Thrustmaster fans have had to wait a long time for the first direct drive base from the manufacturer, which has so far been popular mainly in the entry-level segment. Announced back in 2021, the time has finally come and it will be interesting to see how the T818 Wheel Base from Thrustmaster will perform in our review.
Ordering and shipping
The wheel base can initially only be ordered via the Thrustmaster website. The following prices apply there:
- T818: 649.99€
- T818 + T818 METAL PLATE COLOR: 664.99€
- DESK MOUNTING KIT für T818: 49.99€
- COCKPIT MOUNTING KIT für T818: 39.99€
- Quick Release Adapter: 34.99€
- T818 METAL PLATE COLOR: 29.99€
The new base is now listed at another shop, alza.de, but cannot yet be ordered there.
Scope of delivery
The following components are included in the scope of delivery:
- T818 Base
- Power supply unit
- USB-C cable
- QR adapter
A positive aspect is that a QR adapter is already included in the scope of delivery. This allows users to use an “old” Thrustmaster steering wheel directly on the new Direct Drive Base. Otherwise, the manufacturer does not include any mounting material at all.
When it comes to mounting, the choice of accessories supplied plays a not insignificant role. Thrustmaster does not supply any screws or other mounting material. This is unfortunate, as the T818 Base has a new hole pattern on the underside that is not compatible with any of the drill holes commonly available on the market. Thus, in many cases, owners of entry-level rigs have to resort to the drill or purchase the COCKPIT MOUNTING KIT additionally. In view of the target group of entry-level DDs, this step is surprising and when buying, it should be remembered to order the required mounting directly if in doubt.
Otherwise, the installation is quickly done and only the supplied USB-C cable needs to be connected to the PC and the power supply established via the compact external power supply unit. Only the form factor can be a limitation depending on the rig and the desired arrangement of the screens, as the base offers no options for mounting either on the sides or on the front.
The T818 Base from Thrustmaster is compatible with all Thrustmaster pedal sets, shifters and handbrakes (PC, via USB) are also 100% compatible. In addition, there is an RJ45 port, which, according to the manufacturer, should open the door to a new ecosystem in the future.
Unfortunately, the base is currently only designed for use on a PC, so the T818 does not offer the usual console compatibility that Thrustmaster is known for.
There are no other accessories directly from Thrustmaster, but third-party suppliers have already become active and offer various products:
- Mobile phone holder by BetterParts: https://betterparts.de/shop/simracing/thrustmaster-t818-handyhalterung/
- (will be added when new products are available, feel free to leave a comment)
Quick-release, adapters and steering wheels
Thrustmaster has given the first Direct Drive Base a completely revised quick-release. As usual, it supplies power and data without an additional cable and now consists of a recess on the side of the base, which is equipped with a lever for fixing the steering wheels.
On the other side is the corresponding Quick Release on the wheel side, which, like the entire quick-release system, has been designed with weight in mind:
Made of aluminium and high-strength plastic, the system ensures a reliable connection without adding unnecessary weight, thus preserving the axle mass of the T818.https://www.thrustmaster.com/de-de/products/t818/
The following pictures show the adapter that can be used to convert steering wheels currently available on the market to the new standard. For this test, a third-party steering wheel was used, the XF1-Sport from LeoXZ. Mounting the QR takes only a few seconds and the system worked smoothly and without dropouts during the test laps. However, the weight advantage is of course bought by a certain unwanted flex, for example in direct comparison with the QR from Simucube. However, this flex was so slight during the review that it was not felt to be annoying at any time.
Until Thrustmaster introduces new steering wheels that are natively equipped with the new QR system, the adapters for 35 € each remain the only option. It will be interesting to see how the QR system performs without the adapters.
Thrustmaster’s software was the biggest surprise in the test, unfortunately not a very positive one. The software is opened via the game controller window, where the user is presented with an interface in the look of the 2010s.
Extensive setting options are unfortunately not available here.
While Direct Drive Bases usually offer a wide range of settings with various parameters, Thrustmaster apparently tries to guide the user and only differentiates between various modes, for which there are (at least so far) no detailed explanations:
These modes act according to their names. While you hardly get any feedback in Comfort mode, Extreme mode is the counterpart with sometimes artificial-looking, very exaggerated force feedback effects. In addition, you can only adjust the general strength and damping of the effects.
Even though the intention to keep the software lean and clear is very commendable, Thrustmaster might have overshot the mark a little here. Users of a Direct Drive Base are usually enthusiasts and accordingly want to be able to adjust the settings to their own needs. Even though the four modes are clearly different from each other, more would simply have been more here.
Another criticism of the software concerns the (at least so stated) necessity to close it before starting a game. On-the-fly changes are thus made unnecessarily difficult.
In addition to the emergency stop button, there are other buttons that can be used for various settings:
- Two action buttons (each marked with an arrow).
- A button for changing the pedal mode (loadcelll / no loadcell) as well as for changing the steering angle (button with Thrustmaster logo, a steering wheel from Thrustmaster is also required).
In addition, a status LED is integrated to provide feedback on the changes made.
The concept of the control panel on the side of the base is basically very good. Here it would be desirable if more changes could be made via it in the future, such as the selected FFB mode.
The T818 Wheel Base has a ring of LEDs on the front, which can be adjusted in colour via the software. Currently, the function is limited to the design aspect, but in the future, interesting possibilities such as dynamic RPM bars or flag LEDs might be possible. Thrustmaster has the opportunity to introduce these functions step by step.
When it comes to force feedback, the Base finally shows its strengths. With a maximum force of 10 Newton metres (peak probably a little higher) and the very light construction of the shaft and the QR system, it offers very active force feedback that can reproduce even the smallest details well. At the same time, the base works very quietly and had no problems with cogging in the test. Curbs and bumps were also very well represented.
Overall, it comes very close to the products of the established high-end manufacturers (e.g. SC2 Sport / Pro, Fanatec DD1 / DD2). Here you could probably get a bit more out of it with more options in the software depending on the simulation.
For example, the base in Assetto Corsa Competizione struggled with a very strongly oscillating steering wheel depending on the setting (especially in Performance and above all in Extreme mode), which had to be counteracted by increasing the damping. This ultimately leads to a compromise that either dampens the force feedback and makes it seem a bit more indirect or a steering wheel that tends to oscillate.
All in all, the base has a lot of potential, which hopefully can be fully exploited through further firmware and software updates.
The great potential of the T818 from Thrustmaster in terms of force feedback is also the crucial keyword for the conclusion. The manufacturer’s approach is very good and allows us to overlook some points of criticism regarding the scope of delivery and such.
The points of criticism mentioned during the review could be almost completely eliminated through software adaptations. If Thrustmaster manages to add value to the LED ring, provide more adjustment options for the force feedback as well as the buttons and, if possible, even bring the interface up to date, the T818 can become a real recommendation for up to 700€. Because as already mentioned: the potential is undoubtedly here.
But even so, the T818 Wheel Base remains interesting above all for those who are switching and already own some of the manufacturer’s steering wheels. With the relatively inexpensive QR adapter, these can continue to be used with the new QR solution until the new steering wheels are released.
For an entry into the world of direct drive wheel bases, however, the T818 would not be our first choice at the moment.
- Force Feedback…
- Integrated buttons
- Kompatibilität innerhalb des Ökosystems inklusive günstiger Adapter
- … With not enough adjustment options
- Many components made of plastic