Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2016 - 12:12 AM | Josh Walrath
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
Build Your Own Setup
Who would have thought that racing wheels would be so much fun? I have mentioned this before, but until recently my experience with these products has been pretty limited. I used a joystick for at least a decade after I started into PC racing, and then some five years ago I purchased a pretty basic FFB wheel with the Thrustmaster F430. I was not entirely sure that a more expensive wheel would give me a better experience. After having played DiRT Rally, a sim that leans heavily on wheels with a greater than 270 degrees of rotation, I knew that I was missing something.
The packaging looks nice and conveys the information needed for the purchaser.
I purchased the Thrustmaster TX F458 wheel and my eyes were opened to the light. The more expensive wheel with a 900 degree rotation made driving a much better experience for those titles that are more than arcade racers. DiRT Rally became a totally different game and my understanding of the handling and physics was enhanced dramatically with the more advanced wheel. This is not to mention how huge of a difference such a wheel is as compared to the products in the $50 to $100 range which offer no force feedback and rely on bungie cords to center the steering.
The TX wheel does have some limitations and a couple downsides. The first is that it is limited to 900 degrees vs. other products that feature a full 1080 degrees. It is compatible with PC and Xbox One. It does not support the PS3 or PS4. It comes with a two pedal stand as well as the Ferrari inspired wheel that is constructed entirely of plastic and a rubberized material on the wheel surface. It is not a luxury item and I would not expect as such for $294 US. It is also the least expensive “full” setup of the more professional line of dual pulley FFB servos.
This is a diagram of the dual pulley system that makes the T300 as smooth as it is.
Over the past few years Thrustmaster has expanded their lineup to include higher end accessories for the wheel setups with three pedal stands (the T3PA and T3PA-Pro), a solid shifter (TH8A), as well as a variety of interchangeable wheels that fit the Thrustmaster Quick Release system (TX, T300, and T500). These include leather wrapped wheels, a F1 inspired wheel, and finally a newly introduced Alcantara wheel that apparently feels fantastic.
It seems a waste to buy an entire set and then replace pieces with upgraded parts. Obviously Thrustmaster figured this out and decided to start offering just the servo bases as standalone products and allow the user to pick and choose what type of pedals and wheels they want to use. This also allows those who are more frugal to buy secondhand parts off eBay and other outlets. Believe me, there are more than a few F458 wheels and 2 pedal sets out there for pretty good prices. The T300 Servo Base is the second standalone offering from Thrustmaster with the Xbox One focused TX being the first.
Subject: General Tech | November 11, 2015 - 06:39 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: wheel, tx f458, TX, Thrustmaster, T500, T300RS, t300 base, T300, 599XX Alcantara
Seems we have been on a bit of a Thrustmaster kick as of late? We are not really complaining as there are certainly some interesting products that the company offers. The latest product is not new, but how it is presented is. Thrustmaster has traditionally bundled all of the different parts of the wheel together, but for the past few years they have worked on expanding the wheel ecosystem so users can upgrade certain pieces at will.
This is all well and good, but users might find that they are throwing their money away by not recycling or reselling the parts they were upgrading. Bought the TX F458 and want to purchase the shifter? Go for it, but you need to buy the 3 pedal unit as the F458 kit only includes a two pedal unit. Upgrade to the leather GT wheel or the new 599XX Alcantara edition? Might as well throw the stock wheel in the closet, never to be seen again.
Choice is a good thing, so Thrustmaster is now offering its more moderately priced base unit, the T300, as a standalone part. This will allow users to purchase a good quality base all the while picking and choosing what other components to use. The base price is $249 US.
The T300 base unit features a strong brushless motor with the dual belt pulley system. This base unit is an upgrade from the TX base that is included with my previously reviewed TX F458 Italia Edition wheel set. It features the full 1080 degrees of rotation vs. the TX’s 900 degrees. The motor also looks to be larger and stronger than the TX. The base unit is compatible with the PS3/PS4, and the PC. It also features the H.E.A.R.T sensor that utilizes the Hall Effect to provide a contact-less sensor that should last nearly forever. It features the 16 bit sensor giving over 65,000 values around the axis. Xbox 1 users will have to rely on the TX base unit as the T300 is not compatible with that system.
Thrustmaster's competitor Fanatec has been selling the base units by themselves for quite some time, so it is nice to see Thrustmaster offer customers the same flexibility. One thing must be noted though, the T300 is significantly less expensive than the lowest priced Fanatec base units that are currently available.
Taking Racing Games a Step Further
I remember very distinctly the first racing game I had ever played and where. It was in the basement of a hotel in Billings, MT where I first put a couple of quarters through the ATARI Night Driver arcade machine. It was a very basic simulator with white dots coming at you as if they were reflectors on poles. The game had a wheel and four gears available through a shifter. It had an accelerator and no brake. It was the simplest racing game a person could play. I was pretty young, so it was not as fun to me because I did not do well actually playing it. Like most kids that age, fun is in the anticipation of playing and putting the quarter in rather than learning the intricacies of a game.
Throughout the years there were distinct improvements. I played Pole Position and Enduro on the ATARI 2600, I had my first PC racer with Test Drive (the Ferrari Testarossa was my favorite vehicle) using only the keyboard. I took a break for a few years and did not get back into racing games until I attended the 3dfx T-buffer demo when I saw the latest NFS 4 (High Stakes) played at 1024x768 with AA enabled. Sure, it looked like the cars were covered in baby oil, but that was not a bad thing at the time.
One of the real breakthrough titles for me was NFS: Porsche Unleashed. EA worked with Porsche to create a game that was much closer to a simulation than the previous arcade racers. It was not perfect, but it was one of the first titles to support Force Feedback in racing. I purchased a Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 joystick. The addition of FFB was a tremendous improvement in the game as I could feel the tires start to slip and experience the increased resistance to turns. This was my first real attempt at a racing game and actually completing it. I still have fond memories and it would be great to get a remastered version with better graphics and physics, while still retaining the simulation roots.
After PU I again stopped playing racers. The release of Project Gotham racing for the XBox rekindled that a bit, but I soon tired of the feel of the controller and the rumble rather than real FFB effects. Fast forward to Quakecon 2009 when I saw the first gameplay videos of the upcoming DiRT 2. This title was one of the first to adopt DX11 that would push the HD 5800 and GTX 480 video cards for all they were worth. This re-ignited my desire to race. I purchased DiRT 2 as soon as it was available for the PC and played with the aging (but still solid) Sidewinder FFB P2.
The box was a little beat up when it got to me, but everything was intact.
Something was missing though. I really wanted more out of my racing game. The last time I had used a wheel on a racing game was probably an Outrun arcade machine in the late 80s. I did some shopping around and decided on the Thrustmaster F430 Ferrari FFB wheel. It was on sale at the time for a low, low price of $76. It had a 270 degree rotation which is more apt for arcade racers than sims, but it was a solid wheel for not a whole lot of money. It was a fantastic buy for the time and helped turn me into a racing enthusiast.
During this time I purchased my kids a couple of low end wheels that use the bungee cord centering mechanism. These of course lack any FFB features, but the Genius one I acquired was supposed to have some basic feedback and rumble effects: it never worked as such. So, my experience to this point has been joysticks, bungee wheels, and a 270 degree F430 wheel. This does not make me an expert, but it does provide an interesting background for the jump to a higher level of product.