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When setting up your rig for sim racing games, it’s natural to get confused with so many options on the market. If you’re a beginner, chances are you’ll be overwhelmed. It certainly doesn’t help when there are a lot of differing opinions online on the subject. In this article, we will discuss the things you should look out for as well as the different pros and cons of direct drive, belt, or gear driven wheels.
Direct Drive versus Belt versus Gear Racing Wheels: Which one is best for your sim racing needs?
The Direct Drive system is generally accepted to be the top choice among the three because the wheel is connected directly to a monitor. This system uses instantaneous data transfer which means there is no lag or delay. Direct Drive Force Feedback is also the most expensive of the bunch. Belt drive meanwhile is the most common force feedback system while gear driven wheels are among the oldest types of Force Feedback.
The Three Types Explained
As mentioned, Belt Drive Force Feedback is the most common among the three. A belt-driven wheel utilizes a small motor that’s connected to a belt, which then connects to the wheel rim. The small motor is responsible for generating Force Feedback resulting in resemblance to real-world driving.
One of the advantages of using belt driven racing wheels is that it produces a much smoother Force Feedback when compared to Belt Driven wheels. One of the downsides though lies in the fact that the Belt Driven wheels are known to stretch and degrade over time and are usually just as expensive as their Direct Driven counterparts.
Gear Driven wheels are similar to Belt Drive technology as they also use a motor. The wheels connect to a system of gears to produce Force Feedback. This system provides gamers a realistic driving experience when racing as the motor aids in amplifying the torque.
Of the three types, Gear Driven wheels are notorious among sim racing enthusiasts as being quite clunky. The main disadvantage of Gear Driven wheels lies on the utilization of the gears themselves. The torque may jolt all over the place because two spinning gears are harder to maintain than direct or a belt-driven one. In turn, this can be extremely loud when it malfunctions which will definitely cause a disturbance.
Out of all the sim racing wheels used to create a realistic racing experience for your games, Direct Drive is the best of the bunch and is arguably the most recommended of the three. Wheels that use Direct Drive Force Feedback technology connect directly to the motor shaft. Since there are no belts or gears to maintain, there is no delay, loss of torque, or any lag that will come your way.
Another plus when using this type of racing wheel is that there is no maintenance to deal with. The only drawback which racers are definitely aware of is its steep price point as Direct Drive wheels are the most expensive of the three because of the larger motor.
The Best Steering Wheels based on type
Belt Driven: Thrustmaster T300RS Racing Wheel
The T300RS racing wheel by Thrustmaster uses a 1080-degrees dual-belt system to provide gamers with a smooth and silent Force Feedback to create responsive and realistic force effects. The quiet motor gives racers the ability to focus entirely on the race for a great performance on the road. The realistic Force Effects lets you feel the road as if you’re driving in real-world conditions.
The racing wheel is 28cm in diameter and features a reinforced texture rubber cladding on the wheel’s entire circumference. The 2 large paddle shifters are wheel-mounted with a lifespan of more than 10 million activations according to the manufacturer. The T300RS is compatible across all platforms like the PC, current and next-gen PlayStation consoles, as well as Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
Gear Driven: Logitech G29 Driving Force Racing Wheel
This racing wheel from Logitech gives racers a realistic steering sensation as well as pedal action for use with the latest consoles and video games. It gives players easy access to the controls due to its on-wheel D-Pad, console buttons. It also comes with paddle shifters and LED indicator lights. The Logitech G29 has steel ball bearings while the shifter and pedals are made from stainless steel. The wheel grip meanwhile is covered with a hand-stitched leather grip ensuring durability when compared to other racing wheels.
The Force Feedback is powered by a dual-motor to simulate realistic effects so racers can drive with precision. The transmission gears are helical reducing its noise and vibration unlike loud gear-driven wheels you’ll usually find in the market. This steering wheel is capable of up to a 900-degree turn that is almost the same as a real race car.
Direct Driven: Fanatec Podium F1 Racing Wheel
The Podium F1 racing wheel is the first ever Direct Driven racing wheel created for consoles. Gamers on the PlayStation and Xbox now have the ability to take their driving to the next level with the Podium F1 and it absolutely works even on the latest consoles. It is officially licensed by Formula 1 as well as by Sony. This vote of confidence made it the standard on eSports competitions and is now supported by all major racing games due to its compatibility.
The Direct Drive motor of the Podium F1 transfers data and power on the wheel inputs and displays wirelessly unlike other racing wheels. There is no loss of detail and every bump in the road is felt, allowing racers to react in a lightning fast fashion.
The Driving Wheels Compared
Now that you know the three types of racing wheels and three different products that utilize them, it’s time to compare them to know which one works best for you. If you’re using Belt and Gear driven racing wheels, you’ll often notice that they may be occurrences of loss of force feedback detail. There is no escaping this scenario but most modern wheels out in the market today have minimized this problem and it’s almost become a non-issue.
Direct Drive wheels produce no delay giving you more detail in the level of force feedback. It produces a 1:1 ration when compared to belt or gear driven race wheels that sometimes have a ration of up to 20:1. Because direct drives are the best in the market, the price of wheels that utilize this force feedback system are usually quite expensive and are more recommended for advanced racers or gamers with money to burn.
Other Factors to Consider
Once you have decided on the Force Feedback technology you prefer for your wheel, there are a couple more things you should consider when buying a racing wheel. It’s recommended to get a racing peripheral that has the ability to turn up to 900-degrees or more for you to have a genuine immersive feel. Anything less will feel ‘arcadey’ and will put you in a handicap especially when you’re playing competitively.
The material used is another important factor but this is usually up to your personal preference. Some racing wheels are made of plastic, while some are covered with leather or fabric. Some even have premium material on them like Alcantara. Racing wheels that are officially licensed by different brands also give manufacturers the ability to create real replicas of actual steering wheels used in race cars to give you the ultimate immersive feel!
The switches, design, and overall build of the steering wheel should also not be ignored. Shifters, paddles, as well as buttons and switches that allow you to focus on the race instead of looking where they are located are critical if you want to stay ahead of the pack. Some racing wheels you can buy right now look exactly like their real life counterparts which is why playing on sim racing games are popular among amateur and professional racers to keep their skills sharp during the offseason.
Lastly, the deciding factor for you when choosing the right wheel for your rig is the price. If you’re looking for the best, be prepared to pay a high price for it. The two most popular brands right now that give the most bang for your buck are Fanatec and Thrustmaster. They’re the most reliable racing wheel manufacturers today and you’ll surely enjoy your racing journey with either of them.
If you’re a fan of racing games, it’s almost always a great thing to invest in racing rigs as the feeling of driving a car simply beats playing with a controller. Playing with a standard controller is fine and all, but there is no comparison when you’re playing with a racing wheel and feeling the thrill of the ride.
To wrap things up, Direct Driven wheels are simply the best among all types of racing wheels due to the guaranteed lifelike driving experience that they permit. Belt and Gear-driven wheels are also a great way to enjoy sim racing when you’re a beginner.