The F458 Continued
There is a lot of flexibility to this particular setup, even though it is one of the lower priced options from Thrustmaster. The wheel can be swapped out for three other units if a user does not like the Ferrari replica wheel. Recently Thrustmaster added the 599XX EVO 30 Alcantara Edition. That particular wheel is leather wrapped and made of metal. It is a high end unit at $175 all by itself, but if a user is serious about racing then the price is likely worth every penny.
The base unit uses the Hall Effect (basically magnetic sensors that determine the position of the wheel), and they have a specific implementation called H.E.A.R.T. This stands for Hall Effect AccuRate Technology. The wheel has a sensitivity of 65,536 positions (16 bit).
The setup instructions for the TX F458 are very easy to follow, but the user needs to read them very carefully. Once the wheel is assembled a certain order of driver installation needs to be done to insure that the latest firmware for the wheel is installed. A user could get a little confused if they do not read through the directions at least once before attempting updating the firmware. The software to achieve this is downloaded directly from Thrustmaster.
Once the firmware has been update the rest of the software controlling the wheel can be installed. The control panel for the wheel shows all the necessary information and inputs going on with the wheel. It also can adjust the strength of the effects as well as simulate different inputs that one would expect from racing titles.
The drivers are available and work on Windows XP through the latest Windows 10. My current test machine has Win10 64 bit with this wheel. So far I have had no issues whatsoever with this setup.
I was not entirely ready for how much larger the TX F458 Italia is as compared to my older F430 wheel. It is at least twice as heavy and twice as big. There are many similarities between the two since they both are essentially based on the same Ferrari wheel design. Oddly enough, the older F430 felt quite a bit more solid than the newer F458. The older wheel had more heft and a denser rubber coating. The newer wheel is much lighter and feels more like hard plastic than a softer rubber compound.
The base is again quite a bit larger, but not as large as the higher end T500 series. It is not that strong either in terms of motor. The clamping mechanism that Thrustmaster employs is amazing solid and sturdy, but can be problematic if the user has a desk that will not accommodate it. In my case I have to pull my top drawer out entirely so I can mount the base correctly. Once mounted, a lot of force must be exerted to move the base if it is tightly clamped down. It is a much more stable solution than what we have seen with the competing Logitech wheels and the two front mounted hooks/clamps.
The pedals are actually a small step back from the F430 set as well. On the F458 they are flat pieces of metal that are pretty light and not terribly thick. On the older F430 they are more curved, thicker, and have a greater amount of heft to them. Obviously the design has been changed to give the same metal feature, but a little bit of cost cutting has been implemented. The accelerator does have a nice amount of travel and a good linear feel. The brake has the same amount of travel, but it becomes progressively harder to depress. It never gets so stiff as to impact breaking, but it gives a good amount of feedback to figure out how hard you are braking.
There are no integrated LEDs on the F458 wheel, unlike a few buttons featured on the F430. The base unit does have a few lit buttons, but nothing that particularly catches the eye. The Marinello switch on the newer wheel also does not feature the five positions as the older wheel. Instead, it is just a two position switch. That particular functionality will of course depend on the game rather than the traction settings on the F430.
So far it certainly sounds that in terms of build the TX is not nearly as solid. That may be true for the actual wheel and pedals, but it cannot be said for the base unit. This is obviously where all the money went into the design. The 900 degrees of rotation may not be as much as the 1080 wheels, but it is a whole lot more than the 270 degrees I was used to before with the F430. A few hard-core racers might notice the difference with the 180 degrees less of rotation, but most will soon get over it.
The dual belt/pulley system is a much smoother operation than the belt/geared design used on the F430. The gearing and cog feel/noise was very present on the F430 and could be annoying at times. It also did not turn nearly as quickly as one would want due to resistance from the mechanism itself rather than the motor acting against the turn. There is some resistance with the F458, but it is missing the grinding of the cogs that seemingly defined the F430. It is not entirely smooth when turning without FFB effects on, but it is significantly better than the older F430. I would be curious to compare this to the new Logitech G29/920 wheels with their dual helical gearing and motor setup.
The strength of the motor is very good. It is not enough to tear off a user’s thumbs if they hit a wall while their thumbs are hooked through the wheel. It is strong enough to jam those thumbs if a user isn’t careful. Remember kids, thumbs on top of the wheel and not around. If the user is not holding on with a firm grip, the wheel will jerk out of their hands. It does not look to have the power of the T500 or the Fanatec units.