Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Thrustmaster

Overshadowing the Previous Gen

To say that sim racing has had a banner year is perhaps an understatement.  We have an amazingly robust ecosystem of titles and hardware that help accentuate the other to provide outstanding experiences for those who wish to invest.  This past year has seen titles such as Project CARS 2, Forza 7, DiRT 4, and F1 2017 released as well as stalwarts such as iRacing getting major (and consistent) updates.  We also have seen the rise of esports with racing titles, most recently with the F1 series and the WRC games.  These have become flashy affairs with big sponsors and some significant prizes.

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Racing has always had a niche in PCs, but titles such as Forza on Xbox and Gran Turismo on Playstation have ruled the roost.  The joy of PC racing is the huge amount of accessories that can be applied to the platform without having to pay expensive licenses to the console guys.  We have really seen the rise of guys like Thrustmaster and Fanatec through the past decade providing a lot of focus and support to the PC world.

This past year has seen a pretty impressive lineup of new products addressing racing on both PC and console.  One of the first big releases is what I will be covering today.  It has been a while since Thrustmaster released the TS-PC wheel set, but it has set itself up to be the product to beat in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Click here to read the entire review of the Thrustmaster TS-PC Racing Wheel!

 

Fanatec Releases CSL Elite Wheel P1 Alcantara

Subject: General Tech | August 28, 2017 - 08:04 PM |
Tagged: Fanatec, CSL, CSL Elite, ClubSport, Alcantara

A few weeks back I reviewed the Fanatec CSL Elite base/wheel/pedals.  While I gave overall generally high marks, the least impressive part had to have been the actual wheel itself.  The CSL Wheel P1 was a rubber coated wheel that had some very good characteristics (lightweight, rigid) it also was lacking in some areas (comfort/grip, shifter feedback).  Apparently these were not uncommon complaints about what was still a seriously affordable piece of kit from Fanatec.
 
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Fanatec decided to add another option for the CSL Elite lineup that is still more affordable than many of their higher end wheel offerings that start at $200 and go up to $400 US.  The CSL Elite Wheel P1 is a thoroughly upgraded redesign of the P1 wheel.  It shares the overall weight of the wheel, but improves dramatically with the flexibility and ergonomics of the part.
 
The primary upgrade is of course the material used for the wheel.  Fanatec finishes it out with an Alcantara covering that looks hand stitched with a striking red thread.  Alcanatara is a fancy brand of "Ultrasuede" that is produced in Italy.  It feels great, it soaks up sweat yet still breathes, and is a durable covering that should last for many years to come.  It looks to be a much more pleasant surface to interact with as compared to the slightly tacky rubber-like texture of the original wheel.  I know for myself that I have really enjoyed the Thrustmaster 599XX EVO Alcantara Edition wheel as an upgrade, and I look forward to checking the Fanatec version eventually.
 
Fanatec does not stop with just the covering.  The shifters now feature a new activation switch that provides much more feedback and feel than the previous model.  The older wheel had a pretty anemic response when the user activates the shifter, so the experience just didn't feel quite right without the corresponding "thud" of a robust activation switch.
 
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Finally Fanatec allows users to swap in and out the buttons on the wheel for either Xbox One use or for more customized setups using a pretty impressive number of buttons.  This is a functionality that I have yet to experience in other products from the major manufacturers.
The wheel still features the brushed aluminum front plate and spokes as well as the "not so quick" release feature.  The LCD and center light display are again present, but they need to have application support to be useful in game.
 
Fanatec is offering this unit for a fairly reasonable $159.  This is around the same price as the Thrustmaster add-on unit featuring the Alcantara covering.  This does look to be a major step up for users, but it does not break the bank as compared to other wheels that will fit on the Fanatec bases.
 
Fanatec has certainly been far more active in the past two years with their product stack than they have in a long time.  It is great to see PC and console racing becoming popular again and providing the impetus for manufacturers to release new and interesting products to fill the market.

Thrustmaster Announces New TS-PC Racing Wheel

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2016 - 12:12 AM |
Tagged: wheel base, wheel, TX, Thrustmaster, T500, T300, racing, force feedback, Alcantara

Thrustmaster is announcing today the upcoming availability of their latest PC focused racing wheel and base.  The TS-PC is a brand new design that integrates many new features as compared to their previous offerings.  The press release did not mention compatibility on consoles, but it seems for now that it is aimed squarely at the PC (hence the name).

The big improvement from past part is the inclusion of a 40 watt motor providing more force than what we had seen previously in the T500, T300, and TX series of wheel bases.  I do not know how it compares to the Fanatec CSL’s 6 Nm of force, or the higher end ClubSport V2’s 8 Nm.  My guess is that it could very well be somewhere between those two options.

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The motor needs some extra cooling so that apparently has received a pretty good upgrade.  Thrustmaster seems to like their acronyms, so they are calling this cooling system the MCE.  This stands for Motor Cooling Embedded.  Few details were provided, but this system is in place to keep the motor at peak efficiency even at high transient levels of force.  It does this without ramping up the speeds of the fans in the base.  Hopefully soon we can find out how Thrustmaster was able to increase the thermal capacity in a base that is not all that much larger than previous products.

Thrustmaster is also implementing what they call a F.O.C algorithm (Field Oriented Control) that supposedly boosts the already impressive precision of the H.E.A.R.T. system (Hall Effect AccuRate Technology).  I told you they like acronyms.  This features the same 16 bit resolution of the T500 and T300 products, but it seems the new software reading the values is able to do a better job at it than previous parts.

Powering all of this is an external power supply that supports up to 400 watts of peak power.  This is a peak number and not what it can do under constant load.  That number is probably closer to 100 watts, but the specifics have not been released yet.  The motor in the wheel base does not pull a constant amount of current, so its needs are varied depending on the type of inputs required by the application.  When more force is required, it typically is not for extensive periods of time.  It seems that the power supply that Thrustmaster is using is going to be quite a bit more powerful than those that were integrated into the T500/T300/TX wheel bases.

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The open wheel itself is a new design.  It features suede grips, an aluminum plate, and aluminum paddles.  Thrustmaster claims that it has optimized stiffness and weight to give it the best overall response for the size of the product.  More mass is never a good thing when trying to transmit small or subtle variations of force feedback, so the less mess in a wheel while maximizing rigidity gives the best overall experience no matter how strong the motor is.

The TS-PC is compatible with the entire Thrustmaster ecosystem of parts.  This includes the 599XX Alcantara wheel that I reviewed some months back.  Wheels, pedals, and shifters are all compatible with the new base so users can customize their experience as needed.

The TS-PC will be available on Dec. 5, 2016 for $499.

Click to read the entire press release.

Source: Thrustmaster
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Thrustmaster

The New Corinthian Leather?

I really do not know what happened to me, but I used to hate racing games.  I mean, really hate them.  I played old, old racing games on Atari.  I had some of the first ones available on PC.  They did not appeal to me in the least.  Instant buyer’s remorse for the most part.  Then something strange happened.  3D graphics technology changed that opinion.  Not only did hardware accelerated 3D help me get over my dislike, but the improvements in physical simulations also allowed a greater depth of experience.  Throw in getting my first force feedback device and NFS: Porsche Unleashed and I was hooked from then on out.

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The front of the box shows the lovely Ferrari 599XX supercar with the wheel in the foreground.

The itch to improve the driving experience only grows as time goes on.  More and more flashy looking titles are released, some of which actually improve upon the simulation with complex physics rewrites, all of which consume more horsepower from the CPU and GPU.  This then leads to more hardware upgrades.  The next thing a person knows they are ordering multiple monitors so they can just experience racing in Surround/Eyefinity (probably the best overall usage for the technology).

One bad thing about having a passion for something is that itch to improve the experience never goes away.  DiRT 2 inspired me to purchase my first FFB wheel, the TM Ferrari F420 model.  Several games later and my disappointment for the F420’s 270 degree steering had me pursue my next purchase which was a TX F458 Ferrari Edition racing wheel.  This featured the TX base, the stock/plastic Ferrari wheel, and the two pedal set.  This was a tremendous upgrade from the older TM F420 and the improvement to 900 degrees of rotation and far better FFB effects was tremendous.  Not only that, but the TX platform could be upgradeable.  The gate leading to madness was now open.

The TX base can fit a variety of 2 and 3 pedal systems, but the big push is towards the actual wheel itself.  Thrustmaster has several products that fit the base that feature a materials such as plastic, rubber, and leather.  These products go from $120 on up to around $150.  These are comprised of three GT style wheels and one F1 wheel.  All of them look pretty interesting and are a big step up from the bundled F458 replica that comes standard with the TX set.

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The rear shows the rim itself at actual size.

I honestly had not thought about upgrading to any of these units as I was pleased with the feel and performance of the stock wheel.  It seemed to have fit my needs.  Then it happened.  Thrustmaster announced the Ferrari 599XX EVO wheel with honest-to-goodness Alcantara ™ construction.  The more I read about this wheel, the more I wanted it.  The only problem in my mind is that it is priced at a rather dramatic $179.  I had purchased the entire TX F458 setup on sale for only $280 some months before!  Was the purchase of the 599XX worth it?  Would it dramatically change my gaming experience?  I guess there is only one way to find out.  I hid the credit card statement and told my wife, “Hey, look what I got in for review!”

Click here to read the entire Thrusmaster 599XX EVO Alcantara Edition Wheel Review!