Tech Up! Thrustmaster T128 Racing Wheel

By Luke Hemming 26.01.2024

Casual may be too much of a compliment when it comes to this reviewers dip into racing games. Apart from an unhealthy love of the Wipeout series, most driving simulators have passed by unnoticed with not much to spark an interest. Sure, those gaming rigs look fantastic and an arcade feeling in the homestead would certainly raise the eyebrows, but with price always being a barrier, nothing really has changed. Enter the Thrustmaster T128 Racing Wheel, looking to replicate the high-end feel of competitors and its own more expensive model for an entry level price more tempting to anyone with a need for speed.

Tested on the Series X (but also compatible with PC), one of the first big ticks is ease of use. When taking all the relevant components straight out of the box it initially felt daunting for the uninitiated. Once the USB was connected to the console however, plug and play took over and the setup was ready to go. Comprising of a wheel and pedal set, Aesthetic wise it looks great with some helpful LED's pinging across the top of the wheel to let you know everything is primed and waiting. Although the pedals are entirely moulded in plastic they also feel sturdy and capable of some long sessions and years of use with no issues. Both responsive and satisfyingly pushy for someone whose experience is mostly the pedals on the daily commute. All at the relatively low price of around £170. After some quick research its clear there are parts of this kit that can sell for that alone. The only gripe in terms of look and feel was playing on a hardwood floor, the pedals tended to get away and a grippy surface at the bottom would have been appreciated to keep everything close. This was easily remedied however by wedging the pedals against a solid surface however having to come up with a solution to a problem that shouldn't be there was less than ideal. A clutch pedal is also not included if you are looking for full immersion.
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Once in-game (tested on the latest Formula 1 Title for true authenticity), navigation buttons are suitably and comfortably placed to allow for easy and quick navigation through the menus and to be able to get off to the races sooner rather than later. It's here the Lighting system comes into play, not just to make the experience a little bit shinier but also for a practical use. The lights are employed to give a visual rev indicator to the player, a teaching moment to show the optimal time for a gear change. Starting out this feels incredibly useful and allows for a quick competitive edge if unaccustomed to the genre. Gear changes are also handled by some great feeling paddles situated at the back of the wheel over the added peripheral of a gear stick. Something a lefty can fully appreciate. Feedback seems spot on also, with every bump and nudge suitably felt as a curb is jumped or grass explored. Plenty of resistance is also felt when turning the wheel itself, feeling like an authentic replication but not losing the fun. If the mood takes you the full 900 degree movement of the wheel can be thrown around for some drifting attempts, perfect for gamers who look for the arcade feel over the more professional experience the Thrustmaster T128 Racing Wheel offers. Other, looser wheels are available on the market however at this price point, there are no arguments about the experience.

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All of this is held by a clamping system designed for a gaming desk or other suitable sturdy surface. Again, the process of attachment was incredibly simple and once locked in, there was no fear of this detaching mid-game or ever if that bit of space isn't needed for you know, work. After a few hours of use everything felt as comfortable as the first few minutes, again, thanks to some excellent button placement for easy reach and also what feels like a slightly smaller steering wheel than some other premium entries, a design choice that is all the better for it. Grips could have been included on the wheel to perhaps add that little bit more stability but this never felt like a major issue with no slipping occurring, even with the squeakiest of bum times leading to sweaty, stress-filled palms.
Overall, this feels like a very high-end piece of kit for the price point. Yes, both the pedals and wheel are entirely plastic but they don't feel the cheaper for it. The lighting system is a great feature that grabs you from the start and means an easy transition into the world of racing games, giving a competitive chance to the inexperienced. Most importantly, its fun to use, providing some reactive and impressive feedback with options to please the experts and being sturdy enough to throw around as an amateur.

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
 A great starter kit to give newcomers the full driving experience without breaking the bank. Being a clear step towards professional kit but managing to provide most of those premium options with a few surprises of its own. If you are a parent of a petrolhead, this would also make the perfect gift to test the waters on how far they want to vie for pole position in the world of driving simulators.

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