Driving a pixel car with the joystick or with a steering wheel offers very different sensations, this device allowing to free its trajectories and to have a really more realistic feeling, allowing – after training – to achieve lap times inaccessible to the pad. Whether you’re a competitor at heart or just a driving esthete, you’ve probably considered purchasing a steering wheel. The problem, you hesitate in front of the available references and are afraid to make a straight line in the guardrail by making your choice. After putting on the jumpsuit and pulling out our pair of gloves to review the best steering wheels on the market, it’s time to take stock.
The best steering wheels review
- 1 The best steering wheels review
- 2 How to choose the right steering wheel?
- 3 Which fixing system to choose?
- 4 No good steering wheel without good crankset
- 5 Which options to favor?
- 6 Check the compatibility of your future steering wheel
Thrustmaster T300 RS GT: the best compromise
The T300 RS GT from Thrustmaster allows you to limit your investment compared to a T500 while enjoying a fairly high-end product. Its 28 cm (removable) wheel is quite heavy, the paddles are made of aluminum and follow the rotations of the steering wheel and, above all, the servo base of the T300 adopts brushless technology for more silence and fluidity without losing any power or nervousness.
Over three complete revolutions, the wheel position is read on 16-bit (65536 value), which contributes to the millimeter precision of the flywheel. The fastening system is a bit restrictive but has the advantage of not moving a bit once in place on a table, desk or the frame of a bucket seat. The sensations offered by this model are so precise that with a little practice, you can even feel the roughness of the asphalt.
It excels in track races but the T300 RS is also our little darling in off-road, in a game like Dirt Rally where it allows you to take full advantage of bumpy portions of the track. And the power is there, forcing us to really fight the force feedback to hold certain lines while realistically feeling the slightest loss of grip.
This GT edition, licensed by Gran Turismo, benefits from a – triple – and better crankset than that of the T300 RS, the T3PA. This is even its main difference, which indicates that it is significant. The Ferrari GTE edition is identical to the old T300 RS, with Ferrari steering wheel, and is reserved for the Xbox One. The T300 RS “T3PA” also exists for PS4, under the name of T300 Ferrari Integral Racing Alcantara Edition. Finally, the Xbox One version with triple crankset but without the Ferrari logo is called TX Racing Wheel Leather Edition.
Logitech G29: a dated technique, but still effective
This G29 signed Logitech inherits from the famous G27 its metal base, its large steel pallets, its small LED display and its leather finish. On the other hand, it is inspired by Driving Force GT in terms of ergonomics, since it has many very practical configurable buttons directly on the steering wheel. For good reason, the G29 is now delivered without a gear knob (optional). Its fastening system is excellent and all the elements inspire quality, whether metal or plastic. The sensations offered by the force feedback are nervous and its mechanics simply penalize it on anything that will affect vibrations during shocks, off the track or passing over bumpers.
On the other hand, the steering wheel excels on the track when it comes to changes in direction and grip. Objectively it remains a slight tone below the Thrustmaster T300, but we are still on an excellent product, especially since its crankset largely overwhelms that offered by its basic competitor (and even the T3PA …).
Thrustmaster T150 Force Feedback: sensations at a low price
At GK, it is estimated that the most accessible model of the steering wheel to offer truly interesting sensations is the T150 Force Feedback. The gap in terms of quality with the steering wheels sold for 120 euros is such that the additional investment seems fully justified to us. With its 28 cm wheel which, despite its relative lightness, contributes to realism and precision (adjustable steering from 270 to 1080 °), and its hybrid mechanism combining gears and belt (which limits heating and – a little – noise), this is a recommendable model with a quality/price ratio that is hard to beat.
The metal sequential paddles are of good quality, and this steering wheel remains compatible with the TH8A “H” box and T3PA cranksets (optional). For less than 200 euros, the T150 Force Feedback fulfills its contract handily and, despite a somewhat plastic finish, manages to propel the player on the track in a way more realistic and precise than a simple joystick. Undoubtedly the best steering wheel for the first approach to virtual driving without breaking the bank. (Note that the Ferrari Wheel edition is identical, with a steering wheel in the colors of the Scuderia).
How to choose the right steering wheel?
The wheel, a determining criterion
By definition, when playing a racing game at the wheel, the quality of the wheel will be decisive for the sensations you experience. A wheel that is too light, a touch that is too plastic, slippery, a diameter that is too small, and here we are with a peripheral that is very “PlaySkool” in the hands, partly breaking the desired immersion. Models with 27/28 to 30 cm wheels are therefore recommended, with a metal frame for more rigidity, quite heavy (but not too heavy so as not to penalize the force feedback), and if possible finished using grip (from textured rubber to stitched nubuck).
Force feedback, how does it work?
The second element of choice and not the least, the force feedback motor (s) used by the flywheels. The flywheel must offer dynamic, responsive, and powerful force feedback over several turns (generally between 900 and 1080 °), if possible without latency and in a fluid manner. What is currently being done best are the frictionless brushless motors with direct belt transmission capable of handling steering wheel vibrations and offering both manly feedback as well as super frank wheel acceleration.
The gear mechanisms have nevertheless made progress to be more fluid and less noisy and interesting hybrid mechanisms are starting to be offered on products at affordable prices. Also, check how the position of the wheel is read. The right steering wheels operate on more than 4,000 values distributed over the entire steering axis, which guarantees fluidity and precision.
Which fixing system to choose?
Here we are attacking a part that relates more to the ergonomics of the product than to its performance, even if the two can be linked. Indeed, a steering wheel whose attachment system is not well thought out will move or cause play in the middle of the game, which is not pleasant. We will, therefore, favor a binding that ensures a certain firmness while being strong enough to last over time.
If possible, it is preferable that the system be convenient to install/uninstall quickly, since the vast majority of gamers will not have a dedicated space in which to leave the steering wheel permanently in place. Let’s be serious for two minutes, with the wheel on your knees, it’s no (and it’s dangerous with force feedback worthy of the name …).
No good steering wheel without good crankset
Often wrongly underestimated, the importance of having a good crankset to accompany your steering wheel is nevertheless crucial. A good crankset must be heavy and adhere to the ground well so as not to move in the middle of the game (even if it is often necessary to be cunning to properly wedge it …). Having a third clutch pedal is a plus for immersion – especially if you’re going to play with a gear knob – but it’s mainly the stiffness adjustment of the pedals that will make the difference. As such, some pedals allow you to manually adjust the force necessary to push them down.
The fact that the pedals can be made of metal is not only an aesthetic argument but can contribute to the rigidity of the whole. Afterward, socks or shoes, everyone has their own school. With a crank worthy of the name, we tend to say that it is still best to store your pair of Artengo socks in a pair of sneakers before settling in the cockpit.
Which options to favor?
From a certain price point, all the steering wheels on the market offer very interesting customization options to enrich the driving experience over time. A better crankset with a clutch, a shifter, a different wheel, these is the kinds of things we can afford. It is therefore important to check beforehand what options are available for the steering wheel you are considering purchasing and at what price. It is of course also necessary to review the basic equipment offered. Are there paddle shifters on the steering wheel? Does the wheel offer an indicator of the gear engaged? What finesse of settings really allows the base? Etc.
Check the compatibility of your future steering wheel
It sounds silly to say, but it is important to choose a model that is compatible with its reference platform (s), bearing in mind that the steering wheels are generally compatible with PC / Xbox or PC / PlayStation. The situation is therefore complicated for the player who, for example, would be a fan of Forza Horizon 3 on Xbox One while having fun at Project Cars on PlayStation 4. Note that at Fanatec, supplier of the very best steering wheels on the market, both Basics of the moment disregard any compatibility with the PS4.