SimRacingHardware recently announced a new line of control-interfaces, with the ControlR buttonbox being the first product from this line to be released. I managed to get my dirty little (fat) hands on the very first prototype!
For the last year or so, I have been using a DSD Black Max II buttonbox and while it has been fine and got the job done, it does have that “Chinese discount” feeling to it. The buttons feel rather cheap and they are placed pretty close together, which my fat fingers doesn’t seem to work well with. Recently it has also cost me 2 stop’n’go penalties, because my pitlimiter-button double-clicked on me while starting the race from the pits (so, engaging and quickly dis-engaging the pitlimiter + Lars being nervous = speeding in the pitlane = stop’n’go) so it was time to make some changes!
Enter the ControlR.
The box is big! and I mean big! The box measures about 16cm * 22cm, with a depth of about 7cm. Add to that the little “wing” coming out from the top of the box, with the beautiful logo-plate on it. The size of this thing means that buttons, encoders and switches are spaced “adequately” for my fat fingers. The layout is also very easy to “memorize” and use without looking at the box.
The layout of the controls are like this :
- 3 rotary encoders along the top
- 10 pushbuttons in 2 rows of 5 buttons each (“arranged” in engraved boxes with 4 buttons in the left box, 4 buttons in the right box, and 2 buttons in the middle)
- 1 rotary encoder on the left, and 3 on/off switches (in another engraved box)
- 2 on/off switches (in an engraved box) on the left, and the BFK (Big F*cking Knob) on the right (more on this later).
The number of functions adds up to 25 :
- 4 rotary encoders + BFK, that all works sorta like 2 separate buttons; one buttonpress when turning left, and another when turning right. These encoders have “steps” in the rotation, so the rotation “clicks” to the next step (making the buttonpress) when turning them. They have 16 steps in 1 full rotation. 10 functions.
- 10 buttons. 10 functions.
- 5 on/off switches that actually works like 1 button, delivering a buttonpress when it’s position changes, i.e. flick it up and computer sees button14 being pressed down briefly and released again, flick the switch down and computer sees Button14 being pressed again. 5 functions.
Getting it mounted.
Many would argue that I might not be like most, so of course I wanted to mount the box next to my wheel. While this is completely doable and doesn’t sound as “far out” to you as I make it sound, the size of this box really makes it more suited for mounting in a side-console of sorts (which is where I’ll be moving mine, when I get sidepods made for my rig).
Here’s a picture of my mounting solution (notice the Heusinkveld pedals version 0.1 and the general work-in-progress look of my rig… more like work-in-stagnation really, but hey… )
A few things to keep in mind when deciding on where to mount this, is that this thing is just the first part of a series of items to come out. There will be other stuff coming, that will fit together with this, like small sidepanels with gauges, displays or leds maybe, maybe a display-addon for that top-wing (I really suspect that logo-plate is just another mounting point for addons) or even more buttonboxes. The ControlR is really meant to be 1 part of a modular system on which you can expand as you see fit.
The box is beautiful! The front plate is really made up from several layers, as pretty much everything from SRH is, and it works. It looks absolutely stunning, compared to pretty much everything else which is usually just carbon-covered plastic with buttons slapped on.
SRH’s triple-layer thing is really classes above anything else. The top-layer is a clear acrylic layer, with precisely laser-cut holes for the buttons and stuff, that are mounted to the lower layers. The middle layer (which is the one that’s visible through the clear layer) is covered in 3M carbon vinyl stuff, and it just looks sooooo much better with that clear layer on top.
Another little outstanding detail is the “roundels” for the 4 encoders. These are actually lasercut and engraved acrylic pieces that are glued into that middle layer, and it really looks fantastic.
Generally, the craftmanship that this box displays is astonishing. It is a thing of beauty!
The “Big Fucking Knob” is another thing to set this box apart from the rest. It looks as stunning as the rest of the box, and it works so well. It feels fantastic, and makes me wish I had more of them, really
The ControlR is powered by a SymProjects JC32 controller, and it is completely plug’n’play. Everything is configured by SRH, so it is really just a matter of plugging it in and drive (you have to assign your functions and stuff in the sim though )
Unlike other products I’ve tried, the encoders on this box can actually be turned quite quickly and still register all buttonpresses. I don’t know how the JC32 is different from other boards, but it really seems to handle encoders a lot better. I suspect it’s something with pulse-timing and other technical terms.
I love this box. I love it so much, I’m considering changing my mount to some sort of quick-release so I can take the box with me to bed every night!
No, seriously, this box is amazing. Tons of functions, looks absolutely beautiful, electronics are simply just working without a fuzz, and it has the BFK!!!
This is by far the best button controller box out there, so it gets a 10/10 from me.
SRH just released a couple of pictures of the ControlR showing some of the add-on goodness to come.