Racing wheels for PC, Xbox One and the PS4 can completely change your sim racing experience. Ditch your controller and join us for a journey through the finest USB racing wheels you can buy today.
If you enjoy realistic racing games such as Gran Turismo, Project Cars or iRacing, then in order to experience the titles to their full potential they're best played with a proper racing wheel. Over the next few pages we'll run you through our favourite five, and on this page you'll learn a little more about the world of sim racing wheels. Let's get started.
What separates a “proper” wheel from a plastic toy is "force feedback" technology. Here, powerful motors inside the wheel’s base simulate what you’d feel if driving a real car. Top models work with the PS4 or Xbox One as well as PC.
You’ll have to fight the wheel as you take a corner, and will feel the split-second that your tires lose grip on the tarmac. The increase in immersion is immense. Not only that, every time you take a kerb, touch another car or nail a corner better than you've ever done before: you'll know all about it. It's a genuine game-changer.
It’s important to think about which games are actually suited to a racing wheel, however. True arcade racers often feel better with a gamepad with their drifty, larger-than-life handling at odds with a racing wheel.
Games with exacting handling models that respond to minute movements, which are hard to replicate with an analogue stick, benefit from a wheel. On PS4 this means titles such as Project Cars, Dirt Rally and DriveClub. On Xbox One, Forza Motorsport 6, Assetto Corsa and F1 2016 are worth checking out.
PC gamers have some of the above titles to try, plus some even nerdier racing sims from which they can choose – including iRacing and rFactor 2.
It’s Thrustmaster and Logitech wheels that we’ll look be looking at primarily in this roundup, although those with a dangerous racing game obsession may want to check out the next level: Fanatec produces some terrific racing wheels, although you can easily spend over £1,000 on one. We've not gone into the world of ultra-hardcore wheels here; our most expensive recommendation on this list comes in at a cool £586.
You have further options, too, if your budget will stretch. SimXperience makes wheels that use a “Direct Drive” force feedback system, where the wheel is connected to the motor without any belts or gears in-between. However, this costs $1,748 without any pedals – out of reach for most of us, then. If you win the lottery, look it up.
Coming back to buyers with normal budgets, there are a few things to consider before you buy. First, be sure to check compatibility. While all featured wheels work on PC, you have to choose between Xbox One and PS4 support.
With standard wheel bundles there’s also often a trade-off between the quality of the force feedback and that of the pedals. Would you rather have less smooth force feedback, or pedals you won’t want to upgrade a year or two after buying?
Keep these things in mind as we look at some of our favourite racing wheels.