Microsoft Wireless Speed Wheel Review

I really do enjoy playing racing games with an actual wheel rather than a controller. Don’t get me wrong, games such as GT5 and Forza 4 are perfectly playable with a conventional pad, but nothing beats the immersion of sitting there shifting through the gears and mashing the pedal into the ground.

[boxout] But, and this is a fairly big but (ooh err!) as a father of two I have found my once cherished gaming space taken over by stuffed toys, Matchbox cars and Thomas the Tank Engine. There is just no storage room, and my lovely PS3 wheel is currently sitting out in the garage.

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This is why the Wireless Speed Wheel caught my eye. Costing about £45, which is a bit more than I wanted to pay, the wheel promises the accuracy of a proper set up, with the convenience of being able to be slotted into a drawer at the end of a session. Bold claims indeed.

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The first thing you notice after unboxing it is just how solid the wheel is. Sporting a ¾ design, it looks like a premium product and, crucially, it feels like premium product with a nice weight to it. The only other type of wireless wheel I have come across is the Wii Wheel, but the Speed Wheel is in a totally different league (albeit at a much higher price).

The prongs on the wheel house the face buttons and d-pad, with the Xbox Guide, Start and Back buttons in the centre. There are also triggers on the back for acceleration and braking. These triggers are fantastic, with a much longer throw than on a control pad, and offer greater precision. There is also rumble feedback.

To top it all off there is a light strip at the top of each prong which flashes when you change gear, brake heavily or get involved in a little accident. A nice feature, but I wish the colour wasn’t luminous green; it’s like being back in a 90s rave.

[drop2] This would all be useless if the Speed Wheel didn’t work properly, but thankfully it’s a brilliant bit of kit. After spending a few minutes on Forza 4 getting myself used to the steering, I set up the Top Gear Test Track and immediately knocked two seconds on my previous best time. Turning seems to be lag free, and I noticed myself getting more and more ‘perfect turn’ awards whilst correcting the tail of the car when it stepped out.

As mentioned above, the triggers allow for much greater control over acceleration and braking, meaning you can dive into a corner slightly later, gaining a time advantage.

An interesting little sentence also crops up in the instructions, mentioning the fact that the wheel recognises pitch, yaw and roll, and will work with games supporting these motions (thanks, Push-Start).

However, there are a couple of downsides. The L and R shoulder buttons have been left off, making up and down gear changes impossible. It is also pretty difficult to hold for long periods of time due to the weight, although it is possible to find a comfortable position balancing your arms on your knees.

Overall I am more than happy with my purchase. Whilst it can’t match a full set up with pedals and gears, the actual control is spot on and when I’m done it fits in my drawer, out of sight and away from curious toddlers.

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28 Comments

  1. Sorry but had to say this…. this looks like an elderly walking stick xD (I think I saw a pic of it must have been Spikey Mikey it was a competiton to do something funny while GT5 is installing)
    I can tell it does look quite sore when holding and racing due to the weight of the Wheel, but I must say it is a nice looking periphal device and £45 is a bargain if I must say. Great review Dan but I think it’s a miss for me (Not much room to be honest!) and I always play GT5 more often than the 360.

    • D’oh meant to say GT5* – *PS3 (I was thinking of GT5 just there as it’s almost home time well in 10mins)

  2. Erm so do you have to hold it in the air or is it fixed to something?

    I’m more accurate with my PS3 controller than I am with my G25. Maybe I need to set it up better….

    • Of course you have to hold it in the air (like you just don’t care) … ‘it’s like being back in a 90s rave’!

    • I hear you! I just recently got a G27 and i’m horrible with it! Last time i ragequit the Red Bull X2010 Seasonal and did it with a pad!

      • what! really!? how are you more accurate with a pad! im a lot quicker with my g27 and way more consistent.

      • You may have to give me pro tips then ;)

      • I was like that when I first got my DFGT on GT5p. At first I was a lot slower BUT I had way more fun with the wheel so I just kept playing with it. By the time GT5 came out I was much better with the wheel and now I can barely play the game with the pad!

        Try a few races with more ‘normal’ cars like FF cars around the 150-200bhp area. This will give you a lot more feel for the wheel and time to react etc. As you get better with it, take on a few FR cars to get the feel for their tail happiness.

        The X2010 is a crazy MoFo and hard to drive no matter what controller you use. The twisty tracks are hard work as you have to swing so quickly from one direction to another.

      • Never played GT5 with a controller. Went straight to the wheel :)
        Thats why I rarely enter into the GT vs Forza arguments.
        Never played GT with a controller and never played Forza with a wheel! So I cant really compare the two… GT is my Sim and forza is my arcade blast, best of both worlds :D

  3. The lack of L and R shoulder buttons is a somewhat curious omission isn’t it?

    Based upon pure PS3 knowledge of racers, surely some driving games rely on shoulder buttons as well as triggers, or do they not?

  4. GT5 is rather less playable with a conventional pad than Forza 4. :)

  5. And hey – 90s rave was great!

  6. When I first got a wheel I was even more rubbish than usual but made a startling discovery: If I use the pad I can drive ok using the “behind the car” view but with the wheel I do much, much better by using the in-car view. No idea why but it made a world of improvement to my driving.

    • I do the pad with the in-car or bumper view (in GT).

  7. With all the recent deals floating around I am sorely tempted to pick up Forza4 + this wheel. I know Argos are currently doing a deal where if you buy the game you get the wheel half price, bringing it round to a tidy figure of 60quid. Hmmmmm, decisions.

    • That sounds like a bit of a bargain mate! Depends on your current situation with regards to money as to whether it’s worth the plunge though.

      Don’t forget you need to get yourself that copy of saints row too! :)

      • That’s exactly whats holding me back from ordering Forza right now lol. I suppose I could wait for a price drop. Given its an official xbox accessory hopefully it shouldn’t be too tricky to find one after Christmas perhaps during sale season. Likewise the Forza games are known for dropping in price quite quickly.

      • You don’t need a wheel for Forza, that’s excessive. It’s perfectly playable with a pad, well so far as i’m not into R2/1 yet :)

      • R3 upwards with this wheel is intense! especially played with the bumper cam view!!

      • Well my decision to hold out had been made until I stupidly tried out the demo last night…. damn that game is awesome lol :| Must resist and buy ‘GTA4: Actually fun edition’ (read: Saints Row 3)

  8. Was immediately sceptical after seeing the picture, but if you say it works, then I can hardly argue.. Don’t see why they’d miss off the shoulder buttons though.. Sounds stupid to me!

  9. wheres that guy that trolls forza articles and always compares it to maria kart? this review almost seems made for him :-)

    • Some of my friends still play 4-player split screen on Maro Kart on the Nintendo 64. They are having a blast! Which just goes to show that it’s not just graphics that make a game good. I wonder what they’re gonna do the day the N64 dies. They’ll probably steal mine, which I have tucked away somewhere in the attic.

      I have to say I prefer GT5 with a wheel though. :-)

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