View Full Version : My Thrustmaster Cougar review

02-23-2005, 07:18 AM
Well after 3 years on my X45 I decided the play in the handle has gotten to much for me. I noticed flying level was becoming impossible because the stick wouldn't center fully, I know I could have used some dead zone, but I feel dead zone kills your accuracy near the center. So with my big fat tax return check, I went in search for a new stick. I dismissed saitek because their driver support is horrid (I know, I was a driver beta tester for them). I needed a HOTAS setup so it was between a CH Products fighterstick and throttle, and the Thrustmaster Cougar. I had read a lot about the Thrustmasters durabaility problems, but after spending a bit of time on this site, http://cougar.frugalsworld.com/ I saw that all the of the problems could be overcome with a bit of work. Not wanting to work to hard I first looked at the CH setup. The stick looked great, lots of buttons and hats, good looks, would've fit my needs fine. But then on to the throttle. The CH throttle has lots of hats, but NO ROTARIES! I couldn't go back to no rotaries after my X45, I was spoiled by the nice prop pitch and elevator trim control I had. So that settled it, durability be ****ed I had to have a Cougar.

A week after placing my order at amazon.com this huge box arrived. They are not kidding when they say it is heavy. I'd say the throttle and stick together weigh close to 20lbs. The initial feel out of the box was impressive to say the least. All the buttons, hats, switches were metal. Everything had a feel of quality. Then when I began to work the stick I found my first problem. It was really easy to move the stick side to side or front to back, but combining the two movements was difficult. There seems to be a transition between the axis'. After a few initial flights I began to almost get used to this, after about a week of flying on it, I dont even think about the transitions.

On to accuracy. I have heard that pot spiking can become a problem after a while, but personally haven't had this yet so can't comment on it. With the stick still with new clean pots, the accuracy is amazing. My gunnery has improved significantly over my X45. If anyone tries to take a headon with me any my cougar it is usually the end for them. I seem to be able to deflection shoot and that snapshots with my FW190 much better now because I can place the crosshairs exactly where I think the enemy will be without even thinking about it.

On to durability. The play around the center that I was told would develop has. I would say I can move the top of the stick 5-7mm along both axis'. This is about how much play I had with my old X45, but in the cougar the play doesn't effect the pots, so wobbling the stick produces no input to the game thank god. The play happens right around center, so the majority of the time in flight it's a non-issue.

On to the software. Foxy, the program for making stick profiles is excellent. The program comes with a 183 page printed manual (yes printed, I didn't think computer stuff came with printed manuals anymore). Doing basic programing with the stick is fairly easy, but you can get much deeper. The software allows you to do logical programing on the stick, which ends up being pretty useful. For example their is a momentary contact switch on the throttle that when I press it once, it deselects engine two, the next press deselects engine one and selects engine two, and the next press it selects engine one again. This way I can toggle back and forth what engine I am controlling in a multiengine plane without taking my hands off the stick. I haven't even gotten very deep into what the software can do, supposedly you can adjust the axis curves in flight. So you could have the stick very sensitive during a dogfight, and dampen down the input for a landing. I haven't tried that yet, but it seems like an interesting feature. The one problem I have with this much programability is that I ran out of things I want to map to the stick. I spent about 6 hours programing it the first day I got it and still would have room for 10-12 more functions.

What are my plans for it? Well as I said earlier, it has developed play. There is a guy that is offering a full replacement for the internals of the stick, but he charges $350 (seems expensive, but if he charged full price for the machine time he does on his own the price would be much higher). Before he came up with a drop in replacement he used to let you send him your internals and he would add bearing supports to all the wear surfaces. Reading his past posts and looking at his pictures I decided I could do that myself. So currently I have a couple bearings on order, and hopefully will head down to my schools machine shop Thursday and try not to break anything. I'll give you guys an update on how the stick feels after the machine work.

All in all I think its a great stick. If you can tolerate the bit of play in the center you wouldn't have a complaint. The only thing that is left to be seen is how long the pots hold up. If you guys are looking for a new stick I would definitly recommend it. You can get them on Amazon pretty cheap now, used to be $300, now they are down to a bit above $200.

02-23-2005, 08:40 AM
IMHO, you need more time. Come back in a year or so and then tell us what you think.

After year and a half, my CH is still as good as it was in the first day.

02-23-2005, 10:00 AM
I have my Cougar since it came out first, and still never found any problems at all. Just one thing: the thingfy on the throttle to make it softer or harder...It almost has no effect...too much use I guess. But it still keeps the perfect feeling for me. I even do not notice anymore the center movement at all. You´ll forget about it in a short time.

Do newer cougars have any difference compared to those first series produced???

02-23-2005, 11:10 AM
From what I saw on the forums my cougar is exactly the same as the originals. How long do your pots usually hold up? I've heard they go bad fastest on VIA chipset boards, but mine is an Intel chipset so maybe they will last longer. After about a week I have decided that it almost doesn't need moding, but I already have the bearings so I might as well make some use of them. About the CH stuff, I was really tempted, but thier throttle seems like a step back from the X45 even. It might last forever, but the design of it is outdated and its missing functionallity that is important to me.

02-23-2005, 11:21 AM
If you thought the X45 throttle was fine, you should have kept it. If you ask me, A CH Fighterstick and an X45 throttle is a far better setup than a Cougar stick and throttle. A fair bit cheaper too. I know, I know, they don't *match* but they work just fine together. I never heard of the throttle portion of the X45 wearing out.

02-23-2005, 12:11 PM
Give it six months and hundreds of dollors later you hate the d**n thing and make it a paperweight

02-23-2005, 12:20 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Raptor_20thFG:
Give it six months and hundreds of dollors later you hate the d**n thing and make it a paperweight <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I couldn't agree more.

02-23-2005, 12:44 PM
Didn't think their was going to be quite this much hatred towards the thing. My point is their is just too much good about it to dwell so much on the bad. For the $20 I am going to spend on replacing all the bearing surfaces, I should have a stick that will have no play and stay that way forever. I did at one time think of using the X45 throttle with a fighterstick, but I would rather have one selfcontained setup. And besides the fighterstick has to light of an action for my tastes.

02-23-2005, 02:04 PM
I have both and stick with the X45 found the Cougar and pedals just to cumbersome and uncomfortable to use

02-23-2005, 02:15 PM
For us lucky ones who have machine skills the cougar is great. Yes it should not need to be "fixed" but once it is you wont be sorry.

As for the pots mine are ok after 2 years and alot of use but you do need to clean them from time to time, but I can do it in around 5 min so again no real problem. Also removeing the slop will extend greatly the pots life, are you doing the full bearing mod or just in the center?

Now when you do strip it to install those bearings you can reduce some of the spring pressure by slightly flattening the arms, this will make life easier on your wrist and help remove some of the center transition.(cougar world had a diagram to show the correct way to do this)

02-23-2005, 02:39 PM
pourshot, I am planning on doing the full 6 bearing supported mod. Me and a friend are going down to my colleges machine shop on friday afternoon to start work on it. I'm basically copying the Uber Ultra cougar mod, but with a littl less machine work because I don't care if it looks pretty. As for the spring pressure, I actually like it fine how it is. I removed the rubber boot because it was making it a bit stiff at the ends of travel, but plan on making a cloth boot to replace it too. If my pots ever do start getting bad, I know where I can get Hal sensors pretty cheap and will just make my own brackets for them to fix that problem for good.

02-23-2005, 03:16 PM
I got a Cougar 2 month ago. It's a great piece of hardware, and I know what I'm talking about, owning an AfterburnerII, X45 and CH Fighterstick & Pro Throttle HOTAS. The later one was the one I used, though it was 8 years old, it was WAY better than the X45. Don't get me wrong, the X45 is a nice stick for the price, but once you tried Cougar or CH-Products, you'll ask yourself how you could ever fly with anything else.

The accuracity alone of the Cougar against the X45 are 2 different worlds. Want a good comparison? Okay, map Zoom in LockOn to any axis on the X45. You'll get a jitter like some 70s or 80s camera-effects in a music video. With the cougar you can pinpoint the exact zoom easily.

And the play around the center? Big time LOL - you have the same in X45, but you never gonna experience it, since you never can put such a limited movement to an X45 because of the odd centering mechanism of the stick. I removed the spring of my X45 after a while and boy, did it have a zero-zone. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_eek.gif

IMHO the X45 and the Cougar are like a Fiat Panda and a Mercedes SLI. Surely both will drive you home, it's just a question how. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

Oh, one more word to the potis: It is for sure that you'll see a degradation of the potis after a year. You'll do that in any joystick. But you got to see this into relation! If the potis are going unexactly for a Cougar, it's working somewhere like a X45. That's a hughe loss for Cougars, but you should consider this, before judging. And then you got to see, that replacements don't cost 350$, the mod does. The potis come for free from TM!!! You can wait for this service a long time, even with CH Products.

If I have had the chance, I would have got a CH HOTAS, after my excellent experiences with this company. You don't get the stick or support in Germany, though, and the HOTAS would cost at least 100" more than the Cougar (!). The only thing I could really complain about is the stiff springs, but that is more a question of taste than anything else, as seem to be the most points in this discussion.....

02-23-2005, 03:31 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Taylortony:
I have both and stick with the X45 found the Cougar and pedals just to cumbersome and uncomfortable to use <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Taylortony, if you'll ever consider relieving yourself of that piece of hardware just PM me http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif


02-24-2005, 01:45 AM
I've had my Cougar for over 2 years. It is absolutley the best controller I've ever owned.

I just sprang for the extra money, and had Ian J build an "UberIINXT" upgrade which replaced my stock gimbals, and added Hall sensors to my joystick.

The feel of the stick is incredible, and for as much flying as I do, well worth what I paid, considering how much time I spend with the sim. The immersion factor is increased and I have much more control.

Here is a thread I started as Ian J was building my UberII NXT. I'm a little behind on updating it, becuase I can't stop using the joystick long enough to post the installation pictures http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif


One thing I do get tired of, is all the negative posts about the Cougar from people who have never had one, or used it (most posts). There are some people that it clearly is'nt the best choice for, who have gotten one and cannot make it work for them. If you are one of those people, please PM me. I'd consider taking it off of your hands for a reasonable price. Let's find that Kitty a good home and get it out of your hair.

If you can't unscrew, 4 Phillips head screws in the base, 2 Phillips screws that hold the pots, pull out the little plastic pot, take of it's back and swab it out with a q-tip, and reverse the sequence (10 mins for me), then the Cougar is'nt for you. I change my own brake pads, fix most things around the house myself and can actually solder (have'nt had to do this with the Cougar). I'm starting to learn in my old age, that most men can't do these things anymore. I guess I'm kind of odd.

The stock gimbals are a bit stiff for prop sims (which is all I fly) but the new gimbals are perfect. Perhaps Thrustmaster should have made it this way in the first place, but then I'm sure it would have cost over $500-600.

I own an X-45. Bought it to use with my laptop while on travel so I could make team events. In fact I'm typing this post from my hotel room, after finishing a scrimmage a few hours ago. Well, after several days of trying to use the X-45 and attemping for several weeks to program it, so that it resembled to some degree my Cougar setup at home, I gave it to my brother. My Cougar is sitting right here, next to me in my hotel room, along with my TrackIR2, Xkeys pad, and CH rudder pedals. So much for delicacy. This is the second time I've taken it on the road.

By the way, try this with your other setups....


Note that all complex engine managment is on the throttle (engine controls), while all weapons and view are on the joystick. I'm changing this around in version 6.0 a bit, but most commands are the same, and the theme remains unchanged.

By the way, when it comes to upgrades for Cougars, before sending money, make sure you research the upgrade throughly. Go over to Cougar World and read though the forums, or PM me. Ian Johnston provided me with the best customer service I've ever gotten over the web. I am very pleased and extemely happy with the UIINXT. It's not cheap, but quality never does come cheap, no matter how hard you want it to be that way.

I think that if I had'nt gone this route, I would have purchased a CH stick, probably. I do wonder from time to time, what the new Saitek flight system is like, but from what I can tell, it's all still plastic.

I love my Cougar, some do not. That's ok with me. Whatever floats your boat. Do you guys notice that I don't tear down the system you use? Most joystick threads only ever end up representing CH and Saitek products. Those are good, and cost much less, but nothing is remotely comparable to a Cougar, and particularly an expertly modded one. It's like comparing an F-150 to a BMW M series. Same thing, some people like F-150 better than BMW's, and that's a good thing, don't you think?


02-24-2005, 02:05 AM
You could have used the X-45 throttle with the CH stick.... http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif