ProTubeVR - ProTas VR review

I was specifically thinking of games or sims that don’t support hardware HOTAS or only have a virtual one eg NMS, VTOL VR, Aircar

On VTOL VR the problem with just Index controllers is 1. Precision 2. Lack of rest for your hands. So it seems these might supply these capabilities that you would normally get from a dedicated HOTAS.

Not needed for ED or DCS I know, but as more games come ‘built for VR’ (and as a pure VR experience, VTOL VR beats DCS), this is probably the future. The ability to switch between hands / flight controls / FPS guns is unique to VR

Reviews:

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Well as I couldn’t find many others who had, I decided to take the plunge and pick up a pair of ProTas controllers as well as the Index controller adaptors - which can be used with the ProTube stock, or the ProTas above.

They were intended primarily for NMS, which I never got round to buying, will do eventually. I’ll try them with VTOL VR and Aircar and give an update later. For sure I found VTOL was a strain on the hands, as you can’t rest without a HOTAS-style mount.

Apparently Index controllers can be used with ED too, but given that has proper HOTAS support I’ll stick with my TM. If not too much hassle to switch without wrecking bindings then I will at least give it a test

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A summary of my findings so far. I have only had a chance to try a couple of hours in VTOL VR.

A unique challenge as always with VR, getting an optimal setup requires alignment of the physical world with the virtual.

There are two separate products here - the magnetic cups for the controllers themselves, and the ProTas base mounts, which are a new product. I bought them all together to take maximum advantage of a discount promotion.

Cups exist for most VR controllers, and allow them to be used with their most popular item, the ProTube gunstock - makes a big difference to accuracy. I always opted for the latest magnetic versions (extremely strong), but non-magnetic versions exist too.

The items are 3D printed.

  1. Quality

First I should say that is the first time that I have bought any 3D printed items, so I don’t know what is commercially possible.

Reliability: the items seem tough and solid, and I would be very surprised if they ever suffered from cracks or breaks. They are lightweight overall, whilst still having a reassuring level of density (if that makes sense). My biggest concern was the attachment of the mag part to the base itself - it is not a ball/socket joint as you would find on a regular stick, but a flexible single piece of conical plastic. However I can now see this is very sturdy, and beyond my effort to break while simming!

Finish: the overall surface quality cannot remotely match the injection-moulded plastic of my Thrustmaster. I don’t know anything about manufacturing processes, but the difference is clear. Swirls, patterns, small ‘tufts’ of plastic in places, etc. But as it has zero impact on functionality, it’s not a problem for me.

Also worth noting that they have a range of colours, and also pricier carbon fibre versions. These light blue ones in the pictures are actually from a limited edition ‘Christmas’ colour range of special reds, blues, and greens.

  1. Ease of setup

Mag cups - the mag cups for the Index controllers seem to be the most fiddly to set up compared to other controllers. Two separate pieces per controller, held together with cable ties. I believe this is not the case with others, certainly not the WMR cups. The process took 5-10 mins, but once on they stay put. I considered getting re-usable cable ties so I could remove them quickly whenever necessary, but now I feel it’s not worth the effort and I will generally leave them attached.

Base units - these use a combination of velcro straps and a sticky base. Atm I am only using the straps, because I assumed I would want to remove these from the arms of my chair on a regular basis - but again I realise this is not the case for me, I am not finding them intrusive and I can leave them be.

I haven’t peeled off the plastic that covers the sticky base, but I am pretty certain that it is the same kind of thing used in phone or sat nav holders for cars. Ie while they may lose some stickiness over time if repeatedly reattached, this can be instantly fixed by wetting the base a little.

A problem I encountered is that the supplied velcro straps are not long enough for the wide arms of my chair. I’m not sure most people would notice this - however it was an easy fix by extending the strap length with some double-sided velcro. Naturally it is critical to securely attach this, otherwise the whole unit can detach from the chair mid-flight. I experienced this a couple of times until I properly secured it.

Another unique VR issue. VTOL VR Is a sim built for VR, and therefore has some clever features. The virtual HOTAS in the game can be adjusted and set in place to match the physical position of your physical controls. However, the combination of my chair and arms meant that I could not quite get the virtual stick to match. Not a problem when the Index controllers are ‘free floating’, but even with arm rests I found that a little tiring, hence my interest in getting these units. That said, the position is close enough that I can use it without too much of a mental disconnect.

The final thing here is that I don’t two base units at all for VTOL VR, because the left hand side controls a virtual throttle - no need for a stick that keeps your hand vertical. Instead I rest my left arm on the chair rest and keep my left hand horizontal, as you do when using any throttle. This was my mistake - I believe NMS or anything that uses two sticks can benefit from two base mounts.

  1. Functionality

Once setup correctly, the single base mount on the right side is just what I was looking for to add precision and allow my hand to rest. I can release the grip on the controller any time I wish to let go of the virtual stick in game, and / or let the mount take the weight if my hand gets tired.

I can get the precision I was missing with free floating controllers, and I can largely forget that it is not a real HOTAS - even though the mechanisms are quite different.

I’m looking to the future here because I believe this kit will become ever more useful as titles are increasingly built for VR.

Also worth noting again that base mounts aside, the gunstock and cups is a significant improvement for FPS games. There’s no jitter and I can choose to take head / chest / arm / leg shots as I wish.

The Index controllers help there hugely as well. The poor tracking and BT connections of the WMR controllers made Onward and Contractors unplayable without a stock - and even with one, I always had endless disconnections where one or more hands would never return. Dropping WMR was the biggest upgrade I ever made :smile:

  1. Price

I feel both the mag cups and base units are a little overpriced, so it’s worth taking advantage of any promotional offers as I did, but it’s difficult to judge as they are a small company 3D printing a relatively small number of units. I can’t comment how expensive they are compared to other equivalent printed items.

  1. Conclusion - overall I am happy that one of these base mounts does the job I wanted it to do, but perhaps two was unnecessary - it depends what titles I try next. I’m not worried at all about the build quality, and after some fiddling with the setup, which seems par for the course with anything VR, I am now happily up and running and ready to test more titles :+1:
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