Having spent a number of hours, a large number of hours racing using the Fanatec CSL Elite wheel it was about time I gave my review of the hardware.
Firstly I need to say a big thank you to the people over at Fanatec for being so generous with their hardware and providing us a CSL Elite setup and for making this article series possible. Videos will be going up on the YouTube channel which will include unboxing and setup as well as just some random fun videos that hopefully you will enjoy. Thanks and enjoy the article.
Now this review is going to vary from the usual reviews you will see on the site and I will attempt to split it into a few different categories. So bear with me as this all comes together.
Firstly lets look at the…
When you start to open the box on your shiny new CSL Elite wheel you know that its a high quality piece of kit. Taking out of the box all the stuff inside you get; the wheel base, cables, a couple of tools and the wheel. The wheel is wrapped up in its own fabric bag, ensuring that when you take this out you are left with a “WOW” moment. Seeing the leather and suede combination along with the blue stitching for the first time was amazing. There is a good weight to the wheel and with all the buttons that you would expect a PlayStation Dualshock 4 controller to have. The LED indicator at the top of the wheel illuminates when you finally go through the setup as do the LED’s on the wheel base itself.
Setting up the wheel was a doddle, the wheel connects to the wheel base by a simple push and is secured with a single screw, tightened with the included spanner. Once it’s in, connect the power cable, USB cable and cable that connects the pedals and you are almost ready. Hit that power button and your wheel will be possessed as its spins through its entire rotation range before settling in at its centre.
The wheel has 3 different modes that you can set it on, PS4, PC and Compatibility Mode. Essentially for all new racing games the wheel should be totally compatible in which case you can use the PS4 mode. However for some older racers released before the wheel you will have to use the compatibility mode of the CSL Elite. This isn’t a bad thing, allowing all the force feedback options to be available is still possible when playing something like F1 2016.
The website does state that there are a few games that force feedback will be not be possible to be used with, however controller replication will be available so you can still use the wheel, just without the rumbles.
Connecting the wheel base to a desk as per my current setup is easy, there is a nice big clamp that holds tight onto the desk. It does come with holes in for bolting to a wheel stand and I imagine that is the ultimate experience.
The CSL Elite wheel has a number of settings that you are able to alter on the wheel as you go around the track.
Firstly you are able to save five individual setups on the wheel, so whether you be playing F1 2017 or Project Cars 2 you can keep individual setups for each game ready to go on the fly.
So onto the actual settings that are available for you outside of what you would find within the game.
Sensitivity (SEN) – this allows you to change the rotation angle of the wheel, so setting this to 90 would give you a 45 degree turning circle in each direction, however leave this as AUTO and the CSL Elite talks to the game and determines the correct 1:1 ration needed for the vehicle you are driving.
Force Feedback (FF) – This one ranges from OFF all the way to 100 and put simply this is how much of the force feedback you will feel while playing the game. Again this is independent from what you can set in game. This was left on 100 as it starts getting complicated if you reduce this as well as the in game settings.
Drift Mode (DRI) – This is essentially power steering for the CSL Elite wheel, set from -005 through Off all the way to 005 with the lower settings essentially giving the wheel a heavier feeling, but also allowing you to feel more of the vibrations on the road. Setting the wheel all the way up to 005 makes it so light that you can move it with your little finger.
Brake Force (BRF) – This essentially allows the brake to be adjusted. At default you would need to press the brake 100% to give you the full brake force, seems logical right? Well you try and press the LoadCell Kit brake 100% and then come back to me after your ankle has healed. Its nearly impossible for someone who isnt using a wheel base that you can stamp against. So adjusting this setting allows you to make the brake more sensitive, adjusting so that you can achieve that 100% brake force without losing the ability to walk for a week.
There are a number of other settings that you are able to edit, however for the newcomer to the sim racing field you probably won’t want to be messing about with settings you don’t understand. Leave those to the pro’s.
Moving on from the settings, lets talk about some games.
Playing F1 2017 with the CSL Elite wheel was an amazing experience. The feel that you get through the wheel as you go over the bumps in the road and the rumble strips gives another level of gameplay.
When I started playing through F1 I found it difficult to handle, a small tweak of the setup and then I was feeling when the tyres started to slip and when I lost grip, which in turn enabled me to be able to push harder and harder on the track with the knowledge that if i was going to lose traction I would feel it before it was too late.
Having played racing games on the controller for years, I had to re learn the tracks all over again. Learning the turn in points and where I could shave fractions of seconds off my times. Eventually I lowered the traction control settings to give me more power coming out of the corners with the added possibility that I would spin out at the same time. Therefore increasing my speed out of corners, I was able to put in faster times and even reduce the wear on my tyres through a 25% distance race.
Obviously I still made mistakes and still ended up in the wall of a few tracks, but when it did work out it was fantastic. The experience was off the charts. Although hitting big kerbs is not much fun when you have the force feedback cranked up to 11!
At the time of writing Project Cars 2 has just been released and GT Sport is on the horizon, both games we will update this article with as and when we have had enough time to play both games and formulate an opinion on how the CSL Elite operates with those games.
You might have wondered why we haven’t about the pedals or even the LoadCell Kit for the CSL Elite, well I felt that it was better to cover the wheel and games first, but here is some info about the pedals.
Pedals and LoadCell
Unboxing the pedals you are reminded that you once again are dealing with a high quality piece of kit. With an all metal construction and heavy weight, I could for go a session at the gym and just use this pedal set to carry out my weights session!
Modular construction is present here and this allows you to set the pedals up wherever you want, and with the included LoadCell (LC) kit, giving you an extra pedal this is absolutely necessary. You can give yourself a decent amount of space between the accelerator and brake pedal, whilst still leaving enough space that if you want to make use of the clutch you can. The feel on the standard pedal setup is adequate, there is enough movement on the accelerator that you are able to keep it held at 50% power through those long corners, or get the pedal straight down if you need to boot it off the line. However, add the LC and you are then replacing with a massively realistic brake pedal. Adding some realistic resistance to the brake giving it way more feel without making it unrealistic. Adding this pedal increases the enjoyment of using a wheel as you really have to stamp on the brake if you want to brake late.
Setting the LC up is as easy as removing a few screws from the brains of the standard pedal and replacing with the LC. Then everything just plugs straight in and you are good to go. No calibration needed, well only in game.
The only downside that I can foresee with the pedals of the CSL Elite is that they are rather large in width. In fact they are quite large in all dimensions, measuring in at over 30cm in width, you do have a large footprint which can make it more difficult to permanently mount these to a wheel stand, however it is not impossible.
This at the moment is not a problem as I am sat at my computer desk while i’m tearing around Monza.
With no vibration effects on the standard pedals there is obviously no feel, but with the force feedback of the CSL Elite I do not feel like I am missing out on any effects. Vibration would only add to the effect.
Overall the CSL Elite by Fanatec is an amazing piece of kit, and people who have had a brief session on the wheel have also commented how realistic and immersive the wheel feels. Obviously using this attached to a computer desk using the clamp provided isn’t the most ideal of methods of using, but it has made me feel like a more permanent solution is required to get even more enjoyment out of the equipment.
F1 2017 has swiftly become a game that I absolutely love to play, although each race leaves me a sweaty mess from fighting with the wheel at every corner. When you cross the line in first it’s all the reward you need.
Contrary to our standard reviews, we aren’t going to give a score as this can change depending on which game you are playing and therefore are just going to leave it as this.
The Fanatec CSL Elite Wheel Base and Pedals receives the Thumb Culture Hardware Experience Award.
There are a number of videos live over at our YouTube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/thumbculturev2) showing off the unboxing of the CSL Elite Wheel Base and Pedals as well as some setting up videos. Head over to check them out!