GameSpot's Guide to Racing Wheels

Looking to take your racing to the next level? Joe Barron gets to grips with some of the best wheels from Logitech, Thrustmaster, and Fanatec.

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Why Get A Racing Wheel?

As racing games have become more specialised, the genre has been broken up into smaller segments, such as kart racing, open-world exploration, and simulation motorsport. With a greater variety of racing comes a greater variety of accessories, ranging from simple motion controllers through to $500 carbon fibre steering wheels.

Such accessories are increasingly becoming a must-have for serious motorsport fans; wheels offer a significantly wider range of inputs compared to analogue sticks and triggers. Some of the fastest racing players in the world benefit from owning a wheel, with many E-sports racers sponsored by wheel manufacturers, such as Team Redline, who are partnered with Fanatec.

If you think you've maxed out your speed with a standard controller and want to go even faster, then buying a wheel and pedals is a great way to shave some seconds off those lap times. Whether you're looking to subtly improve your racing experience with a basic motion controller, or pick up a force feedback device to compete with the top times on the toughest leaderboards, our guide to racing wheels has got you covered.

Budget Racing Wheels

Microsoft Wireless Speed Wheel (Xbox 360)
The first step up from a standard controller.
USA $30/ UK £30

The Microsoft Wireless Speed Wheel is great if you're looking to enhance your racing experience on a tight budget. Motion controls allow you to steer with your arms, instead of your thumbs, and you can continue to use triggers on the wheel for your gas and brake. It's also ideal if you don't have the space for a larger racing setup with pedals, and it's the least expensive steering option on any console.

However, if you're already quite serious about your racing, you might want to skip this first step. Using the Speed Wheel for extended periods of time can be tiring because you're holding the gyroscopic controller straight out in front of you with no natural way to relax your arms. Using the triggers also means that, compared to a standard controller, you don't get any extra control of your gas and brakes.

Sony PlayStation Move Racing Wheel (PlayStation 3)
Best for arcade racing and motorcycle games.
USA $40/ UK £30

The PlayStation equivalent of the Xbox 360 Speed Wheel is slightly more expensive, particularly as you have to factor in a Move controller into the price if you don't already own one, but also a little more comfortable to use. However, while the Speed Wheel was designed with a simulation game in mind (Forza Motorsport 4), the Move Racing Wheel feels like more of a toy. That's thanks to its cheap-feeling plastic construction, and the gimmicky way in which you slot the Move controller into the middle of the wheel where it lights up light a Christmas tree during races.

Sony describes the Speed Wheel as offering a "true arcade feel," in games like LittleBigPlanet Karting, but don't expect a realistic experience in Gran Turismo 5. On the other hand, you can configure the handles of the Move Racing Wheel to resemble the handlebars of a motorcycle. There's no dedicated motorcycle controller widely available for any of the consoles right now, so fans of the MotoGP or World Superbike games might want to give it a try.

Gioteck FR-1 (PlayStation 3)
Ideal if you don't have or want a PlayStation Move
USA $50/ UK £30

If you're not keen on the look of Sony's official racing wheel, or you don't own a Move controller, Gioteck's FR-1 is ideal. Similar to the Microsoft Wireless Speed Wheel, the FR-1 is a motion controlled wheel that you hold out in front of you, turning it in midair to steer. There are triggers on each handle (configurable to X and square buttons if required) for accelerate and brake, while a handy dial in the middle lets you adjust the sensitivity of the FR-1 on the fly.

The FR-1 works surprisingly well, but it has similar issues to the Microsoft wheel. It can be tiring holding the controller straight out in front of you for long periods of time, while the triggers don't offer the same level of control as a set of pedals do. That said, the FR-1 is a great budget choice if you're after a compact racing setup, or just looking to make your first foray into the world of racing wheels.

Midrange Racing Wheels

Logitech Driving Force GT (PlayStation 3, PC)
The best value wheel and pedals set.
USA $120 to $150/ UK £80 to £130

Officially licensed by the Gran Turismo series, the Driving Force GT is one of the most popular wheels available and it's easy to see why: it's the least expensive force feedback wheel for any platform. The pedals are basic compared to high-end wheels, but they still offer finer control than the triggers of a pad. After a little a bit of practice, this package will make you faster. The superb adjustment dial, which works with Gran Turismo 5, allows you to adjust many car settings on the fly, such as traction control and brake bias. The dial can also be programmed for similar functions in many PC racing titles.

On the PS3, the wheel works right out of the box with almost every racing game. The majority of games automatically detect your wheel and adjust various control settings accordingly. On the PC, you need to use the provided software to fine tune your wheel settings and save individual controller profiles for different games.

The force feedback of the wheel is strong and gives you good information about the behaviour of your car, but it's not delivered as smoothly as the more expensive wheels on the market, while the gear change inputs on the wheel leave something to be desired.The small buttons on the back of the rim, which stand in for shifter paddles, don't provide a very realistic feel and the sequential stick shift is prone to clicking and rattling, which makes it feel cheap.

That said, this is by far the best value-for-money racing wheel currently on sale and its clamp system makes it easy to attach to a desk or table for quick racing.

Logitech G27 (PlayStation 3, PC)
The popular choice for simulation racing.
USA $210 to $300/ UK £230

Logitech's G series has long been the wheel of choice for hardcore simulation fans, especially on the PC. Like the DFGT, it works immediately with the majority of PS3 racing games, but requires some profile setup on the PC. Instead of the rubberised grips of the DFGT, the G27 is finished in leather, making it much more comfortable for long periods of play. The force feedback has been stepped up too. It is much smoother, and you don't feel the occasional "grinding" sensation that has plagued cheaper peripherals in the past.

The shifting inputs are significantly better than those on the less expensive Logitech wheel too. The G27 features proper metal paddle shifters and a fantastic stick shift which can be set in 6-speed H-pattern mode, or sequential like a race car. The shifter also has several buttons on the base that control menu navigation and other basic options, in order to compensate for the fact that the rim features fewer buttons than the standard Dual Shock 3 controller.

The wheel rim has rev lights on the top edge, helping you to judge the perfect moment to change gear; it's the only off-the-shelf wheel that has this feature. The pedals also provide much more resistance than those of the Driving Force GT, though they don't meet the high standards of Fanatec's modular systems, compared to other wheels in this Guide. The clamp system is the same as the Driving Force GT, but the G27's separate shifter can make it difficult to find a comfortable position to play in. You might want to consider a wheel stand, such as the WheelStandPro, if you buy one of these wheels. Stands vary in price, but most are around $100.

High End Racing Wheels

Thrustmaster T500RS (PlayStation 3, PC)
The premium choice for Gran Turismo 5.
USA $540/ UK £370

At the highest end of PS3 accessories is the T500RS. This wheel and pedal set marks a change in direction for Thrustmaster, a company that generally produces less expensive, entry-level wheels. Compared to all of the other wheels in this Guide, this option features a large and highly realistic rim, which is much closer to the look and size of one in a real car. The force feedback is aggressive and fierce, so it certainly isn't suitable for young racing fans or anyone who is afraid of a challenge.

Oddly, the shifter paddles on this wheel are attached to the base, rather than the rim. This means that they don't move with the wheel when you turn it, sometimes forcing you to take one hand off the rim to shift gears. This goes against the whole point of shifter paddles in racing cars, which is to make gear changes quicker and simpler. However, it is fairly typical of some road cars with paddle shift gearboxes.

Like the Logitech DFGT, the T500RS is an official Gran Turismo product, so it also has the same plug-and-play simplicity on PS3, but requires more fine-tuning using the included software for PC.

Not only is this wheel a great choice for Gran Turismo 5, it's also great for the Formula One series, thanks to an optional Ferrari F1 add-on, which is sold separately for around $180/ £120. F1 fans can make great use of the huge number of programmable buttons, all of which are realistically labelled and function as they would in a real Ferrari F1 car.

Despite the $540 base price, the wheel does not include a stick shift. The THR8 shifter is sold separately for $130/ £125, but is the most realistic of its kind. The metal finish looks incredibly authentic and it can be configured in H-pattern or sequential modes.

To complete a full set of T500RS accessories alongside the base model would cost $850/ £615. This is unlikely to suit the vast majority of budgets, but the wheel does offer a credible simulation of a real car, which is remarkable considering it's Thrustmaster's first high-end steering wheel.

Fanatec CSR Wheel Value Pack (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
The best value multiplatform wheel.
USA $250/ UK £250

The Xbox 360 suffers from a very limited choice of steering wheels, but Fanatec's products are amongst the best on any platform. In fact, its CSR range currently supports PS3, PC and 360. Designed with Forza Motorsport 4 in mind, the CSR Wheel is a tremendous piece of kit. The force feedback is arguably even better than the other wheel in this price range, the Logitech G27, and it's delivered to your hands in a less aggressive manner.

The CSR is a phenomenally comfortable wheel to use thanks to alcantara grips on the wheel rim, the same material that's used for grip in Porsches and other sports cars. Sadly, the rest of the rim is plastic, which feels cheap by contrast. It can also be easy to damage the alcantara over time. On our own Fanatec CSR, the material disintegrated after a year. Members of the racing community recommend wearing karting gloves while playing to protect the material.

The value pack is delivered with Fanatec's CSR Pedals, which are strong and sturdy, but don't offer the special features of the CSR Elite pedals. Upgrading to those costs an additional $149, but is well worth it. The CSR Elite Pedals can be adjusted to make the brake soft like a road car, or stiff like a race car. You can also adjust a setting in the wheel to make the wheel vibrate once you are close to reaching full brake pressure. This really helps you to avoid locking up your tyres if you're playing a game with ABS turned off.

Unlike the Logitech and Thrustmaster products, the CSR is not automatically detected by games on the 360 or PS3. Instead, you need to manually adjust a variety of settings using buttons on the wheel and the LED display. It takes some trial and error to get the wheel dialled in perfectly using this method, but the end result is a driving experience that's tailored to your own personal style. The wheel also allows you to save four different sets of settings for use with different games.

There is a hidden expense with the CSR Wheel, in that you almost certainly need to purchase a wheel stand. The table clamp provided with the Wheel is pretty useless and can't support the weight of the device properly. With a stand, you can abandon the clamp altogether and screw the wheel into place for a perfect fit. A wheel stand from the likes of WheelStandPro adds another $100 to the cost.

While you have to make a few sacrifices, the CSR Wheel is still one of only two wheels that supports three platforms, and it's the only real choice in this price range for the Xbox 360. You could opt for the similarly priced Mad Catz Force Feedback Wheel, but it doesn't come close to matching the quality of design, materials, or experience that the CSR provides.

Fanatec CSR Elite Wheel (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
The ultimate racing experience.
USA $540/ UK £500 - Pedals sold separately from $80/ £80 to $250/ £250

When it comes to multiplatform steering wheels, it doesn't get more exciting than the CSR Elite. It may look similar to the standard CSR at first glance, but it's a big leap ahead of what that offers.

The face of the rim is beautifully finished in carbon fibre for that true racing feel. The force feedback is the most intense simulator experience that you can have in your home. Having driven a Pirelli Formula One Simulator, we can say that the aggressive but smooth nature of the CSR Elite's feedback is the closest we've come to that feeling when using a commercially available wheel.

You get all of the same wheel settings as the basic CSR and some cool additional features, such as being able to see inside the base unit to see the mechanics of the force feedback being delivered into your hands. It features the same alcantara pads, but instead of the rest of the rim being plastic, it's rubber. This gives you much more grip if you need to change the position of your hands and react quickly to oversteer.

Of course, the $540 price means that the CSR Elite is a very exclusive product. The cost doesn't include pedals either. Fanatec's basic pedals are $80/ £80, but don't do this package justice, so at the very least it needs to be paired up with the CSR Elite Pedals for $149/ £149, or the even more substantial Club Sport Pedals for $250/ £250. In addition, whereas the standard CSR's clamp was terrible, the Elite does not ship with one at all. So if you don't fancy drilling holes into a desk or table, you need to purchase a wheel stand to support the wheel.

The CSR Elite really is the ultimate racing experience for simulation racers, even if it might be more sensible to invest the money in a real car!

Are you a racing wheel fanatic, or is a pad more your style? Let us know in the comments below.

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Discussion

11 comments
SPBoss
SPBoss

There is an error in this so please correct it :)

''The G27 features proper metal paddle shifters and a fantastic stick shift which can be set in 6-speed H-pattern mode, or sequential like a race car''


The G27 does NOT have sequential shift on the stick shift, only the G25 has that feature. However, it does have flappy paddles for sequential shifting. 

SwitchBL8
SwitchBL8

Have the "regular" Fanatac CSR, with CSR Elite pedals. It takes racing to a whole new level. It's not easier, in fact it's more difficult. A normal controller won't prevent you from steering in a way you really couldn't whereas the forcefeedback from the Fanatec will, for instance in heavy cornering. However, racing is not easy, and with a real wheel (like the Fanatec) the experience is more lifelike than with a normal controller or the speedwheel (I used that too).

I bought it for the XBox (Forza4), but it works great with the PC too (Dirt3, Shift2, iRacing, etc). 

tgwolf
tgwolf

...Yes, indeed, WHY get a racing wheel...? I don't have kids and don't consider racing games worth my time or money...

shfhhgff
shfhhgff

you do not need a fir1

 

 

Dirk_McHardpeck
Dirk_McHardpeck

Do you really need to hold the Gioteck's FR-1 "straight out in front of you" because I've played a lot of Need for Speed Nitro on the Wii with a Wii Wheel and I can tell you that you don't have to hold that controller straight out. As long as you and the controller are facing the TV screen that's all that's required.

Sideshow_me
Sideshow_me

have the G27 for a while now, its a great wheel.. price isnt over the top and still getting quality

thequickshooter
thequickshooter

it's weird that the thumbnail of this article is the microsoft wireless racing wheel which is 

pretty much garbage. 

 

altho i don't have the cashes to have a "pro" racing wheel 

orpheus-livepa
orpheus-livepa

I've got the Fanatec CSR Wheel and Elite pedal and shifter set......i must say it has a bit of a learning curve, but once it all clicks into place you have the most satisfying racing sim experience ive ever come to know.

 

i'll be honest though and say, if your an arcade racer (NFS,Burnout,Ridge Racer,Blur) then don't bother.

but if you want hardcore sim racing (Forza,Codemasters F1) then look into getting yourself a wheel.

GH05T-666
GH05T-666

Defiantly get your hands on a Thrustmaster T500RS if you have the money!

At least get a Logitech G27 if u dont have the money for the Thrustmaster

GH05T-666
GH05T-666

These wheels arent as good as the ones u have to mount but i guess its a cheap option if u dont play racing games very much

Getbacktogaming
Getbacktogaming

I have the original Microsoft wheel with force feedback but I seriously prefer using the Speed Wheel ... I just grab it and play on the sofa = D it's not worth the hassle of setting it up each time... and the precision is surprising, it would be nice to have some kind of force feedback with some kind of gyroscope but oh well...

mutley89
mutley89

I have the CSR with Elite pedals and it is awesome. I'm a hardcore sim racer but enjoy using it with GT5 and the like.

Dirk_McHardpeck
Dirk_McHardpeck

No Thrustmaster Ferrari Wireless Gt F430? As a completely collapsible driving cockpit I figured it would be among the high end memberfs of this list

d12dotcom
d12dotcom

I still have my Logitech Driving Force Pro after around 9 years or so, and it still works perfectly. If I was gonna upgrade, I'd probably go with a Fanatec, for the 3 platform support. But I think the most important thing for me to buy is a decent stand/seat and stand combo. My desk is falling apart due to the stresses from the force feedback!

CptYoutube
CptYoutube

I want to upgrade to a Fanatec wheel but not financially able to right now. I personally use a Madcatz MC2 Wired Xbox 360 wheel and for the $60 price tag, I love it. It looks incredibly cheap, but feels pretty good. After 6 months it's still going strong regardless of reviews saying it breaks after 2 weeks.

If you are just getting into the sim racing scene, aka Forza 4, then I would recommend starting off cheap. Never buy wirelss though. That tiny milisecond delay will kill you. 

Youjimbo80
Youjimbo80

I'm really happy with my Fanatec Porsche GT2 racing wheel. Love the multi platform aspect. If I was buying a wheel today I would definetly go for the CSR elite. The Clubsport wheel doens't have Xbox 360 support =(

If you have the money go for the Clubsport pedals. You have to go really really high end if you want better. They are so much better than anything else you can get in the price range.

AlphaWolF_J
AlphaWolF_J

pc wheels are the best FACT! so if you have a ps3 you can pretty much plug any decent force feedback wheel in to it and it works just great. I do that with my logitech G25 on GT5 and many others  and everything including the 6 speed gearbox and clutch works just as they do in pc. If you got a xbox your outta luck as its obvious microsoft doesn't want to give you the freedom of choice and force you to by there overpriced rubbish things, but thats the choice you made just like paying to play multiplayer games when the rest of the world gets it free.

 

Motto, dont support Bad ideas that will only harm you as a consumer   

quinnd6
quinnd6

There aren't any decent racing wheels for the xbox 360 that don't cost a fortune so I won't be buying any wheels.

The new Microsoft so called wheel isn't a wheel at all and the only other one is ridiculously priced and can't be bought in Ireland. I think theres a Madcatz one that isn't mentioned here but its meant to be crap and has no force feedback so basically there are no decent steering wheels for xbox 360 worth buying.

plaintomato
plaintomato

If you're looking at shelling out for a decent wheel and stand today, the big question is whether they'll be compatible with the 720/PS4 - not 360/PS3. Unless you are PC exclusive this article is...untimely.

 

Also, seriously, does anybody actually use those motion sensing budget wheels? If you can't pay $250 + $150 for a good stand at minimum, you're better off with a controller ever since MS discontinued the one passable budget wheel.

ilantis
ilantis

The budget section is mostly BS, I bought one of the first logitech racing wheels at 20€ 2 years ago and it's much better than some wireless wii controller rip-off. Also I'm sure the original 360 wireless wheel controller has been out for so much time you can easily find it in pretty much the same price range of the wireless one.

Jawehawk-DK
Jawehawk-DK

I currently play with the Logitech G27. Great wheel, but the force feedback gets kind of hard to notice after playing with it for a year. It should also be noted that the G27 shifter can't be used in sequential mode. That was on the G25. I'm going to upgrade to a Thrustmaster T500 as soon as I feel like my economy can support it.

 

I'd also say that if you're going with a Premium wheel like the CSR Elite or Thrustmaster (or even half premium kits like the G27 or Fanatic CSR Value pack), a proper wheel stand is a must. Personally I use the Playseat WRC.

Avenger1324
Avenger1324

One of the things holding me back from buying a wheel is there being so few that support both 360 and PS3 (all support PC), and when you finally find a decent one they are too expensive.  This article only goes to highlight how poor the pricing is for the UK compared to USA, where all they seem to do is change the symbol from USD to GBP :(

Plo_Koon_basic
Plo_Koon_basic

i want to play my racing games with a wheel and pedal setup but currently don't have room for that. Maybe next year, or next console cycle.

jonmar
jonmar

A little bit of a correction to the article: The stick shifter module that comes with the Logitech G27 can NOT be set to sequential mode. That was a feature of the G25 shifter that they left out for the G27 (and the reason I didn't upgrade). The G27 shifter only has H-gate functionality.

 

So glad to see this article though and even the mention of a racing team like Team Redline. Those guys are aliens. It's been a long time since I've seen a hardware guide at gamespot (maybe I've just missed them all) so this article and the recent PC-build article have been welcome.

mlcarter815
mlcarter815

I can't imagine playing anything other than an arcade racing game on a controller. Simulation racing games MUST be played using a good wheel. 

jonnymcl2k
jonnymcl2k

I have a Fanatec Turbo S and clubsport pedals. The clutch on both my real car and clubsport pedals are broke and I'm not sure which will be cheaper to replace :l.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

But who needs a racing wheel when you have Kinect?! :O

Halloll
Halloll

I have the G27, its awesome. but if you wan't it with a playseat don't choose the one with the metal par going between the pedals. 

walterg74
walterg74

@tgwolf probably then the answer to your (stupid) question would be: if you ARE interested in racing games and they are worth you time. Makes one wonder wtdf you're doing reading this if it's not worth yu time (which I assume isn't worth much if you spend it reading articles about things you don't care about)....@tgwolf @tgwolf

orpheus-livepa
orpheus-livepa

 @CptYoutube funny you should say don't buy wireless, cos the Fanatec wheel that you want is wireless....:)

mutley89
mutley89

 @CptYoutube CSR wheels are wireless when connected to the 360 an absolutely fine.

Youjimbo80
Youjimbo80

 @quinnd6 Isn't the madcatz basically the old Microsoft Racing wheel? It did have force feedback. I have one I no longer use (replaced by Fanatec GT2). It was OK for the price I guess.

Youjimbo80
Youjimbo80

 @Jawehawk-DK You could also use a Fanatec Wheel stand. Slightly cheaper and works really well. Easier to store aswell.

But I fully agree. Table clamps seem to work so so at best, eventhough the T500 is supposed to have a really good one (Fanatec wheel have real shitty table clamps).

Youjimbo80
Youjimbo80

 @jonmar Agree! It's nice to see gamespot highlight wheels. Next up an article on sim racing and racing leagues would be awesome.

Halloll
Halloll

in GT5 I could shift gear by pushing the stick up or down. don't know how to switch modes but I think it maybe dependent on which car you're driving.

PhantomFry
PhantomFry

 @jonnymcl2k Sadly I broke my brake on exactly the same setup the load cell cable was snapped which meant buying a new one. £15 was fine but it was the £17 shipping costs that killed me all for something that weighs next to nothing. So I bought two! to make it slightly more worth while. Do you have a playseat too?

PhantomFry
PhantomFry

 @warhawk-geeby A friend of mine has a CSR elite and uses kinect for head tracking which is a nice touch. However actually using kinect on its own it more gimmicy than the wii :p

jonmar
jonmar

 @Youjimbo80 I agree it is such a niche genre that it would be great to bring some more awareness to people about it.

jonmar
jonmar

 @Halloll Is the stick spring loaded to return to center position by itself? I mean you can map any button on the wheel to any function especially in PC games but if it's not spring loaded then I wouldn't call it a sequential mode. Having to manually return the stick to center position between each shift especially when downshifting will slow you down by a lot.