The Fanatec CSL DD is a hugely popular direct drive wheel base offering realistic force feedback for a reasonable price, but there is a whole world of underrated CSL DD alternatives out there that may be better suited to your sim racing needs.
4 Fanatec CSL DD alternatives for every sim racer’s budget are:
While these alternative options may have some features that resemble those seen in the CSL DD, they each have their own nuances that set them apart. In this article we will discuss these alternatives in greater details as well as let you know what to look out for when buying your next wheel base.
4 Fanatec CSL DD Alternatives To Consider
1. MOZA R5
Compatibility: PC | Maximum Torque: 5.5 Nm | Weight: 5.5 kg / 12.1 lbs (5 Nm CSL DD: 6.85 kg / 15.1 lbs)
The MOZA R5 is the closest option to the Fanatec CSL DD (both in terms of performance and aesthetics), and it provides well priced, direct drive force feedback. It edges out the CSL DD for maximum torque, beating it by 0.5 Nm. Much like the 5 Nm CSL DD, the MOZA R5 has a big brother, the R9, which is capable of producing 9 Nm of torque, this time 1 Nm stronger than the 8 Nm CSL DD.
The MOZA R5’s best feature is the detail of force feedback that it provides. It is refined and smooth, and it will let you know about every little bump in the road and the effects of your worn out tires. This isn’t just great for your performance, but also for the immersion and realism of your experience.
You may find that you eventually grow out of the 5.5 Nm of torque and decide you want to upgrade. Unfortunately, there is no torque boost kit available like there is with the CSL DD, so if you want to remain within the MOZA ecosystem, you’ll have to purchase an entirely new system, leaving you with a spare wheel base.
However, you’re likely going to want more than just 3/3.5 Nm of an increase in peak torque, so whether you’ve got the standard CSL DD or the MOZA R5, making the jump to the Fanatec DD1 or the MOZA R16 is likely the preferred upgrade path in each case.
Form Factor & Build Quality
The MOZA R5 is small and stocky, making it easy to mount. It will be able to fit into even the most compact of setups, as well as being ideal for desks and tables (although we’d always recommend hard mounting a direct drive wheel base).
Its solid metal casing makes it durable and gives it a professional feel. It doesn’t rely on internal fans to keep itself cool, instead allowing hot air to leave out of large vents around the top and side. This keeps heat to a minimum and makes it silent to use.
Overall, the MOZA R5 gives the Fanatec CSL DD a real run for its money, with the two options being very similar in terms of features and capabilities. It loses out slightly because of the fact you can’t upgrade its torque like you can with the Fanatec Boost Kit 180 (and you can’t use it on Xbox). Despite this, it is a great product which is definitely worth looking into.
- Detailed force feedback
- Very close in shape and size to the CSL DD
- A great beginner choice
- Not console compatible
2. Simucube 2 Sport
Compatibility: PC | Maximum Torque: 17 Nm | Weight: 8 kg / 17.6 lbs (5 Nm CSL DD: 6.85 kg / 15.1 lbs)
The Simucube 2 Sport is aimed at those who have sizeable budgets and are looking for something with a bit more to offer than the CSL DD. As wheel bases go, this is one of the strongest options, both in terms of build quality and peak torque. With 17 Nm of torque, it is in another world to the CSL DD.
Note: We have included this option as a better alternative to the CSL DD, as they are miles apart in terms of price and performance. For a more CSL DD-level option, see the MOZA R5 above or the two options below.
As well as its high torque level, the Sport also offers buyers consistent and smooth force feedback. The high-quality, ultra-low latency electronics and powerful motor inside the Sport wheel base (and all of Simucube’s wheel bases for that matter) offer a highly detailed force feedback experience that is really hard to beat at this price point.
There is also the option to connect wheels using wireless Bluetooth connection (unavailable on cheaper wheel bases like the CSL DD). The high-quality nature of this wheel base means that there will be no input lack or frequency issues, even without having the base directly connected to your wheel rim.
Simucube use a different style of quick release system to many of the other sim racing brands. This is because of the increased force that their systems offer. It does mean that you will need to use an adaptor if you want to use a wheel from one of the more mainstream brands such as Fanatec or Thrustmaster (this is common of all OSW type wheel bases).
This means you will need to consider the rims you choose more carefully and think about buying any necessary adapters too.
True Drive Software
One of the best features of Simucube equipment is the True Drive software that accompanies it. This software allows you to refine the wheel base’s settings for specific games, cars, and personal preferences. By the standards of most sim racing software, True Drive is very intuitive, and it will greatly enhance your experience behind the wheel.
It will also allow you to tone down the torque levels provided by the wheel base in order to keep your hands firmly attached to the ends of your arms. The Simucube 2 Sport alongside True Drive represents a clear step up from the already decent Fanatec CSL DD, which is reflected in the much higher price (around 3 times as much as the 5 Nm CSL DD).
Overall, if you can afford it, the Simucube 2 Sport is a good few levels above the CSL DD in terms of quality, strength and price. It’s almost unfair to compare the two as they are aimed at different areas of the sim racing demographic, but it is an alternative that we felt was worth discussing for those that maybe aren’t aware of what else is out there in the sim racing market.
- High quality force feedback
- Immense torque levels
- Enables wireless wheel connection
- Very expensive
- Not as beginner friendly as the CSL DD
3. Thrustmaster T300/TX
Compatibility: PC / PlayStation / Xbox | Maximum Torque: ~3 Nm | Weight: 4.6 kg / 10.1 lbs (5 Nm CSL DD: 6.85 kg / 15.1 lbs)
If you are still in your formative years as a sim racer, you may decide to opt for the Thrustmaster T300/TX (for PlayStation and Xbox respectively). These feature a belt driven force feedback system, which won’t match up to the power of direct drive, but it will provide you with salvation from the clunky, grindy gears of the likes of the Logitech G29/G920.
The T300/TX’s force feedback is limited, with a low torque level and a less durable dual-belt system. It won’t provide you with the same level of detail as a direct drive system, so a bit like the Simucube 2 Sport discussed above, this alternative isn’t quite on the same level as the CSL DD – this time it’s a step down in terms of quality and performance, but not always price.
However, if you haven’t yet tried out direct drive or you’re a beginner, you will likely be satisfied with the results these wheel bases can offer. If you want to keep the costs down to a minimum, or if you race on console/like the Thrustmaster ecosystem, they are a good alternative to a direct drive system.
Thrustmaster have used their H.E.A.R.T technology, which uses magnets inside the system to act as sensors, ensuring your inputs will be accurately represented in the game. It’s not going to be on par with direct drive, but it’s arguably the best belt-driven force feedback on the market (largely because there aren’t many other brands offering it anymore).
Form Factor & Compatibility
The Thrustmaster T300/TX is fairly compact and will fit into most setups. It isn’t as small as a lot of other wheel bases (especially the likes of the CSL DD), as Thrustmaster have gone for a rounded shape rather than the rectangular box seen with most direct drive options.
Overall, this won’t compete with the CSL DD in terms of performance, but it’s not too far off it in reality. For beginners that want to know if they need direct drive to enjoy sim racing, the T300/TX from Thrustmaster proves you don’t.
- Cheaper option
- Accurate in-game inputs
- Good for beginners
- No direct drive
- Force feedback is relatively weak
- Poorer overall build quality
4. Simagic Alpha Mini
Compatibility: PC | Maximum Torque: 10 Nm | Weight: 6.4 kg / 14.1 lbs (5 Nm CSL DD: 6.85 kg / 15.1 lbs)
Finally, the Simagic Alpha Mini may be small in stature, but it offers 10 Nm of torque, making it one of the stronger affordable direct drive options. When I say affordable, I mean it in a way that’s relative to the money that you can end up spending on the really high-end stuff. Compared to the CSL DD, the Simagic Alpha Mini is just under twice the cost.
The force feedback provided by the Alpha Mini is really impressive, performing to the levels you’d expect from chunkier wheel bases such as the Fanatec DD1. It perhaps lacks the more minute details due to shortfalls in its dynamic range, but on the whole it offers a consistent, high level of force feedback.
One severe downfall is the heat that this wheel base generates during long sessions. This can feel worrying, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem in terms of safety and longevity of the wheel base itself. However, it is worth noting here.
Alpha Manager is the software provided with the wheel base. It allows you to install the product with ease, and it also lets you tune the settings to your liking. It isn’t quite as easy on the eye and simple to use as Simucube’s True Drive, but this is a much cheaper wheel base of course.
Overall, if you are looking for a compact direct drive wheel base that doesn’t compromise on strength, the Alpha Mini could be the one for you. It is priced reasonably, although it does cost a good deal more than the Fanatec CSL DD. It’s definitely one to consider if you need a bit more torque but don’t have the budget for the Simucube 2 Sport.
- Small, compact size
- Comes with good software
- Great force feedback
- Gets very hot
- Twice the price of the CSL DD
Summary Of The Best Fanatec CSL DD Alternatives
|Those that want as close to the CSL DD as possible
|Simucube 2 Sport
|More experienced sim racers with larger budgets
|Console racers that don’t need direct drive
|Simagic Alpha Mini
|Those that want something in between the CSL DD and the Simucube 2 Sport
What To Look For In A Fanatec CSL DD Alternative
Direct Drive Torque
Compared to gear or belt driven systems, the torque on offer with direct drive is monumental, improving the immersion and realism of your virtual driving experience. The usual going rate for affordable direct drive wheel bases is between 5 Nm and 8 Nm.
Raising your budget will inevitably raise the potential torque levels, with more expensive options such as the Simucube 2 Sport offering 17 Nm of torque. While 17 Nm may be too much for many, the software provided with the wheel base allows you to tone it down, allowing you to take advantage of the detailed force feedback without breaking your wrists.
For those migrating towards direct drive from the previously mentioned gear and belt driven systems, 5 Nm will be a welcomed improvement. This initial satisfaction isn’t guaranteed to last and will likely leave you wanting more over time. This is why 8 Nm or more is where you’ll want to start looking if you are planning on making this a long-term investment.
Small Form Factor
The chances are that if you want an alternative to the Fanatec CSL DD, you’re searching for a compact wheel base capable of fitting into a smaller rig or even a desk setup. Not only are size and weight an issue, but with high direct drive torque levels, stability becomes a concern as well.
Wheel bases are heavy objects and they will cause excess strain on rigs that aren’t suitable to cope with this pressure. This is one of the CSL DD’s strengths, as its small form factor means it won’t weigh down weaker rigs. But the direct drive torque will still be best enjoyed when hard mounted to a solid rig. The MOZA R5 is the closest to the CSL DD in terms of form factor.
Price To Performance Ratio
In sim racing, you tend to get what you pay for. However, there are some options that outperform their price tag, undercutting their direct competitors. It is worth looking at customer reviews before you buy, to know the finer details of what the product offers, but the CSL DD and the R5 from MOZA are two examples of products that do tend to offer excellent value.
Build quality is an essential aspect to look out for before parting company with your cash. The quality of the build affects the long-term durability of the product, and you want to avoid the “buy cheap, buy twice” situation. The easiest build quality features to spot are the materials used in the manufacturing of the product.
The use of metal is always preferential over plastic in any product, including sim racing wheel bases. Aluminum and steel are the two most commonly used metals in wheel bases, and they provide long term strength, even if you consistently have torque levels cranked up to the max. Metal wheel bases also look more professional than their plastic counterparts.
Of course, build quality isn’t only relevant on the surface of the wheel base, but also in the internals. Good quality wheel bases eliminate as much metal to metal contact as they can on the inside of the system, as well as using high-quality motors to provide the smoothest force feedback possible. They will also have reliable cooling systems to prevent overheating.
These systems don’t always require the use of fans, as the CSL DD proves, with wide vents built into the casing of the product. Bad cooling systems will result in both the product becoming a fire hazard and being too noisy, with the whirring of overworked fans likely to annoy you while you race.
Compatibility is a big factor with sim racing hardware, as not all the items on the market will work with each other. There is also the issue of console compatibility, with a lack of USB ports and licensing issues meaning console users will only be able to use one brand’s products at a time, unless they use a third-party adapter.
Other compatibility issues that exist are when matching a wheel rim to the wheel base. Quick release systems vary from brand to brand, and so before buying your wheel base, it is vital you make sure that the product will work with the rest of your equipment, or you may need to buy an adaptor.
User Friendly Setup
You also want a wheel base that will be easy to set up and use, without the need for complex software. Simucube are great at the whole user-friendly side of sim racing for example, providing users access to their True Drive software. This allows you to set everything up to the specifications you desire, either manually or via the use of pre-generated settings.
Upgradeability is a nice feature to have if you are buying a cheaper wheel base, as it will allow it to grow with you as you improve as a sim racer. The Fanatec CSL DD is an upgradeable wheel base, as it offers the separate purchase of the Boost Kit 180, which changes the peak torque from 5 Nm to 8 Nm.
Is The Fanatec CSL DD Worth It?
The Fanatec CSL DD isn’t at the top of the direct drive tree, instead occupying a spot near the bottom, providing beginners with a perfect entry-level option. For those looking to upgrade from their gear or belt driven systems, the CSL DD is a clear step up. It offers detailed force feedback and will fit nicely into your setup, whether it be a full rig or at a desk.
The torque that it offers is fairly minimal, especially when you compare it to some of the higher-end options. However, there is the option of upgrading the wheel base with the Boost Kit 180, taking the peak torque level from 5 Nm to 8 Nm. This is a great option to have, as it allows you to settle into direct drive before paying the big bucks for the stronger system.
While the CSL DD is a good direct drive entry-level option, we don’t recommend that you go straight into it before ever using a wheel/pedal set. Absolute beginners should be looking towards gear/belt driven systems first, removing the risk of spending a large amount on something that doesn’t get used a few months down the line.
Once you get into sim racing properly, you may also decide that 5 Nm or 8 Nm might not be enough of a jump for you, and so you can save money by skipping the CSL DD entirely in that case.
Overall, the Fanatec CSL DD does serve a purpose as a gateway into direct drive sim racing and the immense joy it can offer. Its excellent build quality means that it will definitely last as well. It is worth looking into some alternatives either side of it in terms of price, as there are plenty of lesser-known names that may also be a great fit for you.
Should You Get The 5 Nm Or 8 Nm CSL DD?
The answer to this question depends on what stage you are at as a sim racer. If the CSL DD will be your first direct drive wheel base it may make sense to start with the cheaper 5 Nm version as you get to grips with the technology. The 5 Nm CSL DD is obviously the cheaper of the two, making it a lower-risk purchase, especially as you’ll have the option to upgrade in the future.
5 Nm may not be strong to someone who is well-versed in direct drive technology, but if you have transferred over from a gear or belt driven system, it will be more than enough at the start. For more experienced sim racers, the 8 Nm CSL DD (on the right below) is the way to go. 5 Nm (on the left) will feel a little restrictive to those who have experience with strong force feedback systems.
The Boost Kit 180 add-on is a welcome feature to be able to take advantage of as well. If you can’t yet afford the 8 Nm version, you’ll be able to buy the boost kit in the future, rather than having to purchase an entirely new wheel base.
Overall, the 5 Nm CSL DD is a good starting point for those who are yet to try out direct drive force feedback. It is relatively cheap and risk-free, and you’ll have the opportunity to upgrade in the future with the Boost Kit 180. If you are more experienced, then you’ll want to go for the added strength of the 8 Nm CSL DD, as 5 Nm will likely fall short of your expectations.
The Fanatec CSL DD still remains an excellent choice for those looking for an entry level direct drive sim racing wheel base. However, such is the improvement of sim racing equipment in recent years, there are four alternatives that can do just as good of a job, if not better. The MOZA R5 is the most similar to the CSL DD, but the Simucube 2 Sport is the next step up if you have the budget.
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