There are some products that we receive that just put a smile on our face. These are usually something new like the very latest overclocked graphics card or something that is a bit different and we just can’t wait to get testing.
Thrustmaster has certainly created one of these products that we know lots of people will just want to have. The Thrustmaster F430 is based on the steering wheel of, you guessed it, a Ferrari 430 although they have made a few adjustments to the dimensions and positioning of the wheel especially to the gear shifters. They have tried to make it looks the same while incorporating everything you need and expect from a Racing Wheel. On top of that, they have added what we expect to be very impressive force feedback to make it feel as realistic as possible.
The product might surprise you with its size, it is large, and it is quite bulky. Our first impressions are that it is certainly built well as the weight is certainly heavier than we expected.
We do also feel that it looks pretty good, and certainly looks like it means business. There is of course a fairly substantial clamping system to hold this steering wheel in place.
Turning over the steering wheel we can see the groove where it sits on the edge of your desk, as well as a fairly chunky hole in the centre, this is where the clamp is screwed in.
The clamp is made up of two parts, this part goes under your desk – with the feet pointing upwards so that it doesn’t damage your desk.
The second part of the clamp is a fairly hefty screw, which has quite a long thread, and the added handle to help you tighten it up so that the racing wheel just won’t move.
The pedals, although a little less realistic, still look quite good, and have a decent weight so that they don’t tip backwards every time you press the brake down. There is unfortunately no way of clamping the pedals down, so may be liable to move slightly.
The racing wheel does connect via USB, but to power the Force Feedback mechanism it needs a power adapter, unfortunately ours was of the European plug.
Taking a closer look at the buttons, you may be surprised to find that the ‘Engine Start’ button is actually a Multidirectional D-Pad, and then there are in total 10 digital action buttons – although they can’t all be seen.
On the right-hand side we have the Manettino controller, which allows you to change the settings between 5 positions as well – normally set-up for things like Traction Control etc. There are also the 2 sequential gear shift levers which are on the back of the steering wheel. There is also a Force Feedback button and a Manual/Automatic Manettino selection button.
The options for the Manettino are meant to be exactly the same as the F430, although this unfortunately needs to be set-up in all the games we played and in fact, some don’t even have this level of detail in the options.
In terms of design, we feel that Thrustmaster have certainly done a good job, and it certainly looks pretty realistic. The build-quality is also impressive, the steering wheel has a decent weight to it, although several of the buttons do not have the same level of quality as the rest of the steering wheel. We did unfortunately feel that the Manettino was not of the quality we expected and didn’t feel that nice to use, and we certainly hope the F430’s version is much nicer!
We focussed our testing on the game that you are most likely to be playing if you have this steering wheel, and while there are others out there, we think F1 2010 is the most likely candidate. The main aspect of this steering wheel is the force feedback that is meant to be one of the best available. There are 3 levels of force feedback (off, low or high) and we found that high level of force feedback is pretty strong and took a fair bit of resistance to fight against it when you throw the car round a corner. While this was maybe a bit too much during F1 circuits where the vibration isn’t as crucial, we certainly think it would be very impressive during rally-style racing as it gives you the vibration and resistance. The system Thrustmaster have used is certainly impressive, and with a bit of fine tuning for each game and to your tastes it will really enhance your gaming experience.
There are lots of other features to this steering wheel, and with the right game you can really set everything up exactly how you want. We found that the ‘Engine start’ multi-directional D-pad is also a very useful feature in games and it allows you to look all the way round your car very easily, as well as being able to use it for many other functions. The other digital buttons can be set-up to perform useful tasks, although in most games will be unassigned by default.
We were also fairly impressed with the comfort and grip of the steering wheel, as you can grip it fairly lightly and know that it won’t slip through your hands when you are power-sliding round a dirt track. On the other hand, even after intensive use the steering wheel is still easy to hold onto and sweat didn’t seem to cause problems. Unfortunately, we did feel that they could of used something better for the Pedals, as these slide around on most surfaces, and on thick carpet the front rises up when you press down heavily, leading you to not being able to push down fully. We feel that this is most the time a small problem compared to how good this steering wheel is to use.
At a fairly high price of £103.16 – although it can probably be had for cheaper – we feel that this is not the best value for money steering wheel on the market, but if you want one of the best it is a price worth paying as this has so many more features and is a lot more realistic than many of its rivals. We certainly feel that if you love racing games, this is probably one of the best products you could buy and it really will enhance your gaming experience and allow you to enjoy gaming to a new level.