The action on a ratchet shifter, especially these newer ones, is really crisp and precise. I just enjoy the feel of the gearshift as it clicks into place, the a/s I drove felt kinda sloppy, I guess because it was on a first gen, and a car with over 180K on it. Or maybe they all feel that way. I like the looks of mine, it does have a very sporty flair and it accents the interior well I think. I suits me, from both an aesthetic and functional point of view. I'm not looking for total manual control, just yet, maybe after the trans is built, but even then I think I wil stay with a standard valve body. I don't know if our valve bodies can even be made to operate in full manual mode.
FWIW, some of the people who have Puttstick say that it shifts quicker with it than when using the A/S shifter (I wouldn't know because all I've had experience with is the Puttstick on my Concordes - no experience controlling A/S with the A/S shifter to compare as I left the non-A/S shifter in both of them).
As far as manual shifting, the shifting is by the energizing of the tranny solenoids. You could force whatever you wanted by hijacking the wires between the PCM and the solenoids to force the solenoids to whatever gear you wanted. The only problem with that is that the PCM will throw codes and possibly go into limp mode when it doesn't see the input/output speed ratios that it expects to see from the gear commands it thinks it's putting out (but that wouldn't be reaching the solenoids because you will have cut those wires). All limp mode means is that the transmission control relay gets denergized, which cuts off all power to the tranny solenoids, which is the failsafe design to default to 2nd gear (IOW, they designed it so that when you're normally in second gear, all solenoids are de-energized - that was intentional so that if power is lost to the tranny controls, it is automatically in second gear - clever, eh?).
You could bypass the tranny relay to prevent limp mode, though the codes would still be thrown. You'd be into new territory as far as actually doing that, so while we could guess that in theory there'd be no problems, there would be some risk and experimentation involved. By risk, I'm thinking more in terms of things temporarily not working 100% while your trying it, with no actual irreversible damage. It could work without a hitch, but no guarantees. I'm not saying do it or don't do it - just telling you the possibilities in case you are willing to try it.
On the other hand
, A/S gives you more or less "full manual" control *but* with the protections of honoring the red line in case you did something stupid in forced (i.e., true fully manual) shifting. IOW - when/why would you want to over-ride the safeguards programmed into the PCM (other than maybe lock out OD at higher speeds if you were doing a timed track or dyno run)?