When I got the bonus I immediately decided to upgrade my computer and to buy a steering wheel with force feedback. Now my computer consists of the following parts:
For the experiments I installed the Windows98 SE and Microsoft DirectX 7.0
This computer served a test system for 4 wheels: AVB CG-FBW1, AVB CG-FBW7, Logitech Wingman Formula Force GP and Per4mer UP 300 OT SC&T International.
Each wheel has a lot of features and settings. The most important ones are a turning angle and the maximum vibration frequency (the higher it is, the less the number of jerks and the smoother the kickback).
The model has average characteristics. Among its advantages are a convenient shift stick, a dinky design, clamps that tighten the device underneath the desk. On the wheel you can find the LEDs of power. But none of the LEDs will tell you whether the Force FeedBack is switched on.
The pedals are too small and light. The platform they are located on is too small as well, and the pedals can easily overturn it. The wheel has nothing that would prevent slipping it out of your hands. So, you'd better grip it hard, otherwise you may lose it on some tussock...
This model is the most beautiful and stylish. The mounting is reliable. The soft velvety material covering the wheel and a good form will let you enjoy the entire game. Hands do not sweat, get tired or slip. I wish, though, there were a normal shift stick and the buttons were placed the other way. The pedals are bigger and nicer, but they are too light as well. My legs get tired very fast.
This is the wheel I liked the most. It has a nearly wedge-shaped form. The cut above will let you see the monitor quite well. The buttons are placed conveniently under the thumbs. The wheel with such a large amplitude would never turn off, however strong you may turn it. The angle of inclination is the best - I have played the NFS over 4 hours and didn't get tired. The pedals are likely the best among the all existent models, they are far enough from each other. My feet feel comfortably on them, and my heels do not hang down. The pedals are made of steel, as well as the platform and the mechanism, that is why the construction is quite reliable.
Unfortunately, the model lacks for a special gear shift stick.
Logitech WingMan Formula Force GP
The compactly designed model has the smallest platform, and the wheel takes little place on the table. The wheel is plastic, with rubber insertions, about 25 cm in diameter. On the wheel you can find 6 programmable buttons - 4 in front and 2 behind. The pedals are pleasant by touch and you can comfortably play with snickers on your feet.
The wheel, however, has a specific defect. The force feedback mechanism is made with neither a steel rope nor rubber belts (see the figure).
There are only plastic gears. First, this will affect a service life. Secondly, during a game you will hear unpleasant knocks.
Connection and calibration
All wheels except the Per4mer was connected to the USB bus without any problems and didn't require calibration. The Per4mer, however, was developed more than 3 years ago. The drivers since that time wasn't updated. According to the company's site www.per4mer.com the wheel may conflict with USB-devices. Besides, the drivers for UP-300 were developed for the Windows 95. But they can work also with Windows 98 (but for Win 98 SE) and with some versions of Windows 2000. Well, the drivers were installed flawlessly only after I removed the USB mouse.
All wheels were tested in NFS V, Carmageddon 2000 and Test Drive 5 games, with the settings being all the same. But the feedback was completely different! For example, all USB-devices imitated all prominences and imperfections of the road excellently. You might easily tell grass from a puddle. At the low revolutions the wheel was trembling, while at the high ones it was shivering. But crashes with other cars and obstacles were too weak in the NFS and Test Drive. The Carmageddon, on the contrary, was incredible good. On the whole, with the AVB and Logitech wheels you feel like driving a luxurious car.
As for the Per4mer, it works much better in the NFS: you feel a real race, have to hold the wheel tight as passing the turns to control the car, crashes are so realistic that you understand you shouldn't do it anymore. It is hard, though, to distinguish asphalt and grass. In the Carmageddon this wheel didn't react so realistically as compared with the AVB and Logitech models.
The only worse drawback of all models is that head-on collisions are not supported (while side blows are very realistic).
So, what I should buy?
Let me estimate the main parameters of the models according to a 5-score scale (5 = excellent).
If you want feel comfortably, the AVB CG-FBW7 will be the best choice for you. It has a stylish design and operates excellently. If you want a realistic, professional race, than the Ultimate Per4mer is what you need.
* - the prices are of November 2000.
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