When it comes to immersing oneself in a game, a good peripheral can make or break an experience. I have been racing with the Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel [Leather Edition] for about a month, and I wanted to share my thoughts on how it measures up.
My history with racing wheels began almost 2 decades ago, and it has been interesting to watch them evolve. They began as hulking behemoths that took an engineering degree to figure out and today we see products such as the Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel sitting alongside consoles and computers as sleek accessories which look like they belong, and is a breeze to get up and running.
Out of the box, the Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel looks incredibly sleek. It isn’t something I’m embarrassed to have on my desk, which isn’t always the case with gaming peripherals. The build quality for these products is paramount and Thrustmaster didn’t pull any punches on this one. It’s solid with a combination of plastic and metal in all the right places and feels heavy, in the best way. The metal shifters, faceplate, and guts speak to the quality of the product. The Leather Edition features a beautiful leather finish on the wheel, which feels great to hold and was comfortable for long sessions. I’m a sweaty dude so the leather was a really nice upgrade to have since my hands can slip on plastic and the leather never felt grungy even after a month’s use.
The Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel Leather Edition also comes with the Three Pedals Add On (T3PA), which sits comfortably under my computer desk. The pedals can be fully adjusted for height, spacing, and inclination so you don’t have to awkwardly keep your foot at a weird angle. It’s so nice to have these features since everyone has a different comfort zone and these little touches are much appreciated. A cool feature of the T3PA is the clutch and accelerator can be swapped with the press of a button, if you prefer to have the accelerator on the left hand side. Thrustmaster also includes a conical rubber brake mod to change the feeling of braking. It isn’t essential but after installing the modification on the brake pedal I actually prefer having it in there. The pedals feel awesome and are made of full metal so you aren’t going to break through when you have to put the pedal to the floor. More importantly, the pedals have analog pressure sensitivity and are accurate to what my foot is doing, which has been one of my main gripes with racing wheels in the past. I like to feather it through a corner, and the T3PA allows me to do so with precision.
Setting up the Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel was a breeze. Their quick release attachment system turns a 5 minute job into a 30 second job. This is notable because my desktop PC is also my work machine and I can’t have a dedicated racing wheel taking up precious deskspace. It also applies to the psychology of using a peripheral. For example, one of the biggest complaints for VR in its current form is the effort it takes to setup and/or take down. If you don’t want to set up your peripheral, you’re not going to want to use it. I bring this up because anytime I want to use the Thrustmaster TX, set up is never a pain point as it literally takes one screw to mount to my desk. I can appreciate the convenience of picking up a controller and playing, but the amount of time it takes to set up this racing wheel renders this point moot.
I should note I am playing at a computer desk, as I don’t have an ideal set up for using the racing wheel on my couch. I mounted the Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel to my coffee table, and I also tried using it in my lap. The coffee table is tolerable, but I wouldn’t recommend using the racing wheel in your lap as it gets uncomfortable quickly and there is probably a health and safety warning against it.
I’ll touch lightly on the firmware and software side of things before digging into the gaming experience. If you are using the wheel with a PC, I strongly suggest heading to the Thrustmaster site and grabbing the latest drivers. This will ensure the wheel is performing at its best and can be dialed in to the most comfortable settings. I know you’re saying “But Locke, I want a plug and play solution!” which you can get with the Thrustmaster TX. It is fully usable out of the box, however if you want to customize rotation settings and get the wheel working to its full potential, heed my advice and get the latest drivers. It takes 2 minutes and saves you a ton of frustration down the road.
I don’t want to go into a feature list but it is important to note some of the technology Thrustmaster is putting into their products. Their HEART [HallEffet AccuRate Technology] is what makes the Thrustmaster TX stand out, which is essentially a magnetic sensor that increases the precision of the wheel and cuts down on friction. The worst feeling for me is when a racing wheel is rumbling on my desk and shaking up my world when it shouldn’t be, and the Thrustmaster TX is so smooth when you are driving. The force feedback is driven by brushless servo motor technology, making this racing wheel the quietest wheel I have used; a huge bonus when my family is asleep and I’m doing rally drifting down a mountain.
I took the wheel through a wide gamut of games: the Dirt series, Grid, Project Cars 2, Forza Motorsport 7, Forza Horizon 4, and Spintires [for giggles]. It takes a bit of adjusting to get the wheel where it needs to be for a particular game of choice, and wheel support varies from game-to-game, but once I had the settings dialed in for each title, it was off to the races. Thankfully the internet is a wonderful resource and you can hit up a forum or Reddit post to get a good baseline for your wheel settings in game, and then adjust to taste. Once I had things setup the way I wanted, the wheel performed valiantly. It is the closest I have had to a 1:1 driving experience. Sure, I’m not taking my VW Golf down a racing speedway, but it is a testament to how good the Thrustmaster TX feels.
I have always been a fan of racing games. My taste hovers between arcade and simulation, veering towards the arcade side of things. I prefer Forza Horizon to Motorsport, mostly because I am not one to obsess over the tunings of my car, but I can appreciate a good clean racing line. Most of my time with the wheel was spent in Forza Horizon 4, both out of convenience of being the latest racing game to come out and because I was curious as to how the wheel would operate under the different weather conditions featured in that game. It is difficult to express in words, but the wheel was accurate to how the car would operate in different weather patterns and their effects on driving surfaces. I am surprised how well it responded to me overcorrecting during a winter race on snow. My smile persisted when I fishtailed on pavement driving through a rainstorm, with the force feedback communicating what my tires were doing. I was one with the car; a feeling you can’t get with a controller.
The Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel is a beautiful piece of hardware that is at the top of its class and, for the first time, I haven’t been embarrassed to have such a large piece of gaming hardware on my desk. Thrustmaster has honed their craft over the years and it shows in this racing wheel. If you are a hardcore sim driver or a casual racer who wants a supreme driving experience, this wheel will be a perfect fit in your life. The ease of use and set up goes a long way for a casual racing fan like me, and driving enthusiasts will love the build quality and precision this wheel delivers.