Thrustmaster TMX Review: Budget FFB for Xbox One and PC
Impressions and Conclusion
The unit is fairly small and light. It is easy to mount onto a desk or to use a dedicated rack system with either the mount mechanism or bolts. The pedal set features the ability to mount to a racing frame, but the base does not have the necessary mounting holes to permanently attach it to a frame. It is a good thing that the current mounting mechanism is pretty solid.
All of the basic Xbox compatible buttons and d-pad are present on the wheel.
The software is easy to install and recognizes the wheel instantly. You are given the option to update the firmware and that process is very straight forward. I was able to get the entire system going in a very short period of time. The control panel for the wheel is identical to the other Thrustmaster parts in regards to settings, power, feedback, and effects. This is where a user can adjust the degrees of rotation, but they can also use hotkeys on the wheel to do that in game.
The action is not as smooth as what is found on more expensive products. The dual belt driven TX and T300rs bases are fairly smooth, but higher end parts like the Fanatec ClubSport series feature a rotation that is entirely smooth. We do not really expect that kind of feel from a $199 part to be honest. There is a notchiness as compared to the other higher end parts, but it is not annoying and does not fatigue the user over time. It will not make a user’s palms or fingers numb from turning the wheel over time.
The base itself is quite compact, but it still provides plenty of FFB. When under heavy use I could hear the fan engage, but it never became annoying or overly loud.
The pedals are too light and not grippy enough to use on bare floors effectively. Over time a user could probably train themselves to keep their heels firmly on the pedal set and use only the necessary pressure to achieve the driving results they want without dislodging the set. That is hard to do though. I found that placing another heavy object behind the pedals worked well. The best solution is to mount them on a racing frame.
The force-feedback is good. It is not great. Users will lose some of the subtle inputs that they would experience with a higher end product. One thing I noticed immediately is the very “thick” feeling of the wheel going back to neutral when coming out of a slide or letting the wheel slip through fingers when accelerating out of a corner. It does not snap back like the TX and T300rs parts, but the effect is basically there. It just is not as realistic as one would hope. It is still fairly strong, but of course loses out to the more expensive parts with higher end motors.
The USB and power cables cannot be detached. The back ports include that for the shifter and the pedal base.
The wheel is smaller than the more expensive parts as well. Those parts are typically 12 to 15 inches in width while this is 11 inches. It is a little strange to have pliant rubber on some parts, but then hard plastic on others. I guess that this helps users to more adequately understand where the rotation of the wheel is, but I would prefer to have consistent feel around the rim.
The button and d-pad feel are very good in comparison. The shifters are made of solid medal and are of good size. They have a very resounding click when actuated. Their travel is not large, but it is fully adequate for my needs.
The pedals are about as basic as they can get. They are entirely made of plastic, but the overall construction is still thick and would be hard to break.
Unlike the Fanatec solutions, the user does not need to do a button combo to switch from Xbox mode to PC. Just plug it in and it goes.
The Thrustmaster TMX wheel set for the Xbox One is a very solid entry-level force feedback product. For Xbox users it is probably best to get an inexpensive stand to sit in front of the TV. For PC users the mounting mechanism is more than adequate for the desk, but the pedal set needs to be reinforced.
The build quality of this part meets expectations. I did not experience a failure of any kind, but the user also gets what they pay for. At $199 US it is not exactly cheap, but it is a big step up from the more basic products out there that feature bungee cord construction or limited rumble support. It will not feature a leather wrapped steering wheel, medal pedals, or 75 kg progressive braking. What it will provide is a much more immersive and responsive system for use in driving games. My times were not all that different in events than with the much more expensive parts, but the subtle differences between those higher end parts and this are palpable. I cannot express how huge of an improvement this is from a keyboard or handheld controller experience!
We can see the different angles being used for the brake and acceleration pedals. This is adjustable by detaching the pads and rotating them.
For the casual Xbox user to a PC user who wants to dive into racing without spending an inordinate amount of money, the TMX set is a very good starting point. It is not exactly inexpensive, but it is at a reasonable price point for the features that are delivered. I have seen these priced as low as $179 during sales, but typically it can be found from $189 to $199. I have seen the T150 priced as low as $159, but that of course is not compatible with the Xbox one.
There are so many great racing titles out today that push even high end computers, it is very tempting for many to jump into these titles. The experience of doing so with a good wheel with FFB is second to none. DiRT Rally, Assetto Corsa, and Project Cars are all visually stunning and require a fairly beefy computer to run adequately at high quality settings. $199 for a wheel that could see use for years is a small price to pay for the more visceral experience that it delivers in any racing game that supports it.