There is a distinct difference between toys and serious toys! Are you a sim racer who plays racing games on Xbox, PlayStation, or PC? If so, then you definitely want to have a look at the Fanatec Direct Drive Podium Wheelbase. It's the first-ever direct drive system compatible for both console and PC sim racers.
For those that don't know or might just be starting out in the world of sim racing, a direct drive wheelbase is a wheelbase that doesn't have any gears or belts to simulate force feedback. Basically, it's a motor, but while other direct drive wheels on the market use industrial motors that have not been designed for sim racing, the Fanatec Podium direct drive wheelbase utilizes a custom-built out-runner motor, which is attached directly to the steering wheel. That means there are no gears or belts, just pure, raw force feedback coming straight from the game. Typically, a direct drive wheelbase is what professional race car drivers use in simulator training, and thus Fanatec has a prosumer direct drive wheelbase.
What's in the box?
The Fanatec Podium DD1 wheelbase is pretty straightforward out of the box and weighs in at 16 pounds, measuring 13 x 7 x 7 inches (L x W x H). In typical Fanatec style, it's a very polished piece of sim racing hardware. Also included is the torque key, which allows the user to unlock the full force feedback of the Fanatec DD1 wheelbase, and an external power supply brick to power it. While most direct drive manufacturers use an external box for all the electronic hardware, Fanatec was able to keep things very nice and tidy right inside the wheelbase itself.
Features and Specs
The OLED front panel display is packed with features - including some that other brands don't offer - giving the end-user information on the status of certain wheel functions such as motor temperature, system info, force feedback data in real time; additionally, it serves as a gear or speed display through the Fanatec Fanalab software (we'll get into that shortly).
Up next is something of a quick-release system for the Fanatec or third-party steering wheels. It consists of three main parts: the front end of the steering shaft, a rubber ring at the end, and a locking nut to tighten up against the rubber ring to keep things firmly in place; however, it isn't as quick as the name suggests. Another feature that really stands out with the Fanatec Podium DD1 wheelbase is the wheel's completely wireless system which allows total, unrestricted steering wheel rotation with no USB cable to get in your way.
Anytime you have a direct drive wheelbase, it's very important to make sure you have a solid mounting assembly on your sim cockpit. This will accentuate all the fine detail the wheelbase system is capable of delivering. The system offers both side mounting holes along with the mounting holes below the wheelbase. Keep in mind the Fanatec Podium DD1 Wheelbase does not include mounting brackets, but Fanatec does offer them, and there are a few third-party manufacturers such as SimLab if you're looking for different mounting options. Pro tip: We highly recommend using the side mounts.
The Fanatec Podium DD1 wheelbase comes with a holding torque of 15Nm and a peak torque of 20Nm. Although 20Nm isn't enough torque to simulate a race car without power steering, 20Nm or even 25Nm in your hands is more than enough to provide a "realistic experience," unless you want achy arms for days. As far as actual driving experience with the DD1 wheelbase, it's quite the sensation! It has all the power that most sim racers would ever want and includes some additional help from the Fanatec Fanalab tuning software. This gives you additional tuning controls for the Fanatec DD wheelbases, including all of the wheel profile adjustments, and you can control various LED functions which can be found on other Fanatec wheel rims.
Pricing & Final Thoughts
Personally, I think the Fanatec Podium DD1 Wheelbase is the way to go. The Fanatec Podium Wheelbase lineup comes in three trims, with price tags ranging from $1,199 up to $1,599, depending on the exact trim, and the DD1 wheelbase comes with a 3-year warranty.
Fanatec does have a leg up in the market with their ecosystem, which I feel is one of the best features. If you're upgrading from one of their belt driven wheelbases and own one of their fancy wheel rim or rims, shifters, handbrakes, or pedals, they're fully compatible with the Fanatec Podium Wheelbases, which makes everything seamless. Yes, it's expensive, but it's most likely the last sim racing wheelbase you'll ever need. For more detailed specs and ordering information can be found at www.fanatec.com.