Playing Forza Horizon 5 on my Xbox Series X made me think about getting a steering wheel controller. (Again.) For this effort, I decided to start cheap. Before I spend a lot of money on this I need to know I enjoy a wheel more than a controller thumb stick and, more importantly, that I actually spend time driving with the wheel. If I actually do both and find the cheap wheel wanting, then I can justify spending more money on a better wheel. I bought the cheapest wheel I could find on Amazon that day, a Superdrive SV200. (*)
It is advertised to be compatible with almost everything out there (PC, Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation 3 and 4 but not 5) which had the unfortunate side effect of multiple labels on each button. The user is expected to figure out which labels applied to their setup, which is a bit annoying but inevitable at this end of the market. The wheel diameter is much smaller than typical of actual cars, but it’s big enough for me to grasp with both hands and more importantly not a tiny joystick with no resemblance to a steering wheel. Said wheel rotates through 180 degrees range of motion smoothly, but there’s quite a bit of play in the plastic mechanism allowing the wheel to flex a few degrees in every direction. Jury is still out on whether that flex is a problem. There are only two pedals. Their range of motion is small, but enough for me to modulate brake and throttle. Which makes them better than certain cheap analog potentiometers I’ve encountered in the past. But more importantly, the pedals feel sturdy enough I’m not worried about breaking them in the heat of a race.
Connectivity is via a USB cable, no wireless connection here. I thought maybe the electronics would present themselves as a USB HID controller of some sort, but it wasn’t quite that simple because I was expected to assemble a chain of devices by plugging my Xbox Core controller into the wheel. (Xbox –(USB Cable)–> SV200 –(USB Cable)–> Xbox controller.) I guess this was a way for SV200 to gain Xbox connectivity without paying Xbox licensing fees?
With Xbox controller plugged in to SV200, which is then plugged into the Xbox console, I brought up the controller information panel. It shows a single controller and not two. I wonder if the SV200 intercepts USB messages between the console and the controller? Whatever the mechanism was, it meant I could use the wheel and the Xbox thinks it’s coming from the controller. For feedback I get generic rumbling effects on the wheel instead of the controller as well. But not totally reliably: sometimes the controller starts rumbling instead of the wheel and I don’t know why. I just know it startled me whenever it happened.
SV200 appears to only convey controller level in-palm rumble, it is not a force feedback wheel and does not convey road texture and traction as expensive wheels advertise of doing. It also lacks the tactile trigger feedback of a standard Xbox One controller. In Forza Horizon, throttle trigger rumble signals traction control is active and brake trigger rumble for anti-lock brakes. I’ve come to appreciate that feedback and I might miss them when they’re gone. On the To-Do list: investigate whether more expensive peripherals include such feedback motors in their pedals.
Before I can decide how I feel about wheel flex or trigger rumbles, I have a more immediate problem. The SV200 is small and lightweight which is good at saving space but bad for staying still on my coffee table. The Xbox360 wheel had a sturdy clamp, but this wheel had only four small suction cups woefully inadequate for holding in place. I can’t really evaluate whether driving with this wheel is worth the effort when I’m constantly distracted working to keep the wheel in place. I need to fasten it more securely.
(*) Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.