Sunday, January 22, 2012

Logitech G940 review

The device is very well packed and all the items have their envelope to protect from water and humidity. The box contains the pedals, the throttle, the joystick and the power supply.

Cabling is quite easy. The main device is the joystick that has the USB cable to connect to a free port of the PC. It has also 2 DSUB9 ports where the throttles and the pedals have to be connected. Cables are long enough at least for my setup. Close to these connectors there is also the connector for the power supply. Neither the DSUB9 not the power supply connectors have screws to lock the cable. I think that a device so expansive should have better connectors especially the DSUB should be different between pedals and throttles to avoid to connect a device to a wrong socket. The missing of the screws is also a lack for me. At least in my setup I will have to connect and disconnect the devices every time I flight so I am afraid the the connectors could brake with the time.

All the devices are plastic made but they lock very solid and heavy. The joy and the throttle device have holes that allow to screw them to the table. However they have gum below and never move even without locking. Pedals have gum below and some locking when used with carpet. They also never moved but I wonder why they do not have any locking mechanism that I find more useful for this device then for the others.

Installation proceed as usual: launch the setup of the CD and connect the device when requested. When the G940 is powered the buttons in the throttles lit up first in red then in green then off. The joystick wake up and the lever goes to the center. The software loads up a profile manager from which it is possible to select a specific profile for the flight simulator. Note that at the present there is no support to light the buttons of the throttle. It is a pity as it would be nice to have them working. I think for example to have red/green color for the landing gear and so on.

The profile manager resembles other profile manager like for example that of the saytek joystick. It is possible to select the device, a button of the device and then associate a key or a macro (i.e. a sequence of key to press). In the case of the Flight Simulator, the profiler shows a list of commands. Thrusting the default profile for flight simulator I started the sim and tested the device. I had to configure the axis from the controls tab of the simulator. Some of them has to be inverted, like the rudder, but it has been quite easy. I used one of the saved situation of the 767LD for that purpose so my sim started with the pane powered at the parking.

In my case this simple configuration did not work, The plane had the brakes always on and crashed during the taxi or was impossible to take off. I never understood the reason as there was nothing assigned to the brakes. I configured the pedals with the differential brakes and no assignation for the brakes (the dot of the keyboard) and nothing for the parking brakes. When I released/set the parking brakes everything seemed to work well but as soon as I touched and released the pedals the brakes engaged and was not possible to release. I spent quite some time with this issue but no solution. Another problem I noticed was related to the spoilers:: the lever moved constantly from released to around middle range.
After spending some hour, I gave up and get rid of the profiler by selecting an new, empty profile. I deleted all the assignation to the devices in the flight sim. and start from scratch. What is annoying in this phase is that in order to save the settings in the flight simulator you have to exit the program. It seems that FSX only saves the settings during shut down. Note that to get rid of all the assignation, I had to select the right device in the settings tab. SO the same operation had to be repeated for all the three devices. FSX assigned to each devices some command/axes by default. But this assignation is not clever enough so that there were more device controls assigned to the same axis or keyboard command. I guess this, together with the profiler settings, could have been the reason of the problems.
I resasigned all the axes and commands to the buttons as I liked and after that everything works well. However this operation has been very time consuming and for awhile a thought to have a problem in the G940 too.
The profiler has now an empty profile. I tried to assign some commands from the profiler but it does not work anymore. First when I select a button it does not offer the list of FSK commands as it was doing before. And even if I assign a command, nothing happens in the simulator. So I guess that now the link between the simulator and the profiler is broken. I also guess that there is a way to fix but I am not really interested as I think that the profiler is useless unless it allows me to do something I can't achieve with the setting of the simulator that is not the case.

G940 is plenty of joysticks and buttons, hats and sliders and all of them easily configurable with FSX. In my case I used only controls for the landing gear, flaps, trim, one to engage the spoilers for landing and a hat for the view in 3D cockpit. So in my case there are more controls then what I need. What I would like to have is the possibility to invert the axis of the throttle to simulate the reverse. It should work in this way: when landing move the throttle back to idle; press a button (or better switch the configuration button from position 1 to 3, this button is in the throttle lever) this button inverts the axis so when I accelerate the throttles the reverse is applied. When finished with the revers, move back the throttle, press the button and the axis return normal for taxiing. Not sure if it can be done with the profiler. That would be a good reason to resuscitate the profiler.

The pedals are quite solid. Even if they are plastic made, I am not afraid to put my heavy shoes on it and move them. Instinctively I do not apply big forces on them but there is no need as they react immediately and smoothly. I found taxing and landing a new experience. The pedals add a lot of realism. Differential brakes together with the 2 throttle levers greatly improves maneuvering. Differential brakes are progressive so it is not a process all/nothing but it is easy to modulate the amount of brake to apply to the left and side side.

The throttles are easy to control with he 2 levers. Very useful during taxi and maneuvering and to experiment single engine fly without turning off one of the engines. The levers do not move smoothly along all the range. There are 2 points where they offer some resistance. For me it is not disturbing but for a three-hundred-euro device they should be better IMO. The throttle has to be put on the left side while I hoped to use them on the right side because this is the position of the throttle in respect to the captain seat. The levers have an inclination and the button in one side of the lever so that their position is the right side.
For my way of control the throttles, the button in the pad are disturbing. I am used to lie my left arm on the pad and in this way it presses the buttons in the pad. This is my fault of course. I solved by setting buttons that I do not press by mistake with the arm. Fortunately the device is full of buttons...

The joystick is really great to control the plane. It is very smooth, really nice to move. The hand fits quite well. This device must be controlled by the right hand. Same consideration I did for the throttle...
The lever is quite big and to press some button or use the topmost hat I have to release the lever, move the hand and operate the control. This is again not a big deal because there are buttons and  a hat I can control without releasing the lever. There are so many controls that it is very easy to customize.
I almost can't feel the force feedback. It has been activated in the simulator and I also increased from 100% to 110%  but up to now almost can't feel it. I should feel some vibration during taxi, landing and moving up and down the gear but nothing. I would also expect the force to be applied when the plane needs trim. But nothing or very little force. I have to investigate more. What I can say is that I had an old microsoft side winder years ago and when the plane needed trim it was quite hard to handle the lever of the joystick. I have to experiment more probably.

To close this long review, just few words about the centering of the devices. It has to be done with the standard windows controls, the same we are used to use for the other joysticks. This is easy and familiar but surprising for the throttle as the 2 throttles are seen by the system as a 2 axis joystick so both the levers must be moved while centering.

The following picture shows my little home cockpit as it appears today (pedals at the bottom are not visible).

G940 is just in front. Behind almost invisible the keyboard and the mouse in the right side. The lighted instruments are CPFlight (MCP, EFIS, XPNDR, NAV, ADF, COM). On the right side of the MCP, the master caution button I built starting from two pieces of aluminium. In the top right side the light panel. 
I took this picture flying on IVAO with the 767LD. The right monitors shows the FMC and IVAE.
Below the monitor on the right side, there is the wooden frame for the next panel. I am planning to put there the landing gear and other controls, not sure yet which ones.
And I am also planning to put on top of the monitor in the left side, a set of annunciators. Probably the ones in the overhead and maybe those in the glare shield.

Last saturday I sent the MCP to CPFlight for maintenance. The knobs for the heading and the altitude do not work (consumed). But talking with CPFlight support, I found that there is wire connector in the back side of the MCP for the TOGA button and it works with the 767LD. I will probably add a button close to the master caution for engaging the TOGA. In this way I save one input line of the master device and the cabling should be very easy.

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