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Fanatec Porsche 911 Turbo S Steering Wheel XBOX 360 Review

UPDATE 10/2011: I’ve tested Forza 4 and works great with Fanatec wheel. Recommended settings:SENS=900;FF/SHO=100%;DRI=3. I ordered clubsport pedals since the regular cheaper pedals started to have flutter again and didn’t reach always 100%.
UPDATE 8/2011: There will be few more options by end of 2011: Fanatec CSR Elite $500, Thrustmaster Ferrari 458 Italia Wheel for Xbox 360, MadCatz wireless wheel. Also I tested Dirt 3 with Fanatec and works great except no manual clutch support.
UPDATE: the successor is the 911 GT2. Price is still $249 for just the wheel. See one review here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4PZAAHRA6s

Long-term UPDATE: the wheel still works as do the pedals. However the wheel developed some play vertically and I sent email to Fanatec support but no reply. Eventually I did get a reply and they fixed the wheel free of charge and updated the firmware.

So far your only recent choice to buy a steering wheel is Microsoft’s Steering wheel. Fanatec is now offering a premium steering wheel for the XBOX 360 (before they sold mainly other platforms). Main differences are addition of clutch and shifters. Here’s a quick review of the Fanatec steering wheel for XBOX 360. The wheel is compatible with PC/PS3 but I didn’t test this.

Pricing & editions

First of all pricing. Fanatec Steering wheels are not cheap and are geared towards high-end. There are 3 versions:
  • Pure Edition: steering wheel only with adapter to connect to Microsoft pedals. Initially $199 but now it’s $249
  • Limited Edition: steering wheel with standard pedals and 6+1 and sequential shifters: $349
  • Clubsport Edition: same as limited except with more expensive aluminium clubsport pedals: $500. Sold out but you can order the pedals separately
I ordered the pure edition and separately the standard pedals and shifters (each $50). It took 3 month to receive mine so be aware it could take a while due to high demand and low supply. See here box:

Dimensions & feel

The Fanatec steering wheel feels a lot more solid and more realistic in size. The size of the wheel is about one step up. See comparison of the 2 wheels stacked on top of each other below:
Buttons: at first glance you’d think that the Fanatec wheel has less buttons. However some are little bit hidden. For instance the 4 way pad and the back/start buttons are at the bottom. It has in addition shoulder buttons (but unfortunately also no analog pad to look around).
The button layout takes little bit time to get used as for instance the A/B/X/Y buttons are not layout in 4 directions so this makes it harder to intuitively look around using those buttons.

Manual Adjustments

There are a couple of adjustments you can make on the wheel itself:
  • Steering sensitivity: degrees of turn: 210,270,540,900
  • Drift mode: off,1,2,3: resistance of steering wheel when turning
  • Force feedback: 0,33,66,100% (this influences the steering wheel turn resistance based on game feedback)
  • Shock feedback: 0,33,66,100%
  • ABS: this will vibrate the wheel always if brake pedal exceeds the threshold (from off – 100%)
  • UPDATE: with new firmware you have more steps (10 unit steps typically) and new linear mode where at start larger movements are needed and then increase. This helps to get more precision with small movements.
See manuals here (does not mention some newer setting like drift/abs):

Here’s a video adjustment overview with Forza 3:

Steering Wheel

How is it in in use? First of all it feels more realistic. The steering wheel is bigger and it’s made of real leather (so less slippery). Also there’s a lot more resistance required to turn the wheel. That doesn’t mean though you’ll be faster around the track. Pretty much the opposite in the beginning typically.

Overall it’s a big step up but there are couple of small annoyances. With factory defaults the steering wheel turns up to 270 degrees and at the boundaries it will lock and vibrate (not sure why it needs to vibrate). But I had a few instances at high speeds where the lock failed for no apparent reason. This happened about 5% of the time. However you can also set it at full 900 degrees which is supported by Forza 3 and give you a lot more sensitivity. You will notice that the driver hands do not turn more than about 210 degrees but the wheels do keep turning full range.

Second I found the turn resistance not linear and predictable enough. For instance there is not much resistance when standing still. Then at higher speeds it increases (kind of opposite what it should be). I found the reason is the force feedback setting. Setting it to 0 will make it constant but you also lose some of the feedback. So this might be a Forza game issue rather. Also people reported that if you move slowly off center you’ll feel slight bump and you see hands of the driver skip slightly a few degrees. I was able to reproduce the issue by moving very slowly off center to the right but I didn’t even notice it until someone pointed it out. This might be fixable by a patch.

Last the rumble feedback isn’t quite as strong and intense as with the Microsoft wheel. The intensity of the shock vibrations on the wheel is a lot less than Microsoft’s wheel but I didn’t find it necessarily less realistic.

There’s also a known issue that if you turn on the XBOX 360 with the xbox button on the wheel then the wheel is recognized as 270 degree wheel (which will be an issue if you have set it up for 900). Also the shifter may not work when you turn it on this way. Workaround is to not use the wheel to power up the XBOX 360.

Pedals & shifters

UPDATE: my gas pedal stopped working properly after few hours use: gas gets stuck in game. Sent email to Fanatec asking for replacement. Update 2: I received a new set of pedals and those work great (no flutter and very smooth linear response). Also the old one I was able to ‘repair’ by opening up and resoldering the contacts.
The big difference is the inclusion of a clutch pedal and the shifter. Forza 3 supports this fully including analog clutch. This makes it a lot more realistic and I found it adds a whole new dimension driving in Forza. The shifter is a bit notchy but if you fix it properly so it won’t move around it’s pretty decent. It’s a lot harder to drive this way but it does make it more realistic and fun.
The clutch pedal is analog meaning you can slip the clutch. But of course you are missing feedback in the pedals when the clutch starts to engage and you can only see it visually when car starts moving. But still nice realistic touch. Although you can’t kill the engine by bad shifting I did notice at times a short delay in Forza before you can move again to simulate this probably. The clutch pedal is spring loaded similar to a real clutch.
Comparing the pedals with Microsoft pedals then throttle is similar but the brake pedal has less travel and requires a lot more force. If you ask me too much force causing the pedal box to slip little bit. Over time I expect the spring to loosen but moving it away little bit from you and fixing it so it can’t move will help a lot.
You can still opt to use the Microsoft pedals (and that’s your only option if you buy the Pure edition). See here comparison:

There is also a more expensive heavier Clubsport pedals option with adjustable pedals but those are very pricy ($200). Don’t know if they are worth the extra money. Here’s a tutorial on adjusting those pedals: Video tutorial Clubsport

Games

Forza 3 has the best support for this wheel but I did try a few other games. I tried Dirt 2 (demo) first. It works but no clutch support. It also supports 900 degrees but I found you have to turn wheel too much to go around a curve. Then I tried NFS Shift (demo). That game does support the analog clutch and it worked pretty well. I also found again that the 900 degrees required too much turning but 270 worked pretty well. There are several adjustable settings for the wheel in the game. The overall feel was little bit floaty at times but I think that’s the game intention at high speed.
So the wheel works in other games but the best feel and support is definitely in Forza 3.
See also my blog article here: Forza 3 car interiors overview

 

Conclusion

So should you buy this? I’d say only if you are a car simulation enthusiast given it’s price and limited availability. Otherwise if you love more realistic driving and/or love to drive with clutch & shifter simulation I think it’s a great choice. The wheel itself feels a lot more realistic and heavier and while intially it won’t give you faster track times it does give you a more realistic drive. Over time though with 900 degrees you do get more precision.

I have to say initial impressions weren’t that favorable but once I tweaked several settings like the force feedback and drift settings I love it. Also using manual clutch at first seemed bit tough to drive but it does add a new dimension/difficulty to the game.

Note one thing to point out is that some people reported some quality issues with the wheel and support can be a bit slow. But warranty I believe is 2 years.

I do hope that we’ll see more competition in the future and hopefully Logitech will consider bringing their products to the XBOX 360 as well since they are more comparable and less pricey. But for now this is the only choice if you want a higher quality steering wheel with manual shift capability.

Other reviews:
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One response

  1. Pingback: High Stepping Driving Wheels | All Wheels Blog

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