FS9. FSX & P3D CTD Guide - NEW!
FSX / P3D Configuration Guide - UPDATED!
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VRInsight MCP Combo II (Boeing)
If you have very high expectations for your gear - this product will NOT disappoint!
What I really like about the VRInsight Combo II (Boeing) unit: Speeds up flight control surface operations immensely, great overall look and feel, rugged heavy-duty construction is "built to last", attractive design layout and functionality. Using LINDA (read further for more on LINDA) you can assign buttons to wide variety of tasks (SHIFT function via Linda gives 3-levels of programming for each of the 3-areas of the device: EFIS (x3) / MCP (x3) / USER-COMMS (x3). By default, LINDA uses the 6,7 & 8 user-programmable buttons to shift each of the three areas I just mentioned, so button #6 shifts EFIS, button #7 shifts the MCP area, button 8 shifts the USER/COMMS Radio area. I use button 8 the most with the PMDG 737NGX, because when shifted, it allows me access to every one of the aircraft's doors, including cargo forward and aft! How great is that? Pretty great! IMPORTANT NOTE (Added Sept 23 2012): When connecting to your PC for best results DO NOT connect this to a Powered USB 2.0 HUB- but rather, plug it DIRECTLY into your actual PC's USB port! Running this through a hub may produce unexpected results and problems within FSX and/or Linda LUA!
During flight, pressing the RECALL button (MCP area, upper left corner next to the TOGA button) switches the MCP readout back and forth, and shows real time instrument readings such as A/T FD LNAV VNAV ALT and V/S. Press again and see FLAPS and GEAR status. If the flaps are traveling to a new setting you see a progress arrow FLAPS >5 means flaps are increasing to 5 degrees. Once the 5 degrees is achieved, it just says FLAPS 5. (without the > or < arrows). Speed readout is shown as well in this mode, very handy when flying an approach. In short: Instant feedback in an easy-to-read and logical place, great if you're looking outside the aircraft (especially when filming).
Bang-for-Buck ratio of the VRInsight MCP Combo II (Boeing) : OUTSTANDING
What could be better: The built-in panel illumination lights for this device lack a dimmer knob - the panel lights are either 100% on or 100% off - a dimmer would be a HUGE plus, even if hidden on the back-side of the unit so it wouldn't get accidentally moved during flight. There is a "LCD CONTRAST" button recessed into the top edge but that's a different thing! There are 2 buttons out of this entire unit that are not individually "lit" [ the LOC button and #7 programmable button are both unlit by design ]. Some buyers thought their units were defective because these two buttons remain dark when the Combo II lights are engaged. In my opinion, this is a non-issue. In my case, I fly 100% of the time with the Combo II display panel lights "off" - but that's personal choice.
Recently I purchased the very fine Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog control surface pair and discovered a wonderful button-programming tool here on Avsim called "Linda". After playing around a bit, I managed to configure my Thrustmaster Warthog Throttle Quadrant and Joystick to handle an astounding number of tasks on my airplane of choice, the exquisite PMDG 737NGX (SP1c). Some months went by, and I realized that while the Warthog was handling a LOT of the control duties on the NGX, it still was weak in some areas, particularly found myself constantly mouse-clicking on the VC (Virtual Cockpit) controls on screen to accomplish various tasks both before and during flight.
I began considering two primary competitors for an "MCP" panel to go with my Warthog. Primary goals: Ease of installation/configuration plus instant compatibility with the NGX. I looked hard at GoFlight's MCP panel because it is spot-on duplicate of the 737 MCP. But eventually I was won over by VRInsight, a Korean company, and went instead with their MCP Combo II (Boeing) unit because simply stated, it 'did more' for about the same money, thus was more cost-effective and a smaller footprint on my L-shaped desk. I like the fact that with ONE purchase of this item, I actually have a 'combo' unit that includes MCP, EFIS and COMMS functions within a SINGLE CONTROL PANEL.
It took about 30 days start-to-finish for the VRinsight MCP Combo II (Boeing) to arrive at my home from a USA Internet vendor. A well-known company here had positive consumer feedback led me to buy this $400 item (on sale) over the Internet. I paid via PayPal. Note: PayPal does NOT provide the same level of satisfaction intervention for Internet sales that it provides when you purchase something on eBay. However, I like the fact that using PayPal protects my credit card number and expiration date (the merchant never sees it, only PayPal does).
The Combo II arrived today, I unboxed it, things went smoothly by and large. The item arrives with a separate box of labeled buttons that you "snap onto" your MCP Combo II. This is child's play, but is a bit more touchy if you decide afterwards you want to swap a button or two for one of the others in the kit that comes with the MCP II.
After struggling mightily trying to 'make do' (the only knock on my order, VRI left out the promised button-pulling tool. Solution? Trip to CVS pharmacy retail store, purchased CVS (brand) Travel Pick (2 pack) which are metal curved toothpicks, shaped like Captain Hook's missing-hand replacement. These were quite cheap (about $4 or so), and work a treat if you simply slide the hook in behind the button, then gently wiggle the hook and gradually pop the button off so you can swap it.
I was able to swap several after discovering the VRI unit is configured a certain way in the "LINDA" software that is found here on AVSIM in the FREE Software area. (Donations apparently are most-welcome by the developers of Linda though). The photo array at the end of this review shows how I configured the buttons on my unit. The only really tricky choice was TERR for TERRain and TRN for TRANsponder. I somehow put the TERR button on the transponder section of the comms, and was left with TRN for terrain, which was backwards. So I used my dental pick "tool" and swapped the two buttons to the positions shown in my online photo array.
At any rate, I unboxed the Combo II which was sturdily packed for its trip across the miles to California from Korea. Upon unboxing, I was instantly struck by the 'heavyness' of the product build - I felt the quality was very good for the price. I have included several photos in this post, so those of you who are considering this item might benefit from a closer view of the buttons and displays than what is generally to be found out on the web. This item is heavy and solid with a "Mercedes" feel, compared against the Saitek brand of equipment, which is much more "plastic" in appearance and tactile feel. Another bonus of this heavy-duty look and feel? The device doesn't wander around on your desk. If you have to move it, you have to exert some energy to do so. Mine sits on my glass-top desk and never moves at all, even when I am pushing buttons one-handed, or turning knobs, or flipping F/D or A/T switches.
A driver disk is provided, and though I don't use the VRInsight software PER SE, you must install the drivers so your PC can fully recognize this hardware. I elected to install SerialFP2 which is included on the installation DVD that ships with the Combo II. Main reason was upon running the SerialFP2 program, you are told which COM PORT your Combo II lives on. It's confusing, because it is a USB device, so a Com Port sounded like the old Serial Port from days gone by. Still, LINDA needs to know the Com Port of the Combo II so Linda can automatically add 2 lines of text to your FSUIPC.ini file Linda is so smart, she even offers to do this modification FOR YOU, you only need to say what com port your Combo II is on (mine is Com Port 4).
Installation sequence of events:
The user buttons #6, #7 & #8 are used to swap between the function-shifted modes via LINDA software interface (see link at bottom of this review).
User button #6 in the COMMS area (press it repeatedly to cycle through the 3 different modes) switches you between 3 different EFIS modes:
What does all of this mean to you? Much more freedom in button assignments, because many of the buttons and knobs can be programmed to fulfill 3 different functions EACH (for each of the three shiftable modes). Once you have this device on your desktop and download the version of Linda for your aircraft - you will quickly see how this works. It's simple. You are allowed to name each 'mode' if you want to change the default names chosen by Linda's development team.
I did a test flight from KDCA (Ronald Reagan Washington Airport) and KJFK (Kennedy Airport, New York) and it was a whole new level of immersion, several degrees beyond anything I have experienced thus far. I previously had purchased the very fine Saitek Radio Stack, which I love for its HUGE digital display. I thought of selling it, because the Combo II fulfills all of the functions of the Saitek, but I dearly love the huge readouts though not so crazy about how hard it is to tune in a station.
The MCP Combo II is MUCH easier to set frequencies on than the Saitek. If you press the NAV button on the Comms portion of the Combo II, you automatically then are able to set Nav2 as well as Nav 1 (press the button again to cycle back to Nav1) Same thing with COM (press again you get Com2, once more you are back to Com1) The swap button for the radios is at the far right to the left of the AUX button in my photos (opposing left and right arrows is the radio standby-to-active swap button). If you have both the Combo II -and- the Saitek Radio unit, actions on the Combo II radios display on the Saitek. So I leave the Saitek top row on COM1 and Saitek bottom row on XPNDR (Transponder). Thus I can visually confirm my squawk code and current com channel and com standby channel all at once on the large Saitek display. Could I live without the Saitek? Absolutely.
Quickly zoom the view on your ND display by rotating the 'actual' range knob on the EFIS is GOLDEN. Same way when you go over 18000 feet, you press the Baro(meter) knob and you go to between Actual and STD barometric pressure. I don't know if it can switch between Hecta Pascal and Inches HG though. Autopilot A and B are available instantly, as are CWS A and CWS B (see photos).
Flip the Combo II F/D selector switch and BOTH F/D's are activated sequentially. The pilot first, then the FO. That alone made this a MUST HAVE because it's exactly what I do on EVERY flight, in exactly the proper order. LNAV and VNAV, Flight Level Change, N1 and Speed are all quite handy as is Autothrottle, and AP Disengage Bar. On the right side are 8 user-programmable buttons, which you can use the numbers (as I did) or you can use the included spare buttons for your choice of extra tasks such as Gear (up down etc), AutoBrake (including RTO option), Airbrake, Flaps, and so on. In my own case, after downloading Linda 1.7 (see link at end of this review) I was able to use those 8 programmable buttons to reset various warning lights on (first 5 buttons). Your choice though, and LINDA software (remember: free here on Avsim) makes this absolute CAKE! Buttons 6,7 & 8 are reserved by Linda (unless YOU choose different buttons) to shift the 3 separate areas of the Combo II so you can get up to 3 different levels of button/switch programming for the EFIS, MCP and COMMS/USER areas, respectively.
Linda allows you to access the stunning variety of commands from both the FSX and NGX palattes, including those little nicities like reverse thrusters, engine kill switches, APU on/off, and too many more to touch on. If you didn't invest in the Thrustmaster Warthog, you can get your Combo II to do 'double duty' by using the Shift button and essentially tripling many of the capabilities of this device by assigning special unique tasks when the device is in SHIFT 1, SHIFT 2, or SHIFT 3 mode that function differently from each other.
Not to take anything away from the very fine FS2Crew product (available NOW for PMDG 737NGX), but there's something special about physically flipping real switches, pushing actual physical buttons, and rotating control knobs, and seeing the identical control surface react on the aircraft virtual cockpit panel! This is particularly nice when ATC asks you to make sudden changes in heading, speed, altitude, or rate of climb/descent. Also, in my case, all my voice functions run off a separate PC handling SQUAWKBOX 4 and AvilaSoft EFB. Thus, I cannot use FS2CREW Voice programming on my FSX machine (my headset is plugged into the networked PC, not my main FSX box. I have been told by FS2CREW that the voice portion only works off the 'main' FSX PC.
Tonight there were trainee Vatsim controllers operating at JFK. As I approached the localizer for 31R, ATC waited until the last possible moment, switched me to 31L and put a different aircraft on final for 31R. Without the Combo II? UGLY. The VRInsight Combo II allows you to react faster when you are trying to make last-minute swaps to your controls.
The decrease in your reaction times that this device gives you during flight is a HUGE improvement over mousing on your virtual cockpit. When time really counts (during takeoff maneuvers or when trying to rapidly comply with unexpected live VATSIM or IVAO ATC commands, the Combo II becomes second nature. Say you want to rapidly engage A/P (Autopilot) and then immediately fly a pre-set heading to comply with departure instructions specific to your SID. The published LOOP6 departure for 25R at KLAX (Los Angeles) requires you to make a left turn to 230 degrees from a 250 runway heading as part of the SID (after you first intersect the Santa Monica 160 Radial).
Then ATC will Vector you to turn left back over the LAX airport. With this device, you can be a star and react quickly and precisely, instead of trying to right click on the CMD-A and then HDG buttons on your Virtual Cockpit with your mouse, you simply click two buttons on the Combo II and you're golden. When ready to turn left to the new heading, you simply rotate the HDG knob to the desired new heading and then press HDG SEL button.
Similarly, you can dial up altitude changes precisely, and can pop the Barometer reading when you cross or descend the 18000 foot mark using the BARO knob on the AFIS portion of your Combo II. Adjust your Vertical Speed (V/S) instantly by rotating the knob on your MCP and then pressing the V/S button.
The radios (COMMS) section is equally attractive, allowing you to rapidly set your squawk code, and select the Nav1 and Nav2 radio codes for your intended ILS approach. Operation of this device is extremely intuitive. I don't remember reading the manual for anything except initial installation/driver setup.
I think other than the Thrustmaster Warthog controller set, this item is clearly the best hardware acquisition to date for my NGX experience. Yes, I said NGX, not FSX. To me, NGX -IS- FSX defined. I have been completely satisfied with this controller panel since the moment I engaged it for the very first time on my flight deck, and I have a very high expectation level. This item does NOT disappoint!
Photos of the VRInsight MCP Combo II (Boeing) unit (configured for PMDG 737NGX via LINDA) are at the following link on Box.net. All images are JPG.
Download photos of VRInsight Combo II
Download LINDA for free from AVSIM (this is the main area for LINDA information area on AVSIM)
Download LINDA v. 1.7 with newly-added full support for PMDG737NGX including the CDU Doors Control! Also, this version also includes support for AvilaSoft's Electronic Flight Bag so you can additionally control EFB functions directly from the VRInsight MCP Combo II Panel (BOEING) Free!
NOTE: Linda version 1.7 includes new updates for the PMDG 737 which will overwrite your existing Linda assignments for the 737NGX. Thus, be wise and take screen shots of all your device settings within Linda using a screen capture utility such as SnagIt 11 BEFORE you drop any new Linda files into your MODULES folder. Worst case? You can use your screen shots to re-enter any settings that were lost - this WILL be needed for the PMDG 737NGX if you upgrade version 1.1 of Linda to Version 1.7.
After unzipping the v 1.7 zip update for Linda, copy the unzipped files to your FSX/MODULES folder answering YES if asked if you want to replace existing files.This process will add new files to your FSX/MODULES/linda-cfg/aircrafts/PMDG737NGX folder. The 3 new files end with a file extension of .default which needs to each be renamed to end .lua instead of .default Note: If you ALREADY HAVE these files in your PMDG737NGX folder, you will need to first rename the existing files to .old before renaming the files that end in .default
By default, LINDA will configure three of your user-programmable buttons in the COMMS area (#6, #7 & #8) to accomplish 3 different SHIFT functions on your Combo II. In order, left to right- EFIS area, MCP area, and "USER" area (which is actually the COMMS/NAV area).
To take Screenshots, I heartily recommend SNAGIT 11 by Techsmith.com. The DEFINITIVE Screen Capture utility for Windows 7. Click the link to download a fully-unlocked 30-day trial of Snagit.
All in all, the VRInsight MCP Combo II (BOEING) unit deserves strong consideration as a valuable upgrade for your flight deck -- Robert McDonald
A word of caution about programming throw (toggle) switches via Linda! A toggle switch when used within Linda may have four different functions assigned depending on the position of the switch as follows:
Switch is thrown to the "UP" position (assign an action- this will execute just ONE TIME as the switch reaches fully "ON" position)
What's great about Linda is if you flip a switch or push a button on your device, the item lights up (highlights) within Linda so you know what button or switch you're programming! Cake!
Note to reader: VRInsight offers two different Combo II units, the "BOEING MCP" (reviewed here) and a different model, the Airbus FCU. In addition, there was a predecessor model offered by VRInsight, the MCP Combo. You need to be aware of which model you're looking at when considering purchase - especially if looking at pre-owned gear.
|Time Of Edit||Edited By||Edit Reason|
|07 May 2012 - 10:18 PM||Robert McDonald||The review was submitted to the database.|
|07 May 2012 - 10:31 PM||Robert McDonald||step by step edit|
|07 May 2012 - 10:39 PM||Robert McDonald||set fonts|
|07 May 2012 - 10:42 PM||Robert McDonald||update|
|07 May 2012 - 10:44 PM||Robert McDonald||refine layout|
|07 May 2012 - 10:55 PM||Robert McDonald||typo|
|08 May 2012 - 12:26 PM||Tom Allensworth||The review was approved.|
|09 May 2012 - 05:11 PM||Robert McDonald||photo placement|
|09 May 2012 - 05:29 PM||Robert McDonald||format spelling|
|09 May 2012 - 05:32 PM||Robert McDonald||punctuation|
|10 May 2012 - 12:02 PM||Robert McDonald||add download link to LINDA here on Avsim|
|10 May 2012 - 12:04 PM||Robert McDonald||edit hyperlinks|
|10 May 2012 - 12:09 PM||Robert McDonald||edit hyperlinks|
|10 May 2012 - 12:09 PM||Robert McDonald||edit hyperlinks|
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|11 May 2012 - 11:51 AM||Robert McDonald||hyperlinks and update about 1.7 version of Linda for the NGX|
|11 May 2012 - 11:53 AM||Robert McDonald||font check|
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|11 May 2012 - 01:04 PM||Robert McDonald||can't make the font size increase?|
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|13 May 2012 - 05:10 PM||Robert McDonald||update content triple shift|
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|21 May 2012 - 06:09 PM||Robert McDonald||Title change - clarity|
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|25 May 2012 - 11:34 AM||Robert McDonald||clarify|
|17 July 2012 - 02:33 PM||Robert McDonald||report card|
|18 July 2012 - 05:36 PM||Robert McDonald||report card|
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