Here’s the usual disclaimer: this unit was provided to me, for free, by VIRPIL. As with all my reviews, 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 say so as well.
Funny enough, one of the things I wish was better in a previous review was actually addressed by VIRPIL and it’s a very strong point for this product!
Thank you very much once again to VIRPIL, of course.
Last year I have reviewed the VIRPIL VPC MongoosT-50CM2 , which behaved flawlessly, and I ended up rating it a 10/10. It’s definitely a product I recommend to those that are looking for a modular solution where they can switch grips, bases, pedals, etc.
Near the end of that review, I wrote the following:
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. Surprisingly, 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.
Almost. I have been having conversations with VIRPIL about their gear and, regarding this base, I had told them exactly that, of course. I directed them to the aforementioned review and provided them with my direct feedback.
I had conversations with someone directly involved in the design of the products and they promised me something in the future.
Fast forward a bit over a year and VIRPIL released a new version of their base: the MongoosT-50CM3. And guess what?
VIRPIL added the feature I wanted to see in the base. Let me remind you of something else I have written in that previous review:
If VIRPIL makes it any better (like adding friction control) it will be odd to give it an 11
Am I in trouble?
Let’s find out. First things first, as usual.
The VPC MongoosT-50CM3 is very similar to the CM2. It’s an all-metal construction with a rubber sleeve to protect the joint between the actual stick base and the rest of the unit and a couple of rubber lids that protect the screws which allow you to adjust the X/Y axis.
There are also a couple of smaller holes to adjust the new system (I know you’re excited to find out more about it – bear with me, please; we’ll get there soon enough).
Those holes and the lack of a bracket system to mount on VIRPIL’s mount systems are the only major differences between the units.
The lack of a bracket system doesn’t mean you can’t use a mount. You can still mount the stick by using VIRPIL’s VPC Desk Mount , using an adapter, which you will have to select as you are purchasing the mounting unit.
The metal is finished in a beautiful matt black. The build quality is outstanding, and I want to use this as a decorative piece in my home.
What’s in the box
The unit comes in a nice VIRPIL box, very well protected with everything we need to set our hardware up.
Inside 3 small plastic bags, we will find 2 sets of springs. The silver one (light) and the gold one (heavy) as the standard springs (black) come preinstalled in the joystick.
We also get 4 sets of cams (2 cams per set) and, again one of them is already preinstalled and 2 Allen keys, which we will need to open the unit and set up the spring/cam and the clutch.
Finally, we have the USB cable. This is not a standard cable, though. The end that connects to your computer is a standard USB plug but the end that connects to the base is an XS9 plug, which is used in aviation.
Installation and configuration
Important note: if you have multiple VIRPIL controls, make sure you connect one at a time and set them up separately to prevent issues, conflicts or even damaging your controls.
You have been warned. Take care of your gear!
If you have read my previous reviews on VIRPIL hardware , you already know the drill.
Step one (after opening the boxes frantically and drooling over the beautiful black matt finish) is to download and install VIRPIL’s VPS Software.
After that, you can connect the base to your computer. You will notice the base has 2 ports. One is the USB port, which connects to your computer and the other one is the AUX port.
The AUX port is useful if you have a VIRPIL control panel , for example. Instead of occupying 2 USB ports on your computer, you can connect the control panel to your base, via the AUX port and then connect the base to your computer.
Everything will be recognized, and you will be using a single port instead of 2.
After that, you can continue the process in the software where you’ll have to indicate what are the base and grip models that you have. Once that’s done, check for firmware updates.
There’s a very high probability that there’s an update for it, which I recommend you apply.
Once that’s done, calibrate your axes and test everything out. The hardware itself will store its calibration settings internally so you will not have to have the software always running.
Let’s dive into the juicy stuff now.
The new feature
As you go through the official features list, there’s something that you may notice. I’ll highlight it in bold:
- Perfect for Mounted Setups with Extensions
- Adjustable Axis Clutch Dampers
- Adjustable Axis Pre-Tensioners
- Swappable Springs and Cams
- Aircraft-Grade Duralumin Gimbal
- Compatible With All VIRPIL Grips and Thrustmaster Grips
- 10% Discount When Purchased with VPC Grip (applied at checkout)
Adjustable Axis Clutch Dampers. What’s that? Glad you asked! You probably didn’t ask, but I don’t care and will tell you anyway.
I am going to risk and make this sound a bit more dumbed down than it probably is from an engineering perspective. An adjustable axis clutch damper, in very layman's terms, is a friction system.
Underwhelming, right? I tend to ruin stuff for people. Sorry!
Seriously, though, it’s a system that allows you to control the internal friction of the X/Y axes of the base. By simply loosening or tightening a couple of small screws, you can decrease or increase the amount of friction on any of the 2 axes independently.
But let me take a small step back here and I’ll get to this again.
Just like its older brother, the VPC MongoosT-50CM2 base, the new CM3 base allows you to change the springs and the cams so you can make the joystick lighter or heavier to move and with a more pronounced center point, up to no point at all, if you remove the cams altogether.
The same with the springs. You can remove cams and springs and the joystick will move freely and without any physical center. This, of course, makes it a lot easier to control your helicopter as you will need less force, and the stick won't “fall” into the center detent as you move around that point.
Operating the joystick will be much smoother and you will have more control over the helicopter, preventing overcontrol and a safer operation of the virtual machine.
And this is where I felt that something like a friction system could come in handy in the previous version, the CM2.
Which the CM3 now has!
You can take the springs out, get the cams out, and adjust the axis clutch damper so that you feel comfortable with how much force you need to apply. You can also prevent it from falling to the side.
Exactly what I wished VIRPIL would do.
Oh, and yes, you read it right: it is compatible with all VIRPIL AND Thrustmaster grips.
My testing setup
To test the base, I obviously had to use a grip. The grip I chose for my review was the VPC Constellation ALPHA Prime .
I chose this grip for two reasons: the first one was because I need to review it as well. So, expect that to happen sometime soon. The second reason was because of the weight.
The VPC Constellation ALPHA Prime is made of metal, therefore a bit heavier than some of its younger (and smaller) brothers. Since the joystick features the clutch system, I wanted to make sure it was able to cope with the weight.
On top of that, I also did my tests with the VPC Flightstick 200mm Extension , which also adds more weight to it.
The goal was to stress the base as much as I could in a realistic environment. I’ll tell you my conclusions in the next section.
While this base is an update on the CM2, the only thing that I really find to be different is the new clutch system. Not to say this is a bad thing, though. The CM2 already performed amazingly well, and I was under control the whole time.
It’s smooth, precise, and responsive and I was pretty comfortable with how it operates. For your reference, I tested with Aerofly FS4, ARMA3, DCS, MSFS, X-Plane without any issues.
The adjustable axis clutch damper adds a bit more to the stick. Some more moving parts have an influence on the way the stick moves and that can be good or bad, depending on the engineering solution used.
Although there were some other internal changes (the position of the screws is different in the CM3), everything else seems to be pretty much the same as with the CM2. I couldn’t find any changes in how the base physically performs.
And even with the clutch system, it’s impeccable. Movement is fluid and the adjustment of the clutch system is precise enough, at least for me. I could get it to a point where it was very comfortable and exactly the way how I use my regular/daily system.
Oh, and to be clear: you can loosen the clutch to a point where it’s completely disabled, so the base will operate pretty much the same way as the CM2.
As for the added weight that I talk about in the previous section, I had no issues. The base handled it just fine and I didn’t even have to tighten the clutch system that much.
I have to say that using the extension does make a difference, so if you are wondering if you should get it or not, my recommendation is for you to get it if you have room for it.
Honestly, if I could give it an 11/10 I would. And I would do that because the CM2 was a perfect 10/10.
You may be asking yourself why is it that I gave it a 10/10 to the CM2 since it was lacking a feature. The truth is: it wasn’t.
VIRPIL didn’t promise that the product would have that feature. The friction/clutch system was something I wish it had, but the VPC MongoosT-50CM2 delivered what it promised, with great quality and performance.
Now, while you may find this weird, being the CM3 is pretty similar to the CM2 but the clutch system didn’t work properly, I would NOT give it a 10 since that was a promised feature and it would be lacking.
That’s not the case.
The VIRPIL VPC MongoosT-50CM3 both promises AND delivers great quality and performance. I can’t point out a single thing I don’t like about it.
Oh boy, do I recommend it.
Should I upgrade to the CM3?
Ah. This is a tricky question.
Let’s face it: these are not cheap bases. We’re talking about a €329,95/US$369.95 upgrade. That’s hefty, right? And for a single feature?
Well… I can understand that line of thought which is perfectly logical and valid. But you could probably sell your current base to someone else that doesn’t fly helicopters, for example, and you’d save perhaps close to a couple hundred Euros/Dollars.
This is a “single-feature” that makes quite a huge difference. When I reviewed the K-51 damper for the VIRPIL rudder pedals , I mentioned that having a bit of friction, a bit of force actually helps you in preventing overcontrol of the helicopter and the same is true here.
Not to mention the stick won’t fall to the side. You can leave it there if you need to change your hand’s position. Not only that, but you also won’t need to be constantly forcing your wrist and arm as you must hold the joystick.
Do I also recommend you upgrade? If you can afford it, definitely, yes.