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There are a wide range of gamers out there who absolutely love racing games. And the majority of these gamers race with a controller, be it either an Xbox or PlayStation pad.
And this approach works extremely well. You can achieve a good level of control using the super accurate analogue sticks to steer. The triggers allow you to modulate your throttle and brake inputs.l
And the best part about using a controller to race with is that you can do it all from the comfort of your sofa or bed.
However, a controller doesn’t give you an immense amount of immersion when racing. For that, you need a racing wheel.
In this guide, I will compare the pros and cons of racing with a controller and a racing wheel. All to help you decide whether getting a racing wheel is worth it. By the end of this article, you should have all of the knowledge required to decide whether a racing wheel is right for you or not.
Upgrading your sim racing setup from a controller to a racing wheel is a vast difference. You will instantly experience the racing games you have come to love from a different perspective.
You’ll notice the increased immersion to the racing games you play, especially if you embrace the cockpit camera mode. You really will feel like you are driving the car, rather than playing a game.
One of the major upgrades that a racing wheel can offer over a controller, is force feedback.
Force feedback is the term given to the forces that are sent through the steering wheel. They’re created by a motor in the wheel base, and are designed to replicate the effects you would feel in a real road car.
These are translated as vibrations in the wheel and the wheel strength dynamically changing to replicate weight.
Its great to be able to feel the texture of the road and kerbs as you drive around a track. But the real positive comes when you start to feel how the car is reacting to your inputs.
A good racing wheel can simulate understeer and oversteer. This gives you the ability to feel when the car is about to lose grip, allowing you to adjust your inputs to compensate for this. This is something a controller simply cannot replicate.
With an overwhelming list of positives for using a racing wheel, why would anyone not look to pick one up?
Well, when you start to weigh up the pros against the cons, you will quickly understand why some gamers prefer to race using a controller.
A wheel is a bulky piece of kit, and can come with a super hefty price tag. These two reasons alone are the main reasons why some gamers don’t invest in a wheel.
Generally if you have a racing wheel, you will require some where to mount it and somewhere to store it. Mounting it requires a desk, wheel stand or rig.
And although you can get some compact wheel stands, and some which fold up into a relatively small form. They still take up a fair chunk of space.
Even if you have room to mount and store a racing wheel and pedals, there’s then the price to contend with.
As mentioned, wheels can be rather expensive, with the best direct drive wheels starting well over £1,000 / $1,000. If you’re interested in one of the best racing wheels money can buy, check out our review of the Fanatec Podium F1.
But there are a selection of much more affordable wheels. The cheapest racing wheels start from under £100 / $100, but we wouldn’t recommend buying any of these. Most of the super cheap wheels don’t include force feedback.
As soon as you get up to around £200 / $200 that’s when the wheels start becoming worth investing in.
When it comes to racing with a controller, there is absolutely a place for it. In fact, I still have a controller to hand for when I’m racing less simulation heavy games, such as Forza Horizon.
The best part about using a controller to race with is the pure relaxation and comfort element. You can play from the comfort of your sofa, and truly you can pick up and play.
There is no need to setup any racing rig, move furniture about, or reposition your playing position.
However, despite the comfort and pickup and play element of a controller. You will never be able to achieve the same level of immersion or control with a controller.
Without the same force feedback that wheel users experience, controller racers are missing a whole host of information and car feeling.
This is a disadvantage compared to racing wheels, as you are missing key information that can help you make on the fly decisions.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that racing with a controller is slower than a racing wheel. You will find a good chunk of racers who can set world record lap times with a controller. But this “feeling” and speed really comes down to personal preference of the user.
So I’ve run through the pros and cons of both a racing wheel and a controller, but which is right for you?
There is no question that adding a racing wheel to your gaming setup will increase your overall immersion, and can even improve your lap times and your enjoyment.
However, the trade off is the space that you need for a racing wheel, and the initial cost outlay.
If you have room for a wheel stand, or a good amount of desk space, and have some money to spare. Then there is no question that a racing wheel is worth the investment.
So you’ve decided that you want to invest in a racing wheel. Brilliant! That’s the first step to on track dominance.
However when it comes to choosing a racing wheel, there are a lot of peripherals to choose from. All with different specs, technology and price.
Below are a few of our most recommended racing wheels. These are the best of the best within their specific category. Hopefully this will help you quickly narrow down which wheel to invest in.
If you are looking for a low cost, good quality racing wheel, then Logitech has you covered. Their wheels have been king of the starter racing wheel for years. And the newest G923 is the latest iteration.
This wheel features good force feedback for the price, and even a few cool features such as dual clutch and rev lights.
For those looking for a decent racing wheel for a reasonable price, you can’t get much better than the Fanatec CSL Elite.
It is a very good mid range racing wheel, with belt driven force feedback. This offers an excellent feeling through the wheel, with exceptional strength and detail for the price.
If you simply want the best, and nothing but the best, you have to look at direct drive racing wheels. Direct drive technology offers the strongest and most detailed force feedback around.
And there aren’t many more consumer friendly direct drive wheels than Fanatec’s Podium range.
The Podium range of direct drive wheels offer true plug and play, with a wide range of console compatibility.