With recent developments in games and hardware for console Sim Racing, there has been a flood of previously casual racing gamers dipping their toes in the world of Sim Racing for the first time. As more experienced sim racers will tell you, the slope is slippery and the rabbit hole goes deep. While it is possible to play sim racing games using a hand controller, for the best experience, you’re going to want a wheel and pedals, as well as something solid to mount them to. So I wanted to take you through the basics and give you some recommendations based on my experience with a wide variety of different hardware configurations.

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What You Need To Spend

Everybody’s budget is going to be different, and unfortunately, as with any hobby, there is an element of elitism within the sim racing community at times, which tricks a lot of people into thinking that you need to spend crazy amounts of money to be able to be competitive and have fun. So the first thing I want you guys to understand is that this is absolutely not the case. We covered this in a lot more detail in our beginner’s guide series but basically what it boils down to is Muscle Memory.

Once you have established muscle memory and your body can react to what the car is doing in the sim instinctively, it makes little difference what hardware you’re using. There are some important exceptions to this, most notably when it comes to pedals, which without a doubt are the single most important piece of hardware.

The more “realistic” a set of pedals feel, as well as the more range of control available, the more you’ll be able to modulate your inputs to make small corrections and this will ultimately lead to faster and more consistent lap times. This can seem strange to a lot of people at first because you’d think the quality of the force feedback would be more important, but as long as your brain has some way of interpreting what’s going on with the car and can establish muscle memory, the actual realism of the force feedback you feel makes little difference to lap times or consistency. In fact, many professional sim racers play with very basic setups with the force feedback turned down to a bare minimum to speed up their reaction times.

Cockpits and Mounting

The single most important factor in determining which sim racing gear will best suit you is the environment where you’re playing. There is no point spending thousands of dollars on a high-end wheelbase and super stiff load cell pedals if you’re going to be sitting on a couch with the pedals on the floor. So before you do anything else you need to do an ergonomic assessment of your intended play space. Most importantly, you’re going to want a solid way to mount your wheel and pedals in a manner that won’t have them moving around or sliding away from your seating position. As soon as things move significantly, consistency goes out the window, so this is vitally important.

For the majority of console players, this will probably be a wheelstand or foldable cockpit. If you’re playing on a solid floor, these generally work pretty well for the more entry-level pedals and wheels on the market, but if you’re playing on thick carpet, you’re inevitably going to have quite a bit of movement going on without your weight attached to the frame to anchor it.
So in situations where this is likely to be an issue, I would recommend considering a foldable cockpit solution. The PlaySeat Challenge is the cheapest solution and is essentially a folding deck chair with a wheel and pedal platform attached. It may not be the most rigid solution in the world, but it folds away nicely when not in use. Next Level Racing also have a range of options available which we have reviewed.


Console Compatibility

Unlike with PC Sim Racing, the range of wheels and pedals which offer native Console support is quite limited, we’ll talk about my recommendations for console-compatible devices in just a moment, but first I wanted to mention that there are some workarounds available. One such solution is “DriveHub”, which emulates a console-compatible wheel, pedals and shifter and allows you to connect many non-compatible peripherals to your console. By all accounts, this device works well, but just keep in mind that you don’t get the same ability to tune the settings that you do on a PC.

The other option is a little device called GIMX. This allows you to connect your PC-compatible peripherals to a PC or Laptop, and then bridge your PC to your console as an input device. The Console will detect your PC and the devices connected to it as a standard console-compatible input device and away you go! I haven’t tested one of these personally, but am told it works surprisingly well with no significant input lag, however, this would of course depend on the PC or laptop you’re using. You can check it out HERE.

But most people will be looking for a wheel and pedals that you can just plug in with minimal stuffing around, so let’s go through some of the options I recommend.

Specific to Fanatec Compatibility, it is important to know that Xbox compatibility comes from a chip within the wheel itself, rather than the wheelbase, whereas PlayStation compatibility is determined by the wheelbase, so just keep that in mind when choosing your gear. This means a PlayStation-compatible wheelbase such as the GT DD Pro paired with an XBOX-compatible wheel like the McLaren GT3 will work on XBOX, Playstation, and PC.  Full compatibility is listed on Fanatec’s website.

When you see the “XBOX Ready” icon on a Fanatec product, this means it can be used on XBOX when an XBOX-specific wheel is part of the system.  When you see the “PS Ready” icon, it means that the product can be used with PlayStation when a PlayStation-specific wheelbase is part of the system.

MOZA Racing now have an XBOX compatibility with an XBOX-specific ES Steering Wheel. As with Fanatec, XBOX compatibility for MOZA comes from the wheel, making it possible to use any of the MOZA Wheelbases with the ES XBOX wheel on an XBOX.  However, it is only currently available as a bundle with the R3 Wheelbase.  There is no word on PlayStation compatibility for MOZA at the time of writing this.

Entry Level Racing Wheels

There are some very cheap options out there without force feedback, but honestly, I feel they aren’t a significant upgrade over a hand controller, and in fact, with the current generation of console controllers and their haptic feedback, I’d say it’s actually worse, so we’ll start with the more entry-level Force Feedback options.

Without a doubt, the most popular wheel and pedal set on the market for the past decade has been Logitech’s G series, currently the G923. This uses a gear-driven system and offers fantastic value for money, and despite their toy-like appearance and plastic construction have proven to be extremely robust. I personally used and abused a Logitech G27 for 10 years before passing it on to a friend who I believe is still using it to this day. There’s also a plethora of mods and upgrades available such as aftermarket wheel adaptors, load cell upgrades and the like which make them fantastic value.

The force feedback is plenty strong enough to provide an immersive driving experience, but not so strong as to require a high-end cockpit which makes them ideal for those on a tighter budget. However with Direct Drive becoming cheaper and cheaper, these are becoming less and less appealing. They’re also extremely noisy which is an important consideration.

Thrustmaster also have the TMX for Xbox One and T150 for PlayStation as well as their Pro variants, however, these lack some of the functionality and features offered by their Logitech counterparts which in my opinion makes Logitech’s offerings better value.

Stepping up into the next price bracket takes us out of gear-driven wheels and into belt-driven technology. Belt-driven bases are quieter than their cog-driven counterparts but are still inferior to Direct Drive due to using a lower power motor which is geared to provide higher torque through the wheel at the expense of reaction time, or vice versa. While Fanatec has done away with Belt Driven products and moved to Direct Drive, Thrustmaster still offers some good options.

At the more entry-level side of the spectrum as far as Belt Driven Wheelbases go, we have the Thrustmaster TX which is Xbox One compatible, and the T300RS which is compatible with PlayStation. These again come bundled with Thrustmaster’s more entry-level pedals which don’t include a clutch, but there are upgraded models available which include Thrustmaster’s T3PA pedals as well as a nicer rim.

These are a solid step up from the cog-driven wheels we spoke about earlier, with significantly more strength and fidelity, as well as a smoother, less robotic and more life-like feel. Worth paying almost double that of a cog-driven setup? Well, that’s up to you, but don’t expect it to make you faster.

Direct Drive Wheelbases

Lastly, we step up to the Direct Drive market. The current entry point to Direct Drive Sim Racing for Console is the MOZA R3 Bundle for XBOX or the Fanatec CSL GT DD Pro for PlayStation.

The MOZA R3 bundle gets you up and driving with a basic throttle and brake, the ES XBOX wheel, and the R3 3.9Nm Direct Drive wheelbase.  With current pricing, the MOZA R3 is a very interesting option if you are looking to buy a new Logitech G923, or wondering if you should stretch your budget to a Fanatec CSL DD.  Be sure to check out our detailed review of the MOZA R3 Bundle.

For some added strength in your force feedback and a bigger selection of wheels, you’ll want to check out the Fanatec range. Remember, the CSL DD is only compatible with XBOX when paired with an XBOX-compatible wheel. The Fanatec GT DD Pro is the Playstation-compatible version of the CSL DD and comes bundled with a Gran Turismo-licensed wheel with extra functionality which is particularly useful for Gran Turismo Sport and Gran Turismo 7, and CSL Pedals.

The MOZA R3, CSL DD and GT DD Pro offer another level of clarity and depth to your force feedback over a belt or cog-driven base by connecting the wheel directly to the motor shaft with no cogs or pullies in between, which delivers far more fidelity and detail in addition to extra strength.  A big benefit of going with Fanatec is that you are able to upgrade to the Boost Pack 180, which will unlock 8Nm of peak torque on your CSL DD or GT DD Pro rather than the standard 5Nm.  We took a close look at both which will give you a great idea if one of these could be the wheelbase for you.

Fanatec Buyer's Guide

Logitech now also offer their Direct Drive G-Pro racing wheel and pedals, which come with stronger force feedback at 11NM and also have the advantage of “True Force” which in simple terms uses game telemetry data to add more detail to the force feedback.

They show a lot of promise, but at the time of writing this, have been available for a year and are yet to announce any additional wheels or accessories like shifters and handbrakes to expand the ecosystem which makes it difficult to recommend at the price point.

Previous to these, the only Direct Drive wheelbases offering native console compatibility were the Fanatec Racing Wheel F1 Combo package for PlayStation (which has now been discontinued), or the DD1 and DD2 for Xbox which are in a completely different class again with much more strength, and in my opinion are overkill for console gaming.

If you do choose to go with a Direct Drive wheelbase, anything with more force than the CSL DD and GT DD Pro will require at least a WheelStand DD as the bare minimum in terms of a mounting solution, assuming you’re not able to bolt it to a desk, and if you’re playing on carpet, you’re going to need a proper cockpit setup to get your money’s worth.

My Recommendations

I generally try and steer away from making a specific recommendation, but I know you guys are going to ask, so here goes…. For me at least, I believe for most people the Fanatec CSL DD with Fanatec’s current discount offerings represents the best value for money if you’re on XBox. They’re simple to use, easy to mount without the need to spend a fortune on a cockpit, easy to pack away when not in use, and give you everything you need to race competitively and have fun. You also have the option to purchase the Boost Kit 180 which steps the power level from 5NM to 8NM should you wish for more power later on down the line, or can be purchased at a discounted rate at the same time if you think you’re going to want it. If you have a decent mounting option, the Fanatec CSL Elite V2 Load Cell pedals are my recommendation. Otherwise, the CSL Pedals will do just fine.

For PlayStation, it’s a little tougher simply because the GT DD Pro is significantly more expensive at this point in time. However, I do feel like it still offers the best value for money when you consider Fanatec’s huge ecosystem.

Best Value for XBOX

Fanatec CSL DD WRC Bundle

Best Value for PlayStation

Fanatec Gran Turismo DD Pro (5 Nm)

These hit a great balance between price and performance without stretching to the point where I would recommend looking at moving to a gaming PC, but are also of course PC compatible should you choose to go down that path at a later date. Anything beyond the CSL DD and GT DD Pro, and you’re starting to push into the territory where I would be spending money on other things which will in my opinion add more immersion to the overall sim racing experience but are only possible on a PC such as triple screens.

So I really hope this article has helped you better understand what’s out there in terms of hardware for your Console Sim Racing, and how to get the best value for money. As I said at the start, if you’d like to help support our work here at Boosted Media, there are some links below where you can purchase the gear we’ve discussed, and I really appreciate your support there. But above all, thanks very much for reading and watching and I’ll see you again soon!