I think Ferris Bueller said it best..."It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."
Would you agree with that statement?
Great and well written review!
While this setup is a little out of my price range, you did a great job with the write up. Kudos to you. I agree this is intended for the serious sim racer. I fall into the console sim racer category. I plan on getting the Fanatec GT3 V2 wheel and Elite pedals. I know it's not officially supported by GT5, but I hear a lot of great things about that wheel. Unfortunately the Fanatec site has been down for a few days with the redesign. Wish there was a way I could give them my money! Ha ha!
Great Review man. Now for the long awaited review from me. I thought putting both reviews from the same community deserved to be on the same thread. If you believe it needs to go somwehere else please let me know.
Fanatec CSW Review
Fanatec’s first interchangeable wheel scores a podium, but needs a bit more refinement to become a winner.
Hello fellow sim racers. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for giving me the opportunity to test such an incredible piece of engineering. I was selected by my peers at the PSN and TPRA forums. Being selected meant a lot to me and I do appreciate it. I will break everything down into segments, packaging, looks, functionality, immersion factor, durability, support, and lastly value.
Before we get to the review a little bit about me, so you can get a better idea where I am coming from with my review of each item. In the real world I am a Mechanical Development Engineer for Cummins Engines. My job is to test and develop complex mechanical systems. This allows me to know what to accept from a manufacturing and development stand point. My sim racing career is just about as long as my 28 year old life. I started racing back in the Atari days with Pole Position and ever since then I’ve spent countless hours on racing games. My favorites growing up were F1 97, Nascar 4, and Grand Prix Legends. More recently I have spent quite a bit of time on F1 2010, Dirt 3 and GT5. The wheels I have used in the past include the MadCatz stuff on PS1, DFGT, G27 and GT500 on the PS3. The wheel that’s on my rig is the Logitech G27. And personally I want something that will make the G27 show up on eBay in the next few days. We will see what happens.
Packaging: It took a few weeks for the items to arrive to my home but on a rainy day in June the wheel arrived! Luckily, my UPS guy didn’t put anything to cover the boxes from the rain and I thought everything was going to be ruined. When I opened everything, the gents at Fanatec must have foreseen the Ace Ventura UPS guy because they double boxed everything in durable cardboard. Everything had ample foam padding and there was no movement at all in any of the components in the box. There are some really funny comments on the boxes of each component but I will not spoil the treat for anyone, as this is something that should be experienced by all. Score 11 of 10!
Looks: The wow factor is off the charts! Every part looks amazing. The first thing that you see when you take it out of the box is a treat that I didn’t expect to see. I’ve never seen the inside of a wheel before, except the rage quit moment during the Mad Catz days and I can say it was a great decision by Fanatec. There is a window on top of the wheel that gives you a view of the meticulous German craftsmanship. Both wheel rims have a gorgeous black machined look. It gives each wheel a feel of professionalism you see in everything on a proper racing team. The alcantara covering looks great and I’m waiting to see if it feels as good as it looks. The Clubsport elite pedals are just the cherry on top of an amazing looking pie. There are no plastics to be found on the pedals. To me this was an adjustment as I’m used to plastics. But it was a welcome adjustment. However, there were a few things I did not like to see. The BMW logo on the wheel was not on straight, and then on closer look on the same rim there were loose cap screws on the rear plate and both shift paddles were loose! I didn’t make it as a big deal as being in the R&D field things can be rushed out the door during pre-production testing. However, something got past the quality department. I will give Fanatec some credit. They accepted these mistakes and have made adjustments to the assembly procedure to correct the logo alignment, and have since changed the materials used for the mounting plate for the paddles, as the threads were actually failing on the mounting plate. Score 7/10
Functionality: This is where the real fun begins! So I have everything ready to go onto my GT5 playseat and I was a bit surprised that I needed to make an adapter plate for the wheel. I was expecting to make something for the pedals to fit, as pedal sets can have very different configurations, but the wheel was a disappointment in this aspect. The plate they gave me would have fit if the part was bent correctly, but since it wasn’t I had to make something. Don’t get me wrong it’s a minor thing but the G27 I have fits the playseat without any modifications. So after ½ day in the machine shop and about 10 minutes on the PC to download Fanatec’s driver and firmware. There driver worked well, and I was able to test everything including the vibration and force feedback, and to be honest the reaction from my wife when this thing vibrated something crazy and it was bouncing around the desk like a fish out of water. I couldn’t stop laughing and my wife was in full face palm mode. Not the 1st time for me…
Anyway, I go downstairs and spend a good 30 minutes hooking everything up. Everything went pretty well, as there was no problem with turning it on to PS3 mode where you push the bottom 2 buttons at the same time for about 10 seconds and the PS3 magically knows it’s a G25 wheel. Fanatec uses emulation software and some other wizardry, so as long as the game supports the G25 wheel you can program most of the buttons. However, it will be a bit of trial and error as you experiment as to what button does what. Since each wheel has some different color buttons you have to find what button does what. After I had everything programmed the way I wanted to I just used a label maker that I “borrowed” from work to label all the buttons. For one thing I loved the left analog stick and the quasi right analog stick. The right analog stick I used to make many adjustments mid race in both GT5 and F12010 with ease. When going through Eau rouge adjusting brake bias on the fly is fun. Another great part of the button layout is Fanatec allows you to adjust many parameters such as force feedback, Degree of rotation, dead zone and so forth while on the FLY! I was making adjustments to the degrees of rotation while racing to see what differences would be felt.
The pedals are once again out of this world when it comes to adjustability. I see all these different slots that can be used to change your pivot points for each pedal. Each pedal plate has multiple holes so you adjust the pedal gaps. There are little removable blocks behind the pedals, I removed the one behind the gas pedal and used shorter cap screws so I could do some easy heel-toe shifting. But wait there’s more! The pedals came with two bottles of hydraulic fluid. Each of them is clear so you won’t have to worry about staining the carpet! Now you ask why there are bottles of hydraulic fluid with these pedals. Well my friends the geniuses at Fanatec use a fluid damper to press against the load cell. So you can tune the dampening effect. I tried both bottles and there was a difference between the two.
However, one bad thing about the fluid reservoir was the seal on top was not well done. The radial seal was probably a bit too large as even with a decent amount of torque on the cover the oil would leak if the pedals were turned upside down. This could pose a problem to someone that will mount these vertically. Surprisingly at this stage of the development phase there were several problems with each of the rims and the pedals. I will break down each of these problems.
The Formula wheel and GT wheel had problems with the quick change mechanism. Since this is a main feature of the CSW I was shocked that I had issues. As instructed I used a bit of wd-40 to help keep everything easy to mount and remove. Sadly at one point I needed to go into Hulk mode to get this thing off. In the process I knocked myself in the nose pretty good. I didn’t bleed my own blood so luckily I still haven’t been injured while sim racing. The Alcantara covering of both wheels feels like it won’t last for long durations of use. As some of it was already coming apart on both wheels. What contributes to this problem is the seams are right where my fingers hit on the other side of the wheel. So during battle my fingers are constantly picking away at edges of the wheel. I was told that the GT wheel was to exact specs of a real wheel, that’s great and all but drivers in the real world wear gloves. So their body oil and sweat doesn’t wear the wheel out like fireproof gloves. Another annoyance with the formula wheel was that every time you turned left you would see this bright red globe of light coming from the wheel base power button.
Onto the pedals, the pedals even though initially were the greatest things I’ve ever used for sim racing became a disaster. At first it was a ghost brake signal, which went away during a reset of the PS3 and an adjustment to the sensitivity of the load cell. The second problem was the ghost accelerator signal I was getting when I was off the accelerator. That’s not what I want out of my equipment. To make things worse during a league race it was brought to my attention that I was never at 100% throttle! That sir is a BIG problem! I had to stand on the pedal like you would a brake pedal slowing down for the mulsanne corner. This to me is unacceptable. For how much these pedals cost, how did this happen. Fanatec showed remorse and at the time of this writing they are sending me replacement pedals. So I give them a ton of credit for fixing this problem, however a part of me wonders how quick would they respond if I wasn’t a tester and instead Joe the plumber from Manitoba.
In the end I can’t forgive the setup for slowing me down because of ghost signals, shifting paddles falling off in my hand and so forth. This thing has amazing Force feedback, as it will wear your arms out but c’mon it should work!
Functionality Score: 4/10
Immersion Factor: The wheels force feedback was incredible, especially after the latest firmware update. I had a 4 hour endurance race at Lemans in Gt5 and my arms were wearing out because of how much the wheel moved during all the bumps. It wasn’t just the amount of movement is the FORCE. Granted I had everything cranked up but I wanted to see what the motors and belts could do. It was amazing how I could slam on the brakes and the brake pedal would shake to tell me when I was about to lock up the brakes in F12010. Immersion factor went up about 1000%. Granted Codemasters is a bit arcadey for most enthusiasts to me it was the most fun for me. Using the cockpit camera in F12010 was a blast seeing a similar wheel being used in my home as the one being depicted in the game. Have I mentioned it was a blast yet! When the wheel and pedals were not giving me problems I was having a blast using them.
Immersion Factor Score 9/10
Durability: Sorry Fanatec you guys are not going to like this at all. To me this was the biggest disappointment. It would be different if it was a problem here and there, or small problems like a loose bolt here or there because of the Ace Ventura UPS guy. That stuff happens however a little loctite goes a LONG way. Quality checks at the end of the line were just flat out amateur. How does the BMW wheel show up with the logo on crooked? I bet BMW treats their logo a bit better than that. I understand that in the rush to get parts out for testing some can be the runts of the litter, but to me that stuff should never be let out the door. In comparison, in 4 years of abuse I have had a total of 3 problems with my G27. All of them were the brake pot needing cleaning and adjustment. I am not a wealthy man, however I understand a higher price should mean higher quality and performance. I felt all I got was better performance and really bad durability. On Fanatec’s defense they have been quick to fix problems in the production process and with materials. Also, not many other tested had these issues, so maybe I got the rotten egg. If it was me this would be the big red flag. Let Fanatec make a few more units and perfect everything before purchase.
Durability Score: 2/10
Support: Fanatec has been amazing so far. No hassles and prompt response to all of the development issues. They have been taking my phone calls and emails and being great partners. This leaves a warm fuzzy feeling with me that if I was a consumer the problem could be fixed promptly. Also, let’s not forget that in the 5 weeks I have had the wheel Fanatec has released several firmware and driver updates. I know they are aggressively working on these items.
Support Score: 10/10
Value: I just don’t see it to be honest. To get everything I received in my home would take around $1000 retail. To me at this point it’s not worth it, especially if you race console games exclusively. I consider myself a decent driver and this wheel made me a bit more consistent but to me it’s not worth the extra price tag. I’d rather spend the extra money on some new brakes for the GTO or a rebuild on the TAG engine for my kart.
Overall, I really want to like this wheel. To be honest I wanted to write a glowing review about this awesome looking wheel. But right now it’s a bit like going out with a supermodel, great to look at but maintenance will make you go insane. My job for the community was to test it for the PSN forums and just give my opinion. As of right now, save your money and put the money into your kids or your car. Let Fanatec work the bugs out and wait for others to find the bugs. I can say I’m blown away by what Logitech delivers for their price point now, now it’s up to Fanatec to show they are up to the challenge.
Total Score: 46/70