Sim-Racing, which has become a very trendy e-sport in the last few years, allows a real immersion in a racing circuit thanks to all the new advanced technologies and the different materials proposed to play.
But it’s not always clear where to start, what type of media to choose, how much to invest to have the best possible experience when you’re a beginner or how to avoid incompatibility problems.
There is such a variety of products today that it is not easy to make the right decisions when purchasing the necessary equipment. Don’t worry, in this article, we offer you a complete guide to answer all your questions and to start Sim-Racing with the best of what is available nowadays.
SimRacing: The best equipment for beginners 2023
What is Sim-Racing?
If you are not familiar with this term, Sim-Racing is simply the contraction of the two words Simulation and Racing, a word that refers to racing simulation games.
Thanks to specialized material and equipment, Sim-racing allows you to simulate a driving experience as close as possible to reality.
At 2023, Sim-racing has truly become a very fashionable e-sport, with racers competing virtually all over the world in various amateur and professional championships.
With Sim-racing, there is so little difference between reality and virtual that even the greatest professional racers like Loeb train today on simulators.
The PC or the console?
One of the first and most important questions to ask yourself when you want to get started in Sim-racing is whether you prefer to play on a PC or a console. Unless you already own one of them, you’ll have to decide what to invest in.
There are certain criteria to consider when making a decision.
The Pc, the reference choice
In terms of graphics quality and realism, the PC wins over the consoles when it comes to Sim-racing. It is by far the best choice, according to leading Sim-racers, for recreating the best racing simulation.
Some games are only available on PC, such as iRacing and rFactor 2, two games that are all the rage in the professional and amateur Sim-racing world.
But while the PC may seem like the obvious choice for many gamers, there are some negatives to choosing this option as well. Indeed, if the assembly of a good PC already requires to have some computer knowledge and free time, it also requires a bigger financial investment. Choosing the best graphics card has a cost!
Sim-racing on console
The new generation consoles do not skimp on the quality of the hardware and the games offered to provide, also, incredible racing sensations.
Be careful though, the various Xbox and Playstation consoles have exclusive licenses for each game, which means that depending on what you own or choose to buy, you may not be able to play all the racing games you’ve been dreaming of.
The choice of games
The ultimate goal is to have fun, so the choice is based on what you want to do. There are different types of games and different types of races: F1, rally, endurance… What do you like the most? Depending on your tastes, choose the games that suit you the most while making sure that they are compatible with your PC or console.
If you choose the Xbox with the X|S Series, for example, it is the Forza range of games that will be compatible with your console.
In this range, you will find the Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon series with the latest Forza Horizon 5 released last November. Some of the games in these series are compatible with Windows.
If you have a Playstation console, you will find the Gran Turismo franchise among the racing simulation games. The latest Gran Turismo 7 opus is a real success.
The different multiplatform games
Don’t worry, if some games only work on one type of console or platform, there are also some very good Sim-racing games that are compatible with different platforms, they are called multiplatform games.
For example, the following games work on both Windows and Xbox Series or Playstation 5:
This game published by EA Sports and developed by Codemasters is very well known in the world of Sim-racing since it was the official video game of the Formula 1 and Formula 2 championships of 2021.
Assetto Corsa Competizione
This 2019 game developed by Italian studios Kunos Simulazioni is very realistic and it is also compatible with different platforms.
Hardware and compatibility
Once you’ve chosen your favorite platform and games, you still have to tackle the more technical part of the hardware.
If we have previously discussed compatibility issues with Sim-racing games, there are also compatibility issues with hardware.
That’s why it’s important to take the time to make sure that the hardware you’re planning to buy is compatible with your console or PC and the games you want to play before you buy anything.
We know that all this can be a real headache, that’s why we’re giving you some very useful information to avoid unpleasant situations.
The steering wheel
If there’s one thing that makes Sim-racing so fantastic and realistic, it’s the use of the steering wheel. And that’s why we recommend that you take your time when choosing yours, so that it is exactly what you are looking for.
The size, the brand, the aesthetics, the vibration, all these criteria are important to take into account so that you get the best sensations during your racing simulations.
All the great Sim-racers will tell you that one of the most important criteria, if not the most important, is the force feedback of your wheel. Of course, this is not mandatory, but without this option, the racing simulation loses a lot of its realism and therefore makes the experience much less enjoyable. With force feedback, you will feel vibrations in your steering wheel during the race, in reaction to the shocks the car receives during the game.
In terms of price, while the best-configured wheels that Sim-racing enthusiasts prefer can cost more than €1,000, for a much lower budget you can find very good models that also guarantee a very good playing experience.
We offer you here three different models of steering wheels, at different prices so that you can make an idea and a choice more easily:
Logitech steering wheels
The brand has declined the G29, G920 and G923 models, which are the leaders in the market of entry-level steering wheels at the moment with a price of 399.99 € for the G923, which includes a steering wheel and a 3-pedal pedal board, compared to about 250 € for the G29. Depending on the model, you have compatibility with Xbox and Playstation consoles as well as with the PC.
Thrustmaster steering wheels
For 349.99 €, the Thrustmaster T248 steering wheel is perfect for beginners. Its force feedback is very effective for its price, and it is compatible with both Playstation and PC consoles and includes a pedal board.
Direct Drive Steering Wheels
By far the most expensive on the market, these wheels are around 1000e or can even cost much more depending on the model. They are considered the cream of the crop of Sim-racing wheels. If the prices soar with models, so do the realism and the sensations while driving. The GT DD Pro steering wheel, for example, is a combination of Gran Turismo and Fanatec that results in one of the best sim-racing wheels ever made.
The Fanatec brand is THE brand of shuttlecocks par excellence, but you have to know a little bit about them to choose their products. Indeed, if you choose a Fanatec steering wheel, you will have to buy separately the engine block to match the desired steering wheel and the pedals.
If, as we have seen before, the pedal board can be included with the steering wheel, this is not necessarily always the case. And when the pedals come with the steering wheel, the material is often made of plastic, which will make it less pleasant to use and less durable.
We recommend that you choose metal pedals instead, as they will be much more durable over time and are also much more realistic.
Most pedalboards designed for Sim-racing have a technology called “potentiometer“, which allows you to index the acceleration or braking power to the angle of the pedal.
There are also new high-end cranksets that feature “Load Cell” technology on the brake pedal. It is a small sensor that calculates the power of the brake application, which adds even more realism to the game.
Here are some examples of pedalboards that we recommend to start with:
Thrustmaster T-LCM LOAD CELL
This is the first pedalboard from the brand Thrustmaster, known in the Sim-racing industry for its good quality entry-level products. It has load-cell technology and therefore offers very precise braking. The price-quality ratio of this pedalboard is really very interesting.
Fanatec CSL crankset
This pedalboard from the famous Fanatec brand is available for as little as €80 and is perfect for Sim-racing beginners. It doesn’t have a Load Cell sensor, so you’ll have to pay at least €100 more if you want to add one.
The gearbox, also called “Shifter” is an additional element in Sim-racing to allow you a better racing simulation when you play.
The steering wheel you purchased may have a paddle for shifting gears, but as with the pedals, this is not always the case. And even when the gearbox is included in the set, it may not be the most suitable for your type of driving.
There are sequential or H-box shifters (some models offer both), with or without vibration, compatible or not with all platforms. You need to take the time to search and compare to find what is right for you.
The Thrustmaster Th8A is one of the most widely used mid-range gearboxes in Sim-racing and is compatible with Playstation, Xbox and PC consoles. Moreover, the gear change can be done in sequential mode, but also via H box.
For the ultimate racing experience, the steering wheel is obviously a main element, but it’s not the only one. If you want to get into sim-racing in the best way possible, plan to add a cockpit to your set.
Nothing prevents you from playing without one, but for the ultimate in comfort and enjoyment, a cabin that is as close to the real thing as possible is truly ideal.
Some players have chosen to build their own cockpit in DIY mode, which is not a bad idea. But to do so, even if you will certainly save some money, you will still need to be patient, feel like a handyman and have the necessary tools.
There are “all-in-one” RSeat type cockpits which are rather high-end, or for a more affordable price, the Playseat cockpits. The latter have the disadvantage of having a bar between the legs.
You also have other styles of models and brands such as Next Level, Obutto, Oplite… The offer is so large that the list is long.
Keep in mind when buying your cockpit that the key word is comfort! You’re likely to spend hours sitting and playing, so you might as well be comfortable.
Models between 200 and 400€:
Next Level Racing – F-GT Lite
It’s a cockpit that gives you an ideal and comfortable racing position and is perfect if you have limited space.
Playseat – Evolution
Playseat is one of the favorite brands among pilots for its quality. This specific model has been developed with pilots. It is foldable and very practical to save space.
Models at 700 – 1000€ :
Rseat – RS1
This cockpit with an evolving design is a must for any game room. It comes with a Shifter support and a bucket seat on slides.
Extreme Simracing – P1 3.0 Cockpit
This cockpit is a real luxury item. It has a screen support as well as a gearshift.
You might think that choosing a screen to play on is not that complicated, but think again, it’s not as simple as it seems, especially if you chose to play on PC.
Indeed, for those who use a console it is very likely that you simply use your television and therefore, you do not have to invest in a new screen. It’s up to you, but you can also take the opportunity to invest in a new, slightly larger or better quality television.
If you have opted for Sim-racing on PC, the choice of your screen(s) will have a decisive impact on your comfort during the races and on the quality of the game. You can start with an Ultrawide screen, or you can start in the best conditions with a triple screen configuration, it’s up to you.
While the PC offers you more flexibility in terms of configuration, it also has its drawbacks. Whether you have one or three screens, take into account the fact thatthe sound must be of very good quality for the racing simulation to be optimal. It would be a real shame if your gaming experience was ruined by sound problems.
You also need to be extremely careful about the G-Sync and FreeSync compatibility of the displays to avoid problems.
What is G-Sync and FreeSync compatibility?
You may be a bit lost with this very technical jargon. These terms refer to Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync graphics cards.
These are the technologies that will allow you to adapt the frequency of a monitor to the frequency at which your graphics card displays images on the screen, this is called variable refresh.
Simply put, it’s what allows you to play your games without suffering the effects of tearing, slowdown, freezes or screen jerks that can be very unpleasant and ruin your gaming experience.
If you have an Nvidia graphics card you can take advantage of G-Sync, and if you have an AMD or Nvidia card you can take advantage of FreeSync.
So be careful, when you buy one or more screens, check that they are compatible with your graphics card.
In our opinion, 2023, this is the state of the art in Sim-racing displays:
- The triple screen configuration This is by far the best that Sim-racing enthusiasts and professionals have to offer. Choosing the triple screen configuration is what guarantees you the best and most realistic field of view during your racing simulations.
- Ultrawide monitor: this option is not far from matching the triple monitors as it offers an incredible experience while considerably reducing the footprint generated by the three screens.
Samsung ULTRA WQHD 34.1 inches
In general, screens for simracing are quite expensive, but some models can be of good quality while remaining financially accessible like the Samsung ULTRA WQHD 34.1 inches. It is about 360 € and it has FreeSync technology built in.
Whatever choice you make, we can only recommend that you make sure that your screen(s) are curved. This option will simply enhance the feeling of immersion and thus make Sim-racing even more realistic. Even if this option is not essential if you have three screens, it corrects very clearly the shortcomings of Ultrawide monitors (two-dimensional vision of the image).
Choosing a screen mount
Since you are playing sitting down, you need to have your screen(s) at the right height and that means you need a stand.
The support will depend, of course, on your choices regarding your Sim-racing setup.
If you have three screens you’ll need mounts designed to hold three screens and if you have a cockpit you’ll need mounts that can attach to it.
There are different brands of mounts and prices vary widely. To give you an idea, here are two examples from different brands and at different prices:
Support for Next Level Racing screen
It is very easy to mount, alone or directly on the cockpit and it can support 1 screen from 24 to 85 inches.
You now know almost everything there is to know about sim-racing and the equipment you’ll need to get started and practice in the best possible conditions.
It’s not all about money, but you do need to have a certain amount of money to get into Sim-racing. As we have seen in this article, with a budget of about 1000 €, you can afford a very good configuration that will allow you to combine comfort and pleasure.
You will discover that thanks to Sim-racing, you will be able to put yourself in the shoes of the greatest professional drivers such as Alonso or Hamilton and feel the same sensations as they do, but from the comfort of your home. Have fun!