Racing wheels, despite years of being a gaming mainstay, are still interesting only to a specific niche of racing enthusiasts. Be it because they require highly specific installation and placement or because of their steep price, many gamers decide to stick to their controllers or keyboards for all their racing needs. Granted, that’s mostly because the high-end wheels usually hog all the spotlight, preventing the diversity of the wheel market to become apparent. In that regard, we decided to provide you with a more affordable, entry-level option by checking out the Thrustmaster T150 Pro.
Most of you are probably wondering if a high-quality racing wheel at a price point that won’t break the bank is even possible without a single compromise? Well, we shift things into 5th gear and take it for a good old spin around the track to find out.
The Thrustmaster T150 Pro is available for purchase on Amazon.
The first thing to note about the Thrustmaster T150 Pro and its design is the fact that it’s all about the PlayStation. Looking at the face of the wheel, one could be forgiven of overlooking the fact that it’s also compatible with a PC. Not only do you have the huge PlayStation logo smack in the middle but you also get all the usual Dual Shock buttons. From the triangle, circle, x, square, L2 and R2 inputs to the D-pad, start, share and even the L3 and R3 buttons to the side. Seriously, the only thing that’s missing is the analog sticks so you can basically use the wheel to control nearly every aspect of the console by itself.
The second, immediately apparent aspect of the T150 Pro is the fact that it’s almost entirely made out of plastic. This might raise a couple of potential concerns – mainly in the build quality and handling department. When it comes to handling – don’t worry. The plastic itself has this rubber-like coating which, when combined with the fact that the parts of the wheel are covered in actual rubber, makes the experience of griping and using the wheel very enjoyable. The paddle-gear shifters behind the wheel are made out of metal, which provides for a nice contrast to all the plastic and ensures nothing breaks during a more intense racing session.
When it comes to the build quality – sure, the wheel is definitely a few steps below metal wheels encased in leather. However, the plastic feels robust and tough enough to withstand all the forces you’ll probably exert over it during regular gameplay. With that said, the clear weak point seems to be that the plastic is very susceptible to scratches. During the initial installation, the cable that connects the pedals to the wheel actually managed to leave a mark around the input while we were trying to plug it in. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker but the relative fragility of the plastic’s surface is definitely something to be mindful of when installing and handling the T150 Pro.
The installation itself is a fairly simple process. Find a solid surface and use the simple, yet reliable clamping system to tighten the wheel to it, plug it into the system of your choice and you are ready to play. There’s no hard mounting option to speak of which is completely understandable considering the entry-level status of the wheel where the presumption is that you don’t have a full-fledged cockpit sitting in your room. Nevertheless, the wheel comes in at 28 cm in diameter, so fitting it to any small, solid surface shouldn’t be an issue.
The T3PA pedal set of the Pro model is a step up from the base T150. Firstly with the addition of a clutch for a total of three pedals and secondly with improvements to the design and build quality. While it’s also almost entirely made out of plastic, the pedals themselves are metal which makes the overall look a bit more premium than what was seen on the base model. Other than that, the entire set is heavy and durable enough to withstand even the most intense races while the bottom is rubberized ensuring everything stays in place when applying pressure.
The notable thing about the Thrustmaster T150 Pro is the fact that it features force feedback motors in its base that use a hybrid belt and gear system. Their purpose is to provide you with realistic feedback by making the wheel provide various levels of resistance depending on what’s happening in the game you’re playing. This includes the wheel fighting you during sharp turns or braking as well as vibrating depending on the roughness of the terrain, during jumps and even during bumps and crashes – no matter how minor.
We tested both the handling and the force feedback in a couple of racing games and the T150 Pro performed superbly. Even though you can sometimes feel some of the notches of the underlying gears, the overall experience is very smooth and precise. Of course, much of your experience will depend on the games themselves and to what extent they support the wheel. For example, playing games like Dirt 2.0 or Grid 2 is absolutely awesome. You can literally just plug the wheel and jump into a race or a time trial without adjusting any settings and almost immediately expect to perform well. The wheel support on these games is handled with great care with the movements feeling highly responsive and instantaneous. Force feedback kicked in at all the right moments and playing a rally time trial on a rocky terrain of Argentina really felt like as high stakes as it really is. In races, you can be sure that the T150 Pro will even make the sheer act of overtaking an opponent a really exciting event that you just don’t get with a controller.
Of course, you can customize it to provide different amounts of force feedback but you can rest assured that leaving everything up to the game will also yield good results. If it’s your first time using a wheel, the T150 Pro will provide you with an excellent sense of speed and will make each race a thrilling, palm-sweating experience it’s supposed to be. With that in mind, even if you are switching from another one, be prepared to lose a couple of races before you completely adjust. This is especially the case if it’s your first wheel as using it requires a totally different approach as opposed to using a controller. For example, the simple act of turning will need to be performed much earlier because turning the wheel can be much slower than simply rocking the analog stick to one side.
With that said, it’s definitely a good idea to be mindful of which games fully support the wheel as well as what the community says about how they perform in different ones. For example, the first game we tested with the T150 Pro was Forza Horizon 4 which is a game that lists the wheel as being fully supported on the PC. However, our experience was that it definitely wasn’t as precise or as responsive as the aforementioned Grid or Dirt. It can still be extremely enjoyable if you want to take your car for a spin in free roam and simply drive around the map. When committing to an actual high-pressure race with aggressive opposition, the results weren’t all that good. Despite playing around with numerous settings, the game just couldn’t handle sudden wheel movements or breaking without severe oversteering that would ultimately result in losing control of the vehicle as well as almost any race we participated in.
In the games that do support it fully, the fact that it can rotate up to 1080 degrees means it affords you the freedom to participate in races of any intensity almost without limitation. No matter the length of your game sessions, the wheel runs very smoothly and it even has an internal fan that kicks in to keep things cool and running at optimal capacity. Granted, it can be somewhat loud but it becomes distracting only if you completely dial down the volume of your game.
As far as the usage of the pedals, the gas one on the right and the clutch one on the left realistically provide minimal resistance while the break is somewhat harder to press on. They generally feel great to use and even a minor pressure on them is immediately seen and felt in-game and on the wheel itself.
Something that’s a bit of a hit and miss, however, is the presence of the clutch pedal since its only useful if you already own or purchase a gearstick separately. Sure, its inclusion gives you more options but since this is an entry-level wheel it’s doubtful that anyone looking at it will consider buying the compatible gearstick which costs almost as much as the T150 Pro itself.
All in all, despite some shortcomings, the Thrustmaster T150 Pro is a great entry-level racing wheel. At the end of the day, it has everything you’d want in one with an absolutely great force-feedback and excellent and responsive controls. Everything else, like premium materials and hard-mounting options of more expensive models, is just frosting on the cake. At a price point of 240 euros, you’ll hardly be missing them while still being able to fully enjoy the breakneck speed.