Impressions and Conclusion
I have been excited about this Fanatec offering since I had first heard about it. Around the New Year I was offered the chance to review the CSL Elite set that I have described above and I jumped at the invitation. The idea of a Fanatec setup that costs less than half that of the previous Fanatec set I had tested is a good one. Especially if the experience will be similar to what the higher end sets have, but at a lower cost due to quality of materials.
Fanatec provides all the tools necessary to put everything together.
Everything came boxed as you would expect Fanatec gear to. Individual components are lovingly wrapped to near excess with padding and protection. The designs on the boxes also feature the now infamous sayings that reveal themselves when the consumer starts opening the flaps one by one.
The build quality is what one would expect from Fanatec. At over $500 it is not an inexpensive set, but it is a far cry to the nearly $1500 that I tested last year with the ClubSport V.2. The entire set is in fact marginally more expensive than the latest ClubSport V2.5 base. If one removes the load cell portion then it comes in at slightly less.
Software installation went without a hitch. Updating the firmware on the base was again achieved without issue through the control panel. The base seems to work fine whether it is plugged into 3rd party USB controllers or the native ones on the motherboard chipset. The power brick may pull 180 watts but I never had any power issues with it plugged in with other components on a power strip from a single plug in the wall.
The wheel feels ok as compared to other models. It is not made of leather or microfiber, but the rubberized coating is thick and does not seem to make the palms of hands turn black after extensive use. It is relatively light and rigid, but does not feel cheap.
The base puts out a pretty impressive amount of power. It is not as much as the ClubSport V2 and the latest V2.5, but it is more than what is provided by the Thrustmaster TX and T300R wheel bases. It is more in line with the TS-PC in terms of strength, and perhaps a bit more so.
The acceleration was instant and hard without forces tailing off during slides or aggressive cornering. While the forces were strong, I felt that some of the subtle movements were covered up as compared to other wheel bases I have used. Effects like the front wheels losing traction seem slightly more realistic on the Thrustmaster wheels, but when they regain traction the stronger effect on the Fanatec unit is more satisfying. I would say under the titles I have played that “stronger, yet not quite as accurate” describes the experience.
Cooling on the base is not an ultra-quiet affair. The fan turns on with low revolutions when the base is active, but it never gets very noticeable when in game. I have had previous bases that would ramp up the fan noise quite extensively after long use, but that never happened with this product. When it is on by itself the fan is audible, but when in game it blends into the background and is not annoying in the least. It probably ramps up in hotter climates, but my office rarely gets very warm when testing racing titles.
The load cell kit has a lot to it. A new electronics pod that includes the USB functionality plus another hand-brake connection.
Using the Forza Wheel and Xbox Universal Hub was another positive experience. The extra mass of the unit did impact some of the forces from the base, but it is still very strong. The leather wrapped wheel made it a better experience, but I did miss the LED read out and centering light at the top of the wheel. The hub of course has its own 3 digit read out close to the center, but it is a little farther away from where the eyes typically focus.
The RPM bar was easy to see when in action, but of course the spokes of the wheels would cover it up while cornering. It is bright enough to see in the daytime, but not blinding when racing in the dark or in low-light conditions.
If there was one unexpected star of this review it is the pedal set. It is a very solid piece of kit that is more adjustable than its bigger brother. It may lack some options such as installing a damper on the brake and accelerator, but the overall value and feel of the set is second to none. Setting the brake resistance to 90 kg is a bit excessive, but there is the option to do so. I found 15 to 25 kg to be more than adequate for my tastes. One thing is for sure, do not use a roller chair with the pedal set resting on carpet or a pad/mat. Braking typically causes the seat to push backwards, well away from the set altogether. This is not conducive to achieving good racing times. The pedals need to be secured somehow with any decent amount of resistance dialed in as well as a chair without wheels. Those DX Racer seats? Prepare to be launched backwards under aggressive braking.
It really was about time for Fanatec to introduce parts that achieve the price points that the CSL Elite units come in at. Fanatec did a really good job in figuring out what corners to cut, what materials to use, and what kind of experience these decisions afford the user. Hitting the sub-$600 mark for a set of this power and flexibility is great. The ability to use the large ecosystem of Fanatec products and accessories with this setup also helps make the sale.
Overall the set is not as pretty or hefty as the ClubSport units, but it does have a huge advantage in terms of price. The experience is much closer to the ClubSport units in terms of actual forces and accuracy than the price belies. Someone will get 85% of the experience at half the price. I think that is a pretty good trade.
The whole setup! CSL Elite base compatible with all of these parts shown, plus the entire Fanatec ecosystem of peripherals.
The documentation could be better, but I was able to get it all together and working as intended with a little extra time. The basic instructions will help you connect the pieces to the base and install the software, but if you want to adjust the pedals then you need to sit down and think about it.
This is a great PC and Xbox One racing set that is affordable to many, but also is able to deliver the Fanatec experience. Something that really has not been offered for quite some time by the company. It is also competitive with offerings from other companies that offer this type of experience and build quality. While it would have been nice to have had a different type of covering for the wheel, it is something that is more of a nitpick from me than actually having had a bad experience with the CSL Steering Wheel P1.
I would be more than comfortable saving up my pennies for this particular product and mounting it on a GTR Racing Simulator stand/seat. It is a strong competitor that has held up very well for these past 7 months I have been using it. Now I just need to start saving up my pennies again for that aforementioned GTR Racing Simulator seat.
Excellent value for the entire kit.
Build quality above average.
Fanatec name and compatibility with entire ecosystem of parts.