Although the most important add-on for racing sims is undoubtedly the wheel, what many users claim is that the most immersive addition to their racing set-up is a high-quality gear shifter. Having this peripheral to input gear changes will further engross you into the simulation, making you feel like a bona fide pilot. We cross-examined multiple gear shifters so as to find the ones which will leave you not only satisfied, but fully immersed and convinced of your purchase.
The Top-Rated Gear Shifters for Sim Racing
From our research, the best gear shifters for sim racing are:
- Thrustmaster TH8A
- Logitech G Shifter
- Thrustmaster TSSH
- Fanatec ClubSport
- Heusinkveld Sim Sequential
Top Pick: Thrustmaster TH8A
- Supports both H-shift and sequential gear changes
- Excellent build quality
- Resistant to wear
Simply put, the VG TH8A is an excellent gearbox shifter. The quality of the material utilised (almost entirely made from aluminium) will give it not only an authentic feel, but a better build than some shifters found in actual cars. Another added bonus is how resilient the shifter is. Many products use switches in order to relay to the game which gear you changed into, which can eventually wear out and cause the shifter to become unresponsive. The VG TH8A avoids this shortfall by using magnetic switches. What this means is that there are no mechanical parts which risk getting damaged, allowing you to shift as aggressively as you may want or need. An added bonus to the VG TH8A is the fact that it has both the H-shift and the Sequential shift available, allowing you to choose which is right for you.
The only thing to keep in mind is compatibility. On PC this will work with any wheel, but on consoles it will only work with the T500RS, Ferrari F1 Wheel Integral T500, T300RS and T300 Ferrari GTE (Playstation) and the TX Racing Wheel (Xbox).
Runner-Up: Logitech G Shifter
- Considerably more affordable
- Easy to pick up
- Logitech wheel compatible
If you’re a fan of Logitech’s G29/290 wheel, chances are the G Driving Force Shifter will win you over too. It’s a solidly built shifter, with short throw distances, making it intuitive to use and very easy to become a solid pilot with after only a handful of drives. The gears are laid out intelligently and the fact that this shifter goes as cheap as it does makes this a solid choice for any Logitech user.
What isn’t as positive about this shifter is that it unfortunately doesn’t feel as realistic as other ones on the market. When you’re in the game it will feel fun to use, but the feel resembles that of a controller or a shifter you could find at the arcade (even though the Logitech is miles above in terms of quality and precision). Consider this as a great entry level shifter, but not something to buy if you’ve already committed to other high-end peripherals and are looking for a hyper-immersive experience.
Two-in-One: Thrustmaster TSSH
- Authentic sequential shifter
- Dual purpose: can also be used as a handbrake
- Detailed feedback
The TSSH is an incredible sequential shifter and if you know this is the type of shifter you prefer then look no further. The fact that this is a collaboration with Sparco alone should denote the quality of the product. The TSSH is a 1:1 replica of Sparco equipment you would find within actual race cars. All the components are high grade and made of metal (with the exception of the plastic handgrip, which is thankfully made of plastic).
The main feature that the Thrustmaster offers is the double-feature which allows it to turn into a handbrake. The TSSH is made to be easily switched from one mode to the next, so to rapidly change from one mode to the other all you have to do is flip a switch.
The reason why the shifter is not higher up on the list is the punitive price. Admittedly, it’s warranted, as this is the highest quality shifter of this type available. As a last note, it’s recommended to check its compatibility with game titles (available on the Thustmaster website). It works with most, but considering the cost any buyer should consider a quick double-look.
Immersion Like No Other: Fanatec ClubSport SQ Limited Edition Shifter
- Second to none regarding immersion
- Easy to switch between sequential and H-shift
- Porsche-level build quality
If you are looking for the best shifter on the market then the answer can’t but be the ClubSport SQ. Designed to perfectly replicate the classic Porsche 911, this shifter will feel weighty, resistant, and realistic. Fanatec’s technological know-how shines through with this worthy addition for any sim enthusiast. It’s made entirely from metal, is incredibly customisable for a shifter (allowing you to adjust shift feeling and resistance amongst other things) and will give you the feeling of a professional driver from gear one to gear seven. Shifting between H-shift and sequential is as easy as throwing a switch, allowing you to experiment and find which set-up you prefer. As with many Fanatec products it’s not available on Amazon, and the price is relatively high. It’s compatible with PC, PS4 and Xbox, but be sure to use Fanatec wheelbase and racing wheels if you’re not on a PC. The one small negative aspect to the SQ is that to use the 7th gear you either need a Podium, Clubsport, or CSL Elite Wheelbase, or the ClubSport adapter.
The PC Exclusive: Heusinkveld Sim Shifter Sequential
- Fantastically compact
- Powerful feedback
- Incredibly responsive
The Heusinkveld shifter only works for PCs, so us unfortunate console users are unable to take advantage of this incredible machine. The shifter is purposefully quite compact, so that it can be mounted on all set-ups. The small shifter however packs more strength than a lot of its larger counterparts. The system is built in order to simulate every gear shift as though in a real car; the ball spring resistance system giving the user powerful feedback and resistance. On the topic of resistance, this can be regulated by the user by switching between three levers which are all included with the purchase of the shifter. How much you want the shifter to fight you is up to you.
As this is a PC-only shifter it will work with any wheel on the market, allowing for your own preferred and personalized set-up. All in all this is a high end product which will happily satisfy stick shift users. The main drawback (aside from the lack of console compatibility) is how to purchase it. It’s not available on Amazon meaning that you will likely have to order it from their website. Nevertheless, the fact that Yann Ehrlacher (European Le Mans Series, WTCC & WTCR race winner) is a convinced customer, and the not too onerous price-tag of around $220, should convince PC sim drivers to purchase this technological wonder.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do you need a shifter for sim racing?
Shifters are not required for sim racing. However, they do add immersion and fun to your experience as you will have a more holistic driving experience. If you only care about speed then utilizing paddle shifters (which are often included on the steering wheels) is for you. If your interest is emulating the real thing, and testing your skill, then you will likely opt for an H shifter.
- Do you need a clutch pedal to use a shifter in sim racing?
If you plan on utilizing paddle shifter or a sequential gear shifter then a clutch pedal is not required. If you want to use an H-shifter, which is the most realistic route available to sim racers, a clutch pedal will be required.
- What is a H shifter in sim racing?
H-shifters are the most realistic gear shifters available. The gears are organised in an H position, with the first gear on the top left, the second on the bottom left, and so on. Alternatives include paddle shifters, which are attached to the wheel, and sequential shifters, where all the gears are in a straight line.
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