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Thrustmaster T80 Steering Wheel Review

The Thrustmaster T80  presents itself as an entry-level steering wheel for racing simulators. Changing from a controller to a steering wheel is almost essential if you want to elevate your experience from a racing game to a racing sim. For this reason, we researched whether the T80 is a product that fulfills these goals, or whether you should avoid it. 

What to Consider Before Buying Non-Direct Drive Wheels

There are two types of wheels: non-direct drive and direct drive wheels. The latter are incredibly accurate and immersive but also come at a very expensive buy-point. Non-direct drive wheels are cheaper, can still be very precise and pull you into the game, and overall better suited for those who are newer to racing sims, or simply lack several thousand dollars needed for DD wheels. 

When purchasing non-direct drive wheels (henceforth just wheels) there are several key factors to keep in mind. The first is force-feedback. In simple terms, this is the wheel behaving like a wheel. Force feedback differentiates from simple vibration because of the feedback it gives you. Vibration can vary in intensity, but that’s about it. 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. It is essential when buying a wheel that has force feedback. Broadly speaking there are two types of force feedback: belt and gear. Belt delivered force feedback is smoother and more realistic, but often more expensive. The gear delivered force feedback is less expensive but can feel notchy when turning. 

The second most important factor is the rotation range. Rotation range is what will distinguish how your wheel feels compared to a wheel you could find at an arcade. We recommend that wheels have at least a 900° rotation range. Below that you will have to turn the physical wheel more than what the in-game sim asks of you, making you feel like you’re back in the arcade. 

The final consideration should be the build quality of the wheel. Though not as important as the other factors, a wheel made from cheap plastic will simply not be able to compare with one made from durable materials. 

The Thrustmaster T80

Thrustmaster T80 
  • The First PlayStation 4 officially licensed Racing wheel, for all racing games on PlayStation 4; Official embedded firmware (allowing for automatic recognition of the wheel by the PS4)
  • Wheel grip with rubber texture coating; Two on-wheel sequential digital gear shift paddles
  • Large optimized 2-pedal set with wide foot-rest and adjustable angle of inclination for each pedal; Brake pedal featuring progressive resistance
  • 2 up/down sequential levers + 11 action buttons + multidirectional D-Pad; Adjustable wheel sensitivity for precise driving; Linear resistance and Auto-centering; Thrustmaster "bungee cord" exclusive system providing realistic resistance
  • Central clamping system with wide jaws for optimal stability with all desk and table types. Refer to the PDF attached below in Technical Specification for User Manual.

The Thrustmaster T80  is a PS4 and PS3 compatible racing wheel marketed towards newcomers to the racing sim world. It doesn’t promise to be a high-end product, but to be an affordable entry for those who’ve never before purchased a wheel. It comes with a wheel and a two-pedal set. When comparing it with the market leader (in this case we’d probably have to go for the Thrustmaster T-GT) it simply doesn’t hold up. In all aspects it’s inferior, but this isn’t fair criticism. The T-GT costs over four times as much, it’s normal that this translates into better performance. 

If you have used a racing wheel before, then avoid the T80. More than likely it’s a step down from what you’ve used before. If you’re looking to buy a child a racing wheel, then the T80 is a good choice. 

Features & Benefits

Here are some of the main features and benefits to bear in mind when assessing the T80.

(Lack of) Force Feedback

This has to be the biggest criticism against the T80. It has absolutely no form of force-feedback. This, in turn, yields you with a steering wheel that doesn’t make you feel like you’re driving. It does attempt to rectify this with the alternative “bungee-cord resistance” system it has set up but it simply can’t compare. Feedback-wise the T80 is still a step up from a controller, but we’d expect more from any racing peripheral we could recommend. 

(Small) Rotation Range 

As mentioned before, the benchmark rotation range a good wheel should aim for is 900° or more. The T80 falls spectacularly short, reaching only around 200°! This, especially when coupled with the literally inexistent force feedback, yields a wholly un-immersive experience. 

Good Build 

Surprisingly, the T80 has a very respectable build quality. It’s made from hard plastic, is sturdy, and is aesthetically pleasing. This isn’t the most important factor, but for a cheap wheel, it’s both surprising and welcome. 

Free Pedal Set

It’s hard to criticize anything bundled for free, especially considering the low price point. The pedal-set is not up to standards for those who are looking for realistic peripherals. It’s made from plastic rather than metal, it lacks the precision that higher-range pedals offer, and the worst mistake is that it only has two pedals (no clutch). Nevertheless, we reiterate, this is a free pedal set bundled at a very low price-tag. 

Alternatives

The T80 really is an entry-level wheel, which means there are some great alternatives available for not much more money.

Thrustmaster T150

Thrustmaster T150
  • Official Racing Simulator for PS4 and PS3 (also compatible with PC); 1080 degree force feedback racing wheel; Built-in PS4/PS3 sliding switch; Realistic 11"/28 centimeter wheel; Large pedal set included
  • PlayStation4-certified embedded software and PS4/PS3 sliding switch; Official embedded software: The racing wheel is automatically recognized by the PS4 console; PS4/PS3 sliding switch for optimal compatibility on both systems
  • 1080 degree force feedback base featuring Immersion Touch Sense technology; Drive system with adjustable force feedback lets you feel every detail while you're racing (the road or track's relief, loss of tire grip, braking, bumps and impacts, etc.)
  • Realistic wheel with built-in official buttons for PlayStation4 (PS/Share/Options); Access social functions, switch between the game and the system, navigate through the console's menus, etc.
  • Large, optimized pedal set; Pedals with wide foot rest; Each pedal's angle of inclination can be adjusted; Brake pedal with progressive resistance. Compatible with Thrustmaster accessories: Like the T3PA and T3PA-PRO (Thrustmaster 3 Pedals Add-on) pedal sets; as well as with the Thrustmaster TH8A shifter

Although being marginally more expensive, the Thrustmaster T150 offers a myriad of improvements. It delivers force feedback, has an incredible rotation range (1080°, more than some higher-end wheels), and also comes with a bundled two pedalboard. If you’re looking for a beginner wheel, this one is for you.

Logitech G29/920

Sale
Logitech G29/920
  • The definitive sim racing wheel for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 & PlayStation 3: Realistic steering and pedal action for the latest racing titles
  • Built to last: Durable solid steel ball bearings, stainless steel shifter and pedals and hand stitched leather wheel grip
  • Dual motor force feedback: Realistically simulates the racing experience with smooth, quiet helical gearing
  • Easy access game controls: On wheel D pad, console buttons, paddle shifters and LED indicator lights
  • Responsive floor pedal unit: Accelerate, brake and change gears with the feel of an actual car. Pedal piston sleeves: Polyoxymethylene thermoplastic (POM)

There’s a reason the Logitech G29/920 will have appeared in all of your searches. It’s more expensive but beloved by the community. It’s beautiful in its design, delivers good force feedback, and often goes on discount. If you’re looking for a step up from the T150 and T80, then consider the G29/920 but also look at the…

Thrustmaster T300 RS

Thrustmaster T300 RS
  • Official Licensed PlayStation 4 & PlayStation 3 High-End Racing Simulator; 1080 degree Force Feedback base featuring an industrial-class brushless motor; Detachable Racing GT Style Wheel
  • Official licensed PS4 / PS3 with automatic recognition by the PS4 system; Official PlayStation 4 buttons included (PS, SHARE, OPTIONS); Internal memory and upgradeable firmware
  • Robust and versatile attachment system; Compatible with all mounts (desks/tables/cockpits/etc.); Realistic: 11" diameter racing wheel featuring a brushed metal central spokes
  • Works with PS5 games

On the border between a mid-range and cheap wheel, we find a fantastic buy for beginners and veteran players alike. The Thrustmaster T300 RS has a brushless force feedback motor, rotates to 1080°, and is officially licensed by Ferrari to give you an 8:10 replica of what you would feel when driving a 599xx EVO. What more could you want?

Conclusion

Stepping up from a controller to a wheel is imperative for an immersive and challenging racing sim experience. Simply put, this is the first step to become a serious virtual driver. The Thrustmaster T80  doesn’t shine in this regard, failing to meet a lot of our goals. That being said, if this is a present for a child or a younger member of the family then the T80 is sure to yield them a lot of fun afternoons racing their favorite car.

Last Updated on January 23, 2021