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Sim racing on a budget: Viable or not?

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If you’ve done any research into any sort of simulator, you’d know that they are super expensive to build. However, with sims getting more and more reach every day, the ownership cost is coming down.

I just finished my very own driving sim last month. It’s not a lot, and it’s not pro by any means. Everything in my setup is super budget, right from my machine to my wheel and my pedals. But does it make me fast? Does it provide me with a competitive edge in sim racing? And most importantly, does it make for an immersive experience?

Read on to find out.

The Sim

First up, it isn’t your regular run-of-the-mill sim. It’s just a very simple small setup attached to my desk. So no racing chairs and no big fat frames along with multiple monitors. Wish I had those, but they’re still way out of reach for me.

Sim racing on a budget 2019: Viable or not? | Candid.Technology
My rather humble F1 Sim

So let’s start with the main machine. If you’ve been reading me up, you know I’m a PC junkie, and therefore, my rather humble HP AB522TX laptop makes up for the device running the show. No, I haven’t even got an external monitor either, it’s just my laptop.

Moving on, I have the Thrustmaster Ferrari Red Legend Edition Racing Wheel. Again, a rather humble device. Not at all pro level. The wheel is rather small, is made of plastic only, and the biggest drawback is that it only turns about 90 degrees each side. For reference, a good wheel would turn at least 900 degrees, just like in (most) real cars. And there’s no force feedback, though I wish it had some.

The included pedals are also nothing too great. They’re just standard plastic pedals. Potentiometer based. Very very basic stuff.

And that’s pretty much it. Yes, there’s nothing else really that I use. For sound, I usually pair up my laptop to my Google Home Mini or use my Kotion Each G5300 when I’m playing multiplayer.

Ah yes, the game. So I’m mostly found embarrassing myself at F1 2019. But occasionally I crash myself in DiRT Rally 2.0 and RaceRoom Racing. Do you need the super expensive iRacing to be a real sim racer?

Well, not really. To start, you can get the simply great free to play RaceRoom or the rather cheap Assetto Corsa. Both the games will get you started well enough regardless you’re a beginner or pro.

If you’re looking for something specific, well you will have to spend on your game. There’s nothing you can save here unless you pirate the game in which case it’s both illegal, and you can’t play online.

Is this setup good enough?

So all this is pretty much a budget setup. But the real question is, how does it perform? Well, as good as you can push it.

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Just like with any other gaming equipment, a better sim setup doesn’t make you faster. I’ve seen people with gamepads go as much as 10-15 seconds faster than most people on a high-end wheel.

Yes, I struggle a bit with my wheel considering the adjustments I have to make because of the rotation angle. It would have been nicer to leave the steering linearity back to zero, but you know what, it doesn’t affect my gameplay.

I mean, the car steers just fine and sometimes, I can hit the top of the leaderboards in some sections of the track. For the most part, I’m losing time by not braking properly, or only going too slow.

The only bummer here is the lack of force feedback. Since there’s no feedback on the wheel, I’m forced to drive by memory instead of instinct. I’m forced to remember my braking points, and if I miss them, I end up either spinning out or going wide.

This is way more apparent on games like DiRT Rally, where every section of the track is new. In F1, or any track racing game, you are going lap after lap, and after some time, you get the hang of it. But when you don’t know what’s behind the next corner, things go wild pretty quick.

Even then, I fully support my sim setup as it has taught me a LOT about racing cars and just about driving in general. Is a better wheel going to make me faster? Well, the force feedback might make me improve just a little bit, but I promise you I’ll still be only marginally quicker. Not at all enough to justify the difference in price tags between my wheel, and the next cheapest wheel that offers force feedback (The Logitech G29).

Also read: Here’s how to get into F1 Esports 2020

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: