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The well-known German sim racing manufacturer Fanatec keep surprising us in 2021. First they announced the cheapest ever …
The Fanatec Podium Racing Wheel F1 is the first ever cross-platform direct drive wheel from one of the best sim racing peripheral manufactures, Fanatec.
During the production of this direct drive racing wheel, Fanatec partnered with Sony to enable the cross platform functionality. In fact this wheelbase is also compatible with the Xbox One making it completely cross compatible. Although to use this wheelbase with the Microsoft Xbox console, you will unfortunately require a different wheel rim.
Inside the large box, you’ll find a well packaged wheelbase with a bunch of cables including; a power supply cable and unit, a USB cable to link the wheelbase to your console of choice, and a connection cable so you can link the pedals to the wheelbase. Along with these you’ll find a torque key so you can change the power output of the wheelbase, the main attraction itself… The stunning looking ClubSport steering wheel F1 PS4 edition. There is also a selection of racing button caps for the wheel rim which, are designed to replace the pre-installed PS4 button caps if you so wish. And finally a quick start guide.
Although the whole wheel assembly is fairly easy to throw together and start using, we would recommend giving the manual a little once over to avoid any heartbreak if you do accidentally do something wrong!
As mentioned above, this wheel really is simple to put together. You will be racing with this machine in absolutely no time. To fix the wheelbase to your sim rig, you can use the standard Fanatec three bolt mounting pattern on the underside of the wheelbase. There is also fixing points on the side of the wheelbase so you can side mount it to your rig if you have compatible mounts.
We would highly recommend mounting this to a stable sim rig, such as our P1-X Sim Racing Chassis from Sim Lab. This direct drive wheel can put out 20NM of torque, which is enough to shake any lightweight rig to bits! You have been warned!
Plugging in the Fanatec is as simple as inserting all of the cables in to the back of the wheel base in the right connection socket… and this wheelbase has plenty of those! Plug in your power cable, your USB connection and your pedals in to the RJ12 ports. There are also plenty of extra RJ12 connection ports for any other peripherals such as handbrakes etc.
With all peripherals going straight in to the back of the wheelbase, means you have one single USB cable to connect up to your computer or console. It’s a clean and simple approach and we like it… A lot.
Once you’re plugged in and ready to go, simply ensure you have updated all of your drivers and you are ready to play. There are handy how to videos on Fanatec’s Youtube channel to show you how to do this.
Now the really fun bit. If this is your first experience of a direct drive wheel, you are about to have your eyes opened to just how good sim racing can be. The experience and immersion that this Fanatec direct drive wheel gives you is incredible. And it isn’t just this wheel, other direct drive wheels also up the ante over their belt driven counterparts, although this one is rather special.
Being direct drive, as soon as the wheel receives a force feedback signal from the game or simulator you are playing, you will feel that through the wheel. One of the first things you will notice, other than the clarity and strength of the force feedback, is that there is absolutely zero gear grinding which other wheels suffer from. With a standard, non direct drive racing wheel you will always be able to feel the gears and cogs physically rotating within the wheel base. This can disrupt and fog some of the force feedback you are feeling. Well, you’ll be glad to hear that all of that is gone with this wheelbase. Smoothness and power is the aim of the game.
And talking of power, the sheer force that this direct drive wheel emits is immense. A whole 20NM of torque, going straight in to the wheel and through your arms. Goodbye fillings! Of course, most sim racers who use direct drive racing wheels such as this Fanatec wont ever run right up to the 20NM of torque. Most, including ourselves turn the force feedback right down. Normally to 60% or lower.
Even when running at half maximum force, the smooth nature of the wheel, and the level of clarity and detail you feel through the wheel is stunning. The wheel feels so precise compared to what you are experiencing on track. Every bump, kerb and surface change is echoed perfectly through this wheel.
We would like to talk a little about the noise that this wheel base emits. It is so quiet its unnerving! With regular belt driven or gear driven wheels there is a lot of whirring or grinding sounds coming from the base itself. With this direct drive wheel the motor is practically silent. The force this thing puts out will almost certainly shake your rig so hard that you will hear that crying in pain, but the motor will remain silent!
One area we would like to commend Fanatec on concerns the cabelling structure. The fact that there is only one single USB cable coming from the wheel base to your console of choice is brilliant. This minimises clutter and makes for a much simpler and cleaner overall setup.
Also the power brick itself is relatively small and compact when compared to some others. These may seem like minor details, however when designing and building your own rig, these are practical issues which always crop up. Where do I put the power brick, how can I run all of these cables to my machine. Well Fanatec has you covered there with their minimalist approach.
When you do really fancy a work out, you can use the torque key in the back of the wheel base to unlock its full potential. At 100% force feedback you will be really testing your muscles. This gives you a truly unrealistic level of force feedback when driving a modern race car. And is normally reserved for those Youtubers who want to test their strength in a 100% force feedback video!
The great take away from the differing levels of force feedback is how easy you can change the level of torque you are receiving. You can tweak the force levels to match the style of game you are playing or intensity of the work out you wish to inflict on yourself!
This Fanatec wheel base allows you to save up to five different profiles, where each one can be setup to incorporate different feedback strengths, dampening and a load of other features. This is great if you like to have different wheel setups for different games or championship series.
Fanatec also have some PC software which lets you customize the wheel even further. With this you can save more than five different profiles, and change what is displayed on the screen on the wheel rim itself. You can incorporate elements such as car settings and telemetry which really allows for a personalised experience that not many other sim racing wheels offer.
As with other Fanatec wheel bases, you can use this wheel base with all Fanatec wheel rims, not just the ClubSport rim that comes bundled in this product. There is a quick-release system on the front of the wheel base which allows you to change the rim with ease… Well theoretically.
During our testing we found the quick-release mechanism a bit stiff and hard to operate. You have to use a substantial amount of force to get the wheel rim off of the base, and give it a little bit of wiggling. It isn’t ideal. Once your wheel rim of choice is attached to the wheel base however, we didn’t ever feel as though it would come loose. Even when we ramped the force feedback strength right up, there wasn’t ever any slip or worry.
This design could use some improvement, although we realise that this might have been the only way Fanatec could have implemented a quick-release as it had to ensure all old wheel rims fitted. So achieving a perfect fit all round may not have been an easy task.
Other than the fantastic direct drive capabilities that the wheel base offers, our start of the show really is the gorgeous ClubSport steering wheel. Fanatec partnered with Formula 1 when creating this wheel rim, and it really shows with its accuracy to a real F1 car steering wheel.
Of course it is no where near as complicated as a real F1 wheel, and you won’t need a mathematics degree to be able to operate it! Phew! But this wheel rim is still loaded with a host of buttons, all of which are customisable to suit your sim racing requirements.
As standard the buttons, of which there are 11 in total, come with the PS4 button caps installed. This includes the usual square, triangle, L1, L2 buttons etc, and will help you navigate through PS4 games such as GT Sport with ease. There is also a selection of other button caps with relevant racing icons on them. This allows you to install them however you like, customising every button to serve the function you require it to.
Along with the standard buttons, you will find 12 way multi-position switches and thumb encoders which let you dial certain settings up and down, and a plethora of rocker switches. There is also a dial in the center of the wheel which lets you select different steering modes.
On the flip side of this wheel rim is the Podium Advanced Paddle Module. This paddle shifter system provides not just two shifters, but two extra paddles which can be setup to control elements such as DRS, your clutch or even your throttle and brake if your feeling a bit lazy and don’t fancy using your pedals.
The shifters are built with a magnetic system to give a firm feedback response when you pull them. When compared to non-magnetic shift paddles you will notice an increased punch from this system. You’ll get stronger initial feedback when you are shifting and this adds to the overall feel and build quality. Adding to that quality level is the fact that the shifters are made from real, automotive grade carbon fibre which adds to that authentic feeling.
When holding this wheel you notice the lovely Alcantara finish which wraps each hand grip, and the ergonomics are on point. The size, shape and positioning of this wheel have been very well considered and feel exactly as they should. You can access pretty much every button on this rim without ever having to remove your hands from the wheel. This is crucial when driving at 200MPH around Spa Francorchamps in an F1 car!
So this direct direct drive wheel base is 100% cross compatible. It works on both of the latest consoles, the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One, along with PC’s. Fanatec have already confirmed it will also work with the next Xbox console, however we have to wait to see regarding the PS5. Fingers crossed.
This is the first direct drive wheel to offer cross-platform compatibility and it is a welcome feature. There is one caveat to this however. The wheel rim which is bundled in this product will only work on the PS4 and PC. If you want to use this wheel base on an Xbox One you do need to purchase one of Fanatec’s other wheel rims. A bit of a bummer, however if you primarily play sim racing games on the Xbox, we would recommend purchasing the elements of this bundle separately as the wheel rim will be going to waste.
One more thing we have to commend Fanatec for is the overall build quality of this wheel rim. You can clearly see that a lot of work and testing has gone in to the ClubSport racing wheel. There is carbon fibre elements throughout including the shifters, which feel very thin yet well engineered.
The rim is finished in a nice blue Alcantara to emulate a true racing wheel finish. And the OLED display has been designed to give you easy to read information of your choosing. We were particularly impressed with the amount of read outs that this display offers.
It not only shows you live telemetry from your car, but can also show you maximum peak torque, current force feedback read outs and more. This function allows you to set up your wheel to match force feedback levels across multiple games and multiple platforms. Do you want that Mercedes AMG GT GT3 to emit the same force feedback in Assetto Corsa as it does in GT Sport? No problem.
The OLED display can be programmed to show you telemetry data such as speed or your current gear, and can be used to adjust tuning options during gameplay. There is a series of LED rev lights and further six flag lights which can be adjusted to show you fuel levels, tyre wear and more.
The overall immersion that this wheel rim offers, especially if you are driving Formula 1 style sim racing games is immense. There isn’t really anything else on the market at this price range which offers a similar experience with all of the features that this Fanatec offering does.
Now we get on to the nitty gritty part of this review, and this is an area where some sim racers who are not overally familiar with direct drive wheels may be put off of this wheel bundle. Sitting at €1,799.95 this Fanatec Podium Racing Wheel F1 is rather expensive.
There is no doubt that Fanatec have created and absolutely cracking direct drive wheel base and official F1 wheel rim combo. That isn’t in question. The question is, would a sim racer be prepared to pay almost €2,000 to buy in to this controller setup.
That is a lot of money for a sim racing setup, especially when there are alternative wheels on the market for much less, especially if you are prepared to DIY your own setup.
However, on the flip side, when you weigh up the amount of functionality, practicality, ease of use and overall experience, the cost of this direct drive setup is well worth it. There isn’t any other direct drive wheel bundle which gives you the same amount of compatibility that this wheel does.
When compared to other direct drive setups such as the SimuCUBE OSW which is probably the best valued direct drive wheel on the market today. This Fanatec wheel offers a similar overall driving experience. We would however say that the Fanatec offers a more natural feel to the force feedback, especially when turned down to 30-50% feedback strength.
You are able to pick up a SimuCUBE OSW kit for under €900, not including the wheel rim, and if you are on a budget this may be the way to go. However the SimuCUBE isn’t as slick as this Fanatec and doesn’t offer anywhere near the same ease of use and compatibility.
Overall the Fanatec Podium Racing Wheel F1 offers an immense sim racing experience with unrivaled compatibility across all platforms, excluding the slight Xbox caveat. It truly is one of the most polished and accessible direct drive wheels you can buy today.
Yes, this Fanatec Podium direct drive wheel is fully compatible with PS4 and PC.
The wheel base is compatible with Xbox One, however the steering wheel is not. You will need to purchase a different wheel rim to play with Xbox.
You can use all Fanatec pedals as standalone pedals, so you can plug them in to different brand steering wheel bases.