Best sim racing cockpit for 2021 – Roadshow

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imageYou’ve queued up the best racing game on your PC or console; you’ve got the best racing wheel and pedal clipped to your desk or coffee table, but something still isn’t right.It’s somehow still not immersive enough.A quality home racing sim seat — or even a motion control rig — can help to kick your gaming sessions into high gear.A sim racing cockpit does a few things besides just looking badass and signaling to everyone how serious you are about virtual racing.Like the seat in your car, a racing simulator seat provides a stable platform for all of your steering and pedal pressing, allowing you to move the controls, rather than vice versa.A good racing sim seat setup will also help to optimize the ergonomics and placement of those controls, keeping the sim racing wheel and pedals in a natural position for increased control.

We’ve rounded up the best home racing sim seats for all budgets and spaces.At the top of the heap, we’ve even included a few motion control rigs — the next evolution of sim racing force feedback that allows drivers to feel their cornering, acceleration, bumps and braking through the seat, not just the wheel.

The $900 GTTrack isn’t cheap, but it’s a solid and upgradable platform for sim racing.The sim racer rig starts with a beefy frame that can support the most powerful direct-drive force feedback racing wheels, while standing up to strong pedal pressure.The seat is supportive and comfortable which is good for extended lapping sessions.Roadshow’s Editor-in-Chief, Tim Stevens, has recommended this sim racing setup before and uses one in his personal iRacing setup.

The GTtrack racing simulator cockpit is adjustable for a wide range of body types, compact enough for most homes and is compatible with Next Level’s ecosystem of motion control electronics.Besides being significantly less expensive than a full racing rig like the GTtrack, the Playseat Challenge’s best feature is how it quickly folds into an extremely compact package for storage in a closet, corner or under a bed.The foldable racing simulator cockpit design comes with a few compromises, but ultimately makes the Challenge one of the most ideal simulator cockpits for casual and serious racers in small apartments, bedroom setups and shared spaces.There are adjustments for the wheel, pedal and seat placement, but no gear shifter mount.

(If you must have a shifter box, consider the Next Level Racing GT Lite.) Getting in and out of the racing simulator seat can be a touch awkward, especially for kids.However, the racing simulator frame is strong enough for most console racing wheels and the fold-out pedal mount keeps the foot controls surprisingly planted during use.I personally use the Playseat Challenge sim rig in my small San Francisco Bay Area apartment.The Next Level Racing Wheel Stand provides a firm platform for mounting a racing wheel, pedal box and even a shift lever.

The Wheel Stand is meant to be a starting point around which you can upgrade, adding a seat and more as you go.Unfortunately, that means that it doesn’t actually come with a real racing seat in the box, and the racing simulator ergonomics of a couch or rolling office chair aren’t the best.However, the low entry point price makes this a good option for casual racers who want to get away from just clamping onto a coffee table or desk.If you don’t have the space (or the bucks) for a full GTrack cockpit, but don’t need the foldability of the Playseat Challenge, the OpenWheeler GEN3 sim racing rig sits nicely in the Goldilocks zone between the two.

This sturdy racing seat and frame combo accommodates mounting a wheel, pedal set and shifter and is very adjustable for a wide range of body types.The racing seat is also quite comfortable.When not in racing simulation use, the OpenWheeler can collapse a bit.Fans of flight sims can also purchase optional mounts to quickly convert the rig to a HOTAS setup , complete with a perfectly centered flight stick.

Offering the excellent build quality of the GTtrack at a more affordable price point, the Next Level Racing F-GT Simulator Cockpit has an extra trick up its sleeve that makes it an ideal choice for F1 racing fans.The dual-position seat and pedal box can be configured in the traditional, upright GT passenger car seating position or transformed for low slung, high-pedal position for a formula sim racing experience.Like the GTTrack racing simulator, the F-GT is a flexible and upgradeable platform that can support the addition of display mounts, extra hardware and even a conversion kit for flight sim setups.Unfortunately, the F-GT is not compatible with the Motion Platform V3 kit, which shouldn’t matter too much to buyers on a budget.

The Motion Platform V3 is an add-on for the Next Level Racing GTtrack rig at the top of our best racing simulator cockpit list, providing an easy and relatively inexpensive entry point into the world of motion-controlled sim racing.The Motion Platform adds 2-axis force feedback to the racing seat allowing drivers to feel the G-forces of every corner, braking point and application of throttle.You’d be amazed how much this extra level of immersion and feel can improve your sim racing performance.

The hardware is compact — adding nothing to the GTtrack’s footprint — fairly quiet and easily configurable with the included software.

Just make sure your favorite racing sim is compatible, most of the big ones for PC are, but console racing is not.If price is not a factor and you want the best home racing experience short of building a track in your backyard, look no further than the CXC Motion Pro II.This is a full turn-key sim racing rig complete with a large monitor, racing seat with motion control force feedback, an immersive audio system, direct-drive steering wheel and pedal box.Just add a gaming PC or console and you’re ready to rock.This is the most immersive (and most expensive) sim racing rig that I’ve ever tested that could conceivably fit in a game room or garage.Starting at $63K for the standard setup, the Motion Pro II can be further upgraded with flight sim controls, a 3-head ultrawide display or a VR headset.

There are myriad steering wheel options to choose from and even an option for a real FIA certified racing bucket from Cobra.Checking all of the boxes pushes price just over the six-figure mark…at which point, maybe just consider taking your actual car for a cruise more often.Most casual racing wheel and pedal combos for consoles or PC come with hardware that allows them to be clipped to the edge of a table or desk, which is fine for casual racers.However, gaming wheels with strong force feedback — including the strongest direct drive sim racing wheels — may need a sturdier platform than your Ikea desk can provide.A sim racing cockpit provides that strong base, allowing you to feel the full feedback of the wheel and crank away without fear of flipping your coffee table.

Your desk may indeed be hefty enough to hold up to your Logitech G93, but the most overlooked benefit of a good sim racing cockpit is providing a stable base for the pedal box.Racers apply a lot of pressure to the accelerator, clutch and especially the brake pedal and without a strong base, that box can start to slide during intense lapping sessions — hurting your performance and times while you struggle with ever-shifting ergonomics.And unlike an office chair on casters, a good cockpit also connects the seat to the pedal box, so that you don’t go sliding away every time you brake.The most important things to look for in a sim racing cockpit are strength, adjustability and comfort.

If you’re looking at a racing cockpit, odds are good that you’ve invested in a racing wheel with force feedback.The stronger the wheel, the stronger the frame you’ll need to allow the wheel to provide the best feedback and give you the best control.A $1,200 Fanatec Podium with direct drive feedback needs a beefy base like the Next Level GTtrack.

With a weaker wheel like the Logitech G920 for Xbox or the Playstation-compatible G29, a lighter stand like the OpenWheeler Gen3 will do and is a better match for the budget.

Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the pedal box, you’re literally going to be stomping on this bit, so it needs to be strong.Unless you plan on adding motion control to your rig, it’s more important that your seat be comfortable and sturdy than deeply bolstered.Like IRL driving, ergonomics are a big deal.Being able to comfortably reach the pedals and easily control the wheel can make the difference between pole position and the back of the pack.Since you’re likely a different size from me, I’ve only recommended cockpits and seats with a good level of adjustability.If you share your sim rig with other members of your family, being easily adjustable is another good get.Most home sim racing rigs don’t move, so the seat doesn’t need to hold you in place while cornering.Deep bolsters are nice to have and can feel more immersive, but aren’t strictly necessary unless you’re also diving deep into motion control.

Look for a seat that’s comfortable for longer sessions, supportive enough for steering and pedal pressin’ and easy to get into and out.And, if you live in a small or shared space, consider a foldable cockpit like the Playseat Challenge or the Next Level Racing GT Lite, which can be easily stored in a closet when not in use.Racing in a small or shared space? Consider a racing seat that quickly folds away when not in use.A good gaming wheel will provide force feedback that simulates the weight of a real steering wheel and the feel of the tires struggling for grip.

However, they can’t duplicate the seat-of-the-pants feeling of the rest of the car’s inertia and weight transfer.For that, you’ll need to dive into the immersive and expensive world of motion control.

The single most expensive and immersive simulator I’ve personally used is Volvo’s 3 million euro chassis simulator , a massive room-sized simulator with 5-axis control of an actual vehicle chassis suspended in front of a wrap-around display — you take a retractable gangway to get in or out — but good luck getting that thing out of the Gothenburg R&D facility.The most basic motion control system I recommend is the Next Level Motion Platform V3, an add-on to the GTtrack racing simulator cockpit that mounts between the seat and the rest of the chassis.

When playing compatible racing sims, the Motion Platform can tilt the seat forward and back and from side-to-side to simulate the G-forces experienced when a car brakes, accelerates and corners.A sim racing cockpit can be as simple as a wheel stand and your couch or as complex as this VR and motion-enabled CXC Simulations rig.This $3,000 add-on for an $800 racing sim rig is eye-wateringly expensive, but it can be further upgraded with Next Level’s $6,000 Traction Plus platform, which adds yaw motion to the system allowing drivers to feel the rotation of a vehicle during a drift or the lack-thereof when understeering.

There’s also an optional Buttkicker haptic add-on that lets players feel the rumble of the road and engine through the seat.

Just like in a real car, being able to feel how the car is reacting to your inputs and the surface of the road is not only enjoyable, but is also a great tool for improving your driving performance.

However, going all-in on a Next Level motion control racing setup can push upwards of $10 grand when you include the cost of your wheel and pedal box.Then again, compared to our “price is no object” pick — the CXC Motion Pro II that starts at $63K and can crest the six-figure mark when fully kitted-out — or breaking into an automaker’s headquarters, that seems like a bargain.Climb in the driver’s seat for the latest car news and reviews, delivered to your inbox twice weekly.

A racing sim cockpit supports your steering wheel and pedals in an ergonomic position while you digitally drive in a racing sim or game.It can be as simple as a wheel stand plopped in front of your couch, but a good setup also includes a seat that physically connects you to the wheel and pedals in a driving position familiar to a real car with increased stability for force-feedback.A good racing cockpit should be sturdy enough to support you and your wheel and pedal combo.This is particularly important with force-feedback wheels and high-quality pedal boxes, which transmit loads of torque and foot pressure upon their mounting points.

You’ll also want to make sure that the ergonomics work well for your body type.If you’re serious about sim racing — and especially if you’re looking to supplement or transition to real-world racing — then a sim racing cockpit is definitely worth it.However, a good racing rig may not be worth the investment for more casual players interested primarily in arcade racers.The budget of your racing simulator depends on how powerful/expensive your wheel and pedal combo is, how much physical space you can dedicate to sim racing and how seriously you take your sim racing.

Running a $300 Logitech setup for casual arcade racing in a small apartment? A $200 folding rig is probably best.Got an $800+ Fanatec direct drive setup that you use for weekly iRacing? Spending a similar amount to lock that powerful wheel down is a worthwhile investment.Haptic feedback adds a physical feel to your gaming or race simulation.The most basic level is force-feedback through the steering wheel — though even this “basic” level can get very complex once you delve in.

For the rest of your racing simulation rig, haptic feedback can range from a seat rumbling subwoofer/motor to motion control systems that tilt and slide the seat, mimicking the G-forces you’d experience in a real moving car..

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