Move Over T150...

The Thrustmaster TMX was released this past summer to address the Xbox One ecosystem with an affordable, entry level force-feedback wheel.  This is essentially the Xbox version of the previously reviewed Thrustmaster T150 for the PS3/PS4.  There are many things that these two wheels have in common, but there are a few significant differences as well.  The TMX is also PC compatible, which is what I tested it upon.

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A no-nonsense box design that lets the buyer know exactly what systems this product is for.

The Basics

The TMX is priced at an MSRP of $199.  Along with the T150 this is truly an entry level FFB wheel with all of the features that racers desire.  The wheel itself is 11” wide and the base is compact, with a solid feel.  Unlike the T150, the TMX is entirely decked out in multiple shades of black.  The majority of the unit is a dark, slick black while the rubber grips have a matte finish.  The buttons on the wheel are colored appropriately according to the Xbox controller standards (yellow, blue, green, and red).  The other buttons are black with a couple of them having some white stenciling on them.

The motor in this part is not nearly as powerful as what we find in the TX and T300rs base units.  Those are full pulley based parts with relatively strong motors while the TMX is a combination gear and pulley system.  This provides a less expensive setup than the full pulley systems of the higher priced parts, but it still is able to retain pretty strong FFB.  Some of the more subtle effects may be lost due to the setup, but it is far and away a better solution than units that feature bungee cords and basic rumble functionality.

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The back shows a basic diagram of the mixed pulley and geared subsystem for force-feedback.

The wheel features a 12 bit optical pickup sensor for motion on the wheel.  This translates into 4096 values through 360 degrees of rotation.  This is well below the 16 bit units of the TX and T300rs bases, but in my racing I did not find it to be holding me back.  Yes, the more expensive units are more accurate and utilize the Hall Effect rather than an optical pickup, but the TMX provides more than enough precision for the vast majority of titles out there.  The pedals look to feature the same 10 bit resolution that most other Thrustmaster pedals offer, or about 1024 values for several inches of travel.

Click to read the entire wheel review!

Stepping Up the Simulation Game

I don’t exactly remember when I first heard about Fanatec, but it likely was sometime after the release of DiRT 2.  I was somewhat into racing games before that, but that particular title sold me on the genre and I have not looked back since.  Before then I used a Microsoft Sidewinder FFB stick for my racing, but it was D2 that convinced me to purchase a wheel for the full fledged experience.  The initial impression of Fanatec was of course “high priced, but really nice gear”.  These were products that I did not think I would ever see in any personal capacity as they were out of my price range and my driving passion was just not amped up enough to rationalize it.

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My dog is quite suspicious of the amount of boxes the set came in.

I know I probably talk about it too much, but the introduction of DiRT Rally really supercharged my interest in driving accessories due to the work they did on physics and Force Feedback effects.  My older Thrustmaster Ferrari F430 wheel featured a meager 270 degrees of rotation and clunky FFB that did not translate well with this particular title.  It may have done OK with older, more arcade based racers, but with the latest generation of sims that focus on accuracy in experience it just did not cut it.  Purchasing a Thrustmaster TX based unit was a night and day experience for these latest titles.

The next few months after that I spent time with multiple other wheels and accessories and provided a few reviews based on them.  My level of interest grew exponentially about what the industry offered.  I was able to contact Fanatec and they agreed to put together a bundle of products based on their latest ClubSport V2 products.  This would include the ClubSport V2 Base,  ClubSport Universal Hub for Xbox One, ClubSport Pedals V3, ClubSport Shifter SQ, and the desk mounting hardware for the units.

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Fanatec is not for the faint of heart when it comes to pricing.  The total package I received is worth 1800 Euro, or about $2016 US.  This is a pretty tremendous amount of money for racing gear, but it is about average for higher end products that exist in this market.  People will question why it costs so much, but after my experience with it I now know why.

Click here to read the rest of the Fanatec Review!

NVIDIA Releases 368.69 WHQL Drivers for Dirt Rally VR

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 6, 2016 - 09:10 PM |
Tagged: VR, Oculus, nvidia, graphics drivers, DiRT Rally

A Game Ready Driver has just launched for DiRT Rally VR. GeForce Drivers 368.69 WHQL increments upon the last release, obviously adding optimizations for DiRT Rally VR, but it also includes a few new SLI profiles (Armored Warfare, Dangerous Golf, iRacing: Motorsport Simulator, Lost Ark, and Tiger Knight) and probably other bug fixes.

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The update doesn't yet have a release date, but it should be soon. According to NVIDIA's blog post, it sounds like it will come first to the Oculus Store, but arrive on Steam later this month. I haven't been following the game too heavily, but there doesn't seem to be any announcement about official HTC Vive support that I can find.

You can pick them up at NVIDIA's website or through GeForce Experience. Thankfully, the GeForce Experience 3 Beta seems to pick up on new drivers much quicker than the previous version.

Source: NVIDIA
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!

Thrustmaster Introduces Xbox One Compatible TMX Wheel

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2016 - 06:33 PM |
Tagged: Thrustmaster, TMX, T300, tx f458, force feedback, wheels, racing pedals, DiRT Rally, project cars, Assetto Corsa, xbox one

Some months ago I had the chance to review the PS3/4 and PC compatible Thrustmaster T150.  This turned out to be a solid little wheel with full functionality that would not break the bank.  The force feedback was not as strong or as nuanced as what I had found with the higher end TX F458 and T300 products, but it provided a wholly satisfactory experience that was around one half the price of the higher end products.
 
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Something missing from the lineup was a budget/entry level product for the Xbox One.  The TX F458 provides support for that platform, but it is anywhere from $300 to $400 US in price.  Essentially the same price as the console itself.  This comes at a pretty good time as a whole slew of racing games are being released on consoles these days (or soon).  Products such as DiRT Rally, Project Cars, and the upcoming console release of Assetto Corsa have injected new life into racing titles on consoles.  Add in Microsoft's continued development of the Forza series, console users have a good excuse to purchase racing inspired gear for their products.
 
In speaking with the DiRT developers, they admitted that they have to adjust the difficulty of the games to make them playable on game pads.  This makes sense as there are not nearly enough degrees of movement from either a turning or throttle/braking standpoint.  There is maybe a 30 degree movement in total with the thumbpads as well as not very many gradiations when using the triggers on the gamepad for braking and throttle control.  To get the most out of racing games a wheel is very necessary.  It provides the accuracy needed to drive very fast without the application helping a user out by decreasing the realism of the driving experience.
 
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The Thrustmaster TMX Force Feedback wheel is very similar in build and size to the earlier T150.  The primary differences are of course the Xbox One compatibility as well as a 900 degree rotation.  The T150 had the full 1080 degrees, but it seems like the 900 number is a hard limit on the Xbox.  The wheel can be programmed to handle rotations as low as 270 degrees as well as up to 900.  It is a hybrid pulley/geared unit with solid force feedback strength.  It features a metal axle and metal ball bearings so the wear will be minimal over the lifetime of the product.  It also features the same 12 bit optical tracking mechanism that the T150 utilizes that gives 4096 values for each 360 degrees of rotation of the wheel.
 
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No specialty drivers or software are needed for use with the Xbox One, but drivers are needed for the PC.  The firmware in the wheel contains all the necessary software to run successfully on the Xbox One, so it is simply plug and play for that platform.  The wheel comes with the wide 2 pedal unit which also allows users to remove the pads and adjust their position to their own liking.  The paddle shifters are also made of metal so that they will not break after extended use and wear.  While the actual wheel itself cannot be swapped out like with the TX and T300 bases, the TMX does support the Thrustmaster ecosystem of add-in parts.  It is compatible with the T3PA and T3PA-Pro bedals and the TH8A manual shifter (that can also be configured as a sequential shifter).
 
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$199.99 is not inexpensive, but it is a reasonable price for a product of this nature.  It looks to be a very good introductory wheel of the Xbox One platform that will last years.  It could also act as a gateway drug to more expensive purchases in the future, such as the pro pedals, a new base, and a fancy Alcantara based wheel.  The TMX should be available by next month at major retailers around the world.
Source: Thrustmaster

PCPer Racing Livestream! Thurs. Jan. 28th at 5:30 ET!

Subject: Editorial | January 27, 2016 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: Thrustmaster, T150, Rocket League, racing wheel, racing, project cars, livestream, GRID Autosport, gaming, force feedback, DiRT Rally, Assetto Corsa

Did you miss the live stream for yesterday racing action? No worries, catch up on the replay right here!

On Thursday, January 28th at 5:30 PM ET we will be hosting a livestream featuing some racing by several of our writers.  We welcome our readers to join up and race with us!  None of us are professionals, so there is a very good chance that anyone that joins can easily outrace us!

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We have teamed up with Thrustmaster to give away the TM T150 Racing Wheel!  The MSRP on this number is $199.99, but we are giving it away for free.  This was reviewed a few months ago and the results were very good for the price point.  You can read that entire review here!

We will be playing multiple games throughout the livestream, so get those Steam clients fired up and updated.

DiRT Rally

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We will be racing through the Rallycross portion of DR.  These are fun races and fairly quick.  Don't forget the Joker lap!

 

Project CARS

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This is another favorite and features a ton of tracks and cars with some interesting tire (tyre) physics thrown in for good measure!

 

Assetto Corsa

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Another fan favorite with lovely graphics and handling/physics that match the best games out there.

 

We will be announcing how to join up in the contest during the livestream!  Be sure to tune in!

PCPer Live! Logitech G Sponsored Racing Game Stream! Win a G29!

Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2015 - 11:46 PM |
Tagged: video, project cars, logitech g, logitech, live, G29, DiRT Rally

UPDATE: Did you miss the event? Sorry to hear that, but you can catch the fun and humor from our racing adventure right here:

Everyone once in a while we try to have fun around the PC Perspective offices, and tomorrow night is going to be one of them. The team is gearing up for racing simulation action, pitting me (Ryan) against the likes of Allyn and Josh in a handful of racing titles including Project Cars, DiRT Rally and maybe more. Even better? We hope to have YOU join us as well if you want to - we are working on setting up the correct lobbies and groups in Steam to make it happen. I'll have details on this page as we get closer to the appropriate time on how you can join us for some racing fun!

And if we are going to be racing and I am going to be embarrassing myself, why not live stream the whole thing as well to hang out with the loyal PC Perspective readers?!? So join, us won't you?

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And what's a live stream without prizes? Two lucky live viewers will win a Logitech G29 Racing Wheel of their very own! That's right - all you have to do is tune in for the live stream tomorrow afternoon and you could win a G29 valued at $399!! (Be sure to read Allyn's review of the G29 right here!)

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Logitech G Racing Live Stream and Giveaway

5pm PT / 8pm ET - September 3rd

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

The event will take place Thursday, September 3rd at 5pm PT / 8pm ET at http://www.pcper.com/live. There you’ll be able to catch the live video stream as well as use our chat room to interact with the audience. To win the prizes you will have to be watching the live stream, with exact details of the methodology for handing out the goods coming at the time of the event.

If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and we'll look through them just before the start of the live stream. Of course you'll be able to tweet us questions @pcper and we'll be keeping an eye on the IRC chat as well for more inquiries. What do you want to know and hear from us?

So join us! Set your calendar for this coming Thursday at 5pm PT / 8pm ET and be here at PC Perspective to catch it. If you are a forgetful type of person, sign up for the PC Perspective Live mailing list that we use exclusively to notify users of upcoming live streaming events including these types of specials and our regular live podcast. I promise, no spam will be had!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Codemasters

Digging in a Little Deeper into the DiRT

Over the past few weeks I have had the chance to play the early access "DiRT Rally" title from Codemasters.  This is a much more simulation based title that is currently PC only, which is a big switch for Codemasters and how they usually release their premier racing offerings.  I was able to get a hold of Paul Coleman from Codemasters and set up a written interview with him.  Paul's answers will be in italics.

Who are you, what do you do at Codemasters, and what do you do in your spare time away from the virtual wheel?

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Hi my name is Paul Coleman and I am the Chief Games Designer on DiRT Rally. I’m responsible for making sure that the game is the most authentic representation of the sport it can be, I’m essentially representing the player in the studio. In my spare time I enjoy going on road trips with my family in our 1M Coupe. I’ve been co-driving in real world rally events for the last three years and I’ve used that experience to write and voice the co-driver calls in game.

If there is one area that DiRT has really excelled at is keeping frame rate consistent throughout multiple environments.  Many games, especially those using cutting edge rendering techniques, often have dramatic frame rate drops at times.  How do you get around this while still creating a very impressive looking game?

The engine that DiRT Rally has been built on has been constantly iterated on over the years and we have always been looking at ways of improving the look of the game while maintaining decent performance. That together with the fact that we work closely with GPU manufacturers on each project ensures that we stay current. We also have very strict performance monitoring systems that have come from optimising games for console. These systems have proved very useful when building DiRT Rally even though the game is exclusively on PC.

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How do you balance out different controller use cases?  While many hard core racers use a wheel, I have seen very competitive racing from people using handheld controllers as well as keyboards.  Do you handicap/help those particular implementations so as not to make it overly frustrating to those users?  I ask due to the difference in degrees of precision that a gamepad has vs. a wheel that can rotate 900 degrees.

Again this comes back to the fact that we have traditionally developed for console where the primary input device is a handheld controller. This is an area that other sims don’t usually have to worry about but for us it was second nature. There are systems that we have that add a layer between the handheld controller or keyboard and the game which help those guys but the wheel is without a doubt the best way to experience DiRT Rally as it is a direct input.

Continue reading the entire DiRT Rally Interview here!

Newegg Jumping Gun on New AMD Game Bundles: GTAV and DiRT Rally?

Subject: Editorial | May 13, 2015 - 06:07 PM |
Tagged: R9, newegg, GTAV, DiRT Rally, bundle, amd, 290x, 290, 285

AMD has been pretty quiet on the bundle scene, but I think we may have had their future plans revealed to us a bit early.

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In case the offer gets pulled, here is a screen grab from Newegg on May 13, 2015.

Newegg is offering a number of AMD R9 based cards with one to two free software titles.  The top end R9 290 and 290X products get both Grand Theft Auto V and DiRT Rally.  The value of these two titles are around $95 US.  The lower end cards look to only receive DiRT Rally, which is a $35 US value.

This a pretty nice bundle considering that GTAV is still very new, and DiRT Rally is an early access title that will have a bunch of free content added to it through the next 9 to 10 months.

So far no other retailer that I am aware of is offering this particular bundle.  My assumption here is that Newegg jumped the gun before AMD was able to announce it.

Click here if you want to see these deals on the R9 290X GPUs.

UPDATE: Initial information from AMD is that it "is not an AMD bundle" so we aren't quite sure what to make of this. It could be a Newegg-specific bundle, but I haven't gotten any feedback from the reseller on the issue yet. 

UPDATE 2: Well, we found this certificate for the DiRT Rally portion of the bundle on Newegg.com. Clearly this is an official AMD marketing promotion but we haven't yet found anything official on the Grand Theft Auto V side of things.

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UPDATE 3: And now we have this Tweet from Newegg:

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UPDATE 4: After another conversation with AMD, the company is reiterating its point that it is not directly involved in the GTAV bundles we are seeing today with AMD Radeon graphics cards on Newegg. According to AMD, the bundle was solely built by Newegg and the OEMs, which explains why we don't see similar offers on identical cards on Amazon. It's likely then that Newegg interfaced with Take-Two/Rockstar to get approval for the Grand Theft Auto 5 inclusion while the DiRT Rally portion was just a happy coincidence. (Also, apparently a week ago AMD launched the DiRT Rally bundle...who knew?!?)

Source: Newegg