The base level in the TMX series, this wheel promises to be a great introductory purchase for those looking to abandon controllers and properly enter the world racing simulators. Will this wheel mange to meet the targets it sets for itself? Will it add accuracy to your game? Precision? Realism? Most importantly, is the TMX worth purchasing? After having researched it extensively, here’s our review for the Thrustmaster TMX wheel.
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 TMX
Before we start, it should be noted that this wheel is a PC and Xbox exclusive. If you’re looking for a Playstation compatible wheel we recommend our T80 review, which you can find here.
Now, the TMX is a solidly built force-feedback wheel targeted towards beginners. It doesn’t promise to be the best product on the market, and that’s precisely its strength. It aims to accomplish reasonable objectives, and it does so well. A newer model, the TMX Pro, has more features included with it and is a straightforward upgrade from the base TMX. You can find our review here.
Finally, as mentioned multiple times, only consider this product if you are a beginner. More expert pilots will want to look for direct-drive systems (find the best ones in 2020 here) or at least a more expensive and advanced wheel (here’s our list!).
Features & Benefits
Good Force Feedback
Obviously, this isn’t the best force feedback available on the market, but utilizing a mix of belt and gear allows for a pretty advanced feel at a reasonable cost. The belt portion of the system helps give a much smoother feel to the driving, which is supplemented by the force that the gear portion outputs. This is a great workaround by Thrustmaster to avoid the notchy feel of purely gear based systems, while still keeping the wheel more affordable than what a purely belt system would allow for.
Again, if this were compared to high-quality wheels it would not fare well. But while a plastic body is unacceptable if you plan on spending several hundreds of dollars, if you plan on spending much less the TMX is quite good. Although not the most beautiful wheel there is, the plastic doesn’t feel cheap. It’s hard, and sturdy, giving the impression that this wheel can take quite a bit of punishment. Another good job by Thrustmaster to keep the wheel inexpensive, but not cheap.
As part of this bundle, the TMX comes with a set of two pedals. While the wheel has a lot going for it, the pedals do not. As a start there’s only two of them, meaning that you can forget about the clutch. The break doesn’t get stiffer as you press down on it, again detracting from the realistic feel. Finally, they are nowhere near as precise as you would want your pedals to be. Of course, seeing as they are included for free with the purchase of the TMX, you can only criticize them so much. That being said, from the company that made the T3PA we expected more.
This is perhaps the most interesting category. The TMX is not an expensive wheel. That’s great! It’s part of its appeal. That being said, we’ve occasionally found the TMX Pro for cheaper. It goes without saying that, if you can get your hands on the Pro for less or the same amount as the base TMX, you should go for the advanced model. Nevertheless, the TMX will put a much smaller dent in your wallet than a majority of other wheels.
If you’re looking for a beginner wheel and haven’t come across the G29/290, then you haven’t been looking very hard. This is a staple of the racing sim community, with many die-hard fans. The G29/290 has a myriad of great features, an often discounted price and tons of community support. Though its force feedback isn’t top-notch, it remains a choice to consider.
Thrustmaster TMX Pro
The upgraded version of this model comes with numerous quality of life improvements, least of which is certainly not the inclusion of the aforementioned T3PA pedals. This is not only a slightly better version of the wheel you’re currently looking at but an overall better starter set. For more information find our review here.
If you’re looking for a Playstation wheel, but want something slightly better than the T80, then the T150 is for you. It has a massive rotation range (up to 1080°), has very respectable force feedback, and has an included pedalboard. This is a purchase to consider for those who own a PS4 and have just begun their sim racing careers.
There are various stages in a sim racer’s experience. The first is upping the difficulty, then adding damage and tire wear, then taking all off assistance (from racing lines, to assisted breaking). At each step, your immersion grows alongside difficulty. But that’s all you can do if you lack a wheel, which is why purchasing your first wheel is an important step. The TMX promises to do you well, adding realistic and powerful force-feedback, producing a solid build, but remaining cheap so that you don’t feel like you have to indebt yourself to play racing sims. There are better wheels out there, but most of them will cost you a lot more. If you’re a beginner the TMX is made for you by people who know and care about the craft of racing sim peripherals. At the end of the day, we recommend you at least check the product out to get a better idea as to whether this may fit you well.
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