Gear shifters can add a layer of immersion and realism to your sim racing experience, even if they aren’t the most sought-after add-on. With shifters being harder to find for console, it can leave many Xbox users wondering what their best compatible options are.
The 4 best sim racing shifters for Xbox are:
- Fanatec ClubSport SQ V 1.5 Shifter
- Thrustmaster TSS Shifter/Handbrake
- Thrustmaster TH8A Shifter
- Logitech Driving Force Shifter
In this article, we’ll discuss the best options, as well as highlight how to choose a new sim racing shifter. We’ll then go into detail about how you can use a Drive Hub to have more flexibility when it comes to adding a shifter to your Xbox sim racing setup.
The 4 Best Sim Racing Shifters For Xbox
1. Fanatec ClubSport SQ V 1.5 Shifter
Mode: Sequential / H-Pattern | Materials: Metal | Dimensions (cm): 38 x 23 x 18 | Gears: 7 + reverse
The Fanatec ClubSport SQ V 1.5 rightly tops our list of the best sim racing gear shifters available for Xbox, with its premium all-metal design and smooth shifting being major factors in this decision. It is also a 2-in-1 style shifter, capable of performing in both H-pattern and sequential mode. It is certainly a premium option and is also the most expensive shifter on the list.
The movement of the lever between each of the seven forward gears feels smooth and natural, with the positive engagement of the gears instantly noticeable. The gears don’t feel clunky, mainly because of the lever’s short throw, which results in quick and satisfying changes. The preciseness of the shifting hugely reduces chances of unwanted errors in-game.
You need to push the lever down to access 7th and reverse, which makes it far less likely that you’ll accidentally select either of these gears (which is an issue with the TH8A we’ll discuss below).
When changed to its sequential mode, the third gear is used for upshifts, while fourth gear becomes the downshift. This is the only physical change you will experience when you switch modes, as the gear engagement in sequential mode feels almost identical as it does when the shifter is used in H-pattern mode.
An Allen key is provided in the box, which allows you to stiffen the vertical movement of the lever without completely taking the shifter apart. This makes experimenting easy and doable within seconds, allowing you to find the level of resistance that suits you. Unfortunately, you can only change the forward and back resistance, not the side-to-side resistance.
Fanatec Build Quality
The SQ V 1.5 is one of the largest gear shifters available and it is made entirely of metal, which also makes it the heaviest gear shifter too. This can put high levels of strain on weaker sim cockpits, which can end up causing stability issues. Its size makes it difficult to mount onto a desk, but you can buy a table clamp as an add-on should you wish to give it a go.
Mounting the SQ V 1.5 to a sim racing rig is simple, with pre-drilled screw holes on the base. The shifter comes with a choice of two lever heads, which screw on and off easily, making it easy to swap them out in between races.
Overall, the Fanatec ClubSport SQ V 1.5 shifter is a premium, high-priced option. The price is somewhat justified when you look at the high standard to which it is made, with no plastic in sight. It can also be used as both an H-pattern shifter and a sequential shifter, making it versatile and ideal for those who like to vary the racing disciplines they take part in.
- Well built, all-metal design
- Positive gear engagement
- Works as both an H-pattern and sequential shifter
- Side to side lever movement can’t be adjusted
2. Thrustmaster TSS Shifter/Handbrake
Mode: Sequential | Materials: Steel / Aluminum / Plastic | Dimensions (cm): 26 x 14 x 33 | Gears: Not Limited (Sequential)
The Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod + is primarily a handbrake, but it can also be used as a sequential shifter. It is more bulky and solid looking than most shifters, mainly because of the durability required to make a functioning handbrake, as they tend to take more of a battering than other pieces of sim hardware. This makes the TSS a long-lasting, high-quality product.
The Thrustmaster TSS produces a responsive click every time you shift, which is noisy but reduces the chances of mis-shifting. It also adds a layer of satisfaction when using the shifter as it feels like you are making a real mechanical change to the virtual car. The resistance levels of the shifts could be higher, especially as the handbrake has a progressive resistance function.
This is a slight negative from an immersion standpoint, but this product still feels more realistic than Thrustmaster’s cheaper shifter option, the TH8A (see below). There’s no doubt that the majority of the price of the TSS is made up because of its use as a handbrake, making it two products in one. This is a major selling point for those who enjoy a variety of racing disciplines.
It is worth noting that those looking to use a handbrake likely also want a sequential shifter (think rally racing), and given you can’t use both functions of this product at once, you will still need to pick up another shifter or handbrake anyway. However, the TSS works very well as a standalone option whether it’s the shifter or the handbrake functionality you’re looking for.
The TSS has decent adjustability features, with users being able to change the height and angle of the lever. When using the TSS as a shifter, it will be easier to have the lever at its most vertical angle, as it will feel more natural with the push and pull movements. There is some slight left to right looseness when the lever is at its tallest, most vertical configuration.
The build quality of the Thrustmaster TSS is very good, with the casing, lever arm and internal mechanisms being crafted almost entirely from metal. The only major use of plastic comes on the handle, which isn’t a negative point at all, as it has been designed to replicate the handles you’d find in real cars. The dimensions of the product are also designed around realism.
This realistic design strategy is no doubt partly due to the influence of racing manufacturer Sparco, who have officially licensed this product. This partnership adds to the professionalism of the product, as well as enhancing the look of any sim racing cockpit. If you don’t have a full rig, you can purchase a table clamp specifically for this product to ensure stability.
Overall, the TSS Sparco Mod + may seem a little expensive, but you are getting two products in one, as it can be utilized as a handbrake or a sequential shifter. It is a very well-built piece of sim racing hardware, made almost entirely from metal. While it can be noisy, the shifter has a positive feel and certainly offers an immersive experience.
- Can be used as a shifter or handbrake
- Great build quality
- Responsive gear shifting
- An expensive choice
- Shifts are a bit loud
3. Thrustmaster TH8A Shifter
Mode: Sequential / H-Pattern | Materials: Metal / Plastic | Dimensions (cm): 13 x 26 x 34 | Gears: 7 + reverse
The Thrustmaster TH8A is another dual-mode shifter that can be used in either H-pattern or sequential mode. While this makes it a versatile product, it is difficult to change between the two settings, unlike the Fanatec SQ V 1.5 where it only takes the flick of a switch. Nevertheless, the TH8A is a versatile shifter that can be used for multiple racing styles.
The TH8A looks and feels more like a conventional road car shifter, with clearly cut out gear positions and a spherical lever head. The shifter has been crafted with a strong mix of metal and plastic, meaning it isn’t as sturdy looking as the Thrustmaster TSS or Fanatec SQ V 1.5. However, it is still a durable product that feels realistic to use.
The TH8A shifter feels more clunky than its competition, with a long throw once again more reminiscent of a road car. You can purchase aftermarket products that will shorten this throw if it feels too long for you. Like the Thrustmaster TSS, the TH8A isn’t quiet when you are using it, producing a definitive click when you engage the gears.
The TH8A doesn’t provide a great deal of resistance when you are shifting, making it less immersive than the TSS and SQ V 1.5. However, it is priced cheaper than both of these options, meaning its reduced performance levels are somewhat justified. What this shifter lacks in resistance, it makes up for with its quick and accurate performance in-game.
The TH8A allows you to use the shifter in either H-pattern or sequential mode, adding to its value for money and making it a solid choice for those who like to race in a variety of different disciplines. However, switching between these two modes is a bit more of a process than the flick of a switch on the ClubSport shifter.
To change the setup, you will have to unscrew four bolts that hold the lid of the shifter on. You will then need to replace the cap of the product with the lid of the mode you wish to use. This will take a bit of time, so it’s not an “on the fly” kind of change.
One other issue with this shifter when used in H-pattern mode is how easy it is to shift into the 7th and reverse gears. Often, when trying to shift into 5th, I ended up in 7th gear, and trying to get into 6th gear put me in reverse! This is because there is no lock that forces you to press down and then right to get into these gears – something that is present on the Fanatec shifter.
The sequential mode doesn’t feel as positive as the H-pattern mode, with no resistance experienced at all when shifting through the gears. This will be fine if you’re not looking for any special features or enhanced realism, as the magnetic sensors inside the mechanism will provide you with a good level of accuracy in-game.
Overall, the Thrustmaster TH8A will prove to be a decent addition to a sim racing setup, providing you aren’t expecting hyper realistic results. It lacks the more premium feel of both the Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod + and the Fanatec Shifter SQ V 1.5, but this is to be expected when you consider the lower price tag.
- Can be used as a sequential shifter or as an H-pattern shifter
- Magnetic sensors inside the mechanism ensure accuracy
- It is a durable option
- Lack of resistance when changing gears
- It is difficult to change between the two shifting modes
4. Logitech Driving Force Shifter
Mode: H-Pattern | Materials: Steel / Leather / Plastic | Dimensions (cm): 21 x 18 x 15 | Gears: 6 + reverse
The Logitech Driving Force H-pattern shifter is the least expensive item on this list and can be used on Xbox provided you pair it with either a Logitech G920 or G923 steering wheel (or the Pro wheel with an adaptor). It doesn’t contain the same high-end features found in the more expensive options, but it will serve you well if you want to add a shifter to your setup and don’t want to part with too much cash.
Build Quality & Materials
Compromises have had to be made on the materials used to make this shifter in order to keep the price down. This is something Logitech have never tried to hide, and it’s a good thing, as it helps make sim racing a more inclusive hobby. The Driving Force is made almost entirely out of plastic, with the only exception being a steel lever and faux leather trim.
The faux leather trim is reminiscent of what you would see in real-life road cars, which is a charming feature in an aesthetic sense. As shifters go, the Driving Force is relatively compact and will easily fit into most sim racing setups without getting in the way of anything. It will look and feel just fine when clamped to a desk alongside your wheel.
As most of the Logitech Driving Force is made from plastic, it isn’t anywhere near as weighty as the Fanatec Shifter SQ V 1.5 and won’t put any additional strain on less sturdy setups, such as desks. While this lack of weight accentuates the fact it is a far less premium product than the more expensive items on this list, it serves its role as a budget option very well.
How It Feels To Use
When you take the price of this product into consideration, it would be unfair to directly compare its performance to the top two products on the list. There is a distinct lack of immersion felt when using the Logitech Driving Force shifter, and it doesn’t provide you with any resistance when shifting, but it will accurately input your shifts into the game.
It will take a bit of time to get used to this product, as unlike with most shifters, you can’t actually see which gear you are engaging, as the H-pattern layout is covered up by the faux leather trim. This, along with a lack of resistance and hardly-positive gear engagement, will leave you prone to mis-shifts until your muscle memory starts to set in.
Overall, the Logitech Driving Force is a good addition to entry level sim racing setups. What it lacks in features, it makes up for with its very low price, making it a risk free pairing with a Logitech steering wheel. Its compact, lightweight design makes it simple to mount onto a cockpit or a desk, making it an ideal choice for those just starting out in sim racing.
- Very cheap
- Can be mounted easily to a desk or sim rig
- Ideal for beginners
- Made almost entirely out of plastic
- No resistance when shifting the gears
Summary Of The Best Xbox Sim Racing Shifters
|Fanatec ClubSport SQ V 1.5 Shifter||Fanatec users with a larger budget that want a versatile shifter|
|Thrustmaster TSS Shifter/Handbrake||Rally fans that want the option of a sequential shifter or a handbrake|
|Thrustmaster TH8A Shifter||Thrustmaster users in need of a sequential/H-pattern shifter|
|Logitech Driving Force Shifter||Those with a Logitech sim racing wheel setup|
How To Choose A Sim Racing Gear Shifter For Xbox
There are three main types of gear shifter, each requiring a different type of usage. These are paddle shifters (on your wheel), H-pattern shifters and sequential shifters. Paddle shifters can be found on the back of most sim racing wheels and will allow you to change gears without removing your hands from the wheel. Paddle shifting is useful for those who enjoy Formula 1 style games.
In this article we have only discussed the latter two options, as they are seen as optional extras rather than wheel attachments. They both require manual inputs, but they suit different racing styles. H-pattern shifters are slightly more complicated to use as they require both forward/backward and side to side movements.
H-pattern shifters feature all the available gears in one layout, as seen in manual road cars. Sequential shifters only require backward and forward movements, and so you can only move up or down one gear at a time. Moving from 5th to 2nd gear on a sequential shifter would involve passing through 4th and 3rd gear first, whereas H-pattern shifters allow you to do it in one movement.
Some sim racing gear shifters, like the Fanatec ClubSport SQ V 1.5 and the Thrustmaster TH8A, come with both H-pattern and sequential modes, meaning you can alternate between the two depending on what car you’re driving or what race you want to take part in. Shifters with both modes are ideal for those who like to vary their driving style.
Size & Weight
Shifters come in many different sizes and weights, as they tend to be made from a variety of materials. Premium options such as the Fanatec SQ V 1.5 are made entirely from metal and are heavier, meaning they can put strain on less sturdy sim rigs. They may also get in your way if you have a compact setup, making it important to consider the shifter’s dimensions before you buy.
Smaller, lighter choices are available (like the Logitech shifter), which will suit space-conscious setups. It is important to bear in mind that lighter shifters are often made from lower-quality materials, which will potentially lead to a less durable product overall. If you race on a desk, most gear shifters will have additional table clamps available to help you achieve stability when using the product.
The ideal material for a gear shifter is metal, as it is sturdier and more resistant against wear and tear over long periods of time. However, all-metal shifters are more expensive than products made with high amounts of plastic. I recommend that you go for a predominantly metal shifter, as it will last longer and feel far more immersive too.
The cost of the shifter will be the most important factor for many, especially those who are on lower budgets. The rule for shifter prices is the same as all other aspects of sim racing hardware, with higher costs generally resulting in more features and better build quality. High-quality products will enhance the immersion and realism of your overall sim racing experience.
If your budget is rigid and won’t stretch too far, it isn’t the end of the world. You can still have a good time when using cheaper equipment, and it won’t mean that your lap times will necessarily be any slower!
Unfortunately, Xbox sim racers don’t have access to the same number of hardware options as PC users, due to USB and licensing issues. There is also the added problem of console users not being able to mix and match the brands they use, meaning they have to stick to products within the same ecosystem.
Thankfully, Thrustmaster, Fanatec and Logitech have console inclusive ranges that offer Xbox users a decent range of hardware to choose from. There is also the option of using a Drive Hub, which is a small box that can allow you to mix your brands. However, the Drive Hub isn’t perfect and may present you with issues that we will discuss below.
KEY POINTS• When choosing a shifter, consider whether you need both H-pattern and sequential modes
• The size and weight of the shifter will also affect how easy it is to fit in to your setup
• Typically, the more you pay, the better the overall quality of the shifter
Using The Drive Hub To Connect A Shifter To Xbox
The Drive Hub is a product loved by many console sim racers, as it allows Xbox users to mix and match hardware brands without the usual compatibility issues getting in the way. On the surface, this seems like the answer to problems that have plagued console sim racing for years, but there are potential negatives that make the Drive Hub a risky purchase.
There are currently only four shifters that officially work with the Drive Hub, meaning it won’t open up the number of options you have at your disposal. These shifters are the Fanatec SQ V 1.5, the Thrustmaster TH8A, TH8 (an older variant) and the TSS. Using the Drive Hub will theoretically allow you to match these shifters with Logitech, Thrustmaster and Fanatec wheels.
Issues With The Drive Hub
While the premise of the Drive Hub seems great, sim racing is in a constant state of evolution, with regular updates being made to both hardware and software. There is no doubt that the Drive Hub will also move with the times, and there is no guarantee that it will continue to support your setup in the future. Drive Hubs are also expensive, making it a risky purchase.
Drive Hub boxes aren’t guaranteed to work seamlessly with every setup, with many posts in community forums suggesting they are prone to random disconnects. This won’t necessarily happen to everyone, but it does add to the risk of buying a Drive Hub. There have also been reports of them limiting the power of sim hardware, meaning you may not get the best out of your equipment.
While the Drive Hub is a potential game changer for some Xbox sim racers, there is no guarantee that everything will work as well as you’d hoped, both in the present and the future. If you do have a bit of spare cash and you don’t want to change your entire setup to accommodate a shifter, it may be worth taking the risk.
While the options for sim racing gear shifters are more limited for Xbox users than PC users, there are still some excellent options to choose from, with the Fanatec SQ V 1.5 being the pick of the bunch. The Thrustmaster TSS provides great competition with its handbrake feature, but the premium feel and build quality of the SQ V 1.5 sets it apart from the rest.
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