Thrustmaster T300 RS Wheel & Accessories
The T300 RS is the first force feedback wheel for the PlayStation 4. However, the first PS4 software to support it will not be released until October 2014. Therefore, this review is of the T300 RS’ PlayStation 3 and PC functionality. Citizen Game will publish a second article in October to review the product’s performance on PS4.
In the world of sim-racing, Thrustmaster has been steadily climbing up the order of leading hardware manufacturers. Until recently, the high-end racing wheel market has been dominated by Logitech and Fanatec, but the new T300 RS might just be the best wheel yet. This £369.99 peripheral is pricey, but you definitely get what you pay for.
The T300 RS is an official PlayStation product, as well as supporting the PC, so the wheel has an attractive design sporting the familiar PS logo and symbol buttons. Most interestingly, the PS4 Share and Options buttons appear on the face of the rim, allowing you to navigate all of the PS4 menus when the first games for that platform supported by this wheel are released in October.
The wheel also features rim-mounted paddle-shifters, a welcome change from the static ones on the last Thrustmaster PlayStation wheel, the T500RS, which didn’t turn with the wheel and often required you to take a hand off to change gear. The shape of the T300 rim is fantastic too. It fits perfectly in your hands and is more than comfortable enough for long driving sessions. The only disappointment with the rim is the rubber around the edge, which feels slightly toy-like if you’ve previously been used to Fanatec products and their lush alcantara finish.
However, the real star of the show is the T300 RS’ force feedback. This is by far the smoothest and most quiet wheel that I have ever used. The wheel uses a brushless motor and a dual-belt delivery system to generate steering forces and vibrations from the road, rumble strips and so on. The result is astonishing. Even in the summer heat in my suntrap of an apartment, the fans hardly ever come on. Compared to the constant whirring of the fans on Fanatec and Logitech wheels, the silence of the T300 RS is remarkable.
The feedback itself is the best I have ever experienced outside of industrial motorsport simulators. Most sim-racing wheels for the home never quite feel real. This is because you can feel the mechanisms inside the wheel through your hands as the forces kick in. This is commonly described as a ‘notching’ sensation and is mostly associated with gear-driven systems, but most belt-driven wheels aren’t super smooth either. This is where the T300 RS leads miles ahead of the chasing pack. Forces are delivered so quickly and so smoothly, that you feel constantly immersed and connected to the road. You are never thinking about the wheel mechanism, because you can never feel it. This is the best force feedback currently on the market.
Thrustmaster also sells optional wheel rims for players with more specific sim-racing interests, both licensed by Ferrari. The Ferrari F1 wheel currently sells for around £100 on Amazon, with the 458 Challenge wheel selling for around £70. You can also purchase a version of the T300RS which comes with the 458 Challenge wheel instead of the PlayStation branded one.
You can swap between rims easily using the Quick Release system, although this isn’t the same race-car accurate mechanism you get on Fanatec’s ClubSport products. Instead, you must unscrew the wheel from the base using Thrustmaster’s threaded centre column. This makes it a 5 minute job to change rims, rather than the 5 second job it is to swap rims with Fanatec’s ClubSport line, but this is a very minor issue.
The bigger issue is the T300 RS’ mounting options. In addition to a standard table clamp, you can also hardmount this wheel to a wheelstand or racing seat using screws. In theory, the mounting holes on the T300 RS are in the same position as the ones on Thrustmaster’s previous wheel, the T500 RS. My Fanatec CSL Seat has mounting positions that support that previous wheel, so it should have been easy to attach the new T300 RS. However, the shape of the base unit has changed from the T500 to the T300, so while the mounting points are in roughly the same place, the dimensions of the base mean that it is now impossible to mount it directly to my seat. Therefore I used a combination of the CSL Seat and an old WheelStandPro in order to play with the T300 RS. If you own a seat that is supposed to be ready for Thrustmaster wheels, just be aware that the T300 RS’ new base design might make it more difficult to mount than you expect.
The other problem with the T300 RS is the pedals that ship with the wheel. It comes with a basic two pedal set (no clutch) that leaves a lot to be desired. The easiest comparison is to the Logitech Driving Force GT pedals. They do the job, but are of mostly plastic construction and are very soft to press. There is no adjustability to make the brake pedal more stiff, so you’re left with a fairly unsatisfactory experience as far as the pedals go. Happily, if you’re playing on PC, you can use this wheel with any pedals you like, so I’d stick with the far superior Fanatec CSR Elite Pedals or ClubSport Pedals if you already own either of these. On the PlayStation though, you’re stuck with the basic two pedal set, unless you already own the old T500 RS pedals, or you fork out extra cash for the optional T3PA Pedals, which leads us nicely into the accessories on sale for this wheel.
T3PA Pedals Add-on
Thrustmaster’s optional three pedal set retails for just under £100 and that feels like the right price. Compared to the soft and slightly cheap feeling pedals that come with the T300RS, these are a massive improvement. The brake pedal stiffness can be adjusted using the included ‘Conical Brake Mod’ which is easy to install. This adds a piece of thick rubber to the rear of the pedal, reducing its travel and increasing the force required to reach maximum braking. For the price, this is a good solution, but it’s a long way short of the load cell and potentiometer adjustments possible on Fanatec’s leading pedal sets. The T3PA Pedals also use a lot of plastic in their construction and therefore don’t feel as sturdy as Fanatec’s metal offerings. That said, they also sell for a much lower price, so some savings clearly had to be made in the materials.
You can also use the old Thrustmaster T500 RS pedals with the new T300 RS wheel, but these aren’t for sale separately unless you can find a used set on eBay. Therefore, the T3PA Pedals are really the only way for new Thrustmaster users to have a clutch pedal and a better braking experience on PlayStation. If you’re serious about sim-racing and you only play on console then you really should add these to your T300 RS. It’s worth it for the improved brake stiffness alone. If you’re on PC though, you can use Fanatec pedals with this wheel, so you may want to pay the extra £50 for a set of CSR Elites instead.
TH8A Shifter Add-on
Putting it simply, this might be the coolest piece of sim-racing equipment you can buy. The TH8A Shifter is a masterpiece. If you can afford the price of this entirely optional extra, then don’t hesitate. This gated shifter is a fantastic piece of kit that feels more like shifting in a real car than any other I have used. The satisfaction of a perfectly timed gear change, or a series of smooth downshifts has never been replicated as well as this in sim-racing before.
The ergonomics are superb and it really looks and feels like the H-pattern shifters from classic sports cars that motoring journalists love to wax lyrical about. Combine this with the T3PA Pedals to use the clutch too and you’ll be having the ultimate sim-racing experience. It really is that good.
The only problem, and it’s a minor one, is that is takes too long to switch it into sequential mode. The process involves taking the shifter apart and putting it back together in a different configuration. You get the hang of it after a few goes at changing it, but there really ought to have been a more elegant solution. That said, if you have a bit of extra cash in your sim-racing budget, this is a must-have accessory.
The T300 RS is the best force feedback wheel you can buy for the PlayStation 3 and the only one so far for the PlayStation 4. If you play all of your racing games on PS3 right now and are thinking about upgrading for DriveClub and Project CARS in October, then the T300 RS should definitely be on your shopping list.
Unfortunately the pedals will be an issue for hardcore sim-racers, so you will need to budget an extra £90 for the T3PA Pedals on top of the wheel’s £369.99 asking price to get the best experience. If you’re not sure whether the pedals will be an issue for you, I would still recommend buying the wheel. The bundled pedals still do a solid job and you can always upgrade to the T3PA Pedals later on if you’re looking for that extra bit of realism. Then there’s the extra rims like the Ferrari F1 Wheel and the incredible TH8A Shifter to add-on later too.
The T300 RS is a welcome addition to the market for high-end sim-racing wheels and it’s right up there with the best of them. You’d have to work very hard to find a better wheel.