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Holiday gift ideas for Christmas 2024? Here’s what to buy a Sim Racer


It’s that time of year once again. Sim racers across the globe are sitting around their festively decorated fireplaces, perhaps roasting a chestnut or two, wondering if Santa will brave the prospect of third-degree burns to deliver a set of swanky triple screens.


To help dear old St. Nicholas make an informed decision, and perhaps organise alternative delivery methods, we’ve collated some of the best sim racing equipment available this Christmas, dividing our guide into beginner, intermediate and pro-level sections (where appropriate) to best reflect your virtual racing ambitions.

Thrustmaster T818 wheelbase makes direct-drive sim racing affordable
Thrustmaster T818 wheelbase makes direct-drive sim racing affordable (source)

Wheelbases and steering wheels

We all need to start somewhere, and gear-driven budget offerings from Logitech and Thrustmaster are an ideal gateway into the world of sim racing, offering reliable performance at a fraction of the cost of direct drive alternatives.

Both the Thrustmaster T248 and Logitech G923 are also packaged with pedalsets, ensuring new players can get straight into the thick of the action.

G923 less than $200 in good condition on eBay
G923 less than $200 in good condition on eBay

You can also enhance the experience further with Logitech and Thrustmasters’s entry-level h-pattern shifters, with the Logitech G Driving Force Shifter and the Thrustmaster TH8S Shifter Add-On well-matched peripherals.

For those on a tighter budget, the Logitech G29 and Thrustmaster T128 should be considered, but the G923 and T248 (although what’s offered in the T248 package is considered better. I might add that belt drive wheels are safer (given their generally lower torque rating), but I’d also argue that it’s the parents’ responsibility to understand issues like maximum torque, even if sim racing isn’t your Dads thing, the best thing he can do is make the adjustments to protect you from any big FFB surprises

CSL DD on desktop mount
Fanatec CSL DD on Desktop Mount

Beginner

Logitech G923

The G923 comes in two varieties: one is compatible with PC and PlayStation 4 and 5, while the other is compatible with Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. It features a similar gear-driven system to its G29/G920 forebear, but is a step above in terms of aesthetics, thanks to a slightly more grown-up finish.

Thrustmaster G920 wheelbase
Thrustmaster G920 wheelbase – steering rim has a very nice finish

Although it suffers from a certain notchiness, the feedback is reliable, with the pedal set and integrated desk clamp ideal for almost all mounting applications. It’s a good, inexpensive introduction to sim racing and, as I noted above – available very cheaply on eBay.

Thrustmaster T248

As opposed to the G923, the T248 features a hybrid force feedback system, with both gear and belt-driven systems, meaning it feels smoother to operate than Logitech’s entry-level effort. It also allows users to adjust steering rotation on the fly like the Fanatec before them:

Interesting feaure: the T248 features a hybrid force feedback system
Interesting feature: the T248 features a hybrid force feedback system

Despite a more toy-like construction, its brake pedal is firmer than the Logitech’s, with its magnetic shifters and digital display enhancing the overall experience.

T248 Pedals
T248 Pedals

Its pedal set is a little less grippy than the G923’s, however, which is worth bearing in mind if you have laminate flooring or another similarly slippy surface underneath your feet.

Thrustmaster T818 Ferrari SF1000 Simulator
Thrustmaster T818 Ferrari SF1000 Simulator

Moza Racing R5 bundle

A little pricier than Logitech and Thrustmaster’s options, Moza’s R5 bundle offers an attractive entry point to direct drive, partly thanks to the inclusion of a desk clamp, rudimentary pedals and sound all-round software community. One of the stand-out features in this bundle pack is the desk clamp. Great for beginner desktop rigs like this one:

underneath the moza r5 with study clapn (supplied)
Underneath the Moza R5 with supplied study desk top clamp (R5 bundle review here)

The R5 doesn’t offer compatibility with consoles, a mistake taken by Moza that very clearly makes competing with Fanatec just that much harder. Moza has been very clear about this but as most sim racers fully understand the superiority of a good sim racing PC and GPU. We also compared the R5 to the R9, the extra torque adds a great deal to the FFB experience, if that’s something you can add a few extra hundred dollars for.

Intermediate

Fanatec Gran Turismo DD Pro

Fanatec Gran Turismo DD Pro
Fanatec Gran Turismo DD Pro

The GT DD Pro comes in both 5Nm and 8Nm derivatives (we recommend the 8Nm option for best results), and is compatible with both PC and PlayStation 4 and 5, meaning you can enjoy all your favourite PC sims as well as Gran Turismo 7 (don’t knock it – it works tremendously well with a wheel and pedals!).

It’s also bundled with Fanatec’s two-pedal CSL Pedals, which can be upgraded with separate clutch and load cell pedal add-ons (we covered this in the CSL DD review recently). Being part of Fanatec’s ecosystem means buyers can select from a huge range of additional Fanatec steering wheels at a later date.

Moza Racing R9 V2 Direct Drive Wheelbase

Moza has become a major protagonist in the sim racing peripheral market, with the mid-range R9 providing plenty of force thanks to a 9Nm motor. The brand also features an ever-increasing range of separate steering wheels to choose from too.

Moza R9
Moza R9 (read our Moza Buyer’s Guide here)

However, racers without a sim rig will require a separate desk clamp, while Moza’s budget-friendly SR-P Pedals are sold separately. Our advice is to look out for bundle deals for the best value.

Thrustmaster T818

Thrustmaster’s first foray into the direct drive marketplace arrived months after Logitech’s, and was crucially less expensive. However, the T818 remains PC-compatible only, meaning it runs in direct competition with the cheaper and tidier-looking Moza R9 (although the T818 outputs 1Nm of torque more).

Thrustmaster T818
Thrustmaster T818

However, buyers will need to purchase a steering wheel – unless you take advantage of the T818 Ferrari SF1000 Simulator bundle deal – and a set of pedals, which will set you back well over £1,000 / $1,000 in total.

The desk mount is also a separate add-on, arguably making the T818 more suited to those with a cockpit. Chances are, if you have this then the Fanatec or Moza will be better options.

Logitech G PRO Racing Wheel

It feels like a stretch to include a pedal-less £1,000 wheelbase in the intermediate bracket, but Logitech successfully translates its sim racing know-how to make its first direct drive wheelbase a viable option for those eager to take their sim racing more seriously.

Logitech G PRO Racing Wheel
Logitech G PRO Racing Wheel

Although it doesn’t feature the passive cooling of Fanatec or Moza’s offerings it does have dual-clutch paddles by default, as well as Xbox, PlayStation and PC compatibility (like the G923, this arrives in two separate Xbox-PC and PlayStation-PC packages).

The G Pro Racing Wheel doesn’t have a range of separately available steering wheels, however, something that its Thrustmaster counterpart gets right, but it does have a handy desk clamp included.

Pro

Asetek Invicta Direct Drive Wheelbase 27Nm

The Invicta wheelbase is Asetek’s flagship direct drive wheelbase, with a mammoth 27Nm of torque available. Asetek uses software licenced from Simucube, guaranteeing quality support and performance.

Asetek Invicta Direct Drive Wheelbase 27Nm

Asetek is investing heavily in its range of steering wheels and pedals too, meaning the future is looking very bright for the Danish company.

Simucube 2 Ultimate, Pro and Sport

simucube 2 ultimate
Simucube 2 Pro mounted to RSR-21 rig

Simucube has been a byword for sim racing excellence in recent times, with its cheapest direct drive wheelbase, the Simucube 2 Sport , offering superb performance at a fraction of the price of the Finnish company’s top-of-the range Simucube 2 Ultimate.

In between these lies the 25Nm Simucube 2 Pro, with all three options offering wireless support for a range of impressively realistic aftermarket steering wheels.

Fanatec Podium Wheel Base DD2

Fanatec’s top-of-the-line direct drive wheelbase is the perfect step up from the German brand’s mid-level products, allowing users to keep their steering wheel add-ons in the process.

a fanatec dd2 direct drive wheelbase
My original Fanatec DD2

There are currently deals to be found on the DD2 thanks to the upcoming Black Friday event. I can’t help but wonder if the DD2 is looking at the end of its life – there are new Clubsport DD bases on the Fanatec site which are worth a look, too.

It’s also compatible with Xbox consoles (with a compatible steering wheel) but any wheels with plastic quick-release systems will need to be upgraded to Fanatec’s more robust QR1 or QR2 quick-release systems.

Pedals

Beginner

Entry-level Logitech and Thrustmaster wheelbases arrive with solid, if unspectacular pedals, but Fanatec and Moza offer their own budget-friendly alternatives in the CSL and SR-P Pedals.

csl pedals
CSL v2 Pedals – solid, sturdy and very well made for the price

Braking is the number one area where professional sim racers gain lap time over beginners, so many people choose pedals as their first upgrade to improve feel and consistency.

Intermediate

Heusinkveld Sim Pedals Sprint

Heusinkveld’s Sim Pedals Sprint undoubtedly offer the best bang-for-buck in the sim racing space, with a reassuringly firm pedal response from its load cell brake system combined with oodles of adjustability.

heusinkveld sprint pedals
I still think the Husinkveld Sprint pedals are amongst the best for sim racing

We had these pedals for years and they never let us down – the only reason they’re gone now is that manufacturers keep sending us their latest and greatest putting the old Sprints on the shelf. As you can see from my original review, I was mighty impressed, and I remain so to this day!

They’re so good you may never need to upgrade again. They are quite a bit pricier than more mainstream alternatives, however.

Pro

Simucube Active Pedals

Featuring Simucube’s proprietary ActivePedal technology, these pedals offer near-limitless configurability and a unique force feedback system so you can feel when ABS kicks in.

Simucube Active Pedal
Simucube Active Pedal

The ActivePedal comes with a five-year warranty and supposed maintenance-free running, allowing you to simply concentrate on driving. The ActivePedal can be included as part of a three-pedal setup – with two ActivePedals controlling the clutch and brake – with a simpler separate throttle pedal also included.

You’ll have to be on Santa’s ultra-nice list, however, as the cost is truly mind-blowing!

Shifters

Moza HGP Shifter

Featuring seven forward gears and one reverse, Moza’s HGP Shifter is a CNC-machined aluminium h-pattern shifter that comes at an affordable price.

Moza HGP Shifter
Moza HGP Shifter (review here)

It’s more than double the cost of Thrustmaster’s entry-level TH8S but justifiably so. However, it’s currently only compatible with PC.

Fanatec ClubSport Shifter SQ V1.5

Fanatec’s ClubSport Shifter again has seven forward gears and one reverse, with PlayStation, Xbox and PC compatibility. Some of me can’t believe that Fanatec still makes this shifter, but to be fair on it – it’s a great shifter! One of, if not the top sim racing shifters in our list, in fact.

clubsport-shifter-sq-15
My original Fanatec SQ 1.5 shifter, now some 6 years old!

It can also be used as a sequential shifter, with a direct and solid shifting action almost justifying the price increase over its Moza rivals. An important mention must go to the Simagic shifter too; again – another one in our collection and an absolutely mighty bit of kit.

Handbrakes

A handbrake may not seem like a crucial sim racing upgrade on the face of it, but if you’re a hardcore rally or drift enthusiast then it’s a vital tool to enhance realism.

Fanatec Clubsport Handbrake v1.5

Fanatec handbrake
Fanatec Clubsport Handbrake v1.5

Using a potentiometer, the Fanatec Clubsport Handbrake is a cost-effective way to get your drift or rally thrills. Don’t expect Heusinkveld-levels of feedback and build quality, however. That being said, it’s already on the Black Friday deals list over at Fanatec.

Heusinkveld Sim Handbrake V2

Heusinkveld Sim Handbrake V2
Heusinkveld Handbrake

Heusinkveld’s Sim Handbrake is a thing of beauty, offering excellent control and reassuring build quality, making it the standout sim handbrake on the market. It’s expensive, but if you truly value virtual drifting and rallying then it’s by far the finest option thanks to its load cell-enhanced feel.

Gloves

An ideal stocking filler for the special sim racer in your life (even if that means you!), gloves are becoming increasingly popular in the sim racing community due to the popularity of sweat-phobic Alcantara-clad steering wheels and the increasing power of direct drive wheelbases.

F33L SR2 Sim Racing Gloves

F33L’s SR2 gloves offer just the right balance between grip and lightness to make them an excellent glove choice. Prices also currently start from £15, making them great value for money, too.

F33l Gloves

Sim Hound

Matching F33L’s gloves for, err, feel, Sim Hound’s gloves are a cosy alternative offering similar levels of grip but with a higher starting price (at the time of publication).

We advise ordering the size above the recommended option, however, as we found the Medium to be a little nary on our extremely average-sized hands.

Holiday gift ideas for Christmas 2024? Here’s what to buy a Sim Racer