T500 RS Racing Wheel Review: The REAL Driving Simulator
“The goal that I set for the Thrustmaster team was to design for me the most precise wheel ever developed, without any latency – to accurately reproduce the sensations of [Gran Turismo 5], and let users truly feel the emotions experienced by drivers on real racing circuits,” explains Kazunori Yamauchi, CEO of Polyphony Digital.
So Thrustmaster’s engineers got to work. As per Yamauchi’s challenge, this wheel had to top all that came before it. After tinkering away in the workshop for countless months, the Thrustmaster team finally emerged with the official racing setup of Sony and Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo 5: the T500 RS wheel and pedal set. There’s no doubt that the T500 RS is incredible piece of hardware, but with a suggested retail price of $600 USD / £450 GPB / €500 EUR, is its monumental cost justified? I was initially unconvinced, as most people would be when greeted with a $600 video game accessory. After spending two weeks with the wheel, however, I shifted gears: for the dedicated Gran Turismo fan, the T500 RS is unequivocally worth its colossal asking price.
When the T500 RS arrived at PSU Towers, the first thing I noticed was its weight. The wheel itself weighs 10.1 pounds (4.6 kg), while the pedal set clocks in at 16.1 pounds (7.3 kg). It’s simple to set up: the pedals connect to the wheel, which connects directly to the PS3 as well as an outside power source. It’s best to clamp the wheel onto a sturdy surface like a hefty table. You’ll soon find out why: the wheel contains a 65-watt industrial motor, providing a hefty amount of force feedback and realistic resistance as you drive (150mNm at 3000 RPM, whatever that means). As you pilot your car of choice, you truly feel every bump and contour in the road. And if you venture off-road, every other driving surface — grass, snow, dirt, etc. — feels completely unique.
While the T500 RS will eventually maximize your driving potential, helping you shave those precious milliseconds off your lap times, it has a challenging learning curve. If you’re a Gran Turismo 5 master with the DualShock 3, be prepared to re-learn the game when you switch to the racing wheel — it’s a radically different driving experience. Rather than pushing the stick a half-inch to the left to right to control your car, you have all 1080 degrees (three full rotations, with 65536 values on its steering axis) of the driving wheel to master. It’s much more complex, but ultimately offers you much greater control of your automobile, coming closer to simulating real-world racing than anything before it.
At first, I was frightened of abusing the wheel. After all, it’s a $600 product, so the last thing I wanted to do was break it and have to foot the bill to Thrustmaster. I quickly overcame that trepidation. The setup is remarkably durable, boasting a bounty of shiny metal in its construction (contributing to its hefty weight, which I outlined above). At first, the wheel drove me, the car’s virtual tires causing the wheel to shift and turn against my wishes. Eventually I manned up, resisting the surprisingly powerful resistance when appropriate, learning the nuances of handling an automobile at blazingly fast speeds. If I was about to spin out while driving on highway in real life, for example, I’d be much better off for having dealt with this situation hundreds of times while using the T500 RS.
Speaking of real life, I’d gladly swap out the wheel and pedals of my 2002 Toyota Camry for the T500 RS wheel and pedals, if such an operation were ... (continued on next page)
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