When it comes to your sim racing setup, one of the most important components is the steering wheel. A high-quality gaming steering wheel can make or break your sim racing experience. 

The good news is the market is full of sim gaming wheel options. But that could also be a tricky thing. With so many options, which one do you choose? What do you look for? 

In this guide, we will discuss the factors you must consider when buying a gaming driving wheel. We also recommend some options we’ve found to be the best in terms of performance and value for money. 

What Is a Gaming Steering Wheel For? 

What Is a Gaming Steering Wheel For
Source: Image by Nadir Hashmi on Flickr 

A racing simulator wheel is a device you use in driving simulators or racing games. It’s shaped like a car steering wheel and has all the necessary buttons and controls. It connects to your gaming console or PC, allowing you to steer your virtual car just like you would drive a real car. 

In sim racing, steering wheels don’t work alone. They are accessorized with pedals and shifters. In that way, you have a full setup to race. 

If we take a brief look at the history of gaming steering wheels, the Thrustmaster Formula T1 was one of the first racing wheels made for personal computers. It was released in 1994 and used a spring-based resistance system. Back then, Force Feedback wasn’t a thing. 

One of the earliest force feedback wheels was the Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Wheel. It entered the market in 1997 and became a quick favorite. Another wheel in the same category was the Logitech Wingman Formula Force. To this day, Logitech is one of the top brands making sim racing wheels. 

Main Components of a Gaming Driving Wheel 

Main Components of a Gaming Driving Wheel 
Source: Image by Mohit Pareek on Pixahive 

Sim racing wheels evolved with tech advancements. Today, you can find quite a few sim racing wheels built with impressive features. However, at its core, a gaming steering wheel has two main components. 

Force Feedback 

Most modern sim racing wheels have Force Feedback technology, which adds a sense of realism to your driving experience. Back in the day, these racing wheels were made of plastic. They had simple potentiometers that used bungees or springs. When you turn the wheel, the reactive torque kicks in. The downside to this mechanism was that it did not account for simulated vehicle dynamics; instead, the torque only increased in proportion to the wheel’s steering angle. 

The next step in this evolution process was the use of electric motors. Initially, this tech provided a centering force to the wheel. It also added artificial effects such as vibrations and wheel shaking. 

Today’s sim racing wheels have advanced force feedback systems that can accurately simulate tire slip, road texture, engine vibrations, etc. They also sport Direct Drive technology that eliminates the need for belts or gears, thus drastically reducing latency and increasing force feedback fidelity. 

A 2015 study found that Direct Drive wheels tend to be preferable due to their high fidelity and low latency. That’s why this tech has now become the standard for high-end sim racing wheels. 

Buttons 

The second important component of a racing simulator wheel is its buttons. These may include buttons for: 

  • Flashing lights
  • Cruise control 
  • Pit-lane limiting
  • Radio communication in team racing 
  • Racing set-up adjustments, such as different braking and brake migration 
  • Traction control 
  • Windscreen wipers 
  • Anti-roll bar adjustment 
  • Engine braking 

The number of buttons varies depending on the simulator wheel model you choose. You’ll notice a 7-way encoder switch on some models. It’s a single switch with 7 inputs, letting you control car adjustments and game menus from the same button. The mappable inputs are left, right, up, down, Push, Encoder Spin Left, and Encoder Spin Right. That’s 7! 

Gaming Steering Wheel Buying Guide: Factors to Consider 

Gaming Steering Wheel Buying Guide: Factors to Consider 
Source: Image by Adai Chang on Flickr

Let’s get to the exciting part: buying a gaming driving wheel. Preface time: the ‘’best’’ wheel for you will differ from the best wheel for your buddy or a racer you play with online. That’s completely fine! 

Don’t simply go for the most expensive or feature-rich options. Instead, choose a wheel based on your requirements. 

Here are a few factors you should keep in mind during shopping. 

Force Feedback 

First things first, if you want a more realistic gaming experience, opt for a wheel with force feedback. It’s the standard these days. Anything less than force feedback means you’re on a lower level than other players on the track. 

Our Recommendation: The Logitech G Pro Racing Wheel is an excellent sim racing wheel with force feedback technology. Weighing only 1.5 kg, the wheel uses a USB connection and is compatible with Xbox, PlayStation, and PC. Its reengineer clamping system allows desk-based sim drivers to mount and remove the wheel easily. The wheel also comes with standard bolt holes in case you want to mount it to your racing seat. Other notable features include 11 Nm of torque, a simple interface, reprogrammable clutch paddles (rear), and multiple customizable options. 

Upgradability 

You might be an entry-level racer right now. With time, you might need to upgrade your gaming wheel. Or you may want to expand your collection for multiplayer options. 

If that’s your plan, look for a steering wheel with upgradability. Check for compatibility with add-ons like gear shifters and pedals. 

Our Recommendation: The Fanatec GT DD Pro is an excellent option in this regard, featuring Direct Drive and force feedback. Its maximum rotation angle is up to 2,520 degrees. Plus, pedals are included in the package. Although the wheel is specifically made for Gran Turismo 7, you can also play other sim racing games, such as F1 22 and Assetto Corsa. 

Expertise Level 

Expertise Level 
Source: Image by Nathan Robin on Flickr 

Take your expertise level into account when choosing a racing wheel. If you are a beginner, you would want a simpler wheel with basic features that you can master and slowly upgrade as you improve your skills. For intermediate to advanced-level players, a more sophisticated wheel will be a better pick. 

Our Recommendation: As a beginner, the Logitech G923 True Force, with force feedback and gear drive, will be a good choice. It has an angle of rotation of 900 degrees and comes with a clutch pedal. A word of advice: The Logitech G920 is quite similar to the updated G923 version but comes at a lower price. You can check if your local stores have one you can buy. We also found a listing on Amazon for you to check out. 

Our Recommendation: If you’re a pro-level sim racer and can spend extra money, the FSR Formula Wheel is a steal. It has a 4.3-inch digital dash with perforated leather grips. The face plate is made of 5mm-thick Toray carbon fiber for extreme durability. As for the shifter pedals, they have a 3-mm thick forged carbon fiber construction, while the back plate is made of aviation-grade aluminum. There are 10 mechanical buttons, 2 dual-clutch pedals, 2 depressible thumb encoders, and 2 magnetic shifter paddles on the wheel. So, you’re getting a lot for your money. 

Compatibility 

Compatibility 
Source: Image by Marco Verch on Flickr 

This one is simple to get: if you play on a PlayStation, you must get a wheel that’s compatible with it. The same goes for Xbox and PCs. 

Some wheels are cross-platform, which means they can work on all platforms. If you have a racing cockpit that you want to add the wheel to, check if the mounting holes are compatible with those on the cockpit. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use the wheel with your rig. 

Our Recommendation: Moza Racing steering wheels are compatible with most platforms. Similarly, Logitech gaming wheels work with PCs, Xbox, and PlayStation. 

Price 

We all want the best features in our racing gear. But, in all honesty, price is often the deciding factor. Sim racing wheels can range in price from anywhere from $100 to over $1000. It all depends on your budget and how seriously you take your gaming experience. Don’t worry, though; some budget-friendly options still offer decent force feedback and customizable features. 

Our Recommendation: The Thrustmaster T128 is a budget-friendly racing wheel with a USB connection and a max rotation angle of 900 degrees. It employs a Hybrid Drive (gear and belt) with a force feedback system. The best part is that you get pedals in the package. All for under $200!

Our Recommendation: If you have a few extra hundred to spend, go for the Thrustmaster T248. It has a dashboard display with three types of force feedback. Plus, there are 25 action buttons and a ton of remapping options. Like the T128, it comes with pedals and rotates up to 900 degrees. 

Takeaway 

We’ll sum up this discussion around buying a gaming steering wheel by saying that you need to be thorough in your selection. Some top companies to check out are Fanatec, Logitech, Moza Racing, Track Racer, and Thrustmaster. These brands have some of the best racing wheels on the market. 

Narrow down your selection to at least three wheels. Then, compare their price, features, compatibility, durability, and customer reviews. If you can, try out the wheels or read/watch reviews from other sim racers. 

Categorized in:

Podcasting,

Last Update: February 26, 2024