Fanatec Porsche 911 Turbo Wheel Review
Tim Wheatley has got his hands on Fanatec’s Porsche 911 Turbo Racing Wheel that tries to take the fight to Logitech. He’s is kind enough to share his impressions with us by allowing me to post his detailed review.
By : Tim Wheatley
I was sent the Fanatec Porsche 911 Turbo Wheel for review having not heard much about it, other than what I’d read on a few simracing Web sites, of course. I knew the build quality would be good and that I’d be overcome with new things to get used to, but really I had no idea what an ‘awakening’ I was set to experience with the first truly spectacular wheel I have ever owned.
I did have a lot of things to get used to with this wheel. Firstly, I had to adapt to 900° of rotation from the wheel. Both wheels I have owned recently hit a physical stopper at around 90° each side and totaled out at 180°. Second, I had to adapt myself to use a more realistically stiff ‘racing style’ brake pedal. Third, the big one, I had to adapt to use the clutch… I’ve never had a three pedal set before and have hardly ever driven on normal roads… Lastly, I haven’t used any force feedback since about 2000… I would have very many bad habits from years of simracing and this wheel was going to rip them right out of me…
Upon reading the wheel specifications, one thing stood out for me as an area of concern: Wireless. This steering wheel features no cable between wheel and PC and this worried me for a couple of reasons: Would the latency of the wheel be fast enough for my steering commands to be instantly delivered to the simulation on the screen? Would interference from the ‘wireless world’ be a problem?
For the PC I think that the wireless option isn’t really too much of a bonus, I have cables going from every device except my mouse to my PC. But, for the Playstation 2 and 3, wireless is an obvious requirement: You can be sat on your couch as far away from the TV and Playstation as you need to be and not worry about someone tripping over controller wires.
I was quite worried though that someone next door might turn on their microwave and cause me to crash in-sim when the wireless lost connection (yes I’m joking with the microwave, but this genuinely concerned me)…
My concerns turned out to be absolutely wrong as I found there to be no issues with the connection and absolutely no problem with controller lag.
Please note that I suffered problems during installation. I had read in other reviews that there are some problems on installation of the wheel… I wanted to prove that everything worked perfect when you followed instructions but I found that even following the instructions turned out to be difficult… I have since contacted Fanatec about it and they told me they have a totally different procedure for installation now which matches the conclusions I drew myself during my own struggles:
- 1. Fully build and mount wheel and pedals.
- 2. Do not use the automatic updater on the USB stick.
- 3. Download the latest driver manually on the Fanatec website.
- 4. Plug in the RF dongle before you install the driver.
- 5. Run Setup.exe from your manual download.
- 6. Calibrate the controller.
I spent nearly 1½ hours trying to figure things out the way the manual I received was telling me to. I eventually gave up and did it my own way (shown above).
I went into the Control Panel > Game Controllers and calibrated the wheel next. This was a simple process, but I was concerned to see a lack of Force Feedback preferences available… I set the wheel to a 0% dampening strength, 900 degrees of rotation and loaded up iRacing to take the Skip Barber 2000 for a spin…
Unfortunately, spin was a bad choice of word: I have been so used to using a wheel with about 180° of rotation that I wasn’t moving the wheel nearly enough to catch the little slides and wobbles that the car does, especially at a track like Lime Rock Park… I asked on the iRacing member forum for help and someone thankfully told me they had experienced the same thing. I went back to the control panel and temporarily set the 911 Wheel to (it’s minimum) 200° of rotation, finding that I could then drive perfectly I knew it wasn’t a problem with the wheel, it was a problem with me.
Note: If you wind up purchasing this wheel, be aware how different it is to almost every other wheel on the market. If you haven’t experienced huge amount of wheel rotation or stiff brake pedal like this before you might find it quite hard to adapt at first – be patient. It’s taken me about four days to re-claim by pace and consistency.
The power supply for the wheel is nice and long. It’s the little things like this that make life easier and I was delighted to see that where this wheel needed cables, it provided cables long enough to not make life difficult.
The pedals for this wheel are one of the biggest features of it and actually a major step forward in terms of realism. I have driven the Skip Barber 2000 in real life and the brake pedal for the 911 Wheel is getting pretty close to reality in terms of stiffness. It isn’t quite as hard to push down the 911 Wheel’s brake as it is most race cars, but it’s close enough, for sure. The pedals can be either wireless (with the use of four batteries – supplied by Fanatec), or they can be wired. It would also be nice for the pedals to be made of metal… They are currently plastic and while they both look and feel solid, my clutch pedal has started making a noise when fully pushed after just a couple of weeks, though this has not affected performance.
The fixings and clamps for the 911 Wheel are strong and tight, I haven’t experienced any slippage. Like most wheels though the desk clamps don’t reach far enough under my desk to get past the ‘lip’ my desk has, but this doesn’t seem unusual. Like with other wheels I have had to clamp the wheel to the lip itself.
The wheel also comes with a set of ‘knee fixings’ which should allow you to use the wheel on your legs… I have not tested this as I can’t imagine being able to keep it on my legs while force feedback is active. This feature is undoubtedly useful for the Playstation 2 and 3 users.
Having a choice of gear selection sticks is a major reason to buy this wheel. Not only is there a set of buttons behind the wheel (which simulate the paddles most open-wheel race cars have), there is a sequential gearbox (forward and backwards to shift gear) and H-pattern shifter that will sit at the side of your wheel (on the end of poles clamped inside the wheel housing). The gear sticks are very strong and feel they’ll take a lot of racing, the method of housing them (on the poles) also feels strong and sturdy.
The steering wheel itself is based upon the real Porsche 911 steering wheel. It feels so wonderful when driving! Being able to slip your fingers around a stitched leather steering wheel is an absolute privilege. It is perfect thickness, the construction feels solid and the amount of available buttons means you can control everything you need to control. I haven’t found anything to use the buttons on the front of the wheel for yet, but the ‘paddle’ buttons on the back of the wheel are in use whenever I drive the Formula Mazda! The front of the wheel also includes a very cool illuminated LED display that I assumed can be configured to work with software and display output of speed or shifting indications. I’ve personally turned it off (via the control panel shown above in this article) because, like I said, I don’t use any of the front buttons.
Note: Fanatec say that they are about to release a driver update that brings information from the game or sim out to the LED display.
FORCE FEEDBACK CAPABILITY
Until very recently I used a Thrustmaster steering wheel, I also hadn’t bothered with Force Feedback since the year 2000. I got a Logitech Driving Force EX and tried it’s Force Feedback – I wasn’t impressed enough to continue using it.
The Fanatec Porsche 911 Turbo steering wheel is a totally different animal. I am now hooked on Force Feedback and can say with absolute joy that the experience this wheel is capable of delivering converted me to a fan of Force Feedback in general.
With a setting (within the iRacing simulation) of between 8 and 10 in strength, the feel this wheel gives is simply amazing. I can feel the changes in camber of the turn, levels of banking and occasionally can feel the tiny transition from one type of surface to another very, very well. That feel, combined with a higher degree of rotation in the wheel, is making me a much smoother driver and I’m finding myself able to tame circuits I have struggled at quite badly over the last couple of years.
To sum up: 911 Wheel Force Feedback = YES!!
I actually don’t remember hearing the motor of the force feedback, ever. It is far quieter than any wheel I have ever owned, have seen on show displays or have seen in friend’s homes.
When you run a long session with Force Feedback the unit gets warm and there are fans that will run until the unit cools off. They’re not loud, but I did wonder what on earth the noise was the first time I heard them!
- Fantastic build quality. Feels solid.
- Looks the part. Porsche-branded and cool looking. Nice leather finish.
- Sequential and H-pattern gear shifters are provided and easily swapped.
- 900° of rotation, the same as many road cars (and the Pontiac Solstice featured in iRacing).
- Wonderful Force Feedback capabilities that allow you to really feel things at a whole new level.
- Stiff brake pedal that is much closer to the resistance of the real thing. It isn’t exact though, from my experience it feels about 50% as rigid as a real-life racing brake pedal (but that’s better than the 0% resistance most pedals offer).
- Clutch pedal. Not every set of wheel and pedals has a clutch… Although it can be quite difficult to perfect, it might be worth it in the long run.
- Non-slip pedals. When I say non-slip, I mean it. If you fix the metal plate to the bottom of the plastic pedals like you’re supposed to, these pedals aren’t slipping anywhere…
- Haven’t had to recalibrate the wheel since I had it. Normally I had to recalibrate Thrustmaster and Logitech wheels before every running as they would both lose ‘center’ – I’d find myself having to turn the wheel to go straight. No sign of this issue with the 911 Wheel.
- Wireless pedal to wheel communication. (Batteries in the wheels provide wireless communication, cable is provided if unwanted).
- A choice to use a cable for pedal to wheel communication, rather than wireless (useful if those batteries die).
- Wireless connection between wheel and PC/PS2/PS3.
- Compatibility with PC, Playstation 2 and 3.
- The installation from the USB stick of the USB wireless hub. Bad drivers/software… Fanatec are aware of this issue though and confirmed my installation method (above) works.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
- Working instructions need to be shipped with these wheels.
- The clamp could do with being a bit longer. It’s wide enough for any desk but doesn’t get over the ‘lip’ on the edge of mine so I’m attaching it to the edging, rather that the desk – it doesn’t feel safe like that. Fanatec do have a solution though, they have a different clamp you can buy…
- Clutch pedal has started to make plastic ‘tapping’ noise (after two weeks) when pressed fully. Still works perfectly though, I guess a part is hitting the casing.
My concerns over the wireless being interfered with or laggy seems to be misplaced and although the installation was a bit of a pain, it hasn’t caused me any further stress. The lack of configuration options in the control panel was a concern, but after using the wheel for some time now – I haven’t needed to change anything outside the game or simulation’s own settings. Amazingly, I haven’t even needed to recalibrate the wheel at any time!
At the moment, all in all, the Fanatec Porsche 911 Turbo Wheel is probably one of the best pieces of equipment you can buy in terms of quality, feel and performance. It is genuinely making me a much better simracer and that’s only after weeks of usage… In terms of pricing, it is a lot of money, but I honestly think it’s worth every cent if you want one of the best wheels available today.
Buy from: fanatec.de. Wheel is for PC, PS2 and PS3 (untested by me).
Price: $350 (approx).
Note: The wheel comes with a 1GB memory stick (that looks the same as the USB hub). This stick contains the PC drivers but you can use it like any other memory stick. I’d advise against using the drivers on the stick and instead suggest downloading the latest ones from Fanatec manually.