- Distinctive design
- Compatible with most Thrustmaster products
- Decent force feedback
- Good value for money
- No console compatibility
- Heavy use of plastic
- Poor quick release
- Poor set-up process
Thrustmaster has long been known for producing some of the best budget and mid-range belt-driven racing wheels. Their T248 and T128 are some of the best picks for a budget racing wheel. And the T-GT II, TS-PC and TS-XW have long been great options.
However, the T818 marks Thrustmaster’s first adventure into direct drive sim racing. Its positioned right in the mid-range and designed to challenge the likes of MOZA, Asetek and Fanatec who all have direct drive wheel bases around the same price and performance range.
In this review, I’ll find out just how good the Thrustmaster T818 is, and whether it is worth considering in place of other competitors.
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What is the Thrustmaster T818?
As mentioned, the T818 is a direct drive wheel base that sits right in the mid-range price bracket. It produces 10Nm of peak torque, which is actually a little bit less than the wheels that it’s competing against. Although 10Nm is still respectable and more than enough in many cases.
This is a PC-only racing wheel, opting to step away from console support which certainly doesn’t help this wheel bases case. Brands such as Fanatec and Logitech have both got console compatibility with their mid-range wheel bases, so it’s a real shame to see that lacking here.
How does the T818 compare to other direct drive racing wheels?
Below is a quick overview of exactly where the Thrustmaster T818 stacks up against other mid-ranged direct drive racing wheels from other brands.
|Fanatec ClubSport DD
|Asetek La Prima
|MOZA Racing R12
|Logitech Pro Wheel
As you can see from the comparison to other brands above, the T818 stacks up relatively well in terms of price. It is the cheapest mid-range direct drive wheel as both the prices of the Asetek La Prima and MOZA R12 don’t include VAT or sales tax.
- Buy the Thrustmaster T818 (United States) – $649.99
- Buy the Thrustmaster T818 (Europe) – €649.99
- Buy the Thrustmaster T818 (UK) – £599.99
Given some of the characteristics of the T818, I would expect it to be the cheapest. Many of its competitors offer slightly higher peak performance, console support and better build quality. And its with that build quality and the design of the Thrustmaster T818 where I really want to start delving into what this wheel has to offer.
The Design of the Thrustmaster T818
Right at the outset, you will notice that the Thrustmaster T818 utilises a combination of metal and plastic in its outer casing. This is pretty different to the approach we’ve come to be accustomed to lately. MOZA, Fanatec and Asetek all offer a completely metal casing.
This makes this wheel feel less premium than its competitors despite its unique design. I do like that Thrustmaster has opted for this hexagonal design. It’s unique and fits with the edgy look that they have gone with since the launch of the T248.
The front of the wheel base features probably the most unique design choice of this base. A dynamic RGB LED light strip that spans the entire front of the base. This light strip is designed to be interactive in game, meaning it can change colour depending on your revs, and serve as a way of indicating when to shift.
During my time with this base though, I did not get this working. Instead, during all of my gameplay the lights were just randomly changing colours as I raced.
But overall, I think this is a nice-looking wheel base. It’s quirky and different from the usual metal box that we’re so used to seeing. I like the mesh grill at the front and the LED lights. You can even change the metal plates on the wheel to a colour of your choosing. I’ve got the red Ferrari branding plates here and they look pretty nice.
Mounting this wheel base is generally an easy affair depending on the sim rig you are running. The mounting pattern is smaller than some Thrustmaster bases due to the way the wheel base pinches in at the bottom. This can cause issues if you’re running an extremely old sim rig as you may find the holes don’t align with the pre-drilled holes on your wheel deck.
If this is the case, you can buy an additional table clamp which makes mounting much easier. This is included if you opt for the T818 Ferrari bundle, or it’s an additional purchase at around £/$50. With that said, I didn’t have an issue mounting it to my Sim-Lab P1X Pro sim rig.
Swinging around the back of this wheel base, you’ll find some connection ports, although there are a lot fewer ports than many wheels come with. I guess this is due to the lack of console compatibility and less requirement for peripherals to be directly connected to this base.
You’ve got your usual power and USB data ports. Then there are a couple of extra slots for a pedal set and a mysterious RJ45 port that Thrustmaster say is for a new type of ecosystem in the future. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what that is!
Thrustmaster T818 performance review
The T818 has some pretty stiff competition to match in the performance category. The good news is that it holds up pretty well. While it is underpowered slightly, this doesn’t make too much of an impact. I’ve mentioned it before, but the T818 produces just 10Nm of peak torque. Competitors from Fanatec, Asetek and Logitech produce up to 12Nm.
This is certainly a disadvantage, however, many sim racers detune their racing wheels away from maximum. I generally run my racing wheels between 8-12Nm depending on the wheel. And at 10Nm, this wheel certainly doesn’t feel lacking.
This is Thrustmaster’s first direct drive racing wheel, and it has handled the transition in technology well. Before this, all Thrustmaster wheels run on a belt or hybrid drive system.
Why is direct drive so important?
The move from belt-driven force feedback to direct drive is a big one and is something that most sim racing companies are pushing. Direct drive is superior to belt-driven systems that are found in older or cheaper racing wheels in a few ways.
First, with the removal of moving mechanisms such as gears or belts, the motor can produce a lot more power without the risk of causing internal damage. This lets manufacturers include a larger motor to produce more power. This change is the reason why the T818 can push 10Nm of peak torque, making it the most powerful Thrustmaster racing wheel ever.
Another benefit, and one that is probably more important is the extra force feedback detail that you get from a direct drive racing wheel. When you link the motor to the steering shaft via belts or gears, there will always be some loss of force feedback detail in translation.
Direct drive wheels remove any intermediary systems and mount the motor directly to the steering shaft. This allows all of the force feedback detail to be sent directly into the steering wheel, giving you a much better feel of how your car is reacting on track.
There’s also the benefit of less heat being generated by removing extra moving parts which often leads direct drive racing wheels to run without an internal fan. That is the case with the T818 making it incredibly quiet during use.
How does the T818 perform?
While 10Nm of peak force is right around the sweet spot, it’s the detail that you can feel that is the real deciding factor. On this front, the T818 handles everything really well. The force feedback is crisp and feels pretty lightning-fast in its delivery.
I would say that the force feedback offers everything you need from a mid-range direct drive racing wheel without excelling in any single area. Brands such as Logitech have their TrueForce technology, and Fanatec have released new FullForce technology in their ClubSport DD wheel.
In comparison, both of those wheels outperform this T818. But that certainly doesn’t make the T818 a bad wheel. It’s just not as competitive with those outstanding racing wheels.
One real area where the Thrustmaster T818 cannot compete with the likes of Fanatec and Logitech is its compatibility. This racing wheel is only compatible with PC and does not work with either Xbox or PS5 consoles unfortunately.
This is a shame, as up until now Thrustmaster has been a brand that always integrates console support into its racing wheels. With console support put to one side, the T818 is compatible with the majority of the Thrustmaster ecosystem.
You can buy the T818 bundled with the impressive SF1000 steering wheel which you can see me using. Alternatively, you can buy it individually and run pretty much any Thrustmaster steering wheel with it.
The T818 includes a new style of quick release which is definitely an improvement over their previous iterations. It’s much closer to a Cube Controls quick release with a fastener rather than the push-and-pull quick releases from MOZA and Fanatec. It’s also constructed entirely from plastic which isn’t ideal.
All competitors are using metal quick releases so to see a plastic one here on this direct drive wheel is a disappointment. With that said, during use, I couldn’t notice any wobbling, flexing or movement in the quick release so it can certainly stand up to some punishment.
Despite being an updated design, it can be used with older Thrustmaster steering wheels, but you will require an adapter. This is included in the Ferrari T818 bundle, but if you’re not buying that, you’ll need to pick up an adapter separately for around £/$35.
Setting up the T818
One area of my time with the T818 that I really wasn’t a fan of was the set-up process. If you’ve used a Thrustmaster wheel before, everything will be pretty intuitive. But coming from brands such as MOZA, Asetek and Fanatec where the set-up is all handled via a single app, the Thrustmaster process is definitely lacking.
Thrustmaster still doesn’t have a nice and easy-to-use centralised piece of software like Asetek’s RaceHub or MOZA’s Pit House. Instead, you get the horrible and dated Thrustmaster Control Panel. While the setup process was fine, it just isn’t intuitive or nice to use.
When it comes to configuring certain wheels like the SF1000 that is included with the Ferrari bundle, things get even worse. To set that steering wheel up, you have to physically dismantle the wheel to get to a hidden USB port just to update the wheel. This really is an area where Thrustmaster need to improve their game.
Should you buy the Thrustmaster T818?
Whether this Thrustmaster T818 wheel is right for you depends on a few factors. If you are already in the Thrustmaster ecosystem, have multiple steering wheels or a pedal set and only race on PC, then yes this is a great addition. It provides the best force feedback of any Thrustmaster racing wheel to date.
If however, you race on Xbox or PS5, this is unfortunately not the wheel base for you. If you don’t currently own any sim racing hardware and are starting from a fresh point of entry. Then I would probably recommend looking closer at other brands instead of this racing wheel.