Usually, the first thing that sim racers want to upgrade is the wheel, and there is a good reason for that; the steering wheel is one of the most important parts of a rig. But it can also be the most expensive, so it is difficult to be sure if a direct drive wheel is worth the expense.
If you are a more advanced sim racer, then a direct drive wheel is definitely worth the money, however the answer also depends on a multitude of factors.
Direct drive wheels take things to the next level in terms of immersion, and so if you are a much more experienced sim racer then direct drive could be the logical way to go for your next racing wheel. However, it is a lot of money to part with, and so let’s consider the choice in a bit more detail.
Why Do You Want A Direct Drive Wheel?
Before you consider upgrading any part of your sim racing rig, you should ask yourself why you want to in the first place. If you wanted to upgrade your chair for example, you might want to do so because your current one is hurting your back, or it no longer fits with the rest of your racing rig. But for a steering wheel, the decision is often less justified.
You Need A Good Reason
Obviously, your current wheel might break, in which case you definitely would need to get a new one. But if you are just looking to upgrade your steering wheel because you want a change from your current model, this might not be a good enough reason. If your current one performs well and provides you with enough force feedback for your playstyle, you probably don’t need to upgrade.
Likewise, if you are just looking to upgrade your wheel because you see that direct drive options are very popular, this could also be a mistake. There is a lot more to the direct drive systems than simply enhanced realism. They can take a lot of getting used to, and they simply are not the right choice for everyone. So, why might you want one?
More Is Not Always Better
A lot of people think that more power is always better. While this is often true, in the context of sim racing wheels it is not always the case. With more power comes more force, and more force requires more skill to control it. Just because it is more powerful, it does not mean that you will instantly become a better driver. In fact, it will most likely be the opposite at first.
Although direct drive wheels are more than capable of providing torque levels upwards of 20 Nm, this is just far too much for most people. If you are just starting out as a sim racer, you will probably never use much more than 30% of the power of a direct drive wheel. Most, if not all, belt-driven options produce single-digit torque levels, and they are definitely adequate for beginners.
If You Have The Skill Then Go For It
However, if you are a more advanced sim racer, with a decent level of skill, you may find these lower end models to be lacking in both realism and performance. In this case, having the option to crank up the torque a bit more may indeed allow you to become a better racer. If you are looking for more realism, and more power, then yes, a direct drive wheel is your best option.
Your Experience Level
This brings us onto perhaps the most important thing to consider when upgrading any part of your sim racing rig, and that is how experienced you are. You want to make sure that you can actually get the most out of whatever product you buy, and the converse is also true, meaning you want to make sure that whatever you buy can provide enough of what you need to perform at your highest level.
Different People Need Different Things
In the case of the sterling wheel, this could be in terms of power, as we have mentioned. Beginners will struggle even on the maximum force feedback settings of most gear and belt-driven racing wheels, and so a direct drive option is just not the right way to go. Experienced players might not find these to be strong enough, however, and they might want to upgrade to direct drive.
However, it is not just the power that matters when it comes to experience level, as the direct drive systems often involve a lot more setup as well. They will usually have their own plethora of settings either within the wheel base itself or on specific software that can be installed on the platform you are playing on. These settings can be very important to consider.
A Lot Of Customization
You can usually tune a lot of the direct drive wheel, from torque curves to various damping settings as well. These will often be too complex for beginners, and only more advanced racers will know how to alter the settings in the right way in order to get the most out of the wheel.
Console Players Are Limited
Another thing you have to consider is what games you like to play and on which platform you like to play them. If you are a PC player, you will have access to pretty much any direct drive system on the market, as everything is usually compatible with PC. However, if you are playing on console then you will have a somewhat limited selection to choose from.
Xbox One players will have a bit more choice, but not by very much. Fanatec is really the only brand to bring direct drive to consoles with their Podium selection of racing wheels, and only the F1 version is compatible with PS4. This means that you have a really narrow choice of direct drive options if you are looking to bring it to your console racing experience.
Make Sure It Works With Your Games
Not only are direct drive wheels only usually compatible with PC setups, but they are also not always compatible with every racing sim. This means that if you have a favourite game that is not compatible with the direct drive wheel that you are choosing, there really is no point in buying it. So, you definitely have to consider the compatibility issue as well.
The Technology Involved
Before we go into detail about the price, the last thing that we should mention is the technology involved in direct drive wheels. Although experience level is the most important thing to consider when buying a new steering wheel, you also have to consider what you want your wheel to be capable of. Direct drive wheels are simply the best option available in terms of immersion.
The Very Best Option
From the superior build quality to the advanced technology within them that makes them so responsive, direct drive wheels are often marvels of engineering in their own right. Some models, such as the Fanatec DD2, feature carbon fiber plating, that makes them look straight out of a race car. The DD2 even comes with an external emergency stop button, adding to the race car aesthetic.
So, if you are looking for the very best in terms of quality, then direct drive wheels are definitely worth the money. However, you will have to do your own research to decide which one is best for you, as they vary greatly in terms of design and of course the price. So, let’s talk about the prices of direct drive wheels and why you need to make sure you don’t waste your money.
You will probably be unable to find a direct drive wheel for cheap, and this is because they are just simply of such high quality. There is a lot of time and effort required to make a good steering wheel of any kind, and direct drive options require even more of both. This means the price is inevitably going to be quite high, and you should expect to pay at least $1000.
A Lot Of Money
Most come in at closer to $2000, and some even double or triple that. So, this opens up a new question, and that is whether a specific direct drive wheel is worth it for you specifically. If you are a fairly experienced sim racer and looking to upgrade your wheel to something more responsive, then one of the lower end direct drive options could be the ideal choice for you.
However, a $3000 option at this point is probably just not worth it. Conversely, if you are a very advanced sim racer, looking for the ultimate quality in both construction and experience, you may be better off spending a few thousand dollars rather than settling for one of the lower spec options. It all comes down to experience level once again, and what you want to gain from the wheel.
It’s All Relative
Some offer a lot of power but little customization, and some offer plenty of customization but next to no compatibility and are designed for just one game. Both can cost a lot of money, and so you have to decide what you are looking for and what option suits your specific experience level and playstyle.
So, buying a direct drive wheel clearly involves a lot more to consider than just the price. It all depends on your own individual level of experience and what you want your sim racing experience to give you. If realism is your ultimate goal, then direct drive wheels are definitely worth the money.
However, if you are quite happy with a decent level of force feedback but much easier playability, then your money may be better spent on a high-end belt-driven steering wheel. Regardless, most direct drive wheels are worth the money from a more general point of view, as they are usually made from very high-quality materials and provide unbeatable realism.
Click the link to check out The Best Direct Drive Wheel Bases