Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel Ferrari 458 Italia Edition Review
Last week I had the chance to present my thoughts on the Thrustmaster T300RS wheel for PS4, PS3, and PC. I said that even though it’s a bit on the pricey side and had so-so pedals, it was still one of the best wheels out on the market right now, and the only wheel if you’re a PS4 only racer. Now, we look at the other side of the coin: the TX Racing Wheel Ferrari 458 Italia Edition for Xbox One and PC.
To avoid any confusion, let me put this out there: the TX is pretty much the exact same wheel internally as the T300RS. Think of it as the same wheel for two different consoles, with the difference being the appearance, and the overall rotation. The fact that both wheels are compatible with PC is simply a nice bonus, though the T300RS “wins” because it’s also compatible with the PS3, whereas the TX will not work with the Xbox 360. Considering the 360 has Forza Motorsport 2, 3, 4, and Horizon, it’s really a shame that this wheel won’t work, because the only other wheel I have for the 360 is the official Microsoft branded wireless racing wheel, and it’s pretty bad. It’s so bad that I gave it to my kids as a play wheel. So yeah, I kind of wish the TX worked with my 360 games.
Regardless, the TX is a gorgeous looking wheel. I think it’s even better looking than the T300RS because it’s a near perfect replica of the steering wheel in my favorite car of all time, the Ferrari 458. As I mentioned in the previous review, I have actually raced a 458 around the track before, so believe me when I say that this is what it feels like to grip the 458’s steering wheel, albeit on a smaller scale. Also, the 458’s actual wheel doesn’t have XBox One buttons, though that would be kind of cool. Pointless, but cool.
Like the T300RS, the TX’s internals are driven by a dual belt, frictionless mechanism with brushless motors, Thrustmaster’s H.E.A.R.T. (HallEffect AccuRate Technology) system for a contactless magnetic sensor, and a few extras like a Kinect Binder ID (which utilizes the Kinect via an infrared sensor to sign you in automatically), Xbox guide button, suspension button, a d-pad mapped to the “Engine Start” button, and a functional Manettino switch. Aesthetically, the wheel has a bit more “oomph” than the T300RS, as it is emblazoned with a Ferrari logo in bright yellow right in the middle, and splashes of red throughout the different switches. Unlike its PlayStation brother which is a stark black, the TX’s middle portion has a matte metallic finish, which matches the metallic of the paddle shifters. The wheel itself also has a flat top and bottom to better replicate the look of the actual 458’s wheel. This makes the TX stand out more visually when placed next to its perfectly round and black PS4 counterpart.
Unfortunately, the lower end quality of the pedals seems to make its way over to the TX wheel as well. Unlike the T300RS, the TX’s pedals are not adjustable, though the brake pedal is a lot wider than what we found on the T300RS. The TX’s pedals are also a black plastic base with metal pedals, and no carpet grip. Again, I need to stress how imperative it is to have a mounting solution figured out before you bring this wheel home. You’re going to want those pedals fixed to something, or else you’re going to have a bad time.
The TX wheel is approximately as heavy and unwieldy as the T300RS, so if you have any thoughts of racing with it in your lap, forget it. Again, have a mounting solution ready. The flat bottom and powerful force feedback motors are going to destroy your lap. The TX comes with a clamping mechanism exactly like that on T300RS, so as long as you have a cockpit, wheel stand, or STURDY table, you’ll be fine. Just please, mount it to SOMETHING.
I mentioned a few of the extras that the TX has when compared to the T300RS. One of the first things you’ll notice is the lack of a d-pad…or at least a traditional d-pad. Believe me, it’s there. Rather than slap a cross d-pad onto the face of this flawless Italian inspired steering wheel, Thrustmaster has instead opted to map the d-pad to the “Engine Start” button. So rather than be a single button, it’s actually a cleverly hidden, 4 direction d-pad. The same goes for the Manettino switch (the red dial that switches between Sport, Race, adjusts traction control, etc). Here, it’s a two position dial that can be mapped to whatever you need in the game. I like to use it to switch between the different cameras. The final button unique to the TX is a replica of the suspension adjustment button, which again can be mapped to anything of your choosing.
As far as games go, I won’t cover the PC titles that were mentioned in the review for the T300RS. Compatibility-wise, we’re looking at the same thing, and as far as the performance goes, we’re also experiencing what’s essentially the same wheel. I prefer the way my hands grip to the TX wheel a bit more, but it certainly isn’t anything that I would even notice if not for the fact that I jumped from wheel to wheel during my time. Where the TX stands out is in the racing offerings currently available on Xbox One compared to PS4.
I mentioned in the last review that the PS4 really only has DriveClub and NFS Rivals when it comes to racing games. On the Xbox One, you have NFS Rivals, Forza Motorsport 5, Forza Horizon 2, and the upcoming Project CARS and F1 2015. It’s not a HUGE advantage over PS4, but it says something when Microsoft’s flagship racing title is part of their launch lineup, whereas PS4 doesn’t even have Gran Turismo 7 on the horizon yet. In fact, GT6 was released after the PS4 launched, and it come to PS3 instead. So when it comes to racers, whether it’s sim, sim-cade, or straight arcade, the Xbox One is the place to be at the moment (as far as console go).
Of course if we’re talking about racing games to test out the TX wheel with, this of course means firing up Forza Motorsport 5 and Forza Horizon 2. There’s really no better way to test out a sim racer and a sim-cade game on the Xbox One. Forza 5 plays beautifully with the TX, as the force feedback is incredibly detailed, making for a very intuitive driving experience. With all the assists off, it’s incredible how much you can feel the road through your tires. I would go so far as to say the feel of the tires on the road is far more pronounced in FM5 than GT5/6. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that FM5 is a better sim racer than the GT games or any of the countless PC sims out there, but the combination of FM5’s gameplay system coupled with the TX wheel was sublime. I loved the way it felt, and it forced me to DRIVE.
Forza Horizon 2 loosened the reins a bit and allowed me to drive a bit more recklessly with less consequences. It was a blast. It’s a nice coincidence that the Fast and Furious expansion just released, because blasting through the French Riviera in a McLaren P1 while competing in a drift-happy race against a buddy in a La Ferrari definitely felt like something I would see in those films. The exaggerated driving style of Horizon 2 carries over to the wheel experience, where the force feedback, especially if you go offroad, is even more violent than pretty much any other game I tried. If you don’t believe me, jump into a Ford SVT Raptor, and go have some fun at the airport. If you can maintain your grip on the wheel after you land one of those jumps, then I’ll buy you a beer. Horizon 2 is less concerned about realism than it is about a stylish, violent experience, and the TX wheel can more than handle the task. The power of its motor is truly astounding, and I can only imagine what the experience would be like with a clutch and shifter.
As with the T300RS, the price of the TX is nothing to sneeze at. Coming in at $293 on Amazon, it’s a great deal more affordable than the T300RS, but it is still a pretty steep purchase for anyone who isn’t 100% committed to racing games. Again, factor in the price of a mounting solution, and you’ve got something that easily costs more than an entire console. It’s incredibly rough for these accessory manufacturers to cater to anyone other than the small, niche audience that enjoys these games. It’s like flight sticks; who else other than someone who maybe plays Flight Simulator religiously would buy one of those? The same goes for the racing wheel, though racing games appear to be more “mainstream” than flight sims.
It’s because of this dedication to a small percentage of us racing fans that I can appreciate companies like Thrustmaster, Logitech, Fanatec, etc. I cannot imagine the business of manufacturing and selling racing wheels is very profitable, yet they still do it. Logitech can easily stick with their computer accessories and I’m sure they would do just fine, but they’ve given us racing fans everything from the DFGT to the G27. A company like Thrustmaster has earned even more of my respect because they do not have a mainstream, profitable “backup division” to fall back on. If you browse through Thrustmaster’s website, you’ll see that the only products they really sell are racing wheels, some gamepads, headsets, and flight sticks. You don’t see Thrustmaster keyboards or mice, so are literally putting all their eggs into the niche gamers’ basket.
The reason why I bring this up is because the quality of both the T300RS and the TX are incredible, and it’s because you have a company that pretty much makes nothing else. Thrustmaster doesn’t have to put their R&D into speakers or anything like that; all their efforts can go into making the best wheel possible. Sure there are wheels out there like the G27 that come with a 3 pedal set and shifter for cheaper, but you know what? I’m liking what I’m seeing with the T300RS and TX. This is quality that I am happy to support. If only we can do something about those damn pedals, though.