A few months ago now we shared with you our first impressions of the new Fanatec CSL DD based on a pre-production sample. While we were told the product was very close to final production, there were some elements we were not able to cover in the detail we would like.

Now today we’re pleased to fill in all the blanks and present you with our full review of the Fanatec CSL DD, inluding the usual hardware, software and driving tests, as well as a look at the internals.

As expected, the driving experience is essentially the same as it was with the pre-production sample, so we’ve focussed our new videos on the elements we couldn’t cover previously. Therefore, if you haven’t already, we suggest watching that video first to gain a good understanding of the product.

The video review is subsequently comprised of three components, the original driving test video, the “Hardware & Internals” video, and “Software & Driving Experience” video all below.

If reading is more your thing, everything is covered in the article below including some shorter clips from the larger review videos to provide context.




Today we’ll be taking a look at the experience with the standard 5NM rated power supply, as well as the upgraded Boost Kit 180 which unlocks the CSL DD’s full potential of 8NM. We’ll take a look at the driving experience when mounted on the same high end cockpit we use for all our other wheel base reviews, as well as some cheaper mounting options, along with the optional Table Clamp Accessory to determine if the CSL DD is worth it for those not ready to step up to a more expensive cockpit, and of course compare the driving experience based on our personal experience to that of some other common wheel bases including Fanatec’s CSL Elite (which we now know will be discontinued, the ClubSport WheelBase 2.5 and of course the Podium DD1 and DD2, as well as some other relevant wheelbases from other brands. We’ll also spend some time explaining some of the terms you’ve no doubt heard being referenced such as Direct Drive, Fidelity and Dynamic Range. By the end of this article, our hope is you’ll have a clearer picture of whether or not the CSL DD is right for you!

We’ve also recently published a detailed Fanatec Wheel Buyer’s Guide to help you get a clearer picture of which Fanatec wheels might best suit your needs and budget, and the links contained in this article are affiliate links, which are a great way of helping support Boosted Media at no additional cost to you should you wish to do so.

So let’s begin by talking about pricing.

The CSL DD with the standard power supply which allows for peak torque of 5 Nm will set you back 349.95 EUR (including taxes), 349.95 USD (excluding taxes), 599.95 AUD, 47,900 JPY.

For those wanting to unlock the full 8NM of peak torque, the CSL DD can also be purchased along with the Boost Kit 180 for 479.95 EUR (including taxes), 479.95 USD (excluding taxes), 829.90 AUD, 65,500 JPY. The base and power supplies are packaged separately so if you choose to purchase the Base along with the Boost Kit 180, you will not receive the standard power supply.

For those wanting to upgrade to the Boost Kit 180 at a later date, it can be purchased as an accessory for 149.95 EUR (including taxes), 149.95 USD (excluding taxes), 259.90 AUD, 20,000 JPY. You will of course need to add any shipping costs on top of this, so it makes sense to choose which power supply you think you will want at the same time as purchasing the base, we’ll do our best to help you with that in this video of course.

Now while quality power supplies aren’t cheap by any means, it does appear that there is quite a large mark-up on the Boost Kit 180. We can only assume this is done to offset the lower price of the CSL DD when combined with the standard power supply. In fairness, it does still come in cheaper than a ClubSport Wheelbase 2.5, so we’ll see whether we feel it’s a worthwhile upgrade.

The CSL DD table clamp is also sold as an optional accessory for 29.95 EUR (incl. VAT), 29.95 USD (excl. VAT), 49.95 AUD, 4,490 JPY.

PREORDERS ARE NOW AVAILABLE USING THE LINKS BELOW

If you’d like to pick up any of the gear covered in this article, the following links are a great way to help support Boosted Media. These links will take you through to Fanatec’s official website where we will also earn a small commission on the sale at no additional cost to you. Your support keeps the content and reviews coming and we greatly appreciate it!

AMERICA

$349.95

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$479.95 incl. Boost Kit 180

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EUROPE

€349.95

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€479.95 incl. Boost Kit 180

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AUSTRALIA

$599.95

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$829.90 incl. Boost Kit 180

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JAPAN

47,900 JPY

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65,500 JPY incl. Boost Kit 180

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FANATEC CSL DD ON PAPER

The CSL DD is Compatible with PC and Xbox when used in conjunction with a compatible Xbox wheel. No PlayStation compatibility is offered with this particular model, although Fanatec have stated a PlayStation Compatible model of some description shall follow later.

The base itself measures 160mm wide by 160mm tall and 145mm from the rear to the front of the motor housing. The quick release shaft adds 95mm to the total length of the unit.

The unit is passively cooled, no fans meaning reduced noise and reduced points of failure, something that is common across many other brands of Direct Drive wheelbases but not the Fanatec DD1 and DD2 which are both actively cooled by a fan.

Unlike the Podium DD1 and DD2 which feature an outrunner style motor, the CSL DD features a German designed servo motor. The advantages (on paper at least) of this when compared with hybrid stepper motors found in some other cheaper direct drive wheel bases being better efficiency and ability to maintain torque at higher rotational speed. Patented “FluxBarrier” technology is utilised which should reduce cogging or torque ripple effects. More on that later.

The motor shaft features a carbon-fibre enhanced composite material which reduces rotational mass.

The system itself features a similar wireless QR system to the Podium DD which provides power via inductive coupling and data via an optical transceiver so no mechanical rotation limit. To see how this works, check out our Fanatec DD2 teardown video.

The csl DD features an interchangeable quick release with a USB-C connector which serves as the interface to the wheelbase. The system uses a proprietary protocol for communication. Connecting other USB-C devices is not possible via this port.

The only physical difference we noticed between the pre-production sample we previously reviewed, and the final production model was the coating on the QR1 quick releaswe, and absense of the rubber o-ring on the final production model.

So lets get it mounted up on the Simlab P1X to begin with to see how the motor feels, starting with the standard power supply, then the Boost Kit 180, then look at some other mounting solutions including the optional table clamp accessory.

FIRST DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

We begin our driving tests in iRacing driving a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Car around Imola, a rear heavy and lively car which is very difficult to manage under brakes with the rear end having a tendancy to swing around like a pendulum. When combined with a track like Imola which has technical downhill braking sections, it’s a great test for how easily we are able to feel and react to the movement of the car beneith us.

Before we set out on track we took a moment to analyse how the wheel base feels under the weight of the car sitting in the pits and noticed the distinct lack of cogging and torque ripple effect when rotating the wheel compared to our expectation. This effect is common on more entry level direct drive wheel bases so we expected to feel it more profoundly here, but while still present to some extent it seems Fanatec’s “FluxBarrier” technology is doing a good job of reducing the sensation of variations in the magnetic field as the motor shaft rotates to a minimum.

We noted the overall smoothness of the wheelbase on track and the impressive fidelity in the finer details like surface textures, ripple strips and weight transition. This made feeling what the car was doing quite intuitive and natural, as we would expect from a direct drive wheel base.

No other strange effects such as bumps or clunks were noted, and the base felt pleasantly organic and smooth with very little sudden, robotic movement noticeable.

Next we moved on to testing across a range of different simulators including Assetto Corsa, Assetto Corsa Competizione, Automobilista 2, Dirt Rally 2.0 and F1 2020.

 

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QUICK RELEASE (QR1)

At the time of publishing, the CSL DD comes by default with a QR1 Quick Release system which is compatible with all current Fanatec Wheels.

The wheel side quick release stem is removeable and interfaces with the wheelbase electronically via a USB-C connection. However it’s important to note that despite the use of a universal type connector, the system uses a proprietary communications protocol, and thus you can’t use it to add otehr 3rd party USB-C devices to your system.

Fanatec have recently teased a new and higher quality QR2 system which will be available soon as an upgrade for the CSL DD, Podium DD1 and DD2. Upon release the QR1 will become an optional upgrade and customers will have the option to choose which QR system they would like when purchasing these bases.

The QR1 wheelbase side stem looks similar to the familiar stem from that of the CSL Elite wheelbase, as well as the DD1 and DD2, but lacks the rubber o-ring commonly found across other Fanatec wheelbases (note this was present on the pre-production unit we tested but not on final production, so you may see it in some of the photos and videos in this article).

There is no tensioning system like we find on the Podium DD1 and DD2, and there was some slight play in the interface between the wheel and the base when used in conjunction with the wheels which utilise a ClubSport style Metal QR1 wheelside Quick Release Adaptor. I didn’t find this to be particularly noticeable while driving, but it does introduce some rattling which can be eliminated by utilising the retention screw that ships with Fanatec Wheels. This of course makes it a little more cumbersome to switch between wheels, but worth the effort if you’re not changing wheels quickly.

On the other hand, wheels which utilise Fanatec’s newer Glass Infused Plastic Simplified Quick Release QR1 wheelside adaptor clamp down tightly, with no movement or play detectable in the interface between the shaft and the Quick Release. these do however introduce some slight flex in the area where the QR bolts to the rear face of the wheel.

It’s worth noting that the CSL DD does not have high and low torque modes as are found on the DD1 and DD2, and as such I see no compelling reason to upgrade wheels such as the McLaren GT3 V2 or WRC wheel which come by default with the Fanatec Simplified Quick Release to the ClubSport metal quick release when being used in conjunction with the CSL DD.

FURTHER DRIVING TESTS

Throughout our extended testing, we noted the consistency in feeling between all the sim titles we tested. Obviously different sims translate effects differently so they’re never going to feel identical, however one of the things we’ve always liked about Fanatec wheel bases is the relative ease of switching between different sim titles without feeling like you have to learn to drive all over again.

We didn’t notice anything notable about any particular sim when compared with another, road and gravel surface textures tend to be lacking a little in iRacing compared with some other sims, but felt consistent with our experience with other higher end DD bases.

We didn’t have any problems getting any of the sims we tested up and running and ran in to no issues with compatibility despite running early internal beta drivers.

FIDELITY & DYNAMIC RANGE

At 5NM Peak (standard 90W power supply) the force feedback does lack dynamic range and found we had to crank it up to the point of clipping to bring the other details out even if we fiddled with linearity settings. For those after a more immersive experience, we would recommend the Boost Kit 180 provided you have a sturdy cockpit for this reason. More on that later.

For those who are happy using lower strength bases such as a CSL Elite, Thrustmaster TS-PC, etc, you will likely be happy with the standard power supply as the added fidelity still add a lot to the driving experience.

We think the CSL DD combined with the standard 90W power supply will be particularly appealing for esports scenarios where competitors tend to run lower strength settings because it allows you to feel the fine details but without paying extra for  dynamic range which is considered to be unnecessary for many professional esports drivers. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this became the base of choice for esports competitions, commercial sim racing centres, etc.

Similarly, we think it will be a very appealing base for those who primarily enjoy rally and drifting where fidelity and response time is generally preferenced.

A FEW OTHER OBSERVATIONS

Fanatec’s FluxBarrier technology seems to be doing a great job here and cogging/torque ripple is minimal. While there is some noticeable grain in the rotation when compared with something like a VRS Direct Force Pro, Simagic Alpha or Simucube 2, its really not enough to be noticeable when driving unless you’re paying specific attention to it, and far less than we experienced with the Simagic M10 by comparison. I was concerned that being so much cheaper than competitor products it may be quite grainy, but my expectations were surpassed.

The CSL DD is Quiet! In fact almost silent. Far quieter than CSL Elite and CSW2.5.

The device barely got warm driving for hours at max torque so cooling not a concern as far as we can tell from this sample.

MORE ON THE BOOST KIT 180

The Boost Kit 180 works fine in conjunction with the optional Table Clamp Accessory and a sturdy table, but we wouldn’t recommend it if you have a cockpit or stand that flexes significantly as the additional strength is for the most part absorbed by the flex which leads to dampened fidelity and less predictable and repeatable behavior.

Interestingly, both the standard 90W Power Supply and the Boost Kit 180 Power Supply share the same physical connector and there is no included dongle to tell the CSL DD you have the upgraded power supply as we thought may be the case. It would appear externally at least that the only physical difference between the standard 90W Power Supply Unit and the Boost Kit 180 Power Supply Unit is the presence of a second power rail, although we don’t know if there is some kind of digital handshake going on internally.

Boost Kit 180 Power Supply

Standard 90W Power Supply

The standard Power Supply is configured with Pins 1,2 and 3 being V- and Pin 4 being V+, where-as the Boost Kit 180 Power Supply is configured with Pin 2,3 being V- and Pin 1,4 being V+

A FEW NITPICKS

The t-nuts included with the CSL DD don’t have any spring tensioners, so they tend to slide around which makes mounting quite challenging in some circumstances. Not a problem once torqued down, and may of course change for final production units.

The USB-C connection on the rear of the base feels quite flimsy due to the provided plug not being a snug fit in the recessed area around the physical connector. This means it could easily be broken if the cable were trodden on or pulled. I would suggest some kind of strain relief (cable tie the cable to your wheel deck, etc) be used so the cable breaks before the base.

SOFTWARE

The Fanatec CSL DD is the first product in the line-up to feature the new Wheel Property App. This is quite an improvement over the previous software. A Firmware Manager is now integrated into the software which will prompt the user if the firmware on their devices does not match the driver installed. Unfortuantely the software does not prompt the user to update their driver when updates are released, although this may be added in the future.

The software retains the same core functionality as previous versions, but presents them in a more intuitive manner, and includes a new “simple mode”, which hides some of the more advanced settings and adjustments from the tuning menu.

While the new Wheel Properly App and build in Firmware Manager are an improvements, we would like to see Fanalab integrated into one package along with the driver and wheel property manager, along with auto-update functionality.

I’m also personally not a big fan of the new Simple Mode as in my opinion it hides important settings which should be tuned in order to get the best possible experience from the product. While the out of the box experience is good, I fear some users will miss out by not taking the time to fine tune to their preferences and resticting access to settings via hidden menus is likely to exacerbate this.

ANSWERING THE BIG QUESTIONS

Is the Fanatec CSL DD a worthwhile upgrade from something like a Logitech G27/G920 or Thrustmaster T300RS?

Absolutely. The difference is night and day when it comes to the details you feel across every sim we tested. It’s also much quieter. If you’ve been holding out for a more affordable upgrade path to a direct drive wheel, this is a no-brainer and you won’t be disappointed.

Is the Fanatec CSL DD a worthwhile upgrade from something like a Thrustmaster TS-PC or CSL Elite?

Despite the strength being similar, we’d still say yes.

The details feel significantly smoother and less robotic which does make the experience more enjoyable and immersive. It’s also once again a lot quieter which is an important factor for a lot of people.

Is the Fanatec CSL DD a worthwile upgrade from a Fanatec ClubSport Wheelbase 2.5?

Without the Boost Kit 180, no. With the Boost Kit 180, we’d say if you’re confident you can get a good price second hand for your CSW2.5 then its worth considering.

Again, the details are more pronounced, but in terms of dynamic range it’s essentially the same. If I were wanting more from my CSW2.5, I’d probably save for a DD1/SC2 Sport or VRS Direct Force Pro, or wait to see if Fanatec release a CSW DD at around the 10-15NM range, as this will be a more substantial upgrade.

I don’t think the CSL DD is going to blow you away coming from a CSW2.5 as it’s already a very good base, but there’s no denying the fidelity is more pronounced on the CSL DD both with and without the Boost Kit 180.

If I already have a Fanatec Podium DD1 or DD2 and only run it at around 8NM, should I sell and buy a Fanatec CSL DD?

Due to lack of other options at the time the Fanatec Podium DD1 and DD2 were released, many people opted to buy these prodcuts purely for the fidelity they offer, despite no intention of running them to anywhere near their full potential in terms of dynamic range.

I couldn’t feel a huge difference between the CSL DD and the DD1/2 at the same torque settings, that goes for with and without the Boost Kit 180, but I do prefer a bit more inertia and friction in my wheels than some others might.

The CSL DD has noticeably less rotating mass which some people may prefer, particularly drifters, rally drivers and those who value competitiveness over immersion. So I’d say if you find you only ever run your DD1/2 at similar torque values and don’t find you miss having that extra dynamic range, by all means sell your DD1/2 and buy this.

I think if the CSL DD were my only wheel-base, I’d probably still at some point want to upgrade purely for more dynamic range. I think if Fanatec come out with a CSW DD at around 10-15NM, that’s where we would really begin to start questioning the purpose of anything stronger for the majority of sim racers.

CONCLUSIONS

I’ve said a few times in more recent DD reviews that the next advances in the technology will be in the form of accessibility (cheaper prices), efficiency, miniaturisation and on the software/firmware side, and I think the CSL DD is a big wake up call to the industry to show what’s possible at a more affordable price point. It wasn’t long ago that to get a driving experience like this you would need a few thousand dollars to spare, not to mention a control box the size of a PC to drive it.

I’ve been quite vocal about my stance on “DD Hype” in the past and frequently remind people that just because a wheel is Direct Drive, doesn’t automatically mean it’s better, but I’m happy to say with the CSL DD, my expectations have been exceeded.

What an exciting time to be a sim racer!