Whether you’re building your first rig or upgrading an existing setup, a good set of racing pedals is arguably the best way to improve your lap times. High end sim racing pedals suffer from diminishing returns and cheap entry-level sets leave a lot to be desired; midrange pedals hit a sweet spot, and that range is dominated by Thrustmaster and Fanatec. Today, we’ll look at their top sets respectively in order to determine who makes the best sim racing pedals for the money.
Thrustmaster T-LCM vs CSL Elite
The first head-to-head will be between the Thrustmaster T-LCM and the Fanatec CSL Elite Pedals – both of which have a lot of value at their respective price point. Let’s have a look at what these pedal sets do (and don’t do) to differentiate themselves from one another. Spoiler: we prefer the T-LCM.
The Thrustmaster T-LCM pedals features a rather industrial design aesthetic that looks handsome and functional. The all-metal base plate and pedals are black and steel-colored, with the only hints of color coming from some of the internal mechanisms in the back. Each of the three pedals can be moved horizontally to adjust spacing, and add-on kits are available that improve or modify the functionality of the set – such as stands, rubber grips for the pedal faces and cockpit adapters.
The Fanatec CSL Elite Pedals are made of aluminum that is coated in a textured black finish that looks and feels professional. Optional rubber pedal covers are included as well, in the event you need some extra grip. Each of the two pedals can be mounted as desired in the stand, or removed entirely and installed in your cockpit of choice or custom heel rest. The optional Load Cell Kit adds a high-end load cell brake pedal and converts the standard brake pedal (which along with the throttle uses potentiometers) into a clutch.
Winner – Fanatec CSL Elite
The T-LCM pedals are 100 percent metal construction, 11lb in weight and have a heavy, responsive feel. The pedals each have one of the H.E.A.R.T. (Hall Effect AccuRate Technology) sensors that Thrustmaster pedals are known for – whose lack of friction should lead to long life and low maintenance. T-LCMs also include a set of six springs of varying resistance, and the ensuing custom-touch pedal will feel great to the feet for a long while
CSL Elites are similarly sturdy and the aforementioned aluminum construction results in a pedal set weighing nearly 9 pounds; adding the Load Cell kit raises that to a hefty 13lbs. Load cells and potentiometers probably won’t hold up as long as Hall Effect sensors, but Fanatec products tend to stand the test of time.
Reviews of both products are near-universally great, and long-term users seem to be having very few issues related to build quality. Adjustability tends to be a great indicator or long-term stability, and each of these products has that in spades.
Winner – Draw
The T-LCM pedals and the aforementioned adjustability options lead to a pedal set that is comfortable and responsive. This pedal set is fully compatible with PC due to its USB connectivity, and works with any Thrustmaster wheel base on gaming consoles.
The CSL Elite pedals are also highly adjustable and work with any sim racer you like, but require a Fanatec steering wheel base for console and PC use – unless you buy the ClubSport USB adapter. Once upgraded, the Fanatec CSL Elite LC set is an upgrade in almost any racing rig. Perusing of review and discussion boards unearth the occasional report of minor connectivity issues, but don’t appear to be widespread or chronic in nature.
Winner – T-LCM
Value for Money
With an MSRP of $200, the T-LCM pedals are far from cheap but about as budget-friendly a product as you’ll find in this category. All things considered, this pedal set is a really good deal, and the included features merit the bump in price over Thrustmaster’s entry-level T3PA pedals.
The CSL Elite pedals can be had for a mere $100, but the Fanatec CSL Elite LC Kit adds a whopping $140 – we’d recommend buying the bundle, which brings the cost down by $10 to a price of $230. As we don’t think the base set of pedals sans clutch pedals is a direct competitor, we have to measure the full set against the Thrustmaster product.
Winner – Draw
The Thrustmaster T-LCM pedal set is a solid product and wins out against the CSL Elite pedals for those who already have a Thrustmaster wheel base, or anyone who uses non-Fanatec wheel bases on PC as anyone using the full load cell set and USB adapter is paying a $50 premium over the Thrustmaster solution.
The Fanatec CSL Elite pedals are the best bet for anyone already using a Fanatec racing wheel, or anyone who simply doesn’t use clutch pedals (or whom would prefer to save money over having a clutch pedal). The budget-friendliness goes out the window with the addition of load cell pedals, but the performance goes through the roof.
Both products are great, but we give the nod to the folks over at TM in this head to head.
Thrustmaster T-LCM vs ClubSport V3
Now we’ll see how Thrustmaster fares against the other big pedal product from Fanatec – the ClubSport V3 pedals. This set of pedals is available in two configurations – standard and inverted. For the purposes of this comparison, we’ll be referring to the standard kit as they are much more commonly used and dramatically more affordable – $360 vs. $600! In any case, we prefer the ClubSport.
The Fanatec ClubSport V3, like the CSL Elite LC, has a load cell in the brake pedal and like the Thrustmaster kit, features Hall sensors in the throttle and clutch pedals. This set looks much more performative given its all-metal construction that’s mostly black but features some dark red accents. Fanatec offers a plethora of upgrades from cosmetic (colour kits) to performative (brake performance kit and damper kit).
The Thrustmaster T-LCM set is comparatively simple, but no less functional. Sim racing games don’t benefit from visual aesthetics, but one cannot dismiss the effect a good-looking rig tends to have on the overall sim racing experience.
Winner – Fanatec ClubSport V3
The ClubSport V3’s are of an all-aluminum construction that is brushed and anodized for strength, durability and ease of maintenance. Load cell pedals are know to last a long time, but the Hall Effects sensors in the non-brake pedals will likely last longer than the user’s favorite sim racers. The optional damper kit and brake performance kit add extended durability via lower friction and further-dispersed force, but also add considerable cost. The base kit weighs just under 13 pounds; many a review praises the heft and stability of this pedal set.
As mentioned in the first match-up, the T-LCMs are no pushover in this category. The full metal construction and reduced friction in the brake pedal due to the Hall Effect sensor may lend to a longer lifespan than the competition but only time will tell.
Winner – Draw
The ClubSport V3 really pulls-away from the competition here, as the sheer adjustability and additional functionality on offer lend to a truly next-level sim racing experience. The number of adjustability options here are nigh-0verwhelming – the throttle pedal has two optional springs that can be swapped easily, the pedal plates can be adjusted in every direction or swapped for others, brake travel and sensitivity can be adjusted physically and in the included software and much more. As with the CSL Elite set, full functionality is dependent on use with a Fanatec wheel base; thankfully this kit includes a USB adapter, meaning it works with other manufacturers’ wheel bases right out of the box.
Thrustmaster loses one of the key advantages it had over the CSL Elites, as the compatibility here is effectively identical. Still, we commend the care TM has taken to ensure that the T-LCM set is so broadly usable in so many use cases.
Winner – Draw
Value for Money
The best way to asses the value of the ClubSport V3 pedals is to compare with the CSL Elite LC kit – and we think the additional $130 in cost is fairly easy to justify for sim racing enthusiasts who appreciate the additional features and functionality afforded by this higher-end setup. Furthermore, the improved construction means that the set will likely outlast just about any pedals on the market.
The T-LCMs remain a great value for the money, and at just over half the price of the V3’s is really hard to make a case against. After all, you could buy a great Thrustmaster wheel in addition to these pedals for that sort of money!
Winner – T-LCM
The ClubSport V3 pedals are an amazing set that sits firmly at the top of the mid-range pedal hierarchy. For us, this has to be the top pick.
The Thrustmaster T-LCM is arguably the best value in sim racing pedals, but if budget isn’t an issue, we think the ClubSport V3 are the outright best.
Last Updated on April 16, 2021