The Thrustmaster TMX is a highly recommended wheel for beginners by seasoned sim racers. There are many reasons for this, ranging from price to quality to performance. The Thrustmaster TMX is, without a doubt, a whole lot of peripheral for your money.
Table of Contents
First off, shout out to FedEx for never being able to get a package to the right doorstep. Bigger shout out to my neighbor who lugged the heavy box down the driveway so that a porch pirate didn’t swipe it. Even bigger shout out (Full Disclosure) to Thrustmaster for providing the TMX wheel for review.
With all of my shout outs out of the way, let’s talk about digging into the box that contained the Thrustmaster TMX wheel.
The shipping box contained another box. To my surprise, the TMX wheel that was sent to me was the Pro version. The main difference here is the pedals. If you buy the standard TMX wheel, you get pedals that are less-than-stellar. However, the TMX Pro comes with the T3PA pedals, which are much better. I will be focusing this review on just the wheel, with a review on the T3PA “upgrade” at a later date.
My first impression of the TMX wheel was how substantial it felt in the hands. For the price point, just under 200 USD, the build quality was top notch. Even though the base and wheel rely on a lot of plastic to keep the price down, you likely wouldn’t realize it right away.
Of course, the box contains everything you need to get going. The TMX wheel comes with an attachment to firmly secure it to a desk via a vice-like mechanism. Additionally, a user manual comes included to answer any of your setup questions.
Setting it Up
The Thrustmaster TMX wheel is meant for use with Xbox One and PC. If you want something for PS4 and PC, the Thrustmaster T150 is your answer. These two wheels are effectively the same.
Setting up the Thrustmaster TMX could not be easier. It is plug and play. You pop the USB adapter in and away you go. For PC, I recommend you download and update any firmware or drivers. Also, depending on the game you plan to play, you may want to toy with your settings a bit.
Once the wheel is connected, updated, calibrated, and settings are tweaked, it’s game time.
A final note on setting up the wheel from a physical perspective: make sure that sucker is firmly clamped to something before playing. The TMX wheel is a force feedback wheel, which I will discuss shortly, and therefore can injure you if you don’t respect it.
Using the Thrustmaster TMX
The Thrustmaster TMX wheel is not a toy. As I eluded to in the previous section, it utilizes something called force feedback. A force feedback wheel uses motors to provide the same feedback a car would give you through the steering wheel. For instance, turning the wheel in a vehicle at full stop is more difficult from a physical perspective than moving the wheel while in motion.
Force feedback is what allows a wheel to provide a realistic driving experience. Force feedback lets you feel and correct slides, feel the care struggling to maintain the racing line, or even jostle around during bumps. It would be impossible to enjoy a true racing simulation without a force feedback wheel.
Many entry-level wheels use a gear system for force feedback. Higher-end wheels use belts or direct drive systems for a more realistic and smooth experience.
The problem with gears is that you can feel the teeth in the gears as the motor turns. This jumpiness makes for a less immersive experience. The TMX has a unique solution for this; they combine gears and belts. The gears allow for a lower-cost solution, while the belts help smooth out the experience. I very much enjoyed the feeling of this force feedback system despite coming from a wheel that retails for three or more times the TMX’s price.
The TMX also comes equipped with nice metal paddle shifters. There are a lot of opinions in the sim racing community about magnetic paddle shifters, but these standard paddles feel fine. To make the paddles out of metal in an entry-level wheel is very impressive.
One design component of racing wheels that goes under-noticed is button placement. I found that the button placement on the Thrustmaster TMX was close to perfect. Every button was easily accessible on the face of the wheel, and I never struggled to find what I needed.
Thrustmaster TMX General Impressions
All in, I spent 20+ hours playing racing games on PC with the TMX. On very few occasions, I missed my more expensive wheel. These occasions usually had more to do with the vice-like mounting of the wheel than the wheel itself. In one instance, I really felt the gears in the force feedback system, and it annoyed me a touch, but then the belts kicked in, and I was again reminded how good the unique force feedback system was.
Who is it for?
So who is the TMX (or any racing wheel) for? I would say primarily those interested in realistic racing simulation. Racing wheels, in general, are not a ton of fun for arcade racers. They will work okay for sim-cade experiences like Forza or Gran Turismo. Remember that these games are optimized for controllers. Games like Assetto Corsa, rFactor2, iRacing, etc. are the perfect candidates for a force feedback racing wheel like the TMX.
The Thrustmaster TMX wheel is an absolute quality peripheral. The quality at the price point is insane. As an entry-level option, there is nothing better out there. I own much more expensive sim racing peripherals, and I rarely missed them. That speaks volumes to what Thrustmaster did with this wheel.
I heavily recommend this wheel to anyone who wants to get into sim racing. I desperately want to score this wheel a perfect 10, because it is ideal for the entry-level market it is targeting. Unfortunately, there is an entire world of peripherals out there that cost way more, and therefore deliver way more, and I have to score the TMX against those. Take the final score with a grain of salt, as this is by far the best entry-level wheel on the market.