13 September 2016

Thrustmaster T500RS Racing Wheel Review

While we have done plenty of game reviews on ThreeBlueShells, I've decided that today we'll be doing something a bit different by reviewing a hardware peripheral. The equipment in question is Thrustmaster's top-of-the-line racing wheel for PC, PS3 and PS4 game systems, the T500RS! As you may know, racing games are kinda my thing so who better to let you guys know the ins and the outs on what is an expensive bit of kit.

First off let's go back to what I said about it being expensive because truthfully you'd have to be pretty into racing games and want as an authentic experience as possible to warrant purchasing a T500RS. Even though it's been over 5 years since initial release, prices start around £350 new or $600 in the US. However with the T500RS being a relatively old product, the second hand market should have a few used units for sale at cheaper prices but it's still a big investment for those wanting a physical wheel to play racers. Despite that, the T500RS does promise to be the best possible racing wheel on the market.

With price out of the way, let's look at what you actually get. Of course you get the racing wheel itself which is rather large. The wheel diameter is 30cm which compared with Logitech's new G29 (which is essentially a re-release of the G27) is around 4cm shorter. The T500RS also has a larger turning radius at 1080° compared to 900° for the Logitech wheels. Both Logitech's and Thrustmaster's wheels have force feedback and support on PlayStation 3 and PC. PlayStation 4 is supported for the T500RS but not fully, meaning it won't work on the PS4's UI and game developers may stop supporting it in their games due to it's age whereas the G29 is fully supported on PS4 but the much cheaper G27 isn't.

Next up is the pedals and both companies give you all metal pedals with an accelerator, brake and clutch, with the metal pedals giving a much better feeling to their plastic counterparts on the cheaper wheel sets. The T500 RS boasts an all metal construction on it's pedals with the G27/G29 having a plastic base with metal pedals. The shape of the pedals slightly differ between the wheels, the Logitech's are based on that of a road sports car whereas Thrustmaster's resemble that of a Formula 1 racing car (they can also be flipped to give you a GT racing car feel). Both the G29 and T500RS have gear stick attachments but they are optional extras so for the purpose of this review I'll ignore them.

To be fair it is a bit unfair to be comparing the T500RS to the G27 and G29 since the G29 is around a £100 cheaper and the G27 can be picked up second hand even cheaper than that. But really the T500RS doesn't really have any direct competition, it sits alone in it's own bracket of super premium racing wheels. Also the only other wheel I've used that is comparable is the G27 and while the G27 is a fine wheel, the T500 RS kinda blows it out of the water. The pedals on the G27 and T500RS feel pretty similar although the T500 RS's are for sure better but the main difference lies in the wheel bases themselves with the T500RS having much stronger and progressive feedback and a general nicer feel when holding it in your hands. The only think I preferred on the G27 was the paddle shifters which move with the wheel whereas the T500 RS's while much bigger, do not move which makes it trickier with certain racing sims, particularly the F1 series. Personally that isn't a major downside so on the whole I would say that the T500 RS is a significant upgrade to the G27 and since the G27 and G29 are so similar I would also say that applies to that wheel too.

So conclusion time, should you buy it? Well I will say the T500RS isn't a great starter wheel. By the time I got it I had worked my way up from a cheap Logitech DFGT which had plastic pedals and weaker feedback to a G27 and then the T500RS and after doing that I am sure if I got the T500RS first, I think I would have really struggled with the force feedback and the general feel of the wheel. I would recommend the T150 which is also made by Thrustmaster if you are just starting out on racing games like Gran Turismo or Project CARS as it is a lot cheaper and I've heard from other people it feels great for the price. However if you already own something like the G27 or one of Thrustmasters other cheaper wheels and want to upgrade then I would carefully consider the T500 RS. I would only go for it if you are fully prepared to pay the price, if you are even slightly doubting you might not get full use out of it I would not recommend it. Personally I have enjoyed owning the T500RS and regularly play the F1 games as well as Project CARS and because of it I am also anticipating new releases that support it such as GT Sport.

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