Thrustmaster TX Wheel for Xbox One
I loved my Fanatec Forza wheel and Clubsport pedals with my Xbox 360 and I was more than a little bummed when I realized back in June that 360 peripherals were not going to be compatible with the Xbox One. So it was with some trepidation I approached the Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel Ferrari 458 Italia Edition (the longest name ever for a wheel?).
Things didn’t get off to a good start last night as I started unboxing and getting it setup. There was no cockpit mounting hardware included with the TX ,but fortunately the mounting hardware I used with the Fanatec wheel was the same size used by the TX. The mounting points also lined up perfectly with my Playseat racing chair, so actually installing the TX turned out to be relatively straight forward.
The Thrustmaster FX Wheel installed on the Playseat racing chair (ignore the six speed shifter, that’s left over from the Fanatec)
But first came updating the firmware, which a giant note taped to the wheel informed me must be done prior to using the wheel. This involved downloading a driver package, installing it on my PC, rebooting the computer, restarting the wheel in “bootloader mode”, connecting it to the PC and then using the utility to flash the firmware update. All in all it took a little less than an hour, and while there were a lot of steps it all went pretty smoothly. I don’t really have an issue with devices requiring firmware updates, but this is for a game console, shouldn’t it be updateable via the console itself?
Comparing the Fanatec Forza (left) with the Thrustmaster TX (right)
With the firmware updated, I installed the wheel and pedals on my Playseat. All looked good until I realized that the wheel doesn’t connect to the Xbox One wirelessly - you must use the USB cable (which explains why the cable doesn’t detach from the wheel at all). I can’t remember the last wheel I had to connect to my Xbox via a cable. Fine - maybe its because the data rate for all the force feedback can’t be supported by the wireless protocol. Whatever. I could deal with it if the damn cord was long enough, but it barely reaches my console and I have to unplug it after every use so no one trips over the cord and yanks the One off its shelf. I had to slide my wheel up a closer couple of inches closer to the TV just to get the cord to reach. Thrustmaster, would it really have killed you to make this USB cable longer?
The base of the wheel is significantly larger than the Fanatec wheel, probably due to the power supply being included within the wheel (instead of a separate AC adapter) and perhaps larger, more powerful motors. The diameter of the steering wheel is the same as the Fanatec, and actually feels much better as there is much more rubber for your hands, where as the Forza had a smaller rubber patch and more glossy plastic on the rim.
The USB cable was still bugging me as I sat in the chair to give Forza 5 a spin. Halfway through the first lap I realized I had a huge grin on my face and had completely forgotten about that crappy cable. The effects for this game transmitted through the TX are outstanding. The “big” effects like feeling the traction slide way as you lock up the brakes going into a turn are great, but its the subtle feedback as you run two wheels over the cobblestones as you clip the apex of a corner in Prague that really impress. Forza 5 just went from “Great” to “Awesome!”
The pedals are OK, but not great - mainly because I’m comparing the brake pedal to the amazing Clubsport with its load sensor. I also don’t like that the configuration of the pedals requires me to left-foot brake like a go-kart. Not the end of the world, but not my style. Still, no heal-toe required here since there’s no clutch pedal. And soon Thrustmaster will be offering the three pedal set, but I may not opt for those if the mechanics of the pedals are the same as these included pedals.
More interesting is the Thrustmaster “quick change” wheel mechanism - you can spin the wheel lock and swap the 458 wheel out for an F1 wheel or whatever else gets made. Pretty cool. Fanatec had a similar option, but only on the much more expensive CSR Elite wheel.
As I said the 458 wheel is very comfortable in the hand, and the buttons are all in easy reach during game play. There’s a nice d-pad included on the wheel, disguised as the Engine Start button (slick!). The shifter paddles have a great feel to them and the start/menu buttons (or whatever they’re called on the Xbox One) are small and placed in a way you’re not going to accidentally hit them.
So is this wheel worth the price of a PlayStation 4? Probably depends on what racing games mean to you. I played Forza 5 for a day with the One’s excellent standard controller, but it just wasn’t fun for me so I shelved the game until I could get the wheel. Right now the TX is the only game in town for the Xbox One but others are supposedly coming (I believe the Mad Catz wheel will have a significantly lower price than the TX). I can’t speak to any future wheels, but the control and feedback provided by the TX has me happy with my purchase, and I’m looking forward to getting some of the add-ons in the future (I see that F1 wheel in my future, along with the shifter). If the TX lasts as long as the One, my “cost per play” ratio will be pretty good so all in all in the long run I think the TX will be worth it.
Time to go racing!