The Playseat Challenge is Playseat’s budget sim racing chair, aimed at beginners or those looking to get the most value for the lowest price. The seat has several features that make it a great choice for those new to sim racing, and I will go through each one in detail below.
Overall, the Playseat Challenge is an ideal choice for a complete beginner to sim racing, but it wouldn’t be the best option for an intermediate or advanced player. It functions well as a temporary sim racing setup, and is easy to put together, all at a fair price.
Below, I will go into depth about my own experience with the Playseat Challenge and discuss what I think are the main talking points about the chair. I will go over the good things, and some of the drawbacks, all while looking through the eyes of a beginner sim racer.
A Quick Overview Of The Playseat Challenge
The Playseat Challenge is one of the flagship products offered by Playseat, with the other being the Evolution and its variants. The Challenge is significantly cheaper than the Evolution, and even though the Challenge is not explicitly said to be for beginners, there are several features that strongly hint towards this.
Budget Friendly & Portable
The seat is designed to be foldable, and on the Playseat website they suggest the seat to be ideal for those that want to experience sim racing but have limited space. The seat also boasts compatibility with all consoles, and a lot of sim racing equipment too such as wheels and pedals. It is really designed for convenience, with ease of setup and cleaning some of the key selling points.
The relatively low price also suggests the seat is perhaps for those new to sim racing, as most other options out there start at $300 or more. This might leave you wondering how strong and sturdy the Playseat Challenge is, and what kind of quality of experience it can offer. Having tested the Challenge myself for some time, I hope to answer these questions for you.
Playseat Challenge Review – First Impressions
Easy To Assemble
When you first get your hands on the Playseat Challenge, you will notice how slim the box is. This is already an indicator of the kind of portability you can expect, and how easy the storage for this racing chair will be. Once you get it out of the box, you will also see just how few parts there are to the Challenge, with just three main components along with some extra bits and pieces.
This makes setup a breeze, with the pictorial booklet provided offering all you need to get the seat together. It’s really just a case of working out which piece goes where, but I found the diagrams to be just about helpful enough. There is plenty of Velcro on the Playseat Challenge, and this is the first thing that I noticed, rather worryingly.
I am a fairly big guy, standing 6’1” and weighing about 180lbs. Bear that in mind for the rest of the review, but importantly this is what made me doubt the seat’s integrity, given that it seemed to be held together by some Velcro. I couldn’t help feeling like it wouldn’t be strong enough, but as you will see in a moment, it really does feel secure once you are in it.
As for the rest of the setup, the extra screws and pieces of Velcro are really just for securing your wheel and pedals in place, and for holding the seat together once you are ready to store it away. All in all, it maybe took about 15 minutes to set up, and with minimal effort. So far so good.
Playseat Challenge Compatibility With Sim Racing Equipment
This is the thing that Playseat boasts about on their website, and it was something I wasn’t too worried about going into the setup. I have a Logitech G29 wheel and pedal setup (plus the shifter, but more on that later), and you can find out more about this setup here. The Playseat Challenge is definitely compatible with this setup.
The wheel mount has screw holes in the right places for the G29, and the pedal mount underneath would probably fit most sets anyway. As far as I can tell, if you have a relatively beginner friendly racing wheel, you should have no problem setting it up with the Playseat Challenge. The one thing that is missing is a mount for a gear shifter or handbrake.
Not A Huge Loss
I have written a review for the Logitech Driving Force shifter which you can check out here, and in the review I pointed out that, although very cool and highly functional, I rarely use the shifter as the paddles on the back of the G29 wheel are just much faster. However, it is disappointing to not be able to use it with the Playseat Challenge, as it is always nice to have the option.
Obviously, you are stumped if you have any other shifter too, or a handbrake, as there is no built-in spot for either. This is definitelynot a huge loss for me, and it doesn’t take much away from the seat on its own, but it could be worth considering if you want to make the most of your shifter, or if you play a lot of rally games with a focus on the handbrake.
You can pick up a gear shifter attachment for the Playseat Challenge, but this does bring the total price up substantially. In my opinion, unless you use your shifter or handbrake in every racing session, you won’t miss the option too much.
How Comfortable Is The Playseat Challenge?
Now we get to the meat and potatoes of this review: how comfortable the Playseat Challenge is. As I stated before, I am a fairly big guy, and so once I set this chair up, I looked at it worryingly, wondering how I was going to get into it. I haven’t done any real racing myself, but I know how tricky it can be to get into the bucket-style seats of race cars.
Once again, I also paid close attention to the fact this it was really just Velcro preventing the seat from collapsing, and so I was wary as to how much movement there might be. But I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, getting in for the first time proved to be a bit tricky, but then I realized there is a built-in way of getting in and out of the seat easily!
Easy To Get In And Out
The steering wheel mount is a separate frame that you slide into the main frame, and one side locks into place while the other is locked manually with a twisting component that is attached to the main frame. This keeps it secure when in use, but you can simplyrelease it and swing the steering wheel mount upwards, allowing you to easily get in or out before locking it back into place.
As for the comfort factor, it really is exceptionally comfortable! I was once again pleasantly surprised, as once I was in, I felt like I was verysecure. Although it may look precarious, Velcro is extremely strong. Plus, the Alcantara-coated seat component is one long piece, attached at several structurally sound points, so it really is very stable.
So, it was comfortable at first, but what about after a long racing session? Well, it really held up quite well. There was no movement beneath me, and I felt very secure the entire time. I got out of the seat after a couple of hours with about as much ease as I had gotten in. Again, you can always just disconnect the steering wheel mount if you are having trouble.
I had to do some adjusting of the seat to fit into it before I settled down for my first races, but more on the adjustability in a moment. What I will say is that I can’t imagine getting quite as comfortable if I was much taller or wider, and although they say on their website that the recommended weight is up to 122kg/270lbs, I think it would be quite uncomfortable at close to that limit.
Height & Weight Limits
The recommended height goes up to around 7ft, which again I think is probably very unrealistic. The main reason I say this is down to the way that you adjust the parameters of the seat, so let’s talk about the adjustability of the Playseat Challenge.
Playseat Challenge Adjustability
In order to make the seat longer, in other words to fit a taller person, you need to fiddle around with the straps on the sides of the chair. The seat uses an X mechanism to allow it to fold up easily, and so in order to make it longer in length, you also make it shorter in terms of height. The reason you might want to make it longer is the steering wheel position, so let’s talk about that first.
The steering wheel plate is adjustable in a rotational manner, so you can essentially angle it downwards if you are sitting lower, or upwards if you are sitting a bit higher up or closer to the wheel. You can’t move it laterally, so for me to get further away from the wheel I had to alter the straps on the side of the seat, which widens the X shape and brings me lower to the ground.
If you were shorter and wanted to be closer to the wheel, you would do the opposite. The trade off here is that you would then be sitting higher. The pedals can be adjusted by sliding the pedal mount forwards and backwards before locking them into place, and so they really don’t limit how you sit in the seat, and they can be very close or pretty far away if you are taller.
The main deciding factor is the steering wheel mount. Although sitting lower to the ground makes you feel like you are in a racing car, which is always good, it does present an issue for my particular setup. My TV sits on a mount about 80cm off the ground, which is fine for most purposes. However, in the Playseat Challenge, as I need to be a bit further away from the wheel, I sit much lower than that.
Realistic Racing Feel
This doesn’t mean I need to look up to the TV, but it means my eyeline is a lot lower than I am used to. This is a problem with my TV mounting situation, and definitely not the Playseat Challenge. However, if you too have a permanently mounted TV/monitor, perhaps high up on a wall, it is worth noting that you will be quite low to the ground when sitting in the Playseat, even with it in its highest position.
If you have a moveable mount, or a TV/monitor that is sitting lower to the ground, then the Playseat Challenge is definitely going to provide you with that ideal racing feel, as if you really are in the car. You do feel locked in, and even with my TV in a less than ideal position, I still really enjoy using the Playseat Challenge for that bit of realism paired with excellent comfort.
Another adjustable component is the Velcro strap at the back of the seat. This will allow you to sit deeper into the seat, but I found it to be in the ideal position at its tightest. This would really be down to personal preference, and I didn’t really notice too much of a benefit when I messed around with its positioning.
As I said, the pedals can be moved further away or closer to you as well, and although they are only locked in with a few plastic pegs, they didn’t move at all when I was racing. But that brings us to our next topic, how well does the Playseat Challenge perform for sim racing?
In-Game Performance Of The Playseat Challenge
While the Playseat Challenge is comfortable and feels sturdy enough, how does it hold up against a few hours of heavy racing? Well, to begin we need to remember that I am using a Logitech G29 wheel at the moment, and I will talk about the limitations of the seat with regard to more powerful wheels shortly.
Sturdy Enough For The G29
The G29 offers decent force feedback and a good amount of force for beginners, but I found the mounting plate on the Playseat Challenge to be more than sturdy enough for racing. Yes, it does wobble slightly, and it will bounce around a bit if you apply enough force. But in game you are not going to be doing that, so you will not notice much bouncing or shaking.
For this to be the case you really do need to have the wheel screwed in. The clamps on the G29 are not enough for any proper sim racing, as I touched on in the review of the wheel itself. But once you have it screwed in, you won’t need to worry about it feeling unstable. The same goes for the pedals, as you aren’t really given much of a choice when it comes to securing them.
The pedal mount – if you can call it that, even calling it a baseplate might be too much – consists of a metal frame on which you rest the pedals. They sit up against the back of the frame, which prevents them from being pushed forwards. You set how far they are away from you by sliding them backwards and then screwing two plastic pegs into the sides.
These don’t feel secure themselves, but I have not had the pedals slide away from me yet, so they must be pretty solid. Plus, you are pushing down on the pedals, and there is naturally going to be friction, so they shouldn’t go anywhere. Even under strong braking I never feel like the pedals are going away from me, and my in-game performance was as normal.
Yet More Velcro
The only other piece of security offered by the Playseat Challenge in terms of the pedals is another Velcro strap. This wraps around the base of the pedals and the baseplate which holds them. Although this does (sort of) keep them held a bit tighter to the frame, I never really thought they rose up much off the ground anyway, but it plays a key role in the pedal storage.
Storage And Portability
A Good Balance
If you are like me and don’t currently haveapermanent sim racing setup, you are probably looking for a racing chair that gives you the best of both worlds; functionality and portability. The Playseat Challenge is advertised as doing just that, and I think it lives up to the task very well indeed.
The limited number of components at setup means there isn’t going to be much to worry about when putting it away after a racing session. Other temporary setups, such as foldable stands or other foldable chairs, are often bulky or heavy, or difficult to disassemble in the first place. The Playseat Challenge really is not like that at all – it’s so easy to put away.
There are a few things to note before you try to fold it up however, with the first being cablemanagement. This is a shortfall of the Playseat Challenge, as its barebones construction means there is no cable management built into it. The G29 has a few cables to think about, with the power, pedals and the USB connection to the console.
When it comes to putting your rig away, you just need to follow the instructions in the manual (when you’ve done it once, you won’t need to look at it again). Then just try to make sure the cables are kept fairly tidy, as you don’t want anything tangling or snagging when you go to set it back up. I recommend freeing the cables completely before you unfold it again.
Make Sure They’re Secure
Then comes another important part, which is securing the pedals into the mount. If you haven’t used the Velcro strap already, which I discussed in an earlier section, now is the time to strap in your pedals. If you don’t do it tight enough, they might fall out (like mine did) when you go to set the seat up again next time you want to use it.
Now, you could of course take the wheel and pedals off before you fold it up, which wouldn’t take too long. But I find that one of the biggest benefits of the Playseat Challenge is that I can fold it up with everything attached, which keeps all of my sim racing gear in one place, out of the way when I am not using it, and ready to be setup as soon as I want to use it.
Its footprint is maybe a foot in either direction once it is folded up, and it is around 4ft tall/long, depending on how you are storing it. In my case, it stands up against the wall behind my door, and it is perfect for hiding away and getting out again as soon as I need it. This also makes it fairly portable too, as it would fit in the back of most cars.
Some Limitations Of The Playseat Challenge
Compatibility With High-End Equipment
There are of course some limitations with the Playseat Challenge that you should consider before you buy it. First of all, the seat is not really built for more high-end sim racing equipment, such as direct drive wheels. I can see it struggling to cope with the immense forces offered by some of these wheels, and so I wouldn’t recommend the Playseat Challenge if you have a direct drive wheel.
I think it would just wobble and shake too much, and I wouldn’t be surprised if excessive use caused damage to the seat itself. But I haven’t tested it myself, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In terms of compatibly with other wheels and pedals, the best thing is to check the Playseat website and other reviews to see what does and doesn’t work, but it should be compatible with most entry level setups.
Then comes the limit on the adjustability. As I have said, the tradeoff with the excellent foldability of the Playseat Challenge is that you can only adjust it in certain ways, usually at the expense of seat height.This means it might not be best for very tall people, or very short people, as you will be forced to sit lower and further away from the wheel, or higher but much closer to it.
I have had the Playseat Challenge for a few weeks, and I have used it fairly heavily. It has not shown any signs ofwear and tear, nor should it at this stage, but I can’t vouch for how well it will hold up over longer periods of time. What I will say is that although it has a fairly minimalist but practical design, it is still worth taking proper care of your Playseat. (Possibly link to article about cleaning racing seat? If not, this paragraph could be removed to be honest, just thought it could serve as a useful link)
Who Should Buy The Playseat Challenge?
Ideal Choice For Beginners
This is a fairly easy question to answer, as the Playseat Challenge is really for the beginner sim racer. It is essentially built for entry level wheels like the Logitech G29, and so it is the perfect choice if you want the balance between affordability, practicality and portability. At a low price, you will be more than satisfied with the performance of the Playseat Challenge.
If you have experience with high end sim racing chairs you might find the Playseat Challenge to be a bit of a downgrade. Although it is made from relatively high-quality materials, it is not the sturdiest of all the racing chairs on the market. Thus, if you want that premium feel, you will need to pay the premium price, and so this is ideal for those on a budget.
Finally, it is the perfect solution for beginners – or indeed experienced racers – that don’t have much space. The chair does take up a fair amount of room on the ground when it is being used – I would say around 6 or 7 feet. This is worth considering, but the beauty of the Challenge is that you can store it away when you aren’t using it. This makes it perfect for temporary racing setups.
Overall, the Playseat Challenge proves to be a good option for beginner sim racers, or any sim racer with a temporary racing setup. The seat is comfortable, practical and it can be easily folded and stored away when not in use. It comes in at a fair price considering the benefits of the seat.
It is compatible with entry level racing equipment, although it doesn’t have a shifter mount and might not be suitable for direct drive wheels. It is fairly adjustable, and although it looks fairly simple and perhaps not overly sturdy, I have found the Playseat Challenge to be a joy to use, offering plenty of comfort and a realistic racing feel.