Designed to suit a niche within a niche, sim racing handbrakes are made for those who gravitate towards rally and drift games, providing immersion and performance benefits. This can lead many Xbox sim racers to wonder what the best compatible handbrakes are.
The best sim racing handbrakes for Xbox One and the Series X/S are the Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod + and the Fanatec ClubSport V 1.5. Both of these handbrakes are fully compatible with Xbox as long as you use them alongside racing wheels in their brand’s respective ecosystems.
Compatibility of sim racing hardware has long been an issue for Xbox racers, as the selection of handbrakes for console users is limited. In this article, we will talk about a potential route around this issue as well as discussing in further detail the two handbrakes that we think are the best.
Can You Use A Sim Racing Handbrake On Xbox?
You can use a sim racing handbrake on Xbox, although there aren’t as many options to choose from as there are for PC. This is mostly due to a lack of compatibility with consoles, but also because handbrakes are designed for specific racing disciplines, and they aren’t as popular within sim racing.
The compatibility issues experienced by console users stem from a lack of processing power compared to what PCs can achieve. There are also licensing issues that manufacturers must work around, which is why most console hardware items have two variations to suit both consoles. Thankfully, Fanatec and Thrustmaster have worked with Microsoft to produce compatible handbrakes.
The major downside to this is that you can only use the handbrakes alongside a wheel/wheel base from one of the brands’ respective ecosystems. This isn’t an issue solely associated with handbrakes, as it affects all forms of sim hardware. While it may still be a problem for some, it’s nice to know that two of the leading sim racing companies haven’t forgotten about console users.
Note: The issue of compatibility is not exclusive to Xbox, as it’s also hard to find compatible sim racing gear for PlayStation too
Connecting Via A Drive Hub
If you don’t fancy purchasing a new wheel to work with a handbrake, you can buy a small box called a Drive Hub. The Drive Hub allows you to connect different pieces of software from different brands to your Xbox, meaning you should be able to mix and match your hardware without issue. However, Drive Hub doesn’t support all setup types, meaning you may end up disappointed.
There is no guarantee that Drive Hub will work with future hardware and software updates, and the box itself isn’t cheap, so going down this route comes with potential risks. We will discuss the power of Drive Hub later on in the article.
Do You Really Need A Sim Racing Handbrake?
As sim racing handbrakes specifically cater towards rally racing and drifting, they’re not a must-have for all sim racers. If the aforementioned racing styles are your kind of thing, then having a handbrake will greatly enhance your experience on the immersive side of things as well as offering useful performance benefits.
It is likely that your controller or sim racing wheel will have a button that acts as a handbrake, suiting those who only occasionally dip into dirt racing or drifting. But using a button won’t work as well as having an actual sim racing handbrake as it will only work in an on/off style, and you won’t be able to decide how much handbrake force you want to apply.
Reasons To Purchase A Handbrake
As well as not being able to control how much handbrake force you want to apply, handbrake buttons won’t give you the immersive feel that having a physical lever to pull will. Owning a sim racing handbrake will help your rally stage or drifting track feel more realistic and intense, especially if you pair it with a decent force feedback wheel.
Pulling the lever will give you more control over your car, especially when it becomes muscle memory. Buttons on wheels are not always placed in ideal locations, meaning you could well have to stretch your hand to activate the handbrake. This is not what you want to be doing when your car is at risk of flying over a cliff edge!
The most important reason for buying a sim racing handbrake will always be the increase in consistency when using a progressive handbrake rather than an on/off button. You’ll be able to measure the handbrake force for specific parts of the track, as well as having a product with higher levels of input accuracy, meaning your times will inevitably reduce once you have become accustomed to the inputs.
KEY POINTS• Handbrakes are not essential for all sim racers
• They’re most suited for rallying and drifting
• There aren’t many console-compatible handbrakes on the market
The Best Sim Racing Handbrakes For Xbox
Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod +
Materials: Aluminum / Steel / Plastic | Dimensions (mm): 65 x 100 x 100
Thrustmaster have worked alongside motorsport equipment manufacturer Sparco to produce this excellent handbrake/shifter combo. It is compatible with Xbox consoles, providing it is used with an Xbox-compatible Thrustmaster racing wheel. As well as being a great handbrake, the TSS Sparco Mod + can also be used as a sequential shifter.
The TSS Sparco Mod + is built almost all out of metal, with a black powder-coated steel finish on the main casing. It has an aluminum covering on the top of the base, with a solid aluminum lever. The only major use of anything other than metal comes on the lever’s handle, which is made from plastic with rings around its surface providing extra grip.
The handbrake is sturdily built and has some weight to it, making it feel like a high-quality, professional product. The lever is easily adjustable but it will take a couple of minutes of your time in between races to change. You can set the lever to be angled or vertical, depending on your preferences.
If you do have it vertical at its tallest configuration, you will experience some side-to-side movement, which is unfortunate but expected due to the slenderness of the lever and the maximum height you can set it to. While the configuration is a subjective choice, it is generally more comfortable to use as a handbrake when it is angled.
Thrustmaster have also implemented their patented H.E.A.R.T technology into this handbrake. This is essentially a reworked Hall effect technology, which means that the internal sensors communicating with the game are magnetic. This eliminates metal to metal contact inside the mechanism, which increases the durability of the product meaning you likely won’t ever have to replace it.
As well as durability, Hall effect sensors are more accurate and consistent than potentiometers. They also allows the handbrake to be progressive, which means you can control the amount of force applied in game, as opposed to the on/off effect that you get with the Fanatec ClubSport V 1.5 (see below).
The lever isn’t as smooth as the Fanatec CS V 1.5, as it lacks dampeners inside the casing. They offer around the same level of resistance, even though the TSS advertises a stronger maximum resistance level. We feel this resistance could have been stronger, but it doesn’t derail the immersion that you experience when using it.
Overall, the Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod + provides buyers with excellent value for money, not only because of its superb build quality and accurate performance in-game, but also because it can be used as both a handbrake and a sequential shifter. This will help justify the price to those who like to play a mixture of different racing games.
- Two products for the price of one
- Accurate and consistent H.E.A.R.T technology
- Adjustable lever height and angle
- Spring resistance could be stronger
- Some side-to-side movement if the lever is set to its highest vertical setting
Fanatec ClubSport Handbrake V 1.5
Materials: Steel / Foam | Dimensions (mm): 485 x 180 x 125
Fanatec are known for their high-quality products and their excellent compatibility for Xbox users. This compatibility comes with the requirement to use a Fanatec racing wheel/wheel base of course, but thankfully Fanatec have got one of the best selections of wheels on offer. The ClubSport Handbrake V 1.5 is a great, well-built addition to the Fanatec ecosystem.
Excellent Build Quality
Made predominantly from steel, this handbrake has a durable, professional feel. It is weighty and sturdy, with an all-black casing to suit most sim racing rigs. The stainless-steel lever is topped with a foam grip, which is comfortable to use, especially during long sessions. The grip presents the only potential durability flaw, as it will likely experience some wear over time.
The smoothness of the lever is instantly noticeable. Fanatec have also installed a damper within the casing to prevent damaging metal to metal contact if you accidentally release the handbrake too fast. Not only is this an added layer of comfort, but it also adds to the realistic feel of using the handbrake.
Fanatec have used potentiometers as the sensors inside the handbrake, which is a slight drawback, but they don’t detract from the accuracy of the product. Hall effect sensors, as used in the Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod + handbrake, are generally known for being more durable, as they are non-contact.
Mounting & Performance
The mounting options for this handbrake are good, as it can be placed on to a rig horizontally or vertically. The lever can easily be adjusted using tools provided in the box, so you can align it with how you have chosen to mount it.
The handbrake is fun to use, with moderate levels of resistance from the springs. The pull force is entirely consistent throughout the range, with no added resistance the further back you pull it. This hinders the immersion, and it would be preferential to have more resistance, but the ClubSport handbrake is still an excellent choice, and it’s much cheaper than the TSS + from Thrustmaster.
- Budget friendly
- Adjustable lever angle and mounting options
- Durable build quality
- Uses potentiometers rather than Hall effect sensors
- No variation in the resistance
Using The Drive Hub To Connect A Handbrake To Xbox?
The Drive Hub is a small device that allows Xbox players to use different hardware brands in their setup at the same time. Without the Drive Hub, console users are only able to stick to one brand due to licensing and processing power issues. The device won’t solve everything though, as there have been issues reported regarding certain products and setups.
Drive Hub currently supports three handbrakes, including the Fanatec and Thrustmaster options highlighted earlier, and the Aiologs handbrake, which has recently been updated to work with the device. With the Drive Hub, you should be able to connect the handbrakes to many different sim racing wheels, without sticking to just one ecosystem.
One issue involves the progressive feature on the Aiologs handbrake. The Drive Hub doesn’t recognize the handbrake until it’s switched to its on/off mode, compromising on realism and the effectiveness of the handbrake. Technological modifications can be made to combat this issue, but that isn’t ideal for those who aren’t proficient with electronics.
Drive Hub In The Future
The idea of the Drive Hub is one that will be welcomed by most Xbox sim racers, as theoretically it solves an issue that has been frustrating console racers for years. However, as it is a third-party device, there is no proof that it will continue to keep up with software and hardware updates going forward. While it can be effective now, it may not be a futureproof option.
There is also no guarantee that it will work with every setup, especially with handbrakes, as the primary objective of the Drive Hub is to allow console users to match racing wheels with different pedal sets. It could be worth a go if you are adamant about getting a handbrake and don’t want to change your wheel.
Obokidly 2-In-1 USB Handbrake
Scour the internet long enough for Xbox compatible handbrakes and you will likely come across the Obokidly 2-in-1 USB handbrake. It claims to be perfectly compatible with Xbox without the use of Drive Hub, but it has received mixed reviews about its performance. It is priced higher than the two handbrakes we mentioned earlier in this article, making it a risky purchase.
The manufacturer has stated that this handbrake is only compatible with the Xbox One, and won’t work with the Series X or Series S. It resembles many other non-brand handbrakes that you see for sale on online marketplaces, and the way it’s marketed and the images to go along with it are questionable to say the least.
The unforgivable number of spelling errors in the pictures alone should be enough to make you think twice about buying this handbrake (see for yourself), but the fact that it is priced higher than two highly reputable handbrakes from some of the biggest brands in the game suggests that this handbrake is well worth avoiding.
Purchasing a sim racing handbrake won’t be essential for every Xbox user, but they will greatly improve the experience of those who enjoy playing dirt racing or drifting games. The options are limited for Xbox sim racers, but with the Fanatec ClubSport V 1.5 and the Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod +, there are two very capable options available, both sold for a reasonable price.
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