Logitech Flight System G940


posted 10/20/2009 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
One Page Platforms: PC

This level of configurability comes at a cost: whether using the Logitech profiler application or working directly in the game's controller configuration screens, there is a lot of setting up to do. Because of the plethora of controller options, the G940 will appear as three separate units in the settings pages. This led to quite a bit of confusion while configuring the test bed simulation used by this reviewer. While trying to get everything to work as desired in DCS Ka-50 Black Shark, it took awhile to realize that the program has defaulted certain things across all three controllers. The effect of this was to stare in abject confusion as moving the throttle controller up not only increased the collective (as desired) but moved the cyclic control from the bottom right to the upper left. Which, as you can imagine, was most certainly not desired!

Other games were easier. For example, IL-2 Sturmovik was relatively easy to configure, albeit with the disappointment of finding that only one analog control could be assigned to the engines. In other words, the separate throttle lever was useless in twin engine aircraft. The separate throttle came in very handy in Microsoft Flight Sim X, though, particularly with the twin engine sea planes. Using asymmetric throttle to get them to turn on the water was far superior to depending entirely on the water rudder, especially when docking or maneuvering at slow speeds.

While the convenience of multiple analog controls, buttons, and sliders makes the G940 an excellent choice for flight sims, at the end of the day just about everyone is going to be more interested in how well the force feedback works in creating a realistic feeling. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer other than "it depends." What it depends on is the quality of the program you’re running, and my early impression is that the programs that currently support force feedback were developed when force feedback joysticks were much less sophisticated than the new level set by the G940.  In other words, they seem to concentrate more on reactions to external forces like firing the aircraft’s guns, bouncing along on a grass runway, or getting hit by an enemy’s bullets. Control forces in flight are far more subtle and in most cases are simply a better feeling centering force.

Three different flight sims were used to test the force feedback: Ubisoft’s IL-2 Sturmovik, Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X, and DSC’s Ka-50 Black Shark. Of the three, the most active force feedback came from IL-2. The first indication that you’re not flying with a passive joystick is on takeoff when you can feel bumps in the runway as you accelerate in your takeoff roll. It might be just the muscle memory of you reviewer talking, but I swear I could feel the airplane getting lighter on its wheels as the plane neared liftoff speed. Once in the air, the centering force is well balanced and allows for small, effortless corrections in cruise flight, but provides a nice feeling of resistance in high speed maneuvering. If you yank your plane into a tight, high G turn, you will feel a buffeting in the stick as the wing struggles to maintain lift at a high angle of attack. Pull the trigger to fire a gun or press a button to release a bomb and you will feel the recoil from the gun and the bump of a 500 lb. lighter airplane as the bomb releases.

It is during full deflection movements that you will feel the one weakness in the G940’s force feedback. Endemic to the mechanics used in Logitech’s force feedback system is a rough feeling as you push through the opposing force. It’s hard to describe, but I’d say one way of saying it is that it feels like there is gravel in the system. Speaking electronically, I would guess that it has something to do with moving through the phases of the electric motors that provide the force. It’s not unique to the G940; other Logitech force feedback controllers have a similar feeling. You get used to it pretty quickly.

The force feedback effects were less noticeable in Flight Sim X and Black Shark. The most noticeable feeling in Black  Shark was with the flight trim system. In Black Shark, you move the joystick in the direction you want to go and once you have the stick in the correct position for your desired speed and/or bank, you click the trim button. That immediately removes the control force required to hold the stick in position. Of the three titles, Black Shark was the only one that felt realistic in trim. All three benefited from the three trim analog sliders on the base of the joystick, though.

Even without sophisticated force feedback effects, the G940 proved to be a higher fidelity controller than any I had used before. Because of the higher sensitivity in the center zone coupled with the smooth and predictable break out forces, I was able to fly FSX helicopters better than ever before. In IL-2, I found that the centering force combined with the wing buffet in high G turns helped provide better control and fewer cases of the stall/spin incidents that have led to my demise so many times before. The plethora of configurable control options allowed for a much higher degree of HOTAS flying than ever before. While the price puts the G940 well into the range that only a dedicated gamer will tread, Logitech is offering a high quality control system that will reward the dedicated flight sim enthusiast with a high quality flight experience.

It's not cheap, but the Logitech Flight System G940 is a robust, high quality flight control system. The force feedback capability should become more sophisticated as newer simulations come to market.

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