Steelseries' Wii inspired column-free wheel has just arrived in the office for review in this month's mag. The Simraceway S1 is a cockpit controller with everything but the wheel removed. Grasp it in two hands and take to the track without worrying about whether you bolted it down firmly enough on your desk. Just wave it left and right to turn corners.
Is it a liberating experience experience to be free of those clunky desk mounts, or consolisation of the PC gone too far?
While I'm not a huge player of racing games, I do enjoy taking them out of the garage occasionally, and like to keep a wheel handy just in case I'm in the mood. I never watch motor racing on TV any more, though, so while I can appreciate all the buttons and dials on the controller as being useful and authentically modelled on something or other, I'm much more interested in the Simraceway wheel because it's really well built and small. It packs tidily away in a drawer when you're not using it.
It's also completely driverless, even for the assist dials and twiddly bits.
There is, apparently, an optional steering column mount which can tether it to a desk, but if the motion control works well enough that really shouldn't be needed. You forgo force feedback, obviously, but you do get all those buttons, a wheel that's been 'tested by pros' according to the spec and – most importantly – well built peripheral that makes similar console accessories look like the cheap toys they are.
Although it works as a motion controller, it isn't wireless. The S1 is connected to your PC via USB and that's just fine by me – it should make it more accurate and responsive, getting rid of the sluggish dead zones wireless controllers can have in fast games. Early impressions are that it's a reactive as most wheels, even if it takes a while to get used to fact it floats freely in front of you.
I even quite like the Simraceway online racer which it's designed to work with, and which I wouldn't have ever tried if it weren't for the wheel review.
The problem with the S1, though, is the price. At £100 it's not exactly an impulse buy for a Sunday driver who likes the convenience of a disembodied wheel, but the lack of force feedback is going to rule it out for anyone with that sort of cash to spend on peripherals. Anyway, there's no foot controls, so acceleration and braking is handled by paddles on the back, which suggests it lacks of the kind of realism sim fans want.
I love the concept, the design and the rubberised finish. I just can't see myself buying it.
Still, I might change my mind – these are just first impressions. I'm going to do some more testing and put a full review in next month's mag.