Fanatec CSL vs ClubSport – Which Should You Buy?
Fanatec make fantastic sim racing wheels, some of the best on the market. Two of their product ranges utilise very similar technology, with the CSL Elite and ClubSport (CSW) wheel bases both using the same servo motor, electronics, and power supply.
So with some of the same technology, is the ClubSport worth around £200 more than the CSL Elite wheel base? This is what we are going to answer below.
What Are The Differences?
|Fanatec CSL Elite v1.1||Fanatec ClubSport v2.5|
|Console Compatibility||PC + Xbox||PC + Xbox|
|Force Feedback Drive System||Single Gear Toothed Belt Drive||Two Multi-V-Ribbed Belts|
|Force Feedback Drive Material||ABS Pulleys||CNC Machined Aluminum Pulleys|
|Torque||Up to 6Nm||Up to 8Nm|
|Position Sensor||Single Optical Sensor||Dual Magnetic Hall Sensors|
|Construction||ABS Plastic||CNC Machined Aluminum|
|FFB Technology||Belt Driven||Belt Driven|
|Degrees of Rotation||90°-1080°||90°-900°|
|Cooling System||Single Fan||Double Fan|
It is true that the CSL Elite contains a selection of the same technology as the ClubSport v2.5. In a way, many look at the CSL Elite wheel base as the same piece of kit as the old ClubSport v1. However the ClubSport v2.5 features a host of upgrades over the current CSL Elite v1.1 which improves the wheel base in a lot of areas.
Below we have broken down all of the key areas to look for when purchasing a wheel base. We have compared both Fanatec wheel bases in each section, to hopefully reach a solid conclusion and answer the question. Is the ClubSport better than a CSL Elite?
The CSL Elite v1.1 Wheel base
The CSL Elite is the baby brother of the ClubSport. It uses some of the same technology as the CSW, however the main force feedback components are different. It is priced at around £200 cheaper than the CSW, meaning it is the cheapest Fanatec wheel base you can buy.
The ClubSport v2.5 Wheel base
The ClubSport (CSW) wheel base is currently on version 2.5. It has been improved over the years, and is Fanatec’s mid level racing wheel base. It sits above the CSL Elite, and below the direct drive Podium wheel bases in their overall product range. Prices start at around £500 for a CSW wheel base.
As you can see from the comparison table above, the ClubSport wheel base puts out around 2Nm of extra force than the CSL. This is huge in the world of sim racing. Compared to other competitors, the CSL puts out a good amount of force feedback strength. The ClubSport offers a step up on this, with the strength of feedback really impressing.
To put this in to context. When we tested both the CSL Elite and the ClubSport side by side, we ran the CSL Elite at 100% force feedback strength. This is the equivelant strength output as running the ClubSport at around 70% force feedback strength.
Generally, when using the ClubSport wheel base, we ran the force feedback strength right around this 70% mark for most games. This means that the 100% strength of the CSL Elite is more than adequate, and felt about right on most games. It certainly didn’t feel like the CSL Elite was lacking anything in the strength department when running at 100%.
Where this is a benefit, is when it comes to some of the heavier wheel rims you can purchase. If you were to use a heavy wheel rim with the CSL wheel base, the strength of the force through the wheel can suffer a little. There is no such problem with the ClubSport, as it has more than enough power to cope with the heavier wheel rims.
Force Feedback Technology
One area where the ClubSport definitely has the CSL Elite beat is in the force feedback. There are two completely different technologies at work in both wheel bases when it comes to force feedback. The CSL Elite utilises a single gear toothed belt to drive the wheel rim, whereas the ClubSport uses two v-ribbed belts.
The difference this makes is night and day. The CSL’s single belt produces very smooth force feedback, however there are occasional stutters when outputting certain types of force. Whilst barely noticeable, these stutters do remind you that you are playing a game.
In comparison, the ClubSport delivers the smoothest force feedback available from any belt driven racing wheel. It uses two v-ribbed belts which eliminate all of the stutters that are present in the CSL.
Along with different belt technology, there is also a difference is the sensor technology used. The CSL only uses one position sensor, whilst the CSW utilises two. The main difference here is that a little bit of the force feedback fidelity is lost on the CSL, as it is only using a single sensor. Whilst not massively noticeable, it does allow the CSW to deliver slightly more precise force feedback at all times.
Both wheel bases use 1,000Hz update rate, meaning both are updating at the exact same time as each other.
The build quality between both wheels is quite different. Whilst both the CSL and CSW are both built to extremely high Germaneering standards. The CSL Elite is housed in an ABS plastic casing, whilst the CSW is made entirely from machined Aluminium.
We would expect during long usage across multiple months and years, for the CSW to hold up a little better than the CSL. We haven’t heard any stories of CSL wheel bases breaking at all, which is a testament to the overall build quality Fanatec adhere to. So by no means is the CSL not well manufactured. Both should last you a very long time, no matter how often you drive them. Also, a note, all of the internal mechanical parts and software, other than the drive technology is the same across both wheel bases.
Also, the CSW wheel base features a nice brushed Aluminium front plate, whilst the CSL has a textured plastic frontage. The CSW does look slightly more appealing and high quality from the front than the CSL because of this.
The housing as a whole feels much more premium on the CSW, compared to the CSL. Although this doesn’t affect your main experience with each wheel base, it does justify some of the extra upgrade cost.
Both the CSL Elite and ClubSport wheel bases use essentially the same connection ports at the rear. And both wheel bases are fully compatible with the CSL & ClubSport steering wheel range. This is great, as it allows you to pick and choose your wheel rim across both ranges, fully knowing that it will work on whichever wheel base you own.
As you may have noticed, the CSW doesn’t have built in rev lights, whereas the CSL wheel base does. Now we don’t know if this is the reason for this, however we do believe that all of the CSL steering wheels don’t feature rev lights. Whilst all of the ClubSport wheel rims do feature in-built rev lights. This could be the reason for not including rev lights on the CSW, although don’t quote us on that! Despite this, it doesn’t make any difference in compatibility. All steering wheels for each platform are cross compatible across wheel bases.
Another area where both wheel bases are identical, is the adjustable settings. These include all of the classic Fanatec force feedback settings such as force feedback strength, wheel damping etc. These are all adjustable across both wheel bases in exactly the same manor. This means you can adjust both wheel bases to suit your own personal preference.
Another difference between the two wheel bases, is the cooling technology. The ClubSport has double the amount of cooling fans installed to ensure there is never a overheating issue. To be fair to the CSL though, we played continuously for a good 4-5 hours, using the CSL at 100% force feedback, and the wheel base itself never felt hot. This means that the cooling in the CSL is more than adequate enough to cope with the forces it is generating.
So, is the ClubSport v2.5 worth the upgrade over the CSL Elite v1.1?
In a word, yes. However you have to ask yourself what you want to get out of the wheel base.
If you upgrading from a Logitech G29 for example, and you are looking to only play games such as Forza, then the CSL Elite is probably more than good enough. We can’t forget that the CSL Elite v1.1 is still an exceptionally good racing wheel base. It is essentially a first generation ClubSport wheel base, and is a huge improvement over all budget racing wheels.
If you race competitively, or race often on games such as iRacing, Assetto Corsa Competizione, then the ClubSport could be worth the upgrade. The smoothness and upgraded strength of the force feedback is definitely noticeable if you race a lot. The ClubSport wheel base genuinely feels like you are racing a real car, the force feedback is that good. The build quality is also worth noting, as if you race often, the ClubSport should definitely outlast the CSL Elite before issues arise.
Will upgrading to the ClubSport wheel base make me faster?
Whilst this is a solid question, we don’t believe that racers on a CSW will be out and out faster than if they were using a CSL. Whilst the CSL Elite wheel base does lose a little of the detailed intricate force feedback compared to a CSW, this isn’t crucial force feedback. The force feedback that is delivered via the CSL Elite is more than good enough to allow you to control your car just as well as with the CSW.
Those who are looking to upgrade their CSL Elite setup to a CSW to improve their lap time should maybe reconsider. The improvement in force feedback detail, whilst noticeable, wont have you suddenly feeling the car better.
Instead the extra level of detail in the force feedback delivery of the CSW immerses you to a higher degree. You wont have any of the stuttering that is occasionally present in the CSL, and the increased strength can involve you to a higher degree in the racing itself. If you are a sim racer who loves a strong or heavy wheel, the CSW is definitely right for you. Turned up to close to 100% will certainly give you a work out!
If you are a Logitech G29 owner, or you own another entry level wheel, then both the CSL and the CSW will allow you to feel force feedback much better. You should over time be able to drive faster due to the increased force feedback feeling compared to when you were driving with a G29. Either Fanatec wheel base will be a marked improvement.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How much is a Fanatec CSL Elite wheel base?
Fanatec's entry level wheel base, the CSL Elite, starts from around £300.
How much is a Fanatec ClubSport wheel base?
The Fanatec ClubSport wheel base is Fanatec's mid level offering, and the best belt driven wheel you can buy. The price starts from around £480.
Which Fanatec wheel base is best?
There are positives to buying both Fanatec wheel bases, and it truly depends on your requirements. Read our complete guide to find out which Fanatec wheel base is best suited for you.