How to choose Game Steering Wheel?
On The importance of Force Feedback
When you decide to buy a steering wheel, there is of course a lot of information to consult, a lot of criteria to check.
The presence or not of a force feedback system seems to us to be one of the main elements to watch as it will condition many other things, starting with the price of the kit.
Indeed, force feedback is generally what separates entry-level products from more ambitious models.
Let’s be clear from the outset, a steering wheel without force feedback loses of its interest, and the feeling once on the track is greatly affected. However, it’s not an obligation and you can still have fun even without this option.
That said, choosing a force feedback product is not an end in itself. In fact, there are almost as many ways of looking at force feedback as there are products available on the market.
For example, there are powerful motors that can give you pain in your forearms and much more delicate models.
The latter will obviously be less expensive, but also less convincing in terms of immersion. Another consequence to bear in mind is that a powerful motor is usually noisy because it comes with a fan capable of evacuating the heat generated.
This is a detail that should not be overlooked at the time of purchase, especially if your steering wheel is going to be in a room shared with other people.
In order to simplify things for you, all the models in this folder work perfectly on a machine equipped with Windows 10 and in the majority of cases also on Mac OS.
On the other hand, the question of compatibility does arise because, as you will see, things are already much less simple when you look at the case of consoles.
While it’s not clear whether one manufacturer is more to blame than the other, there are no steering wheels that work as well on PlayStation 4 as on Xbox One.
At the time of purchase and if you’re planning to move your steering wheel between your PC and console, you should, therefore, be very careful. Fortunately, the majority of manufacturers have models that are officially recognized by Microsoft and Sony, each with PC compatibility.
The Choice of the Crankset
When it comes to the steering wheel, we may be a little too focused on the steering wheel alone. Of course, it is important, if only because of the presence of the wheel and its role as a central hub.
However, it’s not alone, and you’ll see that many interesting products are seriously handicapped by a less well-thought-out crankset
For example, the weight of this pedal unit should not be neglected, as it must be able to remain in place even when you violently stress it with your feet. It is also necessary to take into account the presence of two or three pedals depending on what you want to consider as a simulation.
Finally, and this is undoubtedly more important than for the steering wheel block: it is better to opt for a customizable model on which you can change the distance, height, and orientation of the pedals: we do not all have the same morphology and this is finally felt much more at the level of the legs/feet than the arms/hands.
Direct Drive, What’s all about?
If you’ve been browsing the forums and other discussions of automotive simulation specialists, you’ve inevitably come across the name “Direct Drive”, which we now need to explain.
On traditional steering wheels, manufacturers use a system of wheels, gears and pulleys to ensure that the whole thing works properly.
They rely on motors with the best so-called brushless motors and are thus able to offer interesting sensations at relatively low prices – although – because all parts are inexpensive.
Problem, because of the numerous parts, “friction” movements are generated and there is “loss”. Even more annoying, the multiplication of parts and the materials used – often plastic – have an impact on the life of the models. None of this is the case with Direct Drive products.
As the name suggests, it’s all about taking advantage of a “direct-drive” with a single motor and shaft. There are no gears, no other parts to take over. In its operation, Direct Drive technology is almost simpler than the one embedded in traditional models.
More powerful and more durable, it seems to have only advantages and one wonders why Direct-Drive is not more widespread. The reason is simple: in order to produce reliable products, the quality of the materials is very important.
A quality that is reflected in the selling price of the parts and a Direct Drive steering wheel costs at least 1500 euros and even then, we are only talking about the base, without the wheel, the crankset, and the accessories.
What About Options?
We don’t want to multiply advice and warnings before the purchase, which would end up being counterproductive. However, we think it is important to draw your attention to one last point: the fact that different manufacturers offer options.
In some cases like Fanatec, it is directly at the time of purchase on the official website of the brand that you choose to customize your kit to take this or that accessory and it is possible to ask for the addition of a real handbrake for example!
In the majority of cases however, it is after the purchase that you can modify or improve the kit you just bought. After a few weeks or a few months of testing, we can for example say that the wheel is not big enough or that we would like something closer to Formula 1.
We can also consider adding a gearbox for example. It’s a good idea to look at the website of the manufacturer of the wheel you are considering in order to find out about the possibilities for future developments.
While there are players who prefer the gamepad, having a steering wheel is a kind of nirvana for many “computer-assisted” drivers. It’s a dream that’s not as unattainable as it seems, though it’s all a question of budget. For example, and leaving aside the toys that can be found at low prices, it is possible to equip oneself with a little more than a little less than 100 euros. Of course, it is still advisable to invest more in order to enjoy a product more in line with the requirements of some people.
Let’s take a look for this situation.
Hori Racing Wheel Apex (PC, PS3, PS4)
|+ Quality / price ratio||– Pedal too light|
|+ Compact design||– No force feedback|
|+ Efficient fixing system|
As a figurehead in the arcade stick market, Hori is not limited to this single gaming accessory. The Japanese also make gamepads, that’s what we’re interested in today, steering wheels. Three models to be completely accurate, with price as the primary concern each time.
One objective: to Provide the Essentials without Ruining the buyer.
The cardboard of the Hori Racing Wheel Apex betrays from the outset this primary concern of the manufacturer: it is much smaller than that of the steering wheels.
Inside, tidy and tiny, is the centerpiece, the steering wheel block. Given the price, you obviously can’t imagine having leather or Alcantara upholstery.
However, the rubber used by the automaker does its job perfectly. It ensures a good grip, without slipping and without excessive perspiration.
More regrettably, it is the impression of floating that quickly dominates. The wheel seems a little soft and the lack of force feedback is obviously not a factor: for the return to the center,
Hori was satisfied with powerful springs that do the job, but without shining, necessarily.
However, once in the game, you quickly forget that it lacks firmness. The return of force is obviously lacking, but the precision of the wheel is interesting and the whole thing holds rather well in hand, providing sensations much better than those of a gamepad… that’s what we were looking for!
Another positive point, the fixing system holds the steering wheel block well in place. We invite you to leave aside the suction cups – not very reliable – to use the jaw instead. We’re not the most violent of players, but there shouldn’t be a problem here.
The bottom bracket is less convincing. Made of two pedals, it is rather precise and the distance between the pedals is correct but not customizable. On the other hand, how light this block is!
We invite you to find a way to wedge it, because even if you try to stick your heels to the support – not a very natural position when passing by – it will inevitably move.
Let’s finish by reminding you that Hori is not satisfied with this Racing Wheel Apex alone. He actually has three steering wheels in his catalog. The second one, called Overdrive, is nothing more than the Xbox One version of the Apex we’ve just been talking about.
On the other hand, the Hori Wireless Apex is more different because, as its name suggests, it allows you to do without the cable: you enjoy greater freedom of action.
For the rest, the product is extremely similar to essentially cosmetic differences. Unsurprisingly, it is also significantly more expensive (about 130 euros).
Hori Racing Wheel Apex: Opinion
On the market you can find even cheaper steering wheels than the Racing Wheel Apex from Hori. However, it seems to us that it is the “vital” minimum so that you don’t feel like you’re being cheated.
It’s already not perfect with its too light crankset and the lack of force feedback, but it allows a decent entry into the world of car simulation without getting ruined.
Thrustmaster Ferrari 458 Spider (PC, Xbox One)
|The Most||The least|
|+ Pleasant handling||– No force feedback|
|+ Reliable fastening system||– Crankset Far too light|
|+ Comfortable paddles|
For our second low-cost model, we turned to a much better known manufacturer in the steering wheel industry, Thrustmaster. If it doesn’t renew its range very often, the Englishman doesn’t really need it with a small Ferrari 458 Spider still as convincing on its price range, despite the weight of the years.
An interesting Quality / Price Ratio, Despite Notable Compromises
Thrustmaster has a very wide range of gaming products and even a very wide range of steering wheels. The Ferrari 458 Spider is an aging product that has been in the catalog for at least five or six years.
However, it still hasn’t passed the hand and, in fact, it does very well the job it was designed for.
So, unpacking begins with the discovery of a relatively compact and above all quite aesthetic steering wheel block with these fire red inserts and the remarkable Ferrari logo in the center of the wheel.
The rubber of the red inserts is there to guarantee a good grip and even if it’s not always ultra-comfortable, the result is quite correct, a little notch above the competitor signed Hori.
We appreciate the good position of all the controls and especially the presence of excellent paddles on the back of the wheel. They are made of aluminum and of good length.
We also appreciate the wheel that can rotate 270° – as with Hori – and of course, we regret the absence of any force feedback, here again, we are at the level of what Hori offers with its Apex.
We would also like to underline the presence of a good jaw system to keep the steering wheel block on its support. It’s fast, efficient, and shouldn’t let go of you along the way, no pun intended.
Less convincing, however, is the bottom bracket. The pedals themselves are pretty good and the foot area is big enough.
Alas, stability is clearly not a must. The weight of the crankset is insufficient and will be an embarrassing defect if you try to play it from a sofa. However, this is a classic defect on the cheapest products.
As we did with the Hori steering wheel, we’d like to end by mentioning the case of the PS4 alter ego of the Ferrari 458 Spider.
Thrustmaster does indeed have a steering wheel very similar to the one we recommend here, but for the Sony console… and the PC, still. With the T80 Racing Wheel, just forget about the references to Ferrari and the famous logo with its rearing horse in the center of the wheel.
Thrustmaster Ferrari 458 Spider: Opinion
We implied this when we recommended the Hori Racing Wheel Apex, we insist more here: there is obviously no question of taking the Ferrari 458 Spider for what it is not. But because of its low price and a convincing steering wheel, it allows a convincing first approach to car simulation, even if you might complain about the stability of its crankset.
Thrustmaster TMX Pro Force Feedback (PC, Xbox One)
|The Most||The least|
|+ Excellent grip||– Relatively noisy|
|+ Responsiveness and precision of the steering wheel unit||– Plastic finishes of the steering wheel|
|+ Convincing force feedback||– A bit short cables|
|+ 28 cm wheel and 900 ° rotation|
We’re staying with Thrustmaster for this third model, but we’re moving up the range considerably. The TMX Pro Force Feedback is immediately a more ambitious and dashing product than the two previously recommended models. The serious stuff begins.
A real pilot’s pleasure… even on Sunday!
On the first contact with the TMX Pro Force Feedback and while it still costs twice as much as the Ferrari 458 Spider from the same manufacturer, we’re a little disappointed by Thrustmaster.
Indeed, the steering wheel block leaves a rather dull feeling with its rubber inserts that don’t seem to be any more efficient and its plastics that sound hollow. However, this initial impression quickly fades away… in fact, as soon as you weigh the beast down.
Its weight does indeed reveal the presence of an engine that should guarantee much better sensations than our two entry-level models.
Without being a power monster, the TMX Pro features a brushed motor that provides a good feel. It’s still one notch below the manufacturer’s top-of-the-line, but the effects are very present, to be honest, it changes everything once on the track.
Let’s also note the presence of HEART technology – for HallEffect AccuRate Technology – which guarantees a good precision to the Thrustmaster kit.
If some gamers might have doubts about the value of a Ferrari 458 Spider compared to a gamepad, the TMX Pro should change their minds, especially since the wheel is capable of 900° rotations.
The mounting system of this steering wheel block is pretty much identical to its little brother stamped Ferrari: a simple and solid jaw.
To complete this steering wheel block, Thrustmaster offers an optional gearbox (120 euros all the same), but above all integrates the T3PA crankset. Equipped with three pedals, it is much heavier and more convincing than the previous models.
The distance between the pedals is possible, as well as their orientation. However, the small pads under the bottom bracket will not be enough to prevent the whole thing from slipping: provide a stop!
A small oversight on Thrustmaster’s part: the helmet socket, too bad. Once again, we conclude this glimpse of a steering wheel by mentioning the existence of alternatives, in this case a slightly “lighter” version. Indeed, Thrustmaster offers the TMX Force Feedback, which ignores the T3PA crankset to offer a much more basic version.
Of course, the price of the kit is significantly lower (less than 160 euros), but we don’t think it’s a bad idea to move down the range, even though the TMX Pro Force Feedback is a remarkably homogenous product.
Thrustmaster TMX Pro Force Feedback : Opinion
If we absolutely wanted to offer you interesting models for less than 100 euros, we have to admit that it’s only with this TMX Pro Force Feedback that our case really makes sense.
Thrustmaster hasn’t made fun of the world and even if the name “Pro” will make some people smile, it’s a truly convincing model that makes you happy with every steering wheel stroke and every passing move. In our eyes, it’s a reference.
Logitech G920 Driving Force (PC, Xbox One)
|The Most||The least|
|+ Force feedback power||– Slightly brutal force feedback|
|+ Impeccable fixing||– Pretty noisy|
|+ Successful three-pedal crankset||– Gear lever now optional|
|+ Overall robustness|
Subscribed to all the selections and steering wheel comparisons for years, Logitech is once again not missing the boat with the G920 Driving Force. Compatible with PC and Xbox One, the model successfully repeats a formula inaugurated by the memorable G25 / G27.
A Reference Product… for more than Five Years
Logitech recognized early on that PC and console car simulation enthusiasts were interested in more sophisticated, more compelling accessories than “beastly” gamepads.
In its time, the company even caused a sensation with the famous Momo Force and, later, with the G25 / G27 duo released a few years apart.
The G920 Driving Force is the worthy heir of these illustrious representatives and even if it doesn’t innovate much, it has many assets to offer.
Lack of innovation? It’s true that the base around which the G920 Driving Force is built uses the same helical gear technology.
The force feedback is also more or less identical and relies on a classic brush system when Thrustmaster tries to generalize brushless motors, which are significantly more expensive.
The fact remains that for its price of fewer than 250 Euros, the Logitech product is remarkably homogeneous.
For example, the 28-centimeter wheel has a hand-sewn leather grip, which gives it an interesting look while ensuring impeccable ergonomics.
Also, note that the coating provides good protection against perspiration. This is obviously much better than rubber.
The position of all the controls is more appropriate than on the previous G25 / G27 and the metal paddles at the back of the wheel are of excellent workmanship.
The whole thing is remarkably precise and relies on particularly powerful force feedback.
Of course, it’s noisier than some competitors, but the sensations are very interesting. Still, some will regret that it can be a bit abrupt at times.
The lack of innovation is even more noticeable in the crankset, which is virtually identical to the G27.
At 3 kilograms, it is very stable and even if we regret not being able to change the pedal travel, it is possible to change the distance between the pedals. So no revolution, but still a very convincing crankset.
A little regret though, since Logitech has now decided that the gearbox will be sold at an extra cost (more or less 50 euros).
You’re used to it by now, so we’ll end our overview with a little comment to evoke the existence of an alters ego to the G920 Driving Force.
Logitech also sells the G29, a steering wheel that’s a little different in terms of aesthetics, but strictly identical in its operation, onboard technologies, and, therefore, the sensations it delivers.
One notable difference, of course, is that it’s designed for PlayStation gamers, but it works well on PCs, too.
Logitech G920 Driving Force: Opinion
Logitech continues on its momentum and while Thrustmaster is multiplying its references in order to reach various audiences, the Swiss are content with a single product, simply declined in two versions to reach PS4 and Xbox One gamers.
An efficient, high-performance product with a coherent price positioning. It is difficult to make a mistake when buying it.
Thrustmaster TS-XW Racer Sparco P310 (PC, Xbox One)
|The Most||The least|
|+ Excellent finishes, at all levels||– Back pedal|
|+ Power and smoothness of force feedback||– Perfectible directional cross|
|+ 31 cm wheel – signed Sparco|
|+ Not as noisy as you might fear|
|+ Very comfortable to use|
After a few models that we will describe as accessible, we’re going to bring out the heavy artillery, the Thrustmaster TS-XW Racer Sparco P310 is clearly not a model intended for the greatest number of people, it is rather an exceptional product that deserves to be considered… even just to dream a little bit.
Practically the Best
Top of the line from Thrustmaster, the TS-XW Racer Sparco P310 is, to put it simply, top of the line.
It’s a version made in partnership with the famous accessory manufacturer Sparco so that you can enjoy a truly exceptional wheel.
We wanted to start this preview by talking about it, because with its 31 centimeters, its rotation of 1080° and its suede coating covering, it is a little marvel of the kind that will make you live such different moments.
Of course, comfort and ergonomics are remarkable, and the perfect position of the various controls should be highlighted.
The rest of the steering wheel block is at the same level as the Sparco wheel.
The base is relatively compact and has very nice finishes, although the colour mix may not please everyone.
For reasons of space, we won’t go into all the technical details, but you should know that the 40-watt engine delivers a beautiful return of force, violent when necessary but subtle when necessary.
The precision of the controls is remarkable and you never feel like you have to “fight” to get this or that instruction taken into account.
Driving depends only on your skill… and on the game, you play, of course.
Better yet, despite the power of the engine, the noise remains reasonable, well below what the T300RS or T500RS of the same Thrustmaster can do.
On the other hand, where you might disappoint a little bit is at the bottom bracket level.
It’s a nice product, but one that we already had on the TMX Pro Force Feedback: by spending more than 300 euros more, we could expect an even higher quality product.
But let’s not force the line and this crankset does the job very well, it’s just a bit of a shame.
And there you have it, our overview of the TS-XW Racer Sparco P310 ends with the now usual recommendation: while this model is reserved for PC / Xbox One, Thrustmaster does indeed sell another version, this time dedicated to the PlayStation 4, knowing that it also works on the PC.
The T-GT is quite similar in principle, so you won’t fundamentally have a worse – or better – experience than with the Sparco.
One detail though, we have a preference for the Sparco wheel just as the T-GT displays its Gran Turismo license.
Thrustmaster TS-XW Racer Sparco P310 : the Opinion
Equipped with a flying block that is close to perfection, the TS-XW Racer Sparco P310 is a remarkable technological showcase for Thrustmaster that demonstrates the full extent of its know-how.
Precision, comfort, efficiency, and robustness are the essential assets of a product that in the end only disappoint in terms of the crankset, and even more so.
A model that we warmly recommend, if you can afford it.
Fanatec Competition Pack (PC, Xbox One)
|The Most||The least|
|+ Impressive force feedback||– Very dissuasive price|
|+ Excellent quality crankset||– Relatively noisy|
|+ Convenient LED display||– Plastic shell finish|
|+ Multiple configurations on purchase|
|+ Precision and comfort of the steering wheel unit|
Less well known to the general public than the other names in this dossier, Fanatec is not a newcomer, however. Founded in 1997, the German company has even built up an excellent reputation among players/drivers and it is not the Competition Pack that will put it to the test.
A Monster of Excellence… and Price too!
Just to be clear, don’t read the following if you already find the price of the Thrustmaster TS-XW Racer Sparco P310 indecent.
Indeed, if Fanatec has from time to time cheaper models (like this already very interesting CSL Elite), “accessible” is clearly not the right qualifier for this Competition Pack.
Admittedly, there is a starter kit around 550 – 600 euros, but 1/ it is already particularly expensive, but 2/ it is not even the model that we choose here to be at the top of our file.
Indeed, in order to finish in beauty and without tackling even more unaffordable technologies, we opted for this Competition Pack, PC, and Xbox One compatible.
At this price, we’re striving for perfection.
Unless, of course, we turn to Direct Drive products, but for budgetary reasons, we decided to skip these bases, which – alone, without even a pedalboard – exceed 1,500 euros. But the Competition Pack already provides incredible sensations once in the hands.
First of all, the comfort of the wheel is remarkable. It holds well in the hand, never slips and even after long hours of play, the pleasure is intact.
Supported by an excellent base (the ClubSport v2.5) and a fearsome engine, the Competition Pack ensures more convincing vibrations than on the vast majority of other products available.
Here again, we benefit from interesting subtleties. Better yet, despite the power deployed, the noise level is not unbearable: beware, it’s still noisy and more than on the TS-XW Racer Sparco P310, but it’s acceptable.
Not to spoil anything, Fanatec offers in the Competition Pack an absolutely remarkable crankset… even in its two-pedal version.
The all-metal crankset is a real eye-catcher and its weight – 3.3 kilograms – is enough to reassure even the most energetic of riders. With such an object, there is practically no risk of slipping on the floor of the house.
The quality of the pedals themselves is also a guarantee of quality, guaranteeing optimal control.
It is of course possible to customize the position of the pedals and their orientation (inclination, height) so that we can enjoy something really adapted to our morphology. As you can imagine, the pleasure is all the more intense.
A real pleasure!
We will end our overview of the Competition Pack not with a presentation of the product variations available from Fanatec, but rather with a comment on the general philosophy of the group.
Indeed, if it is still possible to purchase a kit from Amazon, for example, we would advise you to visit the manufacturer’s website instead.
Of course, it will be a little less convenient, but then you will have the opportunity to discover the multiple options to customize your kit.
For example, you can add ClubSport paddles or a gear lever, or even a handbrake and swap the crankset for a three-pedal model.
Of course, you can also turn to the PS4 version, as Fanatec has a similar product for the Sony gaming world.
Fanatec Competition Pack: Opinion
Complete, precise, robust, and devilishly efficient, the Competition Pack is a truly surprising product. If you’ve never used such a kit before, you can’t imagine the pleasure you get when you’re at the controls.
It’s a pleasure you’ll never deny, no matter what game you’re playing.
Of course, not everyone will be able to enjoy such a luxury, but you know what you need to put aside to taste excellence.
We invite you to tell us about your favorite models in comments, listing, if you wish, their advantages and disadvantages.