me did, but I will talk about all of it on other reviews.
The construction quality is top notch. The electronics were very precise and their software, although makes things a bit more complicated than some other joysticks on the market (usually of lower quality – and price) was quite good.
When I mention the software makes it a bit more complicated, I just say that because it adds a few extra steps to the process. I am actually happy the software exists and that it works the way it does. The software and the hardware work together very well, making it a solid experience.
The joystick base is absolutely amazing and with any of the 5 available grips, you can adapt it to your own needs and know that you will have a great experience.
Customization to your needs is a huge plus. You are not stuck with a single spring strength, but you can also change the actual travel of the stick with the cams.
Between the grips, cams and springs (or no cams and no springs), this base has plenty of combinations to select from and it’s easily adaptable to even helicopters. A hard goal to reach, but VIRPIL seemed to have nailed it.
The only thing I would change? The ability to control friction so that the stick would say in the same position. It’s not like the joystick is too loose. It’s not. Surprising, because of the weight of the mechanism, it’s not flimsy at all. But it could benefit from some friction tweaking to make it much better.
Almost (almost) perfect. For a joystick, of course.
Honestly, this is a heck of a base. The whole testing set I am using is impressive for something that wasn’t built to be a helicopter cyclic.
I may seem like a fanboy here or something, but the truth is that I did not expect this quality and this amount of flexibility from a joystick. I have seen joysticks that adapt easier to helicopters but not like the VIRPIL stuff.
Call me impressed. And those of you who know me know that I am hard to impress.
If you are on the market for something that you can use for both fixed wing and helicopters, and you are not looking at manufacturers that build helicopter-specific controls, I highly recommend you take a look at the VIRPIL and this VPC MongoosT-50CM2 Base.
You will not regret it. Complete the package with something like the VPC MongoosT-50CM2 Grip, the VPC Flightstick Extension - 200mm, and the VPC Desk Mount V3 - S and I promise you will have quite an amazing set.
This is one of those pieces of hardware that I have zero problems in saying I highly recommend. Hands down. Zero doubts.