Direct-drive steering wheels are the ultimate experience in terms of simulation. They not only faithfully translate all your tiniest changes in wheel position to the sim game, but they transmit to you unparalleled feedback. From the wetness of the track, to which tires are slightly more worn out, direct-drive wheels truly put you in the driver’s seat. Fanatec’s Podium DD2 is the updated formula to their incredibly successful DD1 steering wheel. This review will examine whether the DD2 can stand tall as a successor, or whether it crashes on the last turn.
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 DD2
The Fanatec Podium DD2 is the DD1’s older and slicker brother. It comes with all of the myriad positives and makes a few choice changes to really up the quality. Much like the DD1, this newer product also doesn’t come with an included wheel, rather furnishing you with only the wheelbase. This will allow you to choose your preferred wheel (more on this in the “Features” section). Once again similar to the DD1, compatibility remains select: working on PC and Xbox (need to purchase extra equipment for the latter) but not PlayStation systems. When comparing it to the Accuforce V2 we might have to just barely favor the Accuforce. Both systems are phenomenal, and this should not be seen as an indictment of the DD2, but the vast difference in price is simply not mirrored by a similar difference in quality.
It therefore goes without saying that the DD2 is a product aimed at expert racing sim pilots, and is likely not suited for beginners. This is both due to it being harder to race with more realistic settings, as well as the prohibitive price.
Features & Benefits
Here are the features and benefits of the DD2 worth knowing:
The DD2 achieves perhaps the most sublime levels of torque we have ever witnessed. With a peak torque level of 25Nm, it reproduces an identical level of torque output that you would face in most real race cars that utilize power steering. Even in the harshest racing conditions, the holding torque is never less than 18Nm. An important direct drive feature that the DD2 smashes out of the park.
As per usual, Fanatec products tend to be choosy with what peripherals you can attach to them. The DD2 (like the DD1) only allows for Fanatec ClubSport and Fanatec CSL Steering Wheels to be mounted on it. That being said, as an improvement over the DD1, the DD2’s motor speed and acceleration does not suffer from heavy wheels. This means that if you have a favorite wheel which is slightly heavier than the norm, you have no reason to worry. It’s not a massive improvement over the DD1, but it’s a welcome one nonetheless.
What can be said about the entire Direct Drive Podium series if not that build quality is sure to leave you in awe. The DD2 has a direct drive motor optimized for racing simulator applications, and every little other bit is just as good. From the exchangeable brushed aluminum cover plates and aluminum coating, to the automotive-grade “Quick Release System” with rubber dampener for zero flex and movement between the steering wheel and wheelbase, you can tell that it’s an incredible machine. Weighing at a satisfying 13kg, the build quality of both the internal and external materials is impeccable.
Rotation and Update Rate
It’s hard to talk about one without talking about the other. Let’s start by the rotation range. We can safely say that the DD2 has the largest rotation range of any wheel, direct drive, or not, on the market. This is because the rotation range is unlimited. If this wasn’t enough to convince you not only of the realism but the accuracy of the system, the ultra-fast 1000 Hz USB update rate means that you’ll experience as close to no input lag as you can imagine.
Needless to say, all these great features come at a cost. And it is not cheap. The DD2 costs a whole third more than the DD1 or the Accuforce V2. This is what causes this review to become complicated. Of course, the DD2 is a fantastic piece of equipment, it’s more than that, but is it worth so much money. We can’t answer that for you. At the end of the day, each person will have a differing opinion on the matter.
Of course, there are a few great alternatives to this splendid direct drive wheel.
Accuforce Pro V2
This direct drive wheel base always makes an appearance in our considerations, and it’s clear to see why. 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 interacts is downright sci-fi worthy. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s one of the best direct-drive choices out there and is considerably less expensive than the DD2.
Fanatec Podium DD1
The Fanatec Podium DD1 still performs admirably. It lacks perhaps some of the newer functions of the DD2, but the important stuff is almost unchanged. If you’re looking for a wheel that is as close to the DD2 as possible, but cheaper, then this remains a safe bet.
Simucube 2 Sport
The Simucube 2 has a range of excellent direct-drive wheels, but we’re looking specifically at the least expensive option: the Sport. It makes use of natural signal processing to allow you to feel the force feedback exactly as intended by the physics engine of your sim game. Natural sign processing also includes natural damping, inertia, and friction filters. Coupled with the robotics grade angle sensors which grant unmatched angle precision, every damp part of the track, every time you graze the gravel, every little physical phenomenon will be indistinguishable from its real-world counterpart.
It’s redundant to say that the Fanatec Podium DD2 is one of the best products on the market. Everything it sets out to do, it does admirably. If you felt like your force-feedback wheel was simply not doing enough, then the DD2 will welcome you with open arms. It’s clear to see why Fanatec still remains a household name in racing sim circles.