A Beginner Buyer's Guide to Sim Racing
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
With the racing season winding down, drivers like me will be staying sharp over the winter using sim racing. I’ve had many people interested in joining the fun but are frustrated by the overwhelming huge number of choices to get started. When I searched around, I understood their frustration as the guidance on how to get started is quite sparse. So, I put together this guide with clear recommendations based on 1.5 years of personal sim racing experience, decades of real-world racing experience, and dozens of hours of dedicated research.
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Your PC determines your overall system capability. Quality specs mean better graphics and quicker operation.
Skytech Blaze II
The Skytech Blaze II boasts an exceptional spec list, blowing iRacing minimum requirements out of the water and comparing favorably to computers priced into 4 figures.
In addition to the obvious specs like size and resolution, good sim racing monitors offer quick refresh rates. I use 3 monitors for a more immersive experience and would recommend this solution.
Sceptre E275W-19203R 27" Ultra Thin 1080P LED Monitor
This well-reviewed Sceptre 27” Monitor offers great specs and is ideal for a 3-monitor setup, matching the size I use. It also offers versatility with a reasonable size for a 1-monitor setup and built-in speakers to boot.
Since you don’t get as much “feel” as you would in a real race car, visual and auditory cues become even more critical.
This TaoTronics soundbar boasts phenomenal reviews at a fraction of the price of more familiar brands.
Where you sit and what you mount your gear to is critical. Solid construction and comfort are the priorities.
BEST: GTR Simulator GTA-F with Monitor Stands
With stands for 1 or 3 monitors included and adjustable everything, the GTA-F model is incredibly tough to beat as a comprehensive solution.
MIDDLE: GTR Simulator GTA
If your cockpit needs don’t include holding your monitors, the GTA offers the same performance and adjustability as the GTA-F without the stands.
ENTRY-LEVEL: Playseat Challenge
The popular Playseat Challenge’s party trick is actually its lack of structural integrity. This foldable rig can be tucked away when not in use!
Wheel & Pedals
The controls we touch must be up to the task. The main consideration for wheels is whether to spring for a belt-only force feedback system or if a belt & gear hybrid force feedback system will suffice. I started with a belt & gear wheel and had no qualms…until I tried a belt-only wheel where the improved smoothness was immediately apparent. For pedals, I must recommend a setup with a load-cell brake. This means the brake pedal is pressure-sensitive just like a real car.
BEST: Thrustmaster T300RS Servo Base, Thrustmaster Sparco Rally Wheel R 383, and Thrustmaster T-LCM pedals
The belt-drive T300RS is Thrustmaster’s top of the line offering and allows for easily interchangeable steering wheels. The suede-wrapped Sparco R 383 offers a realistic diameter and feels right in many cars with its traditional round shape. Thrustmaster’s T-LCM load-cell pedals are relatively new to the market and have thus far been incredibly well-received.
MIDDLE: Thrustmaster TMX Force Feedback racing wheel (XBOX Series X/S, XOne & Windows) / Thrustmaster T150 RS Racing Wheel (PS5,PS4,PS3 & Windows), and Thrustmaster T-LCM pedals
The TMX and T150 RS is basically the same offering. The TMX was designed for XBOX/PC compatibility while the T150 RS was designed for Playstation/PC compatibility. If you intend to use your wheel for console games as well or are more familiar with one button layout, let that determine the choice here. Both come with very basic pedals, but the T-LCM pedals are still the recommendation here.
ENTRY-LEVEL: Thrustmaster T150 Pro Racing Wheel
If you can’t swing the load-cell pedals but must have a clutch pedal, the T150 Pro package is a solid choice.