Yes, this is not the place from where I usually talk to you, but this sim racing chair is really comfy, be sure the subscribe for that one, my review of it is coming out soon. Anyhow, the reason why am I sitting here is to see what’s the next step after Logitech’s G923 and Thrustmaster’s T300RS GT, which I just recently compared, feel free to check those two out too, is there anything else worth considering that would top them out? Yes, I know that would be a direct drive system, but there’s something in between that – this Fanatec’s belt-driven wheel, so today I wanted to check if that in-between is worth over the standard offering, is it worth it to cash out around 200-300€ more to get the pinnacle of belt-driven.
What I have here is the latest Fanatec CSL Elite wheelbase which is based on a belt-driven system, and this one is actually one of their up-to-date ones, meaning that it supports both consoles and PC out of the box, for which you have this button to switch between, and it’s 50€ more expensive than the V1.1. The wheelbase itself is just a bit below 5 kg’s in weight, which is A LOT, some of the wheelbases with the wheel AND pedals don’t weigh as much.
Besides this wheelbase, I have the CSL Elite pedal set together with the load cell brake mode, and their ClubSport manual and sequential shifter, which modes can easily be changed just by pulling this leaver, while you will also get an extra shift knob for that case, you can swap it up easily. I also have their WRC wheel, which is basically their standard base wheel, the P1 model. It usually a part of bundled offers as something to get you started, and it proved to be plenty enough, but this one has some WRC livery and extra switches. In sum, this is a bit more expensive than getting their bundled version of the CSL Elite wheelbase, wheel, and pedals, but if you’re not a person who plans to drive a manual, you can easily go for that CSL Elite Bundle which costs around 600€. So, the question is – what do you get for 200€ compared to the other more mainstream models like the Thrustmaster T300RS or the Logitech G923?
Fanatec CSL Elite – In its own world
First and foremost – it’s built quality and finishes. Everything you touch and grab feels like it comes from a real racing car. Basically everything is metal or high-quality plastic in construction, being it the wheelbase, the wheel itself, pedals, or the ClubSport manual shifter which is this beautifully crafted giant metal brick. It’s not that the other two can’t compete in some areas, but I feel like this takes that next step. The CSL Elite pedals have this very cool looking rough textured coating to them, while underneath it they are completely metal in construction, aluminum in particular. This is where other more mainstream wheels just can’t compete, but then again they weren’t meant to compete for against it, to begin with, so you right away know where that extra money is going to. Secondly – in here we have a single belt drive system, one which can produce up to 6 Nm of torque, and that is compared to other mainstream wheels, a lot more, especially G923 which is more around 2 Nm. There’s a lot of other things that come with this motor experience and force feedback wise, but more on that later on. Thirdly, the way you can customize and reuse your existing Fanatec gear, makes your upgrade path that much easier, as everything is interchangeable.
The wheel that comes with this bundle, is mostly metal construction in combination with Alcantara in the places where you grip your hand around, basically around the whole rim, from bottom to top. Up there you will also find a small LED screen that indicates your speed and gear once you change it, plus you can use when changing between different saved force feedback profiles and settings. Besides it, you’ll find another set of brightly colored LED’s on the wheelbase itself, which are here in a form of a shift light indicator. The flappy pedals are also metal, these ones are covered in bright orange color, and they have a nice clicky, although the travel is a bit shorter than what I usually experience up until now, and the gap left between it and the wheel is a bit smaller than I would like. It has a lot of buttons on the main middle part of the wheel, around its hub, regular ones for console control, like the analog d-pad and marked x-box switches, and also added ones for the functionalities of the wheel itself. You’ll get an additional set of custom caps in case you want to swap them out for something more race-specific. It’s 30 centimeters in diameter, and I found the be a perfect fit for my case in regard to that size and shape. Of course this, not the only wheel they offer, they have a bunch of others, basically, true-life replicas, like this Porsche GT3 R wheel that looks like someone pulled it off from a… Well… From a Porsche GT3 car. Speaking of pulling things off, this wheelbase has a quick release system, similar to ones in real-life cars, this particular wheel I have is not quite there yet, it has a locking hub, but some of their more expensive wheels actually have that big ring that just pulls and pop, the wheel goes off just like that.
As I mentioned these are the CSL Elite pedals with the cell brake mode, which comes in as a separate add-on, as in the most basic CSL Elite bundle you’ll get a two-pedal setup, but in theory, you could configure it to get it right from the get-go, so you don’t have to buy it separately, plus with a little bit of discount. I do recommend you get it right away because with the load cell brake mode you will basically hit two birds with one stone, as with you’ll get a clutch because the original brake pedal from the regular CSL Elite pedals moves to the left and becomes a clutch, you also remove this hard rubber stopper, to make it less stiff and more clutch like, while the new pedal with the installed load cell brake will give you much better feel of the brake. As I mentioned earlier, but I’ll point it out again, the pedals have the top-notch build quality, I could feel that right away when I was pulling it from the box.
Locking it down on a F-GT Lite
Installation of the wheelbase is very similar to the Thrustmaster’s, with a big grappling hand holding rubberized contact points, it works really good, plants the wheel completely, but for this occasion, I’ve dedicated to using it on a rig from Next Level Racing, the F-GT Lite, so I didn’t have to use it. You have a standard pattern of holes so you can mount basically wherever you want. The same goes for the pedals, while I also in a way had to use the F-GT Lite rig because the ClubSport shifter doesn’t have any standalone way of mounting it without need to drill through something, but it’s sort of implicated that if you’re building a setup like this, you’re going to have a rig or at least proper mounting. On the other hand, the CSL Elite pedal could also stand on its own, it has a rally big grip pads, and I had no problems with them, especially since they’re also pretty heavy, but, as you can guess, they also ended up being hard mounted onto the rig, for which it has dedicated holes.
For connecting everything up, Fanatec uses RJ-12 jacks between each component, so the back of the wheel sort of looks like a big switch rack, but honestly I like it, because it is really easy to replace a connector on the wire if something goes wrong, while you have an option to connected to pedals separate if you want to do it through a USB connection, while the USB connection on the wheel itself is for communicating with the PC or console. Naturally, talking about connection ties together with the topic of control, and this is where Fanatec shines again through its software. It lets you get all nitty and gritty settings wise, they also let you save different profiles depending on the game you’re playing because the experience is not always the same when jumping from game to game force-feedback-wise. This is where their Fanalab utility comes into play, instead of going through the control panel, you can use this more mainstream like approach, although as for now I’m kinda more fond of the layout that you get through the control panel.
Enough about that, how do the wheel and the whole system perform? Well, at least for me, to put it simply – this is a different class compared to the other belt-driven system. You can easily see where the price difference goes, it’s there, in your hands. The force feedback and the preciseness of it are on another level, especially compared to gear driven wheel like the G923 and its G29 predecessor. The output that you get is much more refined, there’s no notchy feel, the only time you could sense that something is maybe off is during extreme situations, edge case scene, mostly when the wheel is not completely tuned in settings wise to a particular game, but nothing to write home about. Depending on that, the force feedback can vary if it’s not properly calibrated, which is why Fanatec implemented profiles that can be loaded on the go depending on the game. Overall the force feedback is really strong and you will have to fight with it just like in a real car, while still having that fidelity in force representation, bringing the whole experience up a notch. What’s even more noteworthy is that this is actually Fanatec’s entry-level wheel. The wheelbase and it’s belt drive mechanism is also really quiet, although it has a fan running basically all the time, so you will hear a noise coming out of it, but other than that, there’s no weird noises coming out of it.
CSL Elite vs G923 – worth it, if budget approves
The pedal feel is excellent, especially with the load cell mode for the brake, I’ve used the 18 kg elastomer spring setup, there’s also a 40 and 90 kg of load pressure configuration in the bundle, it really adds that level of realism, you need to work your way through to the upper end of the braking force, which ends up being a positive thing as I could dance around the edge of just not locking wheels up when driving without the ABS. It also brings up the brake resolution value from 12 to 16-bit, but that’s in case you use the pedals over a standalone USB connection, instead of over the wheelbase using an RJ-12 connection. As for the ClubSport shifter, if you decide to get it, because it is a pretty pricey add-on, after all, expect to get a really raw, clunky, and tactile experience from it, as close as it can be to a race car. I actually had a couple of friends come over to try it out, some of them have wheels from the likes of Logitech and Thrustmaster, and they all pretty much agree on everything that I said here.
So, the only question that remains – is it all of this worth it? When you draw the line, I personally think it’s worth it the price difference, even with the load cell brake mode and ClubSport manual sifter, because you can always reuse down the line, plus I do a lot of manual driving, so you could easily sell the CSL Elite Base down the road, get yourself the end all be all of sim racing setups – direct drive wheelbase. Hopefully, I’ll get to try it out too. Anyhow, the point here was not to prove if this is better than Logitech G923 or Thrustmaster’s T300 series, because it is, but that, of course, comes with a price, so the point that I was trying to make here is that we get to have choices, alongside of having distinct differences between those same choices, so your end decision can be formed a bit more easily based on your needs and what you feel what is the right value for you.
That’s it for this time, thanks for checking out my CSL Elite vs G923 comparison, if you have any question feel free to hit me in the comments section of my YouTube video listed above, you can contact me via my social media channels!