Having precise throttle control and being able to manipulate as many aircraft functions as possible without reaching for the keyboard is one of those goals that a lot of flight sim pilots look for as they get more seriously into simming. Flight sim and space sim hardware makers VIRPIL are on to their fourth generation of throttle as the company continues to innovate their hardware offerings. Their latest version of their MongoosT-50 series of throttles is aimed directly at the serious sim pilot and I’ve been fortunate to try out the very latest to see how it stacks up.
This throttle comes complete with a wide range of higher end features that many enthusiasts are looking for including dual throttle control, customizable detents, plenty of toggle buttons, hat switches and more. So, how does this fourth-generation throttle measure up when flying on some of the most demanding sims around? Read on in this battle tested review!
VIRPIL were nice enough to send me a VPC MongoosT-50CM3 Throttle for review. As is my policy, whenever I get sent something for review, I like to make a note of it. VIRPIL did not ask for any editorial control over the review and everything you’re reading are my own thoughts.
The “battle tested” moniker is something that I’m attaching to my latest hardware reviews. My policy from the start with hardware reviews on Stormbirds.blog is that I take my time with them and really spend the hours to thoroughly test something. You often don’t fully appreciate all the features (or the potential issues) that may crop up until you really spend the time with it.
Throughout the course of my time with the VPC MongoosT-50CM3 Throttle, I’ve flown it in IL-2: Great Battles, DCS World on multiple fixed wing and rotary wing platforms, with bush planes and airliners alike in Microsoft Flight Simulator and using some of my choice aircraft in X-Plane 11 too.
The features and how you can use them
At €369.95 in price, the VPC MongoosT-50CM3 commands a price premium and sits close to the top in its class of hardware. That price does enable this device to come with a substantial set of features, premium construction and enough equipment to conceivably set you up with even the most complex of flight simulators.
For this first segment of the review, I want to cover all the buttons, hat switches, dials and toggles that this throttle features and how you can make use of them.
Throttle Base Panel
- 6 x Customisable Momentary Buttons
- 3 x Momentary Toggle Switches (ON-OFF-ON)
- 4 x Latched Toggle Switches (ON-ON)
- 1 x 5-Way Mode Dial
- 2 x Encoder Dials (+ Push)
- 2 x Throttle Axis (VPC Contactless Sensors)
- 1 x Auxiliary Axis (VPC Contactless Sensor)
Before moving on to the actual throttle itself, let’s have a look at the base panel. Some throttles don’t have any controls on their base, but VIRPIL has made sure to add quite a bit of capability on the base unit.
The six customizable momentary buttons are LED lit and change colour based on mode using either the default or your own pre-set. These feel substantially better than the first gen throttle and have enough travel and resistance to give a satisfying sense of feedback. These six buttons are connected with the 5-way mode dial. The dial can be configured to offer you five separate button presses or as a mode switch which makes those 6 buttons into 30 buttons. Need engine controls on one mode dial control and a sophisticated countermeasure setup on another? Easily done.
I should also mention that these buttons can be opened up and a series of provided icons can be inserted in there (or I’m sure you could print your own if you were really inclined).
There are three momentary toggle switches which have a default off position and an up and down on position. To me, these are ideal for things like landing gear or flaps where you can toggle gear down by pressing down on the toggle and raise the gear by toggling it up. It makes for fewer mistakes and less chance of accidentally toggling the gear in an awkward spot. The same goes for flaps and other aircraft systems. Each one can easily be bound in various sims as the upward press registers as a separate button from the down.
There are also four latched toggle switches. These are configured by default to have an on and off position. Unfortunately, I’ve found that most sims struggle to understand their off position. That can be adjusted in the included VIRPIL control suite so that the down press is its own button. It took a bit to understand how to setup but once I did, I’ve never looked back. These are great for toggling superchargers, setting your master arm switch, or even starting an engine.
There are two encoder dials on the base panel. These act like buttons rather than an axis on their own so you have to bind them as such. They do still work well for things that need to be turned up or down such as lights or a sight control. They also have button presses which is very useful.
The throttle itself is of course the whole units primary function. The dual throttle axis control has extremely precise sensors using VPC’s own contactless system. The movement of these throttles rotates around an axis rather than as a sliding motion like you may see on other units. Throttling up in just about anything from a Spitfire to an F-16 to an Airbus A320 is made much more satisfying by the smooth but firm motion by the unit. This is an exceptionally precise feeling unit, and it makes engine control very easy to manage which is essential for careful formation flying work, plugging the probe into the basket for air to air refueling or sticking the landing at some challenging location. The throttle also has a pair of metal lift gates which, when used with specific detents, allow you to lift the throttle over the detent and on into the next stage.
There’s also an auxiliary axis labeled flaps. Unlike the first gen unit that I was coming from, this axis has a similar high-quality weight and feel that requires actual pressure to move. I am a huge fan of this upgrade! I frequently use this for propeller pitch or other auxiliary engine controls beyond the throttle and it works great in that role. Better than ever actually. Need to bring that RPM back just a bit? Pull firmly back on this axis. It’s incredibly satisfying.
- 1 x 8-Way Hat (+ Push)
- 3 x 4-Way Hat (+ Push)
- 1 x 2-Way Hat (+ Push)
- 1 x Encoder Dial
- 1 x Encoder Dial (+ Push)
- 4 x Momentary Push Buttons
- 1 x Slider Axis
- 1 x Analogue Ministick (+ Push)
Now on to the throttle handles themselves which are bifurcated into two. They both share an ergonomically shaped handle which is textured along the top and is extremely comfortable in my hand. They can be easily latched together by a plastic piece which slides into place. The piece feels a little cheap next to the other high-quality components but should suffice at keeping these two pieces together.
VIRPIL has really gone all out on the controls on the handles.
There’s an eight-way hat switch, three four-way hat switches, and one two-way hat switch. All of these hat switches have their own unique texture and shape which makes it easy to feel for them and ideal for VR pilots who may not be able to look at the hardware they are interacting with. I love having all these switches as they are immensely useful for modern combat aircraft with their large number of HOTAS controls. I’ve also found them useful for the myriad of engine control switches on WWII warbirds and on the various controls you find in general aviation aircraft too.
There are also two encoder dials similar the ones on the base panel. The one on the left side has a push button while the one on the right is home to the eight-way hat control with push.
There are four momentary push buttons including a handy red one hidden away on the underside of the right side of the unit just within reach of your thumb. Each of these is sculpted differently which, just like the hat switches, makes for great usability. VR pilots, rejoice!
There’s a slider axis which is perhaps my only disappointment with the unit. It feels just a little too light to the touch and the plastic appears and feels thin. It could have probably been made just a bit chunkier to feel more satisfying and more precise. On the plus side, it also has a substantial detent in the middle.
I’ve used this control for a couple of different systems depending on the aircraft including a flaps up/down, a radar elevation control, and even a mixture control.
Finally, let’s end with one of my favourite features which the analogue mini stick with push button. This is modeled like the analogue sticks on a Playstation or Xbox controller and it works just as well as you’d imagine. I use it for slewing radars and targeting pods in DCS World primarily and it has the kind of precise control that you need to get that point track setup exactly right. There are probably other creative uses it can be used for in other sims, but I feel like this is primarily aimed at modern combat sim pilots and it works great. I didn’t know I was missing it until I had it!
VIRPIL have introduced a new detent system with the CM3 that brings back the feature from earlier models but does it in a way that is so much more capable and customizable than any other throttle I’ve ever seen before.
The detents now sit on the top part of the throttle and new styles of detent can be swapped in and out as desired. There are five styles of detent (some of which can be mixed and matched) some of which can be combined with the lift system to allow the throttle to go past them.
- “Classic” Detents – Lift to pass detents, push return.
- “Classic Plus” Detents – Lift to pass detents, push return but with an additional tactile bump immediately after crossing the detent range.
- “Warthog-Type” Detents – Lift to pass and lift to return detents.
- “Aerobatic” Detents – Push through and push return detents.
- “CosmoSim” Detents – Push through central detent.
Of the five, the Aerobatic ones which come pre-installed were my favourite. They offer enough of a bump that you can get past them easily but enough resistance to prevent you from going into afterburner in your F/A-18 Hornet, into WEP in a WWII warbird, or conveniently placed for the autothrottle on an A320neo.
The detents are held in place by a screw and easily removed or moved with a hex key.
I love this system and I think it’s great that VIRPIL includes the different detents, clearly marked in small bags, in the box.
The MongoostT-50CM3 feels exceptionally well made. VIRPIL touts the interior hardware as being made of aircraft grade aluminum and here I really feel like it makes a difference. The smooth but weighted motion from the throttle and auxiliar axis are both impressive.
The throttle base is in a roughly square aluminum enclosure with chamfered edges which once again makes this whole unit feel substantial and tough. The design has now become a standard from VIRPIL as they also use this with their control boxes – themselves offering additional features for the sim pilot who needs more buttons, knobs, dials and controls.
The MT-50CM3 has detachable feet and its small and thin enough to use on a desktop if you need to. The feet have recessed rubber pads so it shouldn’t slide around too much either. The size of the unit is smaller than the first gen which was the same size as the Thrustmaster Warthog (and compatible with many of the mounting systems out there at the time). The new size means that it’s not as compatible with older mounting systems, but VIRPIL also sells their own compatible unit if you want that.
Many of the controls use high quality plastics except for the momentary toggle switches and the auxiliary axis which are made from metal.
The four latched toggle switches are a red moulded plastic and feel a little less satisfying to the touch than some of the other controls. The red plastic moulding is fine but just feels a little out of place compared to many of the other controls. The switch under them feels chunky so its just the top presentation that stands out. I’ve already highlighted my minor issues with the light feel of the slider axis in the previous section.
Those minor gripes aside, nearly everything else on this throttle feels exceptionally solid from the throttle motion itself to the various toggle switches, encoder dials, and auxiliar axis. Most of the parts on this unit are nearly all made to last and stand the test of time which is exactly what I wanted to see.
A few have asked me about longevity of the unit and on that it’s hard to determine, even with my longer term hardware review. VIRPIL have made strides to improve quality and control and I don’t feel like anything mechanical on this unit would fail under normal use circumstances.
One nice feature that should contribute to longevity is the plug for the USB connection. It’s a pin connection in the throttle with a standard USB 2.0 connector on the other side. If something happens to your cable, you can replace the cable without needing to get inside the unit and replace the whole cord.
One reader did ask me about if it could be used on the right hand to which my answer is a firm no. But that unlikely situation aside (most military aircraft have a left-hand throttle), there’s a lot to like here when it comes to using this throttle.
The change in configuration from the first generation represents a rethink by VIRPIL’s engineers and the payoff is incredible. With the number of hat switches and controls available here, I finally feel like I have enough controls available to me to fully configure any DCS World module with the complete HOTAS experience without having to resort to using the keyboard. I love the analogue stick as it’s a much better experience than a four-way hat switch for adjusting controls such as a targeting pod or radar slew control.
When it comes to the controls on the base of the unit, most of them are very easily to work with. The metal toggle switches remain a favourite of mine as they are very satisfying to use. The mode switch and customizable momentary buttons are also very useful. I did find they get a little pinched when the throttle is all the way aft and it can be harder to get your hand in there to hit the appropriate button. A compromise for a smaller throttle unit.
Every hat switch and button on the throttle has its own unique design and texture so you’ll never mistake one for another which makes this incredibly valuable for VR users.
Customizability and software
VIRPIL have continued to evolve their VPC Configuration Tool. The default version of their software offers you basic controls that should let you update firmware, test the unit, and get into the action quickly and easily. The software is free and available to anyone to download and use (with VIRPIL hardware of course).
The software has become more automated and easier to use than the same version of the software they were offering a few years ago. That makes it easier for the less technically inclined to get in and do what they need to do without a more substantial interface in the way.
This is all in reference to their ‘Lite’ version of the software control panel. Want to get into more depth with the unit? No problem. The ‘Pro’ version can be accessed by pressing a button in the top right corner revealing more customization and more diagnostic tools.
If you want to, you can custom setup behaviors for different switches and reassign almost any switch to any other switch. You can also instruct the software to break the unit into a couple of separate controllers in Windows which will allow some software, like IL-2: Cliffs of Dover, which have a lower maximum button limit to access the full range of the hardware. I didn’t bother to change my configuration for just that one sim but it is an option available to you. Other modern sims should have no problem accessing the full suite of buttons.
It’s also in this software that I reconfigured the four latched toggle switches taking them from on/off to on / on with different button assignments for each. Much easier to bind in most flight sims.
The VPC MongoosT-50CM3 Throttle represents a constant evolution of hardware available from VIRPIL. The improvements from the first generation of this throttle to this fourth generation represent several leaps forward with more usable buttons, hat switches and controls plus some unique feature additions like the customizable detents.
This is undeniably premium unit. With a price of €369.95 through the VIRPIL store, this is an expensive unit, but it also feels solid in a way that you won’t see in almost any other throttle currently on the market. From the improved software to better arrangement of controls on the throttle itself, to new features such as easily modifiable detents, it’s hard to find much in the way of faults.
There are a few areas where VIRPIL could still improve the unit such as with the latched toggle switches which feel a little rough and cheap compared to the rest of the unit. But this is a minor gripe in what is otherwise an outstanding piece of hardware.
Over the course of several weeks, I’ve put this throttle through every test that I could come up with. I’ve flown it in every sim that I regularly fly in including DCS World, X-Plane, the IL-2 series, and in Microsoft Flight Simulator. I’ve flown helicopters, jump jets, warbirds, and turboprops. Every flight journal over the last several weeks and every aircraft review has been powered by this throttle and it never once caused me a glitch or a problem. It’s been a delight to use and I’ve, for the first time ever, never struggled to find a hatch switch or button to map my control to.
The VPC MongoosT-50CM3 Throttle is the quite simply the best throttle that VIRPIL has ever made and the best throttle that I have ever tested.
If you missed it, check out the other two parts of this review:
- Part one – VPC MongoosT-50CM3 throttle unboxing
- Part two – VPC MongoosT-50CM3 throttle first impressions and your questions answered