If you like to play racing games on your console or PC, you’re probably familiar with the limitations that come with trying to drive with your gamepad or keyboard and mouse. The fact is, you just can’t simulate the feel of driving a car unless you have a racing wheel. However, not all racing wheels are the same, and if you don’t do your research, you can end up spending a lot of money for features you don’t need or a wheel that just doesn’t feel quite right.
One of the main considerations in mimicking the feel of a real steering wheel is size. The ideal choice might be a wheel with the exact same specifications as the wheel used on a racing car or other real-world vehicle. Unfortunately, a wheel of this size would simply cost too much for most consumers. For this reason, game accessory manufacturers typically downsize their wheels. As a rule, the closer to life-size, the better the quality of the wheel. However, the best quality may come at a premium price.
When you drive a car or truck, the number of steering wheel rotations it takes to make turns or change directions has a crucial impact on the handling characteristics of the vehicle. Racing wheel manufacturers in the game accessory industry try to approximate this handling to one degree or another. A cheap wheel may have only a small amount of rotation, and therefore won’t do a very good job of mimicking real driving. A moderately priced wheel may rotate roughly 270 degrees, which is better, but still nowhere the turning radius of an actual car steering wheel. The most expensive racing wheels rotate as much as 1080 degrees (three full turns).
Force Feedback and Vibration
When you drive a vehicle, you constantly get information on road conditions from the jolts, bump and other sensations that travel the from the tires, through the chassis and into the steering column and steering wheel. Racing wheel manufacturers can mimic these sensation through the use of well-timed vibration and something called force feedback, which makes your wheel respond as it would when you drive over an actual surface. Not all wheels have vibration or force feedback. Moderately priced wheels typically have pretty basic internal motors designed to recreate these sensations, while the most expensive wheels usually feature complex vibration and force feedback systems.
Tailor Your Experience
Depending on your budget and how much reality you desire from your driving games, any one of a number of popular racing wheels may fit the bill. If you’re a real enthusiast, you may even decide to combine a top-quality wheel with add-on pedals and an add-on gearbox. It’s important to note that many wheels will only work on one type of gaming platform.
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