Thrustmaster T818 review: a worthy upgrade for advanced sim racers
The Thrustmaster T818 racing wheel base is a significant upgrade on it's previous racing wheel options
Thrustmaster has finally joined the direct-drive party, following in the footsteps of Fanatec, Logitech and more, but how does its version stack up?
The T818 racing wheel base is Thrustmaster's first-ever direct-drive racing wheel base, having previously developed a good reputation within the sim racing community for their entry-level racing wheels, such as the T128, T248, TMX Pro, TS-PC and TS-XW Servo Base, which all use either a belt or pulley system or a combination of both. These options are all great for sim racing beginners and casual players, but for more of the hardcore, direct-drive wheel bases turn things up a notch.
Wheel bases with direct-drive technology are more expensive and were once priced so high that they were out of reach for most people, but the T818 is one of the more affordable options out there, at £599 / $649. But, at that price, you don't get an actual wheel, or pedals.
Compared to competitive products, it's pretty much in the middle in terms of pricing, with the Fanatec CSL DD (8 Nm) wheel base coming in at £499.95 / $499.95 (without wheel or pedals) and the Logitech G Pro Racing Wheel priced higher at £999 / $999, although the latter includes a wheel.
The Thrustmaster T818 unit we reviewed was the Ferrari SF1000 simulator edition, which included a Formula Ferrari SF1000 Edition add on and is priced at £999 / $1099. But, you don't get pedals. This edition of the T818 is identical to the standard one in every way, other than the fact that it's got a bright red paint job and has the prancing horse Ferrari logo plastered on the side.
The Thrustmaster T818 lacks the metal construction of the Fanatec CSL DD and the overall mass of the Logitech G Pro Racing wheel, but frankly, for a direct-drive wheel at this price point, all that matters is how it performs.
But if, for some reason, you want a racing wheel with RGB lighting, you'll absolutely love the T818, with the base featuring a hexagonal RGB strip just behind the wheel that can be customised to suit your set up. Unfortunately, with the Formula Ferrari SF1000 Edition Add On attached, I wasn't able to see it from my seating position, which kind of defeats the point doesn't it? Thrustmaster say that the LEDs interact with telemetry data and change depending on what you're doing in-game, but again, I couldn't see it.
Obviously, the bright red colour scheme will be very popular with Ferrari fans, or the Tifosi, as they're affectionately called. Whatever you think about the red, it certainly is striking. The standard T818 comes with blue side plates as standard, but these can be changed, if you want to buy them.
One of the best things about the Thrustmaster T818 is its backwards combativity, with the fast-release wheel attachment system allowing any next-gen Thrustmaster wheel rim, or a rim with a quick-release adapter, to be used with the T818. This offers those who are already invested in the Thrustmaster ecosystem to upgrade more easily, and it's compatible with a number of different Thrustmaster pedal sets too.
Console players will be disappointed to learn that the T818 isn't compatible with PS5, PS4, Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S, and is PC only.
The T818 features a custom-designed motor that delivers a constant 10 Nm of torque, which is just shy of the Logitech G Pro Racing Wheel's 11 Nm, but more than the Fanatec CSL DD, which has 8 Nm if you grab the upgraded power supply. Included with the T818 you get a quick-release adapter kit, a USB cable and a 168W power supply with a region-specific AC cable.
The T818 Ferrari SF1000 simulator edition also, thankfully, includes a Desk Mounting Kit, allowing you to mount it to a desk (yes, really) or a dedicated racing cockpit. But, should you grab the standard T818, this kit will cost you £44.99 / $44.99.
Direct-drive technology gives you more feedback through the wheel compared to wheels with a belt or pulley system as the steering wheel is directly mounted to a motor shaft, so you get undiluted and unfiltered force feedback, which can make for a more immersive experience.
Thrustmaster says that everything about the T818 has been optimised to deliver unfiltered performance, with the wheel base having optimised angular acceleration, working on the best balance between net torque and moment of inertia. All of this leads to a constant torque of 10 Nm, rather than a peak, with no loss of feedback occurring through any corner.
When setting up the T818 for the first time, and installing the appropriate software, the program allows you to choose between four set profiles including comfort, sport, performance and expert, with comfort offering some filter to the experience, whilst expert is completely unfiltered.
There's also a gain slider, that's set to 50% as standard, but Thrustmaster recommended that we turn it up to 100%, with the profile set to performance, but I went for expert, as I wanted to see what it can do. I know, I went rogue.
Playing F1 22, and a preview version of F1 23, the Thrustmaster T818 delivered on its performance promises, with the wheel base offering powerful, consistent feedback. I did have to dial the feedback down slightly, as the torque was so strong that I was struggling to keep it from moving on straights, but once I dialled it in, the sheer amount of feedback through the wheel kept me immersed for the entire play session.
For a product at this price point, the performance is seriously impressive, and a huge step up from a belt or pulley-driven racing wheel. There's just no comparison, once you use a direct-drive wheel, you will never go back.
The Thrustmaster T818 is a worthy addition to the direct-drive racing wheel market, offering impressive performance at a reasonable price point compared to the competition.
Thrustmaster's backward and future combability support is a big plus for this product, with there being a number of wheel rims available to buy, you can customise your experience the way you want, and upgrade when you think the time is right.
If you already have a Thrustmaster wheel and pedals, the Thrustmaster T818 is a worthy upgrade path and will work out a lot cheaper than investing in a brand-new ecosystem. However, if you haven't, it could become very expensive, very quickly. Plus, its lack of compatibility with consoles is disappointing.
Review score: 4/5
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