Thrustmaster T300 Servo Base Review: The Foundation
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.
The T300 Servo Base
The T300 is similar to the TX in that it uses much the same pulley system as well as a strong, brushless motor. The primary difference between the two is that the T300 has a full 1080 degrees of rotation vs. the 900 degrees of the TX. My guess here is that the 900 degrees is a limitation imposed by MS with the Xbox One platform.
Everything is packed tight and I found no shipping damage whatsoever.
The unit is a hefty thing and larger than the older F430 platform. The quick release system is of course identical to the TX that I reviewed earlier this year. The Thrustmaster quick release system is solid, but it does take a good minute or two to swap out wheels. It is a plastic, threaded sleeve that screws onto the wheel to provide a solid fit that should not get loose if properly secured. The power brick is integrated into the servo unit, so an external AC/DC adapter is not needed. This does make it easier to place and plug in. With the AC/DC adapter inside of the wheel, it is of course not compatible with the power grid if a user decides to move to Europe.
The brushless motor is advertised as “industrial grade” and seems to be a pretty solid unit. If a user is holding the wheel with a moderate grip, the wheel can actually break that grip with a violent crash. It is not all strength though. The motor also provides a nice level of subtle and soft force feedback effects which add to any game that properly utilizes it.
H.E.A.R.T. stands for Hall Effect AccuRate Technology. This is a magnetic based sensor unit with 16 bit precision (65K values) that will not wear down or become inaccurate over time. The sensor for the lower end T150 is 12 bit, so around 4096 values around the turning axis. In reality the difference is not all that great, but greater accuracy will certainly count with increased skill levels and speed.
The contents are minimal, but it has everything it needs to run. As long as the user knows they have to purchase their own wheel and pedals.
The mounting system for the Thrustmaster servos is very, very good. It has not changed much over the years, but this is not a bad thing. On the T300 certain parts are plastic (such as the arms and rotating pads for grip) while other high wear and stressed member areas are metal to reduce fatigue and cracking. These mounts can be tightened to the point where it takes a lot of force to move the base around. The servo unit also features the integrated mounting holes for racing rigs and cockpits.