Upgrading from a controller to a force feedback wheel provides an incredible jump in terms of both racing accuracy as well as immersion. Similarly, upgrading from a “normal” wheel to a direct drive wheel will have you feeling like you’ve abandoned a toy and stepped into a race car. More realistic, more precise, harder to master. This review will look at whether the Fanatec Podium DD1 is a direct drive wheel you should consider purchasing.
What to Consider Before Buying Direct Drive Wheels
Direct drive wheels are marketed towards expert virtual racers. This is both because these are expensive products and because they require a good driver to truly take advantage of them. Much like regular steering wheels, there are some key considerations to keep in mind before making a purchase. First is how authentic the wheel feels. Essentially this is force feedback on steroids. A good direct drive wheel will make it so that you’re able to tell what kind of surface your wheels are on at any given time just by feel. Second, comes the input accuracy. You want your every action faithfully translated into the game to make sure that your car behaves exactly as you intended it to. Lastly comes how much and how easily its options can be adjusted. Much like a mechanic would look to tailor the wheel and car to the racer, your direct drive wheel should be able to be molded around you.
The Fanatec DD1
The Fanatec Podium DD1 remains one of the best direct drive wheels on the market. The product itself doesn’t come with a wheel included (it’s just the wheelbase), but is compatible not only with all Fanatec peripherals that are currently on the market but with all the peripherals Fanatec will make in the future. It’s compatible with PCs and can be made compatible with Xbox with additional purchases.
Features & Benefits
Let’s review some of the major features and benefits of the DD1:
The DD1’s OLED display allows for incredible levels of data retrieval to help with your customization. On the topic of customization, there’s a lot that can be tweaked. The tuning menu allows you to adjust things such as steering lock, force-feedback strength, shock, ABS, drift mode, force, spring, damper, and force effect intensity. Your experience with the DD1 will be completely different from that of your friend thanks to the myriad of little things you will be able to configure differently.
The inputs you will feed your simulator or game will never suffer from any latency when using the DD1. The integrated electronics within wheelbase housing promise the immediate exchange of information with your game. In turn, this means that your every minute move will be read by the game, and every little speck of dust under the wheel of your car will be felt by you.
Being a high-end product we start to reach relatively expensive costs. It’s a little less than half the double the price of the ClubSport V2.5, and can compare to the Accuforce V2 and the Simucube Sport. It’s not exorbitant, but it isn’t accessible either.
Care in choosing components
The build quality of the DD1 is extraordinary. And the quality of the outside materials directly translates to what we can find inside. Fanatec’s engineers designed the first-ever direct drive servo motor optimized for racing simulators. Simply put, everything from the biggest components to the smallest screws has been chosen for its quality.
Here are some of the alternatives worth considering:
Fanatec Podium DD2
The new and improved Fanatec Podium DD2 (full review here) is definitely worth considering if you don’t mind spending a little extra money. It achieves the same torque as real race cars, doesn’t suffer from heavier wheels, and optimizes all that was great from the DD1.
Fanatec ClubSport V2.5
The less expensive direct drive wheelbase in Fanatec’s lineup, the ClubSport V2.5 remains an excellent option. It’s many features range come at slightly more than half the price tag of the DD1. If you’re looking for your first wheelbase purchase then consider the V2.5. It performs laudably and our review which you can find here outlines the exact reasons why.
Accuforce Pro V2
It should come to no surprise to anyone that the Accuforce V2 snuck its way inside this review as well. It balances torque and torque resolution perfectly, resulting in an unparalleled realistic feel. Perhaps the most impressive addition is the auto-optimization feature which causes the wheelbase to change its settings to best mirror your driving style, your driving line, what track you’re on, what car you’re using, how all these interact. It’s more expensive, but you’d expect as much from the top pick out there.
The Fanatec Podium DD1 is an elite direct drive wheel with a plethora of great features and a high yet reasonable cost. The same elation you felt when switching from a controller to a force feedback wheel you will feel once again when you pick up a direct drive wheel with the pedigree and achievements of the DD1. If you have some money to spare then it is imperative that you at least look at the DD1 and its older brother the DD2.