SteelSeries are a vendor known for their high end gaming products specifically performance mice, keyboards and headsets. So what happens when they team up with Ignite Technologies makers of the popular Simraceway, to create a gaming peripheral? The result is the SRW-S1 steering wheel which on the surface looks like a winner.
Modelled to have an F1 style look and feel it’s festooned with a plethora of buttons, dials and switches that are all functional, and give you quick access to almost any setting you could desire to change while in-game. The rubber grips are both comfortable and sturdy and the whole wheel feels extremely solid and well constructed.
Moving to the back of the device however is where things start to get interesting. The SRW-1 departs from traditional wheels as it has no pedals or base to speak of, it’s designed to be a free standing device where motion-sensors track the tilt of the wheel to control the steering. Think of it as an adults’ version of the Wii steering wheel but for the PC. The amount of sensitivity from the motion-sensors can be adjusted on the fly from anywhere between 180 to 360 degrees via a dial switch on the wheel.
Braking and acceleration are handled by two paddles on the back, while two smaller ones at the top of the shoulders handle gear changes. This arrangement makes gear changing while simultaneous accelerating and braking quite a challenge. To help with this there’s also a dial that controls a number of driver aids such as traction control and ABS to name just a few. These can be all turned on or off as well as the degree of assistance (low, medium, high) via a separate toggle switch making customising the device to your driving style a little easier.
While being a free standing controller you might be assuming that this is a wireless device; that’s not the case as the SRW-S1 connects to your PC via USB and while the cable length is more than adequate, you can’t help but wonder why they didn’t go with a wireless option. Functionality wise the SRW-S1 appears to have everything a sim racer would want, but how does this is all translate to the track?
Installation & Configuration:
Installation is very straight forward. There are no drivers included with the wheel as it’s designed to be used straight out of the box and be fully compatible with simraceway (www.simraceway.com). On the flip side however if your keen to try it with another game it will work with almost anything after a small driver download from the Steeleseries website. Configuration is also very hassle free as the games we tried all allowed us to map the wheel as a custom configuration.
Booting up Codemasters F1 2011 we gave the SRW-S1 a shake down and we where unfortunately left extremely disappointed. While the motion-sensors do an adequate job of translating your turning movement in game, the fact of the matter is that it’s simply un-natural to be holding a wheel midair in front of you. The sensation gives you a disjointed feeling that you’re controlling a car rather than driving it. The sheer amount of concentration and dexterity needed to combine braking, accelerating, gear changes and at times DRS and KERS to put in even the most average of lap times was frustrating. The complete lack of a feedback system means you’re at the mercy of having to resort to the use of driver aids to combat slides and lockups, certainly not something any self respecting sim racer would want to do.
The accelerator and brake paddles have the same spring resistance, which is to say quite week. There is so little effort required to pull the brake or accelerator that sometimes you’re forgetting your fingers are even on it and as a result being able to subtly slow or put the power down is extremely difficult, especially if you’re trying to change gears at the same time. A slightly stiffer spring in the brake would have been a welcome touch, just to let you know there’s a difference.
We fiddled with the sensitivity settings for the motion sensors till we found a happy balance; however as a result we suddenly found when turning the USB cable would get caught in the paddles. With practice we were able to get our lap times down to a reasonable level, however even after short burst sessions our arms were left completely exhausted which leaves you scratching your head how anyone could endure using this wheel for extended sessions, let alone full races.
Final Thoughts :
So where does that leave us? On paper it’s hard to work out who Steelseries had in mind when they developed this product. It’s not really suited for the hardcore sim racer due to its lack of pedals, force feedback, or stand to mount it on. It’s only compatible with PC’s so that rules out the console market and casual gamers are probably going to opt for a traditional handheld controller over a dedicated device they can only use in one type of game. So who does that leave? Certainly there must be some frustrated players out there that don’t have the room for the full wheel and pedal setup and instead need to opt for something that’s at least marginally better than a keyboard to race on but surely there can’t be that many?
What we have here is a wheel that looks and feels the part, but is let down by a control method that is awkward and difficult to master. Its background stems from a sim racing crowed yet it’s constantly being referenced to cater to people who don’t have the room for a full wheel setup which is confusing. The SRW-S1 would make a great mod project for someone wanting to take the wheel and mount it on a traditional base. Something really like this: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KfEF0Pcz7g). If you’re a casual racer this might be the wheel for you, but for almost any other category of person you’ll want to keep looking.
- Comfortable and looks great.
- Requires incredible dexterity.
- Tiring after only a short time of use.
- Lack of force feedback.
- USB Connection.