Thrustmaster T248 steering wheel review

Thrustmaster’s T150 and TMX force-feedback steering wheels are hugely popular choices in the sim racing fraternity, and the new T248 promises a strong upgrade as well as an LCD dash readout which offers an extra level of immersion and realism.

Thrustmaster T248 steering wheel review

If you’re remotely serious about racing games then a force-feedback wheel-and-pedals setup is a must. Across both console and PC, the realism of the graphics and handling models have become increasingly divorced from the control ‘feel’ conveyed by joypads and entry-level steering wheel set-ups. Without that seat-of-the-pants feel it’s difficult to judge the braking, accelerator and steering inputs, and there’s a sense of disconnection from what’s happening on screen.

Thrustmaster’s Hybrid Drive force-feedback system is a hybrid of belt and gear-driven underpinnings which simulate steering and cornering forces much more realistically than the rumble mechanisms found in entry-level wheels. With force-feedback the wheel is more alive in the player’s hands, tugging insistently as the loads build on the front axle and the car begins to wash into understeer. The motor in the T248 is claimed to be 70% more powerful than the equivalent in Thrustmaster’s T150/TMX force-feedback wheel, peaking at 96W.

Officially licensed for PlayStation 4 and 5 – the wheel features the distinctive cluster of icon buttons – the Thrustmaster T248 is plug-and-play straight out of the box when mated to Sony’s consoles. It’s also compatible with PCs running Windows 10 via drivers downloadable from Thrustmaster’s site, and an Xbox version is expected before the end of the year.

 

The box includes the necessary clamps to attach the wheel safely to a desk or table, but this is a serious piece of equipment best installed in a dedicated gaming rig or cockpit. Ditto the three-pedal T3PM pedal set included in the box - though it comes with a choice of springs, enabling you to run a softer set-up which should lessen the possibility of it sliding across the floor while under duress.

Thrustmaster has obviously been listening to feedback from its users. The three-spoke wheel is now lined with foam-filled leather rather than rubber to more accurately mimic the tactile feel of a real racing car’s wheel, and the magnetic actuation of the paddle-shift mechanism behind the wheel is much closer to the real thing than microswitches. Most significantly the T3PM pedal set is a real step up from the add-on T3PA set.

More extensive use of metal rather than plastic in the base plate and pedal box gives the T3PM a higher-quality feel, and at 1.2kg it’s 20% heavier than the T3PA, in part down to having larger metal pedal caps. Featuring magnetic sensors rather than rheostats, the pedals have a more progressive effect than some rivals and can be set up in four different pressure configurations thanks to a range of springs which come in the box. The maximum pressure resistance available is 200kg - twice as much as the T3PA – which, when installed in a proper gaming cockpit, really does mimic the standing-on-a-stubborn-cockroach feel of a real GT car’s brake pedal.

 

The T248 wheel also introduces features usually associated with higher-end products, including customisable encoder switches and a digital display which can be used to adjust the force-feedback profile as well as providing real-time information on the race in progress. The baseline feedback profile is 100% proportional to that requested by the game, but you can choose two further resistance curves which increase feedback across the midrange, giving a meatier road feel.

F1 2020, Assetto Corsa Competizione and Gran Turismo Sport on PlayStation all support the encoder functions, and Thrustmaster is working with game producers to grow the list of titles compatible with the telemetry display, which can offer a real-time readout of revs, speeds, gears, race position and lap time. At the moment it’s available on F1 2020 and 2021 on both PC and PlayStation, iRacing and RaceRoom Racing Experience on PC, and is coming soon to titles including American Truck Simulator, Assetto Corsa Competizione, DiRT 5 and WRC 10.

In use the T248 is instantly more comfortable than its predecessors and that feeling persists once the palms grow sweaty, as they surely will in a gaming cockpit while guiding a GT3 car around the Nurburgring Nordschleife in Gran Turismo Sport with the force-feedback profile notched up to maximum. This really gives the hybrid drive system a workout and enables it to show off its power and smoothness, kicking back firmly as you bang across the concrete joins the Karussell and going light over crests. The mechanism does kick out some heat, dealt with unobtrusively by a fan which is very quiet by the standards of wheels at this price point.

 

Switching to F1 2021, the T248 is just as accomplished in transmitting the feel of a downforce-heavy single-seater. There less of a sense of muscling around a heavy GT car, more a sensation of guiding something lighter and yet far more grippy and powerful. The shifting sensations through the wheel add a new dimension to fast, flowing circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps, or new-build with more technical sections such as Bahrain’s Turn 5-6-7 complex and the queasily cambered approach through Turn 9 to Turn 10.

Wheels with direct-drive mechanisms remain the choice of professionals but come with price tags to match. At this price point - RRP is £299.99/€349.99/$399.99 – the T248 is a clear class leader among a crop of products which are becoming essential for gaming enthusiasts as well as hardened esports competitors.

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