The PC contains a humongous selection of authentic racing simulators including iRacing, DIRT Rally, Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, rFactor and more! While the experience can be enjoyable with a traditional controller, it’s difficult to recreate the satisfaction and underlying feel from a dedicated wheel setup. Any mid-high end cockpit utilizing advanced force feedback and a smooth belt drive allows you to gauge the grip level and accurately adjust the steering with opposite lock.
In the racing sector, price relates to build quality which can make the purchasing process quite daunting. However, the investment is worth it when you factor in component reliability and time spent enjoying such an exhilarating experience. During the past few years, I’ve tested almost every sim racing product out there and compiled this list as a comprehensive buyer’s guide to the world of elite racing. To clarify, this isn’t designed to take financial value into account, and only outlines the best products available with an unlimited budget.
5: Thrustmaster TH8A Shifter
The majority of steering wheel bundles opt for paddle shifters instead of a traditional gearbox to save money and provide a more compact package. This isn’t a cause for concern if you stick to open-formula racing but many racing aficionados require a dedicated shifter in Rallying and other event types. Sadly, there isn’t a lot of choice on offer in this niche field and the only option I’m aware of is the Thrustmaster TH8A. Thankfully, the TH8A is an absolutely stunning piece of equipment and 90% of the build is construction from aluminum.
Additionally, the HallEffect AccuRate Technology utilizes a contactless magnetic sensor without any tact switch or potentiometer. This results in a reliable mechanism which doesn’t degrade over time. Other notable highlights include a reinforced mounting system, universal gear knob attachment and additional H-pattern shift plate. The TH8A’s staggering choice of high-end materials and responsive movement combines to make the best aftermarket shifter on the market. At £125.99 it’s an expensive proposition but well worth the money.
4: Logitech G27
In theory, the Logitech G27 is an end-of-line product and replaced by the G29. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth as the G29 is sold to overcome compatibility problems on the PlayStation 4 and doesn’t even include a shifter. The Logitech G27 offers an impeccable price to performance ratio and features extremely high build quality for the reasonable price between £159-239. The wheel rim contains a beautiful hand-stitched soft leather finish and strong metal frame. Additionally, there is an LED gear gauge and highly-responsive helical gears. Unfortunately, the mounting stand feels rather cheap but keeps the wheel in position well while eliminating unnecessary vibration. The force feedback is strong but the lacks the subtly of higher-end Thrustmaster models.
On another note, the weighted pedal set with clutch is superb and allows you to feel the resistance whilst braking. The shifter though is quite poorly made and utilizes a flimsy mount and horrible plastic gear knob. For the price though, it’s a welcome addition and adds to the value of this particular package. If you want to get into the racing scene without spending a fortune, the G27 is the only viable option and can be picked up on the cheap for around £150 via eBay.
3: Thrustmaster T500RS
The Thrustmaster T500RS perfectly balances the build quality, motion sensor and other features required without spending an absolute fortune. Thrustmaster is renowned for its marvelous dual-belt system which allows for a fluid, and joyous turning sensation up to 1080 degrees. Additionally, the force feedback produced by an industrial motor recreates even the smallest vibrations when running wide onto a rumble strip. The amount of nuances from the FFB motor is sublime and makes it relatively easy judge grip levels on and off the racing line.
The base is also vastly superior to the Logitech G27 and possibly the best integrated mount on any wheel I’ve tested. To put this into perspective, you could violently shake your desk around, and the wheel wouldn’t even slide by a millimeter. As a result, it’s the perfect wheel for consumers who don’t want to invest in a PlaySeat or custom cockpit. The pedals are another exemplary inclusion and attached to a realistic floor section. This improves your driving posture and adds a level of stability when suddenly applying the brake. The pedals portion alone is built from premium-grade hardware and only outclassed by the Fanatec ClubSport V2 or V3 set.
Prices of the T500RS can vary between £300-375 which is a significant step up from the Logitech G27. However, the materials, force feedback and dual-belt system makes it easily worth the extra money.
2: Fanatec Clubsport V3 Pedals
It’s difficult to accentuate how impressive the Fanatec ClubSport pedals are unless you’ve personally used them in a number of simulators. In basic terms, the V2 and V3 models are flawless and I cannot think of any improvements to make either product a more enticing proposition. Frankly, the V3 pedal kit is the best PC peripheral I’ve ever tested in terms of build quality and workmanship. So what makes them so special?
Firstly, the brake utilizes a custom-designed 90kg load cell sensor to precisely alter the amount of deceleration based on muscle tension. This degree of tension and overall feel mimics how a real-world vehicle applies the brake and create an unparalleled feel during harsh-braking phases. Furthermore, the D-shape pedal design, 12-bit resolution and adjustable stiffness allows you to create a configuration which suits your height and braking style. For example, you might want to alter the setup for left foot braking.
Other features include a vibration motor on the gas pedal to emulate wheelspin and oversteer. This selection of realistic parts is accompanied by three CNC-milled aluminum pedals and a steel frame. As you might expect, this level of expertise and authenticity comes at a fairly hefty price. The Clubsport V3 retails on its own for $300 but I would gladly pay around that as a proud owner of this hardware.
1: Fanatec Clubsport Base and Formula Carbon Rim
Finally, we come to the ultimate setup for a hardcore F1 enthusiast or sim-racing professional. The ClubSport Wheel Base weighs a monumental 4200 grams and constructed from CNC machined aluminum. Furthermore, the base mount is fully modular and supports various wheel rims from the Formula Carbon to the BMW M3 GT2. This amount of flexibility is rarely seen on wheel base setups except for some of the Thrustmaster models like the TX458. In this particular configuration, the Formula Carbon rim features an LED readout, gear meter, carbon fiber front and soft cushioned handles.
Moving back onto the base, Fanatec decided to allow for 900 degrees of rotation, a 500 Hz update rate, comprehensive cooling system, and brushless survo motor plus two vibration motors. This delivers a smooth and consistent motion and eliminates dead spots which can cause latency problems. Also, the DUAL HALL technology opts for two sensors, one mounted on the motor and another positioned on the axis to maintain maximum precision.
The drive belt is another highlight and made from premium ball bearings and European belts to produce realistic and incredibly detailed force-feedback response. Now we come onto the price, and if you’re from a nervous position look away now. The base is $599.95 while the wheel rim costs $249.95. If you’re seriously considering this setup, then the Clubsport V3 pedals are a must at $299.95. Overall, that is over $1000, and a huge amount of money. Although, the pioneering technology and German-engineering is second to none, so you really do get what you pay for.