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Review: Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel for Xbox One and Windows

Thrustmaster TX
Thrustmaster TX

The Xbox One's premiere racing game Forza Horizon 2 recently received a major expansion, ' Storm Island.' The expansion adds a new environment, advanced weather effects, and plenty of off-road challenges for racers to face. With all of those new miles to cover and races to win, now might just be the time to invest in a racing wheel.

Racing fans have a few different Xbox One wheels to choose from. The only manufacturer to offer two different options is Thrustmaster. They produce both a low end model, the VG Ferrari 458 Spider Racing Wheel, and a high end model, the TX Racing Wheel Ferrari 458 Italia Edition. I picked up the pricier TX Racing Wheel and have been thoroughly impressed with its performance and feel. Read on for detailed impressions and our exclusive video review and unboxing videos!

Unboxing video

Opening and assembling the wheel

Opening the TX Racing Wheel's sizable box, you'll find three key components: the wheel, its base, and the pedals. You also get a piece for mounting the wheel to a table and a power cord. The wheel base has a non-removable USB cord for connecting to the Xbox One or PC, and the pedals have their own non-removable cord for connecting to the wheel base.

The end of the pedal cord has an RJ-25 modular connector (similar to those used by Ethernet cables). I'm not crazy about the connector because the latching tab could potentially break off someday.

To assemble the product, you'll first attach the wheel to the base and screw it together with a Philips screwdriver. Next comes the mounting. The TX Racing Wheel must be attached to a table, desk, Playseat gaming seat, or similar piece of furniture. You can't use it in your lap, which makes sense. Imagine driving a real car with a steering wheel shifting about in your lap as you turn – not safe or precise.

The mount is a separate piece of plastic with an integrated vise. Simply insert the end of the vise screw into the bottom of the wheel base, position the mount against a flat surface, and tighten the screw. The wheel will attach so securely to the mounting surface, it might as well have been built into it.

Next place the pedals on the floor and connect them via that darn RJ-25 connector. The pedals have nine ridged rubber squares that prevent them from unwanted sliding. You can reposition them as needed, but they won't scoot around on their own during normal play.

TX Racing Wheel buttons and features

Compared to its nearest competitor (the $400 Mad Catz Pro Racing Wheel), Thrustmaster's TX Racing Wheel is the much more attractive peripheral. Thanks to the Ferrari license, this wheel looks amazingly close to the wheel found in actual Ferrari 458 Italia cars (at 7/10 scale).

All of the buttons you need to play and navigate racing games (even the d-pad) are disguised as authentic Ferrari buttons and dials. Finding specific buttons or remembering what certain items do can be tricky, but after enough races you'll know all of the important ones inside and out.

  • The X, Y, A, and B buttons sit high around the wheel's center, replacing the Ferrari's indicator switches.
  • Below X and Y on the left, the View/Back Button and a second A button fill in for the Ferrari's lights and suspension buttons.
  • Just south of the suspension/A button, the large red Engine Start button acts as the Xbox One d-pad. It doesn't feel as good to use as a real d-pad, but it certainly blends in beautifully.
  • On the right side, below A and B, the Menu/Start button replaces the Ferrari's wipers button.
  • Under the wipers/Menu button is the curious Manettino switch, an exclusive feature of Ferrari wheels. On Xbox One, twisting the Manettino left acts as the View button and turning it right activates the Menu button. Use this switch to make routine functions look cool.
  • Just behind the wheel itself are two metal gear shift paddles that you pull towards yourself to activate. On Xbox One, they act as Left Bumper and Right Bumper.
  • On the front left side of the wheel's base you'll find a mode button and a red LED. The front right side of the wheel base has a yellow button that can be used in conjunction with Mode to change wheel angle and other settings. I didn't use the Mode feature.
  • Next to that yellow button on the base are the Xbox Home button and a blue LED.
  • On the top of the wheel base is an infrared panel for Kinect connectivity. The instruction manual makes it sound like a Kinect might be required to use the wheel, but thankfully no Kinect is needed.

I have no mouth and I must scream

The TX Racing Wheel has everything you'd expect from a deluxe wheel, but it does lack one obvious feature: a headset jack. All third-party Xbox One controllers to date are missing headset support, including Thrustmaster's wheels. Since not even one third-party accessory supports headsets, we can safely assume the fault lies with Microsoft.

The lack of headset support could be a real drag when playing Forza Horizon 2's robust online modes. Luckily, the usual workarounds work here as well. Either enable Kinect voice chat (don't do this) or turn on a second controller and plug the headset into that. Yes, you can voice chat with another controller's headset if nobody else is signed into the console.

Forza Horizon 2 - Join the Windows Central Racing club!

Add-ons

What would a luxury product be without an arsenal of sexy add-ons? As I mentioned, the TX Racing Wheel is modeled after the Ferrari 458 Italia. But maybe you prefer a different Ferrari for your video game racing pleasure. Thrustmaster makes two optional wheels that can be switched out with the stock wheel: the Ferrari F1 Wheel (opens in new tab) and the Ferrari GTE F458 Wheel (opens in new tab).

A couple of interesting add-ons are only available outside of the US. The T3PA is a three-pedal set that adds my all-time least favorite pedal, the Clutch. The TH8A is an 8-position gear shift stick. Shame that no US retailers seem to carry them.

Forza Horizon 2 - Join the Windows Central Racing club!

PC support and firmware upgrade

The TX Racing Wheel is an expensive proposition, but it helps that the wheel supports Windows 7 and 8 in addition to Xbox One. If you play racing games on PC, you'll get some extra mileage from this fancy wheel. Just install the PC drivers and it will be good to go.

Whether or not you plan to use the TX Racing Wheel with a PC, upgrading its firmware is a good idea. Connect it to PC via the USB cable, download and launch the firmware installer, and your wheel will be ready to operate at maximum efficiency.

Video review with picture-in-picture gameplay

Racing with the TX Wheel

Last but not least, we'll discuss the wheel's actual performance. First, this is a complex device and you might have to fiddle with the settings before you find your perfect comfort zone. In Forza Horizon 2, the advanced wheel settings offer numerous variables for serious racers to tweak.

One setting I definitely recommend adjusting is force feedback (FFB). A brushless industrial motor powers the wheel's force feedback. At default, a crash or wall bump will shake your hands way too much. I knocked the FFB down from 90 to 20 in Forza Horizon 2's settings and now it feels just right. The wheel still provides some serious vibration on impact, just not enough to throw off my steering.

Forza Horizon 2 - Join the Windows Central Racing club!

Normally, I have no use for first-person view in racing games. The extra peripheral vision and situational awareness provided by third-person views triumphs over the authenticity provided by first-person. But when I use the TX Racing Wheel, cockpit view and hood view are easily my preferred ways to play.

Playing with the TX Wheel is so much more like driving a real car. The same skills many of us hone through a lifetime of driving suddenly translate much more directly to the game.

It's not unlike the experience of buying a quality arcade stick for home. Suddenly you have that deluxe arcade experience in the comfort of your living room instead of the slightly different and diluted experience you get with a controller.

I won't lie; racing with a wheel actually adds a degree of challenge, unlike sticks which arguably make fighting games easier. But cruise through that learning curve and you'll achieve a precision of control over your driving (not to mention realism) that an analog stick could never provide.

Forza Horizon 2 - Join the Windows Central Racing club!

Whether or not you need the Thrustmaster TX Racing Wheel comes down to your budget and fondness for racing games. The Xbox One already has a couple of fantastic racers in Forza Horizon 2 and Forza 5, and more will come over time. If you truly love the racing games that Microsoft and third parties bring to the table, then a wheel is the natural progression of that love.

The TX Racing Wheel's current Amazon price of $298 is certainly a lot of money! If you can't justify that kind of spending on your racing, give the $99 Thrustmaster VG Ferrari 458 Spider Wheel a look. It still recreates the Ferrari wheel details admirably, but without the force feedback, adjustable wheel angle, and add-on and PC support.

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

62 Comments
  • This would be fun with NFS..!! But it doesn't have a handbrake..!!
  • Forza is way better than NFS. Its like Ferrari and a Opel :)
  • Not exactly..
  • NFS is not a simulation game. Forza is something this wheel is made for.
  • Do we get the 'free to roam anywhere' in a virtual city in Forza..??
  • Uhh...isn't that EXACTLY what you get in Forza Horizon 2?
  • Am asking only..!!
  • Depends on what version you're referring to...
    *cough* NFS Shift *cough*
  • ^^ THIS ^^ Your busted by Mr. Kabiraj..!!
  • It doesn't work with NFS anyway.
  • I hate to be 'that guy', I love racing games, but What's the difference between Forza series and Forza Horizon series?
  • Which guy exactly..??
  • The answer might be obvious... But I don't know anything about Forza, or the difference between Forza series and Forza Horizon series.
  • Both are simulator-like games. Forza 5 is played in closed-circuit only. Forza Horizon 2 is a festival in an open world with different types of competitions like racing with trains or planes, off-road, so on, much more fun, and I've just played the demo!
  • Forza series has only real tracks with professional cars like LeMans. The Horizon series are open-world racing over the streets of cities and countryside.
  • horizon is open world street racing, motorsport is track racing only
  • The Forza Series is more of a racing simulation. The Forza Horizon series is an open world racer where can can drive around a map. Racing and care enthusiast play more Froza Motorsport while those who like racing and like to have fun and are pretty casual prefer Forza Horizon. Both have deep car modifications and tuning and can be as realistic as you want it.
  • You should read our review; then you'd know all about it.
  • Sounds like a pretty serious sex toy.
  • You serious..?? That's metal bro..!!
  • No shame in that.
  • Hence, more fun! :P
  • Yeah, thrustmaster... Reminds me of my 1st and 2nd degree college days.
  • The clutch is the best pedal. Driving any car without one feels wrong.
  • Yup..The thrust one gets after changing gears in manual isn't there in automatic..!!
  • What?
  • What..??
  • Oh my god who thought thrustmaster would be a good name
  • Thrustmaster has been around for 15+ years and started by making flight sim controls.
  • I disagree about the view mode. I find it easier to race with the camera on the hood. Third person is too chaotic
  • No worries! All a matter of preference.
  • Definitely a good option for me when a new F1 game gets released for Xbox one.
    Thanks for that detailed article Paul!
  • Just got one... The cheaper version... Had one for the PS3 and it rocked on GT... Can't wait to give it a whirl!!
  • I assume Xbox 360 wheels like the Microsoft Racing Wheel won't work with Xbox One?
  • Nope, none of them do.  For Fanatec, there is this adaptor http://www.basherboards.com/CPX but I have not seen any reviews to know how well it works.
  • Thanks!
  • That was the best wheel ever. And I tried plenty of them. Loved the leg braces on it. Sure wish it worked on the One.
  • I am not sure that you are car guy nor a racing sim guy but that you just had this wheel thing that needed to be reviewed.  That is my feelings towards the review. Over on Arstechnica they did a much better review of the wheel options for Xbox One. All the options pale in comparison to the http://www.fanatec.com/us-en/ which most racing sim fans want to see come to the Xbox One. The  Mad Catz Pro Racing wheel and thrustmaster have some good features, but they are both terrible in comparison to the fanatec wheels.  The Thurstmaster at least gives you the force feedback required to know when the wheels are at the limites, but is otherwise klunky at best. Sadly, Forza 4 and the Fanatec wheel is still a better experience on the Xbox 360 than for any options on the Xbox One.  Here is hoping whatever the issue is, fanatec will have Xbox ONe wheel in 2015
  • That's cold, dude. This is a review of an individual wheel, not a comprehensive look at all wheel options. You have to have all of the different wheels if you're going to compare and evaluate them all. Nor would I have considered Fanatec's wheels until they release one with native Xbox On support. I'm sure there's more stuff I could have talked about, but I hit the important notes as I saw them within my target word count. Lots of players enjoy this wheel, including people who are way more serious about racing games than me. ~ ~
  • Re: NutmegState,
    What are you trying to say? You say, "All the options", but you don't list the issues. To sum up, you are a fanatec fan for reasons / features you don't mention.
  • Yeah, it was not constructive feedback.
  • I have been thinking about this one
  • I'm still waiting on a 3 pedal design with a stick..
  • As mentioned in the review, you can get those things with this wheel - but you have to import them, oddly.
  • I would love to get this as I love playing Forza Horizon 2, however I can't justify the cost of it to my wife...
  • I had the same problem. Luckily, my wife know's not much about these things, so I bought the wheel, shifter and three pedals, then when she asked me how much it all cost, I showed her the cheap non force feedback one online and just said I bought it in black. (the cheaper one is red)
  • Pretty solid review, but that's such a high price. I don't have a racing game at the moment (since The Crew ended up being terrible and Turn 10 made me mad), so I'm obviously not the target consumer, but these are always something I like to check out as a long-term investment. $300 though, man. Given how expensive those replacement wheels are, it would be kind of cool if they would sell a sans-wheel base and offer a slew of wheel options for people, so you're not dropping $300 to throw another $150+ into a replacement wheel of your preference. Still, it sounds pretty cool overall. $100 for the lower-end model is definitely a better buy for the masses, but this would be a pretty sweet toy for serious racing fans.
  • Keep in mind that you're going to also want a REALLY solid table or desk for this.  My lightweight endtable quickly proved to not be up to the task at all.
  • I got a GT Omega pro wheel stand and I have to say it's pretty decent.
  • this with a VR headset, and im SOLD...........
  • This isn't compatible with Need for Speed Rivals. And I happened to love the leg braces that were on the Microsoft Xbox Wheel. If I remember right, it had this option and a clamp option. It sure made it a lot easier to play on my lap since I don't have a friggin desk or wheel mount in my TV room where I play the Xbox One. No NFS, Uncomfortable on lap, glad Costco has such an easy return policy. Didn't work out for me.
  • That was EA's fault for not offering racing wheel support in Rivals. I'm sure the next NFS game will support it. I've used a $30 laptop stand with the wheel - it's not really such a big impediment.
  • "I've used a $30 laptop stand with the wheel - it's not really such a big impediment." Which one?
  • It came from Walmart. I noticed you had stability issues. The laptop stand we have is definitely not super stable, but it didn't impact our enjoyment of the wheel (I switched to table for other reasons). Maybe just preference?
  • I think it's at least partly the design of the table I was using, as the offset weight on the edge of the table makes it far more likely to topple.  The reason I asked which laptop stand is that I'm considering attempting an Ikea one as a possibly better option.  (The 'Svartasen' laptop stand).  At the very least, it would be height adjustable and potentially I could mount the wheel to be more center-mass.
  • makes me not to get the wheel at all if isn't capable with all racing games for Xbox one. I want a wheel that is capable for all racing games not just some.
  • NFS Rivals just doesn't support racing wheels because EA rushed it out at launch and forgot to add that feature. All the other racing games support wheels AFAIK.
  • I have it with my playseat challenge... I lov it
  • Pro review here http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=PolMv5B0IEg
  • I play on PC and own a Thrustmaster T500RS. More expensive than this model, comes with better pedals (solid and with clutch) but it is an amazing wheel. I play Assetto Corsa. Force feedback is very good and driving is very consistent. I recommend it. I also recommend Assetto Corsa. My advice if you want to do some good virtual racing: get good pedals. Braking is the single most important thing in a driving sim.
  • It's a shame they don't offer the three-pedal set in the US. Maybe they'll start selling it on Amazon eventually.
  • If anyone has a T500, they can use the pedals from that.