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Talking Shift! | What’s the BEST sim racing shifter?

Talking Shift! | What’s the BEST sim racing shifter?

Today I’m comparing 5 of the most popular sim racing shifter models from Thrustmaster, Logitech, Fanatec and Aiologs. Some of these are H-Pattern, some are sequential and some do both, so there’s not going to be a clear ‘this is the sim racing shifter to buy’ recommendation at the end of the video. But, if you’re interested in finding out how some of the most popular sim shifters on the market stack up, then watch the video, or read through the transcript below.

 
So, we’re going to get into the specifics of quality, features, usability, mounting options and value as we go through but first, let’s introduce the shifters. To be clear, I own all of these shifters, and this isn’t sponsored in any way.
 
 

Fanatec Clubsport Shifter SQ V1.5

First up is the Fanatec Clubsport Shifter SQ V1.5. It features H-Pattern as well as sequential modes, adjustable resistance, a roadcar-style reverse gear inhibitor and when it’s paired with a compatible Fanatec wheelbase it can be used on Playstation, XBox and PC. However, if you don’t have a Fanatec wheelbase and you want to connect it to your PC, then you need to buy this 25 euro RJ12 to USB dongle, which really should have been included in the box. Seriously Fanatec, don’t be those guys.

Thrustmaster TH8A

Next up is the Thrustmaster TH8A. Like the Fanatec shifter, it also features H-Pattern and sequential modes and can be used across the three main gaming platforms if you have a compatible TM wheelbase. However, Thrustmaster were also decent enough to include a USB cable in the box as well, so the TH8A can be used as a standalone on PC without needing to purchase any additional accessories. n’t intend on using both functions simultaneously, then this is the only product on the market that does both.

Logitech Driving Force Shifter

Rounding out the H-Pattern shifters is the Logitech Driving Force Shifter. This is the budget entry in the field, as as such it can’t compete on features with the other two. This shifter is H-Pattern only and can be used on all three platforms when connected to a G29 or G920 wheelbase. Logitech don’t make a an adaptor to use this as a standalone device on the PC, but these are available from sever third party manufacturers. Just so I’m not accused of being unfair, I think it’s reasonable that Logitech don’t include a USB adaptor, given that the price I paid for this shifter is pretty much equal to what I paid for the Fanatec dongle alone!

Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod Shifter

Into the sequential only shifters now, and this is the Thrustmaster TSS Sparco mod. It’s a Sequential shifter and analogue handbrake, and like the TH8A can be used on all of the major gaming platforms with a compatible wheelbase and on a PC as a standalone product with the correct cable. 

Aiologs Sequential Shifter

Finally, this is the Aiologs Sequential shifter. Out of the box this is a PC only USB device. But if you’re interested in using more bespoke sim racing equipment on your Xbox One or PS4, then there is a third part product called drive hub which allows traditionally PC only sim-racing equipment to function properly on the Microsoft and Sony platforms which you should probably check out.
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. 
 

Recommendations

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.

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