Getting Started Sim Racing Part 3 – Which Wheel is Best To Start With
In our past two “How to start sim racing” guides I took a look at which game is the best to get started with. And also whether you should start racing with a controller or jump straight in with a racing wheel.
In this guide I’m going to presume that you chose to go for a racing wheel over a controller. And I’m going to look at which racing wheel is the best one to start your journey with.
What To Look for In A Racing Wheel
If you are jumping in to the world of sim racing for the first time, looking at all of the different racing wheels available can be quite daunting. There is a lot of terminology to learn, and a lot of different types of racing wheel.
Two of the main elements to look for when it comes to racing wheels are force feedback and force feedback technology.
What Is Force Feedback
Force feedback is the name given to the forces which you feel through the wheel itself. And it is without a doubt the best element of racing with a wheel.
The stronger the force feedback the more the wheel will vibrate and the heavier the forces in the wheel will be. This allows you as a driver to feel the car on the road, and get an idea for how the car is behaving.
Another element of force feedback to be paired with strength is the detail. If the force feedback is detailed it lets you differentiate between small forces and large, and if you have a really good wheel, you can even feel the difference in small track surface changes.
What’s the difference between gear, belt and direct drive technology?
When it comes to producing the force feedback that you feel in the wheel, there are a few different ways to do this.
Gear driven force feedback, which is typically the worse way of producing forces. This method utilising a series of gears which connect a motor to the wheel shaft. Generally the forces produced are a little rougher than other methods due to being able to feel the physical gears.
Belt driven force feedback can be an improvement over gear driven. This method utilises a belt to connect the motor to the wheel shaft. The bonus of using a belt means you wont get the tell tale gear grinding that is present in gear driven wheels. Overall this method produces a much smoother force feedback, sometimes with a reduction in clarity and detail.
Direct drive force feedback is the best of the best. This style of racing wheel utilises a much larger motor and removes gears and belts. Instead, it connects the motor directly to the wheel shaft (hence direct drive). This gives the driver a true 1 to 1 feel with the motor, allowing for much stronger and more detailed force feedback.
Other elements to look out for
Aside from the headline force feedback figures and technology there are a couple of other things to look for when buying a racing wheel. The first and most important is compatibility.
Compatibility is crucial when it comes to racing wheels, just like it is with a lot of peripherals. However, it can be a confusing part of buying a racing wheel.
Often, companies will manufacturer the same wheel, but have a specific version for specific consoles. And other times companies will offer completely different models for each platform. So try to keep and eye on compatibility when deciding on a racing wheel.
The other thing to look for, like many products is quality. There are a lot of wheels to choose from, and many are better constructed than others. I’ll highlight this in our wheel recommendations below.
Best Budget Racing Wheels To Start With
Many sim racers, when they first start their journey, will be looking for a reasonably budget friendly racing wheel. This helps drivers get a taster for this style of racing, and acclimatise themselves with sim racing, before spending big bucks on a premium racing wheel.
You can pick up a budget racing wheel from £199/$199 which isn’t a huge cost, (compared to other racing wheels on this list). And as you would have read in our previous controller vs racing wheel guide, we would highly recommend picking up one of these wheels, as it can transform your racing experience.
The Logitech G923 is possibly our pick of the bunch when it comes to a budget racing wheel. It offers a great overall sim racing experience in an affordable package, and contains everything you need to start sim racing.
One of the most impressive elements of the Logitech G923 is the build quality. Logitech have been producing racing wheel for years now, in fact my first racing wheel was an old Logitech wheel.
Every element from the wheel’s design, through to its longevity oozes quality. There have been very few problems reported with this wheel, far fewer than other sim racing companies. So if you want a wheel to last years, this is a good bet.
And then there is the design quality. The wheel itself features a combination of leather and metal, with a metal faceplate, and leather wheel trim. This makes the whole wheel feel like a well built product, and it’s enjoyable to race with.
The G923 is an upgraded version of an older wheel, the G29. And it features a few improvements, such as rev lights and a rotary dial across both the PlayStation and Xbox versions. Upgrades have also been made under the hood, introducing a new Trueforce feature, which helps improve the overall feedback through the wheel.
Despite all of this praise, the G923 does have one minor downside. It is the only wheel on this list to utilise gear driven force feedback. This results in a few moments while racing where you will feel the gears grinding. Although this isn’t as much of as a problem as it could be.
Overall the force feedback is good in both strength and detail, and is more than good enough to quantify its price point. If you fancy a little more info on the G923, watch our unboxing and review video here.
Buy the Logitech G923 wheel from your region below;
Fanatec CSL Elite
If you are looking for a slightly more premium racing wheel than the Logitech G923, the Fanatec CSL Elite has to be considered. Fanatec have become one of the most well known racing wheel manufacturers in sim racing, and they sponsor a huge amount of events, including Esports and Formula 1.
The CSL Elite is the cheapest racing wheel that Fanatec offer, and comes in typically around double the price of the Logitech G923. The bonuses of choosing a Fanatec wheel vastly outweigh that cost increase in my opinion.
You get a huge amount of customisation with any Fanatec wheel, allowing you to choose which steering wheel you want from a wide selection, along with which pedals you fancy.
To go along with this customisation comes a huge improvement in force feedback quality over the G923. The CSL Elite range of products use belt driven technology capable of outputting forces over triple the strength of the G923.
I have written a full guide comparing the Logitech G923 and Fanatec CSL Elite, so check that out for a more head to head comparison.
Buy the Fanatec CSL Elite from your region below;
Best Premium Racing Wheel To Start With
Stepping up a gear from the previous two wheel suggestions, the ClubSport wheel base really marks the entry in to more serious sim racing. This is a wheel base which sits above the CSL Elite in Fanatec’s product lineup. It boasts improved technology along with stronger force feedback.
For many sim racers, this is the wheel base to have. And I think it gives possibly the best bang for your buck. Stepping up to the next bracket of racing wheels direct drive, comes with a very large increase in price.
The ClubSport is the strongest belt driven wheel on the market, and it gives some of the best force feedback detail. It’s a wheel that I’ve raced with a lot, and the step up from the CSL Elite is certainly noticeable.
This difference comes in the strength increase, but also the detail. With the ClubSport wheel, you will be presented with much more detail, including track detail as well as grip level detail.
Buy the Fanatec ClubSport from your region below;
Racing Wheels To Avoid
While highlighting the best wheels you can buy, I just wanted to include a short segment on some of the wheels which you should look to avoid buying. These are both wheels which sit much cheaper than the wheels above. However neither of them offer force feedback.
By not including force feedback, these wheels are extremely hard to race with, and I would recommend using a controller over racing with these wheels.
Both the Hori Apex wheel, and the Thrustmaster T80 488 fall in to this category, and both are aimed at entry level racers. However both fall short of delivering a good racing experience, and could even put off budding racers.