Building a virtual racing rig can be expensive. Whether you go PC or console, you've got the initial cost of the hardware and your games to add to then buying a decent chair and a wheel, at a minimum. Thankfully, there are options out there that offer a great experience without stealing your wallet.
The Playseat Challenge is one of those. For a reasonable asking price of about $220, you get a racing chair that covers all the bases while being extra convenient for those tight on space. And if you're just starting out, it's the one to get.
Playseat Challenge delivers Racing comfort
Being comfortable while driving is paramount. But it's not just about how you feel sitting in the chair, you also need to account for the position of the wheel and pedals in your setup.
At first glance, the Playseat Challenge doesn't scream comfort. Compared to a number of other racing chairs, even those like the Evolution we previously looked at from the same manufacturer, it looks a bit odd. Instead of sitting bolt upright, you sink into the seat. But it works. It really does.
The only real critique I have is that it's not the easiest thing to get out of. Getting in is OK; it's sturdy and there's no real sense it'll tip backward. But there's nothing substantial to grab hold of and haul yourself out.
When you're in it, though, everything is awesome. The shape of the seat looks odd, but in practice is really comfortable, hugging you in like the cockpit of a race car. The whole thing is trimmed in Alcantara fabric, which I prefer personally to leather, especially in warmer temperatures.
Your wheel attaches to a plate that folds up and down. Up lets you get in and out of the seat, and when it's down it sits across your knees at chest height. There's no stretching of arms to be done, you're very compact, and the whole experience is pleasing.
Playseat Challenge assembly and quality
The chair comes flat packed and requires mild assembly. The whole thing takes about 10 minutes and mostly involves strapping the fabric chair to the frame with a series of fairly serious velcro straps. If I can assemble it, anyone can assemble it.
The Challenge has three main parts: The seat, the wheel stand, and the pedal mount. Your wheel can be screwed to the mount, but the pedals are a less permanent affair, strapping in place with similar velcro to the seat. Despite the range of fairly low-tech methods of assembly, the Playseat Challenge is solid as a rock throughout.
The wheel stand is sturdy and doesn't wobble about while driving, the pedals stay in place nicely and despite the flimsy appearance of the whole setup, it's planted well. It only looks flimsy, because the whole thing is constructed from fairly thick metal poles.
If you check out the customer reviews on Amazon, it might leave a lingering doubt in your mind, as it appears there have been some quality control issues in the past. But in my experience, it's well made, as well as being durable. And it'd take some serious effort to tip it over.
Playseat Challenge is super convenient
The main thing that's always put me off setting up a proper racing rig is the space requirement. The footprint of these things is sizeable. And while you still need a fair bit of room to use the Playseat Challenge, you only need it while you're racing.
One of the most attractive features of this chair is that it folds up into a slim, space-saving package that'll easily fit under a bed or in a wardrobe. Even with the wheel and pedals attached, you're able to fold the chair up and store it somewhere to restore your living space.
It takes no effort to do. There's nothing more than a simple scissor action that folds the whole thing together. It's about 5.5 feet tall when closed, but that's a whole lot more manageable than having it permanently occupy your front room.
One word of warning though: If you have a particularly heavy wheel, like the Thrustmaster TS-XW, it's better to detach the wheel mount from the chair before folding it up. The Challenge is very light and a really heavy wheel makes folding it up quite awkward and unsettles the whole thing.
There's really nothing to dislike about the Playseat Challenge. I find the driving position preferable to other seats where you're sitting bolt upright. It's a little more authentic, and also I think the driving position is better.
- Well priced.
- Solid build quality.
- Folds away for easy storage.
- Heavy wheel will unsettle when folded up.
- Awkward to get out of.
Aside from some awkwardness getting in and out, there's essentially nothing to fault. The Alcantara is soft, the seat is accommodating, the mount for the wheel is sturdy and well positioned, and even with low-tech apparatus the pedals don't budge.
Throw in a highly attractive price and the convenience of being able to fold it away, and you have a certified winner.
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Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine