Fanatec and Thrustmaster are two of the biggest names in the sim racing world. Both of the brands have lots to offer to sim racers, and their products are some of the highest quality in the business. However, there are some key differences between Fanatec and Thrustmaster.
Thrustmaster is definitely the more accessible brand for beginners compared to Fanatec. However, if you are a more serious gamer, Fanatec have a better range of high-end sim racing equipment, but both brands do have wheel and pedal options for sim racers of all abilities.
Which brand is better for you is highly dependent on your experience level and on what you want to gain from your sim racing experience. There are a few things that set these brands apart from each other and knowing them will help you to choose which one is right for you.
Experience, Budget & Expectations
When comparing any two brands in any industry you have to first think about your own situation. With sim racing, this means considering things such as your own experience level, your budget, and your expectations. If you have never bought a sim racing wheel for example, you may have to do a lot of your own research to find equipment that is targeted at beginners.
The quality of the equipment will dictate how realistic it feels, as well as how reliable and durable the product is. There are lots of ultra-cheap options on the market for those that just want to get that arcade racer feel, and Thrustmaster and Fanatec are definitely not aimed at that market. Both brands use high-quality materials for superior products.
What Setup Do You Want?
You also have to decide what sort of setup you are looking for. Do you just need a racing wheel? Or would you prefer to add on a gear shifter and some pedals? Not all brands offer these options, and for some it can mean buying lots of individual products at higher prices. So, decide on your ideal setup and that will narrow down your options and it will be easier to make a decision.
If you are more experienced, you may need to think about how strong you want the force feedback to be, and this can mean choosing between gear, belt, and direct drive wheels. This will also be affected by your budget, as direct drive wheels in particular are only accessible to those with a fair amount of cash to spend. Thus, your budget will help you decide which brand to go for.
What Are You Looking For?
Finally, your expectations are important in the decision-making process as well. If you are looking for a highly realistic experience, then you will most likely want to spend a bit more money on at least a belt-driven wheel or pedals with built-in force feedback. However, if you are more focused on the fun factor, then cheaper equipment might suit you better, and not all brands offer these options.
Both Fanatec and Thrustmaster have been in the sim racing world for a long time, and they are both slightly higher-end options for sim racers. They have their similarities and their differences, and these can help you to decide which brand is the one to go for.
Note: Below, we’ll give the best options for various experience levels, and then go into more detail on the absolute best offered by each brand
Fanatec was founded in 1997 and was one of the first brands to offer steering wheels that were compatible with the force feedback functionalities of racing games. They offer a wide range of wheels, pedals and other sim racing equipment, and they are usually at a higher price point than other brands. They are one of the few brands that offer their own direct drive steering wheels.
Fanatec currently has a decent line-up of direct drive wheel bases, but there are also belt-driven options on the market too. This means Fanatec is a bit more expensive by default, as even their most beginner-friendly wheel base option is a direct drive base. However, this does make it the ideal brand if you’re looking for a budget direct drive setup.
Best Fanatec Wheels
|Best For||Wheel||Drive System|
|Beginner Racers||CSL DD WRC||Direct Drive|
|Intermediate Racers||Gran Turismo DD Pro||Direct Drive|
|Advanced Racers||Podium Racing Wheel F1||Direct Drive|
Best Fanatec Pedals
|Beginner Racers||CSL Pedals||Potentiometer (load cell kit available)|
|Intermediate Racers||ClubSport Pedals V3||Load Cell|
|Advanced Racers||ClubSport Pedals V3 Inverted||Load Cell|
Summary Of Thrustmaster
Thrustmaster has its roots in flight simulators and was founded in 1990. Having started off selling flight sim equipment, they later went into the sim racing industry and have since become one of the most popular entry and intermediate level brands of sim racing equipment. They sell wheels, pedals, and other equipment, with prices ranging from about $75 to upwards of $700.
Thrustmaster doesn’t currently offer any direct drive options, but they do have a wealth of belt and gear/belt hybrid options to choose from. Some of their best offerings will satisfy even more advanced sim racers, but this is definitely a brand that caters more to the beginner and console sim racing markets.
Best Thrustmaster Wheels
|Best For||Wheel||Drive System|
|Beginner Racers||Thrustmaster T150||Hybrid Gear/Belt|
|Intermediate Racers||Thrustmaster T248||Hybrid Gear/Belt|
|Advanced Racers||Thrustmaster T300 RS||Belt|
Best Thrustmaster Pedals
|Beginner Racers||T3PA Pedals||Potentiometer|
|Intermediate Racers||T3PA-Pro Pedals||Potentiometer|
|Advanced Racers||T-LCM Pedals||Load Cell|
Fanatec vs Thrustmaster: Steering Wheels
When it comes to steering wheels, Thrustmaster is definitely the cheaper option. Although they do offer a lot of intermediate racing wheels, they also have a couple of entry level options for beginner sim racers. They offer wheels for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation, and so they are ideal for sim racers on all of the major platforms.
Thrustmaster also offer Ferrari branded wheels, which can be a strong selling point if you are a big Ferrari fan. Their low-end options are great for casual sim racers, and although they do offer high-end wheels as well, they are still gear and belt-driven. This means they do provide decent force feedback, but there are no Thrustmaster direct drive wheels available.
The Target Markets
Fanatec offers wheels for PC, Xbox and PlayStation as well, and so there are options for gamers that use both console and computer for their sim racing. Fanatec is definitely geared more towards the experienced sim racer, with their wheels being priced higher than most of Thrustmaster’s options.
A lot of Fanatec’s wheels require a separate base, and so this can make them even more expensive, but it does allow for more customization of your setup. Another big selling point of Fanatec is their range of direct drive wheels. This means you can achieve even more realism through the far more detailed force feedback that is experienced with direct drive wheels.
In terms of steering wheels, Thrustmaster offers more entry level options and so is the one to go for if you are less experienced and perhaps don’t have too much money to spend. Fanatec is the best choice if you want the most realistic experience and have a larger budget as they offer direct drive wheels.
The 3 Best Fanatec Steering Wheels
1. Gran Turismo DD Pro
Platform: PC / PlayStation | Wheel Base Included: Yes
The DD Pro from Fanatec is a great entry level wheel, perfect for anyone who wants to try a direct drive wheel but doesn’t want to spend thousands on a setup. It has room for expansion and upgradability the more experienced and comfortable you get with the wheel. The pedals for instance can be upgraded with a tuning kit, clutch kit, and a load cell kit (which we highly recommend).
The wheelbase itself has a torque of 5 Nm but even this can be upgraded to a comfortable 8 Nm with the use of a boost kit, or you can buy the bundle that includes it. If you do plan on getting the DD Pro or the CSL DD base, I highly recommend getting it with the boost kit, as without it, it can feel rather dull.
2. Podium Steering Wheel Porsche 911 GT3 R
Platform: PC / PlayStation | Wheel Base Included: No
For any collector or fan of Porsche this is the perfect wheel for you. It’s an official replica of the Porsche 911 GT3 R wheel built to automotive grade quality. It is made from a durable, anodised, and brushed aluminum that is wrapped in suede or leather depending on which version you buy.
It has upgrade options for the paddles, adding dual magnetic clutch paddles with realistic bite points and multifunctionality. The button box module is the real star of the show, with 10 buttons and an immense amount of multifunctionality. It is one of the most professional looking and feeling sim racing wheels on the market.
3. Podium Racing Wheel F1
Platform: PC / PlayStation | Wheel Base Included: Yes
The Podium Racing Wheel F1 is one of the best formula style racing wheels on the market. It has Alcantara grips, dual analogue clutch paddles, magnetic shifter paddles and plenty of buttons for lots of functionality.
The wheel is designed for performance and it’s clear this is aimed towards those who want a competitive edge in their races and want to seriously step up their game. The included DD1 wheel base offers realistic force feedback through its direct drive mechanism, offering 20 Nm of torque – more than enough to replicate the feel of a real race car.
It is an expensive option from Fanatec, but for the sheer performance offered with this wheel, it’s easy to see why people still adore the Podium F1 regardless of the high cost. It’s the ultimate direct drive option for anyone racing on PlayStation.
The 3 Best Thrustmaster Steering Wheels
1. Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel
Platform: PC / Xbox | Wheel Base Included: Yes
Thrustmaster’s TX racing wheel is a great intermediate level wheel that isn’t too expensive, especially when compared to Fanatec’s line-up. Thrustmaster doesn’t yet have a direct drive wheel on offer, but they do offer great brushless motors that make force feedback incredibly smooth, and at 3.9 Nm of peak torque, it’s certainly no slouch, but high frequency details may get muddled.
The wheel uses their patented H.E.A.R.T magnetic technology that allows for smooth movement and greatly lengthened lifespan due to fewer parts being in contact with each other. The buttons aren’t anything impressive and the wheel is simplistic, but it feels good to use. This is also compatible with the T-LCM pedals, TH8A shifter, and TSS handbrake, so there’s a nice foundation to build from here.
2. Thrustmaster T248 Racing Wheel
Platform: PC / PlayStation / Xbox | Wheel Base Included: Yes
The T248 first and foremost is a good-looking wheel. It features a display that shows real-time telemetry data that can be a great help during a race. The screen also allows you to access the tuning menu on the wheel that allows you to adjust the force feedback on the fly through the use of its 3 presets. The brake pedal can be adjusted so the stiffness meets your needs.
With 3.5 Nm of peak torque, it feels pretty much the same as the Thrustmaster TX racing wheel, meaning it feels strong but not strong enough for high frequency details to come through, which you can only truly get with direct drive wheels.
The outer rim of the wheel is wrapped in leather and it’s an incredibly comfortable wheel to race with. At a fairly low price point, this would be an excellent choice for beginners and intermediate racers alike.
3. Thrustmaster T300 RS GT
Platform: PC / PlayStation | Wheel Base Included: Yes
The T300 RS looks great, featuring the PlayStation controller button layout. It has a very simplistic design and blends in with most sim racing rigs. The paddle shifters feel responsive and they’re a good size too. A dual belt system delivers the force feedback at 3.9 Nm.
3.9 Nm is a decent amount of torque for a non-direct drive wheel, and the T300 RS GT definitely feels up to the task when racing off road or driving over rumble strips. High frequency details are there, but of course they won’t be as prominent as a direct drive wheel’s force feedback delivery.
The pedals featured with this wheel are the GT edition pedals that are made of metal, adjustable, and they include a clutch pedal. Overall, it’s an excellent Thrustmaster wheel for intermediate or advanced racers that might not have the budget for a direct drive Fanatec wheel.
When it comes to pedals, Thrustmaster offer several products at a reasonable price point for both beginner and intermediate sim racers. They are made of high-quality materials and are highly compatible. Their pedals are definitely geared more towards entry level sim racers though, with most being potentiometer pedals.
Fanatec also offer several pedal options, and they come in at a higher price point than those of Thrustmaster. However, they do come with extra features such as built-in pedal vibration, along with a lot of room for customization. This makes Fanatec pedals the ones to go for if you want more realism and more adjustability, but they are pricier.
The 3 Best Fanatec Pedals
1. CSL Pedals
Pedals: 2 and 3-pedal options available | Input Type: Potentiometer and load cell options available
The CSL pedals are a fantastic set of pedals for beginners. They come in a set with only two pedals, but the CSL pedals are unique in having a great upgrade path to build through. They can be upgraded with a kit that adds a clutch pedal. This allows for some far more immersive racing.
A tuning kit replaces the plastic face plates with metal ones that make them far more comfortable to use and more durable too. A load cell kit can be added to the brake pedal as well, making them a far more competitive option.
With all these upgrades applied, the CSL pedals are suddenly no longer beginner pedals, but pedals for intermediate to advanced racers. They are fairly cheap, and I highly recommend them for beginners looking for a good foundation to build from.
2. ClubSport Pedals V3
Pedals: 3 | Input Type: Load Cell
The ClubSport Pedals V3 are an excellent intermediate set of pedals with performance at the forefront of the design. The brake pedal features a 90 kg adjustable load cell, making the brakes far more precise, comfortable, and most importantly this load cell makes them consistent. The pedal faces are D-shape metal pedal plates, and they are fully adjustable.
The gas and clutch pedal feature contactless Hall sensors, meaning they are extremely precise and they can be calibrated through the wheel itself. The brake is adjustable in terms of stiffness and travel. The amount of adjustability and the precise nature of the pedals and how input is registered make this an excellent set of pedals for racers looking to get more competitive.
3. ClubSport Pedals V3 Inverted
Pedals: 3 | Input Type: Load Cell
This set of pedals, featuring a 90 kg load cell, is designed specifically for advanced users looking to get into a more competitive level of racing and is a great set of pedals for those thinking of getting into professional Esports. The inverted nature of the pedals makes them far more realistic feeling, resulting in a pedal arrangement and travel almost identical to that of a real car.
The brake pedal features adjustable dampers, which is fantastic for those that want a little bit more control over their setup and how it performs. There is also no need for any tools when adjusting the damper so adjustments are quick and painless.
A vibration motor fitted to the gas pedal can provide feedback you wouldn’t normally find in a sim racing rig, and a second motor found on the brake pedal can provide feedback on things like tire lock ups and ABS. This is a truly incredible set of pedals, although they’re not aimed at beginners.
The 3 Best Thrustmaster Pedals
1. T-LCM Pedals
Pedals: 3 | Input Type: Load Cell
The T-LCM Pedals from Thrustmaster are the best they have to offer, made for more advanced sim racers that want a competitive edge and great performing pedals. They use magnetic sensor technology, and that means there are no potentiometers or contact with other parts, therefore they last a very long time and are some extremely durable pedals.
The brake has a 100 kg load cell for some seriously precise braking that feels very realistic. The brake force and dead zones for all 3 pedals are completely adjustable, so you can make each pedal feel just how you want them to feel.
The pedals are also fully adjustable in height, angle, and spacing. The T-LCM pedals look professional and are made from metal, so they have a good weight to them that makes them very stable when placed on the floor or in a dedicated rig.
2. T3PA Pro Pedals
Pedals: 3 | Input Type: Potentiometer
The T3PA Pro pedals are designed for intermediate racers with a design focus on dependability and performance. They are made from metal, making for a heavy but stable pedal set that will last a long time. The brake pressure can be adjusted with the addition of a rubber conical mod and a spring that can be installed, resulting in a maximum break load pressure of 30 kg.
Each pedal’s position is adjustable to make it the most comfortable fit for you and your sim racing setup. They are a fantastic set of pedals and for the price they have some impressive adjustability. The brake pedal feels great and pedal travel in general is smooth and consistent, but it’s not as precise as a load cell.
3. T3PM Pedals
Pedals: 3 | Input Type: Magnetic H.E.A.R.T Sensor
The T3PM pedals are a more beginner and budget friendly option, and they make use of a magnetic sensor for the brake as opposed to a load cell or a simple potentiometer. These pedals are great for beginners, and they’re very stable and can take up to 200 kg of applied pressure.
You can customize these in many ways with 4 different pressure modes on the brake pedal, and their magnetic sensor design means they’ll last a long time too. The pedals are definitely not the most premium option Thrustmaster has available, but they’re an ideal starting point for beginner sim racers on a budget.
Fanatec vs Thrustmaster: Accessories
Most pieces of Fanatec and Thrustmaster equipment have an upgrade path with purchasable sim racing accessories and room for expansion. Fanatec often offers button box modules and paddle customization, while Thrustmaster offers a range of shifters and adapters to enhance your rig in various ways.
Fanatec’s accessories are usually more expensive than Thrustmaster’s line-up, but the difference in quality and most importantly functionality is very noticeable. However, regardless of which brand you choose, there will be options for you to check out.
The 3 Best Fanatec Accessories
1. Podium Advanced Paddle Module
The Podium Advanced Paddle Module is a great upgrade for wheels like the ClubSport Steering Wheel Formula V2.5 and the Podium Porsche 911 GT3 R racing wheel. It offers an F1-style dual clutch paddle system using two analogue clutch paddles that have an F1-style clutch bite point mode that feels authentic to the real thing.
The paddles on the module are magnetic, ensuring great tactile feedback from the paddles. The clutch paddles themselves have Hall sensors in them that make them extremely precise, and this also ensures that they last a long time due to their contactless design.
2. ClubSport Shifter SQ V1.5
The full metal design of this Fanatec shifter makes it extremely durable and it will stand the test of time against any abuse you throw at it. This also means it is quite heavy, which is fantastic for stability but whether or not you like the heft of the shifter is really subjective. It features 7 speeds in an H-pattern, while pushing down on the shifter will bring it up to 7th or into reverse.
It can also be used in a sequential configuration for much faster gear changes. This can all be done on the fly with no tools required. Depending on what configuration you want to use it in, it comes with 2 different knobs, 1 spherical and another more cylindrical, for H-pattern configuration and sequential configuration respectively.
3. Podium Button Module Endurance
This button module offers a full-scale replica of an actual GT2 class endurance car’s button module. The button module has 10 buttons, two 2-way toggle switches, one FunkySwitch, one analogue joystick, and two 12-way multi-position switches.
The front plate is made from real carbon fiber and is reinforced internally with metal. There is also an OLED display on the top of the module that can display real-time telemetry data like split times, lap times, etc. This button module is compatible with any 911, R300 and 320 wheel rim. This is a great accessory for serious sim racers that want a reliable edge on the track.
The 3 Best Thrustmaster Accessories
1. TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod +
The TSS handbrake from Thrustmaster is perfect for rally fans. Not only does this function as a handbrake though, as it also serves as a sequential shifter too if you choose to configure it that way. This makes it one of the most versatile pieces of kit you can add to your rig.
It’s made of sturdy materials and is fully licensed by Sparco, and it uses magnetic sensors to maximize its lifespan and boost precision. Offering 4 kg of resistance, this will allow you to boost the realism of any rally sim, while also being able to switch to a sequential shifter for any other games if you prefer.
2. TH8A Shifter
The TH8A shifter from Thrustmaster is their answer to the SQ shifter from Fanatec. Featuring an H-pattern mode and a sequential mode, this is the perfect shifter for those already in the Thrustmaster ecosystem that need a truly versatile gear shifter to complete their rig.
It uses contactless magnetic sensors and is made from 100% metal for excellent stability and durability. Connecting it up to your rig is easy, and this is definitely one of the best accessories Thrustmaster has available.
3. BT LED Display
The Thrustmaster BT LED display is one of the first ever Bluetooth display units that have been officially licensed by Sony themselves for PlayStation. The BT LED display itself is simplistic in its design. It shows real-time telemetry data such as what gear you’re in, your lap time, and what lap you are currently on.
It also features an LED strip above that indicates when you should shift up a gear. As this display is Bluetooth, the unit is completely wireless so there isn’t any added cable management required. It is fairly pricey though, and it’s not going to be an essential for everyone.
Thrustmaster and Fanatec are both top brands in the sim racing industry, but there are some subtle differences and some obvious ones too that set them apart from each other. Thrustmaster is a better brand to go for if you are just getting into sim racing, as they offer a wide range of products for all levels of experience.
Fanatec on the other hand will give you access to some really high-end sim racing equipment, such as direct drive steering wheels. They also build all of their products out of high-quality materials that are built to last, whereas some Thrustmaster products are made with rubber coatings, giving them a slightly cheaper feel.
As a general rule of thumb, Thrustmaster is better for beginners, while Fanatec is better for more experienced sim racers