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Thrustmaster TS-XW Force Feedback Racing Wheel Review

By Christopher Coke on December 05, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Thrustmaster TS-XW Force Feedback Racing Wheel Review

As PC gamers, we enjoy more than just MMOs. Some of us are into shooters, and space sims, and racing games on top of our online escapades. Recently, Thrustmaster reached out and asked us if we’d be interested in checking out their TS-XW force feedback racing wheel for XBOX One and PC. With The Crew 2 firmly loaded up on our PC, we accepted. Let’s see how it changes the game in our full review.

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Key Features

  • Current Pricing: $699.99
  • 1:1 scale replica of the Sparco P310 Competition wheel (12.4”/31.5 cm in diameter). Detachable with metal faceplate and genuine suede leather. ECOSYSTEM-READY.
    • 12 action buttons + 1 directional pad with push button function.
  • Brushless  Force Feedback system: 40-watt brushless servomotor with Motor Cooling Embedded system (patent pending). The motor is able to support intensive use during long hours of e-racing competition without any decrease in performance.
    • Force Feedback and incredible velocity (dynamic torque): from long stall curves (STALL mode) to super-responsive S curves (DYNAMIC mode).
    • Dual belt-pulley system + metal ball-bearing axle. Rotation angle adjustable from 270 to 1080 degrees
    • Field Oriented Control: H.E.A.R.T (HallEffect AccuRate Technology™) provides 16-bit resolution (65,536 values), while the new F.O.C. algorithm dynamically optimizes the response to intense torque demands.
  • Large, solid and adjustable pedal set: 100% metal pedals and internal structure, Conical Rubber Brake Mod included
    • 5”/13 cm tall – 100% metal – tact switch with life cycle exceeding 500,000 activations
  • Turbo Power power supply: Toroidal shape with finless design: 86% efficiency (vs. 65% efficiency for standard finned power supplies)
    • External Turbo Power power supply delivers constant power and massive peak power, to instantly respond to ultra-fast requests from the game. Toroidal-shaped for optimized power efficiency of 86% (with just 14% heat generation), with a finless design. Peak power: 400 watts!
  • Internal memory and upgradeable firmware.
  • Robust and versatile attachment system, compatible with all mounts (desks, tables, etc.).

I’m going to start things off by saying that I’m a newcomer to the world of racing wheels. That’s important because I can’t offer an opinion comparing the TS-XW to its competition. Instead, what I hope to do here is share what’s it’s like to try driving games like The Crew 2 with a force feedback racing wheel for the first time, how it changes the game, and whether it’s worth the substantial cost of entry.

Starting things off, let’s talk a little bit about what this wheel brings to the table. If you’re into cars already, you’ve probably already noticed the Sparco branding on the face of the wheel. What you’re looking at is a genuine 1:1 replica of a high-end racing wheel, made of of metal and trimmed in alcantara. Sparco is a worldwide brand, known for making premium car parts and accessories, so it should come as no surprise that it feels great in the hand with no trouble at all reaching the paddle shifters behind the wheel.

The wheel attaches to the servo base which provides an incredible level of force feedback. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, force feedback means that the wheel will actively push back against you, translating the pull of the car and feel of the road under your tires directly into the steering wheel. With a ball bearing and pulley system, the wheel can also rotate 270 - 1080 degrees, allowing you to really crank it.

Guys, let me be blunt here: the force feedback on the Thrustmaster TS-XW is a complete and utter game changer. To be honest, I don’t know what I expected. A little resistance, a nudge around the corners? Instead, hopping into a supercar in Forza Motorsport 7 for the first time, the wheel fought against me like a bucking horse. I mean that literally, it pulled itself right out of my hand. After I got a feel for it, I was just blown away by how… real it felt. The servo motor translated every slip of the wheel, every slight nuance or the road in a way I didn’t know racing wheels could.

Let me frame this another way. I used the TS-XW for one day before going out and finding a collapsible mount to use with it (due in today). Part of this is because, man, it would be cool to use it with a proper setup, but honestly, the folding table I mounted it to just wasn’t cutting it. The feedback is strong enough to make anything but a heavy piece of furniture completely unusable. A desk or full table should be fine, but the folding table tipped completely over sooner than actually turn the wheel.

This is adjustable, of course. Inside the menu of most games supporting a racing wheel are settings that allow you to dial in the level of resistance. There’s enough torque that using something smaller required turning it down to <20%, which removes a lot of the fidelity that made the experience so cool. So, use it at a desk or invest in a mount like the Velocita.

The other key piece of this is the included pedal set, pictured above.  This works exactly as you would imagine - right: gas, middle: break, left: clutch/custom. It plugs into the back and features rubber pads to keep it from sliding. It also has holes bored for mounting to a simulator like the one linked up top. There’s a good amount of resistance to these pedals, though no force feedback here. Still, the metal plating feels premium and the heavy duty springs work to great effect.

There’s also a conical pedal stop to change the feel of one of your pedals. The manual recommended trying it with the break but I really preferred using it with the clutch.

The other thing to note here is the external power supply. It’s capable of 400W at peak output, which is great for those rapid bursts of input from the game. Just as importantly, having the power supply outside of the main unit also helps with heat disbursement. Additionally, there’s an active cooling system inside the motor to prevent thermal throttling mid-match. You can use this thing at 100% for hours without worrying about it cutting out due to heat.

On the PC, things worked without a hitch. I had to download the latest firmware, which also allows you to customize some settings, but most games come loaded with stock settings that worked with the wheel out of the box. I don’t think there was a single game between my Forzas, Project Cars, and The Crew 2 that didn’t require some tweaking to feel “just right” to my hands, but it didn’t take long to get up and running.

On Xbox, it was a little more hit or miss. In Forza 7, the game simply wouldn’t allow the wheel to control the car unless I physically turned the wireless controller off before starting a match. Forza Horizon 4, on the other hand was perfect, but it’s clear that there’s a little room for improvement here.

Here’s the thing: once it’s working, it’s phenomenal. It’s like stepping into an arcade as a kid and sitting down in a full cabinet but better. This is how racing games are meant to be played. It has me considering looking into a space/flight sim setup for Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen. It really is that good.

Closing Thoughts

Here’s the big question: is it worth $699? If racing sims are your bread and butter, the game you’re planning on spending most of your time playing, this will definitely take your experience to the next level. For everyone else, that’s just an incredible amount of money on this particular model, especially if you’ll only be using it occasionally.

Thankfully, there are many other options. The PC-only version, the Thrustmaster TS-PC is $499 currently (sans pedals), for example.  A quick look at CamelCamelCamel also shows that each of these models goes on sale for steep discounts, too. This exact version was on sale for $549 only two weeks ago and can often be found in that neighborhood. The TS-PC is often around $349.

Thrustmaster has developed something really cool here. If you’re building a racing simulator, this is a sure bet. With the Sparco wheel, excellent servo motor that won’t overheat, onboard memory, and included pedal set, it takes realism to another level.

Pros

  • Astounding force feedback
  • Superb build quality
  • Wide compatibility
  • Can be used at max without heat issues
  • Genuine Sparco wheel

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Still some quirks on Xbox

The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.