In the next few sections of the video, we’re going to ranking the shifters in specific categorise from worst to best, starting with the quality and usability of the shifters.
Build Quality & Shifting Feel
In last place is the Logitech shifter. This is roughly 1/8th of the price of the most expensive shifter in the comparison, so as you would expect, some compromises have been made. The unit is built from injection moulded plastic throughout, with a steel shifter arm and faux leather trim. The fit and finish of parts is great, as you would expect from a mass market manufacturer like Logitech. When it comes to driving, the shifting feel is the least immersive of the shifters I tested and honestly feels a bit… sloppy. And as such, miss shifts were more likely to occur on the Logitech shifter than the Thrustmaster or Fanatec H-Pattern offerings.
In 4th place is the Thrustamster TH8A. Like the Logitech, this is built down to a price. However, the use of more metal in it’s construction and a more refined mechanism make for a significantly better shifting experience in H-Pattern mode. While the TH8A doesn’t feel quite as engaging and responsive as the Fanatec, the gate does have a positive feel, though the resistance is quite light – meaning that miss shifts were very rare. In sequential mode, this is worst of the 4 shifters that support sequential shifting. Shifts don’t have any sort of positive click and resistance is very light and overall, I would describe the sequential shifting experience as ‘useable’. Furthermore, switching between H-Pattern and Sequential mode is a pretty tedious process involving undoing the gear knob, removing 4 screws, removing the top plate, rotating the internal mechanism and repeating this steps again in reverse. It’s not awful, but it’s not something you’re going to want to do over and over again as you bounce between different cars. As for the build quality, all is good, I’ve personally been using this unit for around 3 years and it’s still going strong with no signs of looseness creeping in.
In the middle of the pack is the Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod. This metal monster of a sequential shifter and handbrake is much more rugged than the TH8A, and really is a step up in terms of build and materials from the lower priced unit. The feel of the shifter is more direct than the TH8A, has a responsive click, but the resistance is much lower than I would like. Still it’s a big step up from the other Thrustmaster offering. And, if you’re also looking for a handbrake, well, this is the only unit that does both.
The runner up here is the Fanatec unit. In terms of fit and finish, it’s as good as any other product I’ve looked at here, but the material choices place it above the Thrustmaster and Logitech offerings. Furthermore, the shifting feel is also significantly better than the big names as well. In H-Pattern mode, the directness of the Fanatec shifter provides the best H-Pattern experience here. The throw of the shifter is quite short, which I like as it’s pretty much identical to my MX5. That being said even with adjustable resistance, you still can’t really dial it up to the level of feel you would get in a moderately sporty road car, let alone a racing car. But, that’s really a minor criticism, as for most people, I think the feel of the SQ V1.5 will be more than adequate. And the story is the same in Sequential mode, which you can access by sliding one switch on the side of the unit, making it a much more practical proposition to change from one mode to the other at a moment’s notice. And because of the way the mechinism works, the feel in Sequential mode is identical to that of the H-Pattern mode, i.e, responsive and direct, if not super immersive.
And that leads us to the winner in this category, the Aiologs sequential shifter. And it’s pretty clear winner too. The materials used are fantastic, the build is excellent and the shifting feel is far and away the best. Starting with that feel, the resistance of the Aiologs shifter is significantly higher than all of the other offerings. As you move the shifter the strong spring resistance increases until you reach the ‘click’ point and you feel a very tactile, mechanical jolt as the lever engages the mechanism and activates a shift. While the shifting is of course an electronic signal, this is the only unit in this review that comes close to having a convincing feeling of a mechanical system. And on top of all that it looks and feels like it’s built like a tank.
Mounting The Sim Racing Shifters
Mounting your shifter isn’t all that glamourous, but it plays a massive roll in usability. And that’s why both of the Thrustmaster shifters and the Fanatec shifter are all in joint last place. None of these shifters come with any hardware to mount to your rig, though predictably they will sell you some. In Thrustamaster’s case, they sell the TM Racing Clamp, which while expensive, is actually a pretty cool piece of equipment if you’ve got both the TSS and TH8A and want to mount them to your desk. But, you’re out of luck if you use a sim racing chassis of some kind, especially if it doesn’t have any sort of shifter mount. So you may have to find a third-party adaptor or fabricate a mount yourself. And that’s also the story for the Fanatec shifter. Though it should also be pointed out that all of these shifters do have standard M6 threaded mounting holes provided.
The runner up is the Logitech shifter, which includes a desk clamp built into the bottom of the unit and M6 mounting points. So, desk mounting is easy, but like the other shifters, rig mounting may require additional mounts. In my case, I repurposed a bit of steel plate I had previously been using for a Stream Deck.
That leave the Aiologs shifter as the winner again. Not only is if supplied with a sturdy metal desk clamp, but they’ve thoughtfully included a beefy mounting plate that’s pre-drilled for use with Aluminium extrusion sim-rigs. This could also be put to use on other metal tube type rigs with a bit of drilling as well!
Best Value Sim Racing Shifter
Ok, so this one’s going to be subjective, but I’ll try my best to explain my reasoning. Here are the costs for the 5 shifters based on the lowest price I could find them from a reputable source here in the uk
The Logitech Shifter comes in at a budget friendly £33, and if you have a Logitech wheel and don’t really want to go for something a bit more fancy, it’s a no brainer. And even if you have to buy a USB conversion cable off for another £20 or so, then it’s still the cheapest route to getting an H pattern shifter by far.
The next cheapest option is the Aiologs and honestly, if you’re a PC driver that wants a sequential shifter, this is incredible value for money.
In the middle is the TH8A. It’s feature packed and ticks a lot of boxes, but doesn’t really excel at all in any given area. It’s middle of the road performance is reflected in the middle of the road price, and honestly I’m more than happy with the years of use I got out of mine. It’s a great starter shifter and If your budget can’t stretch to the Fanatec, this is the best option.
The TSS is an interesting choice. At nearly £100 more than the Aiologs, it just doesn’t measure up from a value perspective if you’re only interested in the sequential shift function. But, if you want a handbrake as well, and don’t intend on using both functions simultaneously, then this is the only product on the market that does both.
Finally, the Fanatec shifter. It costs about 60% more than the Thrustmaster TH8A, and performs at lest that much better. So if you’re looking for an H-Pattern and Sequential shifter, it represents good value. However, if you’ve already got a TH8A then the step up in performance may not be enough to justify the outlay in my opinion, but that will very much be down to the individual.
So, here are my recommendations.
If your priority is budget, the TH8A covers all of the bases at a very reasonable price.
If you want the best Sequential shifter and don’t car about H-Pattern, then the Aiologs is far and away the best choice.
But, if you want the best all rounder, and H-Pattern matters to you, then the Fanatec shifter is the clear winner.
So, to bring things to a close, I’ve taken a look at 5 shifters that I own that represent what are probably the most popular shifters on the market at the moment. There are other models out there that I would have loved to include, like the highly affordable SHH H-Pattern shifter and the Heusinkveld Sequential model, but I don’t have access to those right now, so maybe I can do an update to the video in the future.