Gaming peripherals such as steering wheels and gate shifters have always been about bringing realism and immersion to the virtual track. Vendors such as Thrustmaster, Logitech and Fanatic have spent considerable time and money developing and refining this market to a point were we as gamers are fairly spoilt for choice when it comes to quenching our thirst for virtual motorsport. There is however one aspect of any gaming wheel or racing accessory that despite most vendors best efforts they cannot change. The realisation that no matter how good or lifelike the product maybe, you are at the end of the day bolting it to a desk and wheeling your office chair up to it. For some that’s ok, but for others like myself there is a sense your missing out on that total immersion experience.
Dedicated racing cockpits and rigs are nothing new on the sim landscape. DIY’ers who aren’t afraid to get the hammer or saw out will find there is no shortage of plans, designs, kits, work logs, and forums out there to help create their own custom rigs. But not everyone is so handy or has the time to invest in building their own. So what options does that leave for the average person?
That’s where Next Level Racing steps in with their off the shelf ready to assemble simulator cockpits. They currently offer two flavours the GTpro and GTxtreme, with the only key difference being the chair used in each rig. While both are bucket seats, the GTxtreme goes a little further offering a full body hugging racing chair. For this review we had the GTxtreme, however since the two rigs are identical apart from the seat it’s safe to assume anything specifically mentioned about the GTxtreme will also apply to the GTpro.
Our rig arrived via courier and it’s no wonder they gave me a call first before delivery as the rig itself weighs a good 35KG’s not including the double reinforced box it ships in or any other accessories you might order with your GTxtreme. The rig itself is modular, made from sections of heavy tubular and box metal that’s been given a matt black finish which certainly looks the part. The bucket seat is very comfortable, and I couldn’t resist sitting on it before assembling just to try it out.
The high density foam used should mean that even after many hours of use it will still retain its shape and like any chair it’s fully adjustable to suit most drivers. While it appears that Logitech’s G27 was heavily in mind during development, it fully supports Fanatec, Thrustmaster and just about any wheel or pedal set you might have. Those with the Thrustmaster R500RS will be relieved to know it will fully support it's pedals in both F1 and GT modes. The pedals and gate shift you can hard mount using the supplied mounting holes, or if you’re brave enough you can create your own. Lastly there is even a mount to add a “Buttkicker” to the chair for those that already own one or plan on getting one in the future (if you don’t know a Buttkicker essentially is force feedback device for your chair).
Next Level Racing offers three additional accessories that are sold separately and enhance your rigs functionality. While none of them are critical, there are a few I’d recommend getting. The Next Level Racing Floor Mat while essentially a piece of carpet will stop your rig branding your carpet or scratching your floor (tho arguably any piece of carpet will probably solve that issue). The TV/monitor stand is another option which attaches to the base of your rig allowing you to mount displays up to 42” (tho they do say some people have gone as high as 50”). Finally the keyboard/mouse stand is just that and gives you a platform to use a mouse and keyboard. It rotates out of the way when racing and is handy instead of trying to balance one on your lap.
The whole point of any racing rig is wether it feels real, is comfortable and adds to the driving fun. I’m glad to say that the GTxtreme passes on all fronts. The seating position is very natural, with pedal placement and elevation just right. The wheel placement is perfect with my only slight criticism being I would have liked an adjustable tilt on the platform. The wheel and pedal set we tested with was the Logitech G27 with a Thrustmaster TH8RS shifter and both felt at home on the GTxtreme. Firing up Dirt 3, F1 2012, rFactor and a few of our other favourites it’s easy to see why people opt for these rigs. They add a new dimension to driving, a sense of immersion that you just can’t get bolting your wheel to your desk.
There’s no question that sim rigs are a lot of fun, and the GTxtreme is a great solution to those that desire something off the shelf. With prices starting from $539.00 Inc GST (AUD) for the GTPro and $589.00 Inc GST (AUD) for the GTxtreme (at the time of writing these were on special) they are competitively priced considering what you’re buying. However don’t forget that these prices don’t include any of the accessories. The Floor Mat will set you back $45.00inc (AUD), the Monitor stand $99.00inc (AUD) and the mouse/keyboard stand another $49.00inc (AUD). While not hugely expensive, they are costs that you need to factor in when thinking about buying. With the only difference separating the GTPro and GTxtreme being the chair, we'd easily recommend getting the GTPro, save a few dollars and invest it in the accessories.
One final consideration is also space. This will take up room, and while you can easily split this into two parts for storage, it’s not something that I’d want to take apart every time I was finished racing. You really want to think ahead if you have the space for this as once its setup, you’re unlikely to move it.
- Sturdy and solid, well built and looks great.
- Fully adjustable and comfortable chair.
- Easy assembly.
- While the price is reasonable, you will almost certainly want some of the add-ons.
- Not for the space conscience.
- Non adjustable wheel stand, or rake on the pedal base.
- Did require me to purchase screws to suit my TV.
Where can I buy?
Pagnian Imports are the sole supplier who are also located in Australia which helps with warranty and support. They sell a wide range of sim racing equipment so check them out at: http://www.pagnianimports.com.au