So you want to play race car driver? You think you can handle that tension? The white knuckle experience between control and chaos? You can’t do that with a regular controller. For an accurate, immersive video game driving experience, you’re going to need a racing wheel; a wheel like the Thrustmaster T150, which I’ve been putting through its paces.
When you think about a racing wheel, what brand comes to mind? Odds are, you said either Logitech or Thrustmaster. Both have been in the game as long as there’s been a game, and both have stellar reputations. The T150 is one of Thrustmaster’s latest offerings, and with a retail price of $199 ought to offer a fantastic racing experience. Does it?
Construction wise the Thrustmaster T150 is primarily plastic, but does well to feel sturdy even during my most intense race car driving imitations. Rubber inserts at 9 and 3 on the 11” wheel are pleasantly grippy without feeling sticky. It sports the standard PlayStation button layout on the wheel, which feel mushy but are suitable for changing views and most other typical driving functions. Interestingly, the shift paddles are the only metal on the wheel. I might have preferred that some structural pieces be metal instead, but the paddles do click in satisfying fashion when pressed. The clamp mechanism is reasonably sturdy once attached to a table, but I’m a little skeptical of how well the system would stand up to being moved frequently.
The pedal set is basic at best and is a little too lightweight, especially for my lead feet. It’s all plastic, but feels durable enough to handle some abuse. The accelerator is linear and worked flawlessly for me, while the brake pedal has a slight bit of progressive resistance that I wished was heavier.
“For the price, you’re getting a solid product that works well in most situations, but struggles to deliver enough force in its feedback, and has some game specific quirks.”
Setup on PS4 is as straightforward as can be, but the same can’t be said on PC. Following the instructions to the letter is critical – including when the wheel should be plugged in – but the manual is thorough enough to get you through installing firmware and drivers. The PC app is robust, offering adjustments to wheel rotation angle and force feedback among other things.
Speaking of feedback, I was generally impressed with the quality of force feedback from the T150’s mixed pulley and gear system. Road feel was good in most situations, although the force was too light for my taste (my table may disagree, as I tend to manhandle the wheel a tad forcefully). Jolts from impacts are distinctive if not terribly realistic (again, the force is somewhat light), while the on-centre feel for the road is better than in some cheaper options. Detracting from the realism a bit is the wheel’s tendency to hold an angle a bit too aggressively – the wheel felt reluctant to push back towards centre like a real car does – though this may be mostly due to individual game tuning rather than insufficient hardware.
My experience with the wheel’s responsiveness was mixed. In most cases the steering response was admirable, but some games just wouldn’t play nicely with the wheel. On the positive side, games like Driveclub were made far more immersive with the T150; Driveclub’s infamously floaty handling is more tolerable when the car’s grip on the road can be physically felt. The experience in most games was similar to this, providing a more immersive and precise racing experience, though the soft and somewhat noisy feedback were a constant reminder that the experience wasn’t perfect. On the negative side, Dirt Rally was nigh unplayable with the Thrustmaster T150. Despite having 4096 angle values for the steering axis, the T150 constantly had more on-centre play than a 1988 Chevy Caprice with wood panels. Regardless of how much fiddling I did in the menus, a constant 15-20 degrees of dead space existed on either side of centre – absolutely fatal in rally racing. That’s possibly more of an indictment of Dirt’s wheel support than anything though, so I’ll give the T150 a pass on that front.
The T150 also offers a bit of an upgrade path – users can purchase and add on improved pedals and/or a gear shift accessory if they desire.
So is the Thrustmaster T150 a recommendable product? Mostly. For the price, you’re getting a solid product that works well in most situations, but struggles to deliver enough force in its feedback, and has some game specific quirks. Sure, the Logitech G29 is light years better (as are the more expensive Thrustmaster products), but it’s also more than double the price. For a racing enthusiast that wants to be more immersed, but doesn’t want to break the bank, the Thrustmaster T150 may be just what the doctor ordered.
***Thrustmaster T150 review unit was provided to COG by Thrustmaster***
- Solid build quality
- Predictable steering input
- Immersion enhancing
- Weak force feedback
- Game specific quirks
- Lightweight pedals