The beauty of sim games is the immersion they offer. Few things feel as satisfying as a last corner overtake after a hard fought battle on that one Grand Prix you always have trouble with. This guide will look at the top rated steering-wheels on the market right now, what their main pros are, and what you should consider buying.
As a general note, despite all of our research, how much you will enjoy any given product is up to your personal preference. There is no “right” choice, but there are “righter” ones and wrong ones!
The Top-Rated Steering Wheels for Sim Racing
From our research, the best steering wheels for sim racing are:
Top Pick: Thrustmaster T-GT
Admittedly this product is specifically made for Gran Turismo, but if you have some money to spare this is an incredible wheel overall. Let’s start off with the fact that it looks beautiful. It’s incredibly elegant and made of real leather for a truly immersive feel. Its T-DFB technology is definitely one of its biggest selling points. When playing Grand Turismo you will feel like you’re driving the car. T-DFB creates a realistic 3D perception of the environment around you, and when this is coupled with the Motor-Cooling-Embedded system which gives you 50% more dynamics, 4 times greater stall force you will be dialled in like never before. The force you will feel when driving on the T-GT is a 1:1 replica to the force the sim determines your car would feel. It’s rotation range is from 270-1080°, well above the 900° needed to abandon the arcadey feel.
Of course, as with any wheel, there are drawbacks. Its price is not very approachable. While it’s cross compatible with PS4s and PCs, it will not work on Xbox. Lastly, as a minor qualm, the pedals (which are made of metal) feel a bit cheap compared to the rest of the wheel due to their plastic frame.
Runner-Up: Thrustmaster T300 RS
People fall into one of two camps regarding the next two wheels: the Thrustmaster T300 RS or the Logitech G29/G290, and both will swear by them. Both are right. These are two excellent force-feedback wheels, and going with either will almost certainly make you very happy. In the end though the Thrustmaster T300 RS narrowly edges out the competition.
The T300 will give you an official 8:10 replica of the steering felt when driving a Ferrari 599xx EVO. Official as in officially licensed from Maranello. Enough fanboying though, the specs are incredibly solid too. The engine in the wheel is incredibly silent, allowing you to enjoy the engine roars from the game. The brushless motor inside the wheelbase will deliver fluid and continuous force-feedback for a hyper-realistic driving feel. It’s no exaggeration when we say that it can even rival the feel you get with elite wheels. It too rotates a great 1080° and if you’re willing to spend a little money you’re gonna have a blast.
Unfortunately, again, this wheel only works with the PS3 (if you’re in the mood for old games this is perfect), PS4 and PC. No Xbox. The unfortunate Thrustmaster flaw of having sub-par pedals presents itself here too…
Best Value: Logitech G29/G290
- Often discounted
- Beautiful design and ergonomics
- Xbox compatible
It should come to no surprise that this is the next wheel we recommend. Before reviewing it a quick note: the difference between the G29 and the G290 is solely the console they work on. The G29 on the PS4 and the G290 on the Xbox. If you’re looking for a decently priced wheel which sacrifices little, then this is a safe bet. The force feedback is powerful here, and it’ll definitely give you a good kick. The reason why it falls behind the T300 is how the force feedback is delivered. The belt-driven T300 feels smooth and the atmosphere it thus puts you in is truly engrossing. The gear-driven G29 will definitely make you feel a lot more like a pilot than a controller would, but it’s hard to go back after the T300. That being said, the G29 does look and feel like a real steering wheel. The decent pedals are a nice plus. If you’re new to steering-wheel and want something you can enjoy this is a safe bet (if you don’t believe me look at the reviews on Amazon). Another good reason to opt for this as a beginner wheel is the price.
Luxury Pick: Thrustmaster TX RW Leather Edition
The Thrustmaster TX RW Leather Edition is a great buy, especially for Xbox users. The rotation reaches 900°, just enough to abandon the arcadey feel and enter the world of simulation. This is the Xbox version of the T300, but a couple of specs are slightly different. As mentioned above, steering is 900° instead of the superior 1080° of the T300. The pedals are considerably nicer and you can really tell the quality is another level. They are more responsive, weightier and comfortable; every small adjustment feels as though it’s recorded in the sim. The force feedback is indistinguishable from the T300, and this is meant as a great compliment. I remain a big fan of the leather, as it gives it a more realistic feel and thus makes it easier to immerse yourself in the game.
A negative aspect is the price, going for more than the T300. For that price I would have hoped to see at least the inclusion of a stick shift.
Budget Pick: Thrustmaster T150
If you want to buy a relatively inexpensive, but still high-quality wheel, you might want to consider the Thrustmaster T150. The T150 uses both a belt and a gear parts to deliver the force feedback. This means that it will fight you to hell when you turn at high speeds, but it won’t feel as impressive as the wheels mentioned above. The biggest loss the T150 has is the notchy quality when steering. You will feel bumps when shifting the wheel left and right. If you’ve never used a steering wheel sim before this will likely not be problematic. If you have it’ll feel like you downgraded. The wheel does rotate to 1080° and comes with a (admittedly not of the highest quality) two-pedal board.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What should I look for in a racing wheel?
There are two main factors to keep in mind when buying a racing wheel: force-feedback and rotation range. Force-feedback is what makes the wheel feel like a real steering wheel: it pushed back against you. Rotation range is how far the wheel can turn, which is an essential part of getting immersed in the racing experience.
- What is force feedback?
Force feedback is when the wheel behaves like a real steering wheel. This is not the same as vibrating. Force feedback tracks and opposes the user's movements by applying force. To give a simple example, if you take a sharp corner at high speeds, the wheel will push back against you, making it harder to turn.
- What technologies do steering wheels use?
Usually steering wheels are connected to their motors by means of a belt or a set of gears. These are referred to as belt- and gear-driven wheels. Typically, belt-driven wheels are the smoother, more realistic of the two, while gear-driven wheels are cheaper and choppier. Last but not least, there are direct-drive wheels, which are the most realistic.
Other Great Budget Sim Racing Steering Wheels
We looked at two other budget sim racing steering wheels. Even though they didn’t make our top 5 list, they’re still some of the market’s best.
Cheap and Cheerful: Hori Racing Wheel Apex
If you want to spend less then the Hori Racing Wheel Apex is a great low budget wheel. It feels a lot more expensive than the price tag would suggest, with high quality materials. The customization of its various buttons is also a plus. Obviously there are drawbacks. There is no force feedback. The vibration is powerful and will definitely feel more like the real thing than a controller, but if you’re used to force-feedback you’ll have a hard time falling back to this product. The pedals aren’t great either, but the fact that they’re included for such an affordable price tag is a plus. Unfortunately for Xbox users, this is another wheel which is only compatible with PCs and PlayStations.
Super-Saver: Subsonic SA5156
- Dirt cheap
- Great for kids
Look, price-wise it’s hard to beat the Subsonic Drive Pro. Quality wise…. it isn’t. Consider this a great gift for the younger future-races out there, not for serious sim players.
The wheel comes with two pedals, programmable buttons and a gearshift. Much like the Hori racing wheel, it has no force feedback, only rumble. Unlike the Hori, this is not as powerful. The rotation is only 240° which, needless to say, is not adequate for simulations. The main aspect I would like to praise the Subsonic for is being portable and accessible to younger audiences. It can sit on your lap or be placed on a desk thanks to suction cups.
If you’re considering getting this for yourself as a sim wheel, your best option is to look at the first section of this article (if you don’t want to spend a fortune the T150 is a bit more expensive, but it’s worth it). If, instead, your kid has been begging you for a steering wheel for his driving game, this is for you.
Luxury Sim Racing Steering Wheels
Fanatec Podium F1
- Like a real F1 car
- Best rotation range
- Excellent force feedback
Okay, first thing I need to say is the following: The Fanatec Podium is real expensive. If you’re not a die-hard sim racing fan don’t bother reading another line. If you also aren’t full of spare money, I’d recommend stopping here. Okay, now off to the races.
This wheel is absolutely insane. Let me start off my saying that the fact that it’s been endorsed by the F1, and the fact that some of the pilots from the top racing league utilize this to train at home, should let you in on its sheer importance. The force feedback is nigh identical to that of a real racing car, and the 12 programmable buttons will have you tinkering with your personalized best set-up for hours. The paddle-shifters never lose potency and will feedback with a satisfying clacking sound. To make a probably very long story short, having the Fanatec Podium is akin to having Vettel’s “Lucilla” waiting for you when you turn on your console. It is compatible with Playstation, PC and Xbox, though reviewers have found the Xbox version to work less well.
Time to rip off the band-aid. It costs a ton. It doesn’t include pedals, so you’ll also have to purchase those as an added cost.
That being said, what it does for simulation games is incomparable.
Fanatec ClubSport V2.5 GT Forza
- Amazing force feedback
- Top-notch adjustability
- More affordable than other Fanatec products
I’ve talked a lot about F1 in this review, but some of us aren’t into Formula 1 races. Some revel in the simulation of other race-cars. Well (if you have a PC or Xbox and money to spare) look no further. The ClubSport is an incredible buy. The level of accuracy that the force feedback of this specific product gives is unparalleled. Xbox users are often unfortunate as direct drive isn’t available on their console, but the ClubSport will make you forget that. The brushless servo motors, belt drivers and ball bearings all work in perfect unison to give you the best experience available. Like a fine tuned orchestra, you’ll forget where you are and just enjoy every moment of it.
Another great asset to the ClubSport is the sheer level of adjusting you can do. Want more force feedback? Less? What about rumble level? Range of rotation? Sensibility? This is a buffet of the highest class.
All this comes at a steep price. Considering that the Fanatec F1 is almost twice as expensive, the ClubSport is definitively something Xbox racing sim enthusiasts should at least window-shop.
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