The Thrustmaster TH8A is a sim racing shifter designed for use with all modern Thrustmaster wheel bases across all major game consoles and PC. While casual racing games certainly don’t require such a specialized accessory, hardcore sim racers know that any potential advantage is worthy of consideration – and being able to quickly and realistically shift gears manually represents an extreme advantage to many. Today, we’ll be giving an in-depth review of the Thrustmaster TH8A to determine whether it’s worth your hard-earned money.
What to Consider Before Buying a Sim Racing Gear Shifter
Sim racing gear shifters are specialized accessories for hardcore sim racing enthusiasts. No racing sims or games require such peripherals in order to play or access any content; most racing sims and games do support the shifter and automatically recognize it when it’s been plugged-in to the wheel base.
Due to the relatively high cost and limited functionality, it is fair to say that a shifter is a peripheral that has a very low cost-to-performance-ratio. However, some gamers and sim racing enthusiasts who want to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of their racing rig in order to compete at a high level will find a lot of value in adding a dedicated shifter to their setup.
Most sim racing wheels include shifter paddles that are built into the wheel rim or base stem, which means that you can manually shift gears even if you don’t have a dedicated shifter – a fact that precludes purchase of a dedicated shifter for some – but any sim racing champion will tell you that a standalone shifter is borderline mandatory for high level play.
The Thrustmaster TH8A
The Thrustmaster TH8A is a gear shifter add-on that is compatible with any Thrustmaster wheel base out there when used on console, as well as wheels from most other manufacturers when used with PC due to the fact that it can be plugged-in independently of wheels via USB cable.
The TH8A shifter has little competition in the entry-level shifter category. It’s biggest rivals are the Logitech Driving Force Shifter – which has fewer features and less versatility – and the Fanatec ClubSport Shifter SQ V1.5 which is dramatically more expensive.
The TH8A shifter is aimed at sim racing enthusiasts who want to be able to be able to swap shift plates in order to access both H-pattern and sequential mode, those who are already invested in the Thrustmaster peripheral ecosystem as well as those who want a relatively affordable shifter that accommodates all driving styles.
Features & Benefits
Here are some of the TH8A’s features and benefits touted by Thrustmaster, filtered through the lens of actual users who have had plenty of experience with the product.
The TH8A shifter features 100% metal internal construction that is meant to ensure realistic feel and consistent performance; Thrustmaster offers a 2-year warranty in the event of defect or failure due to design or manufacturing problems. According to many users online, the TH8A shifter had serious flaws with its cabling that led to the unit failing to connect to and be registered by attached hardware; this problem seems to have been ironed-out in subsequent revisions to the product.
The Thrustmaster TH8A integrates the company’s much-vaunted H E A R T technology, which boils down to “we use magnets in places where others use mechanisms”. This tech is meant to reduce internal friction in their products, which as the benefit of reducing friction, heat and noise. Theoretically, this reduces wear and tear and provides more consistent performance across time.
The Thrustmaster TH8A is fully compatible with PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, as well as Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in addition to PC.
The TH8A shifter works with pretty much any racing game you can imagine, and even plenty of other vehicular titles such as Truck Simulator.
The TH8A has upgradeable firmware and internal memory, allowing for configuration on one PC that will then stay with the shifter when moved to another PC or console.
Basic mounting hardware is included in the box, and the TH8A will fit standard shifter mounts included with most wheel stands and racing seats. Additional mounting options are available from Thrustmaster as well as third party manufacturers such as Ricmotech.
The shifter can be swapped between H-pattern and sequential mode by simply swapping the shift plate; there is an internal mechanism that recognizes which plate is attached and toggles the mode accordingly.
Many users and reviews complain that swapping the plates is not as simple or easy as is advertised, as the knob itself must first be removed and four screws must be undone. For better or worse, most users state that this will be an uncommon occurrence anyway, as the H-pattern mode is dramatically more resistant and realistic and therefore most do not use the sequential mode at all. Your mileage may vary in this regard, but it is advised that you look at a higher-end shifter if you don’t like using H-pattern.
Compatibility does seem to be as broad and complete as advertised. It is easy to find positive reviews from users all over the spectrum from PS3/PS4 to Xbox One, etc.
Quality of Life
The TH8A features a standard real-world knob and stem with standard threading and size, meaning that it is easy to simply swap out the knob with any one you like, and even mod the stem in order to convert the shifter into a short-thrower.
The internals of the TH8A float with the shift plate, meaning you can mount it wherever and however you please, then have the freedom to adjust 360 degrees in order to get the placement just right for comfortable use.
In addition to the aforementioned 100% metal internals, most of the outside is constructed with metal as well. Plastic is only really used in places that would otherwise created metal-on-metal contact, which we are obviously glad they avoided.
The TH8A is a decent-looking shifter that will neither offend nor impress most users. The base of the shifter has a polished shine and is well complimented by its matte black plastic sections. The shift plates and knob are brushed metal and therefore the overall look is somewhat inconsistent.
While we feel as if Thrustmaster could have done a better job with the overall look here, the shifter doesn’t really stand out as an eyesore and your friend probably won’t even notice the different metal finishes unless they stare at it for a considerable period of time.
There are a number of alternatives to the TH8A, but most of them do not compete directly due to dramatically higher pricing or limited availability. There are only two real competitors at the entry-level:
Logitech Driving Force Shifter
This shifter from Logitech is ready to be plugged-in and used with their G29 or G920 wheels on console or PC, and can be used with most other wheels on PC when paired with a USB adapter (sold separately. This shifter’s biggest knock is that it only works in H-pattern mode. If you have no desire for sequential shifting and don’t mind the fact that the shifter has a lot of plastic components, it’s a worthwhile purchase at roughly 1/3 the MSRP of the TH8A.
Fanatec ClubSport Shifter SQ V1.5
Fanatec is known for their higher-end equipment and at roughly 1.5x MSRP over the TH8A, you’d expect dramatically better performance. The ClubSport Shifter SQ V1.5 does deliver in this regard; swapping between shifter patterns is as easy as flicking a switch, and users praise the realistic resistance and feel with near-universal aplomb.
At the end of the day, the Thrustmaster TH8A is a relatively affordable and versatile shifter that will do a solid job of helping you bring down your lap times and/or get more immersed in your favorite racing games.
The TH8A shifter is the best choice in this segment for racers who are already invested in the Thrustmaster ecosystem, as well as those who want more features than those offered by the cheaper Logitech offering. While the Fanatec product in this category is quite a bit better, it is also dramatically more expensive and therefore somewhat hard to recommend when this product exists.
The Thrustmaster TH8A really hits the sweet spot for entry-level shifters and we recommend you give it a shot!
Last Updated on January 23, 2021