Monday, May 21, 2012

T500 RS Setups... In Detail

T500 RS Gaming Setups

The T500 RS racing system (wheel and pedals) is obviously aimed at racing enthusiasts and not the mainstream and casual gamers who may occasionally play a racing game.

Casual Gamer Setups?

Even so, given that a non-enthusiast (or budding enthusiast?) may pick up the T500 RS before investing in other hardware, such as a virtual racing chassis to mount it on, I tested the T500 RS with a few different possible configurations that could be available to the average mainstream PS3 / PC gamer.


First, the idea of lap-mounted play is right out. At over 32 pounds, the steering wheel is not the kind of thing you want to hold in your lap for any length of time. Besides, the steering wheel would rest in your lap and when the force-feedback or initialization centering starts up, it could roll on out of your lap. This would not be comfortable... and, no, I didn't try this configuration at all; it's simply not a good idea.

Gaming Ottoman

I did attempt using the T500 RS on a LevelUp gaming ottoman, by clamping it down onto the top of the ottoman, and playing with the steering wheel on top of the ottoman and the pedal cluster in front of it. There were two primary issues with this setup: the weight of the steering wheel made it really easy to topple forward, requiring me to have to push it back about three or four inches to make it more stable, and the fact that I had to lean forward in a strange and uncomfortable posture to accommodate this setup. The posture problem was caused by the fact that the pedals need to be under (and possibly further back than) the steering wheel, which requires that there be open area under the steering wheel, for your legs to be able to stretch out to reach the pedals.

Another Bright IKEA

Next, I tried the T500 RS on a small wooden stackable chair, with the chair facing me as I sat on the couch. The pedal cluster fit under the chair, the steering wheel clamped down onto the seat of the chair fairly snugly and I was able to see the television over the chair without it blocking my vision. This setup worked well, in general, but, again, the weight of the wheel placed on the edge of the chair made it want to tip forward, much like the ottoman setup. I was able to get a little more legroom and make the setup more sturdy by turning the chair sideways, which might be a good option for anyone who picks up a T500 RS without something to set it up on. I actually played a good bit while set up on the chair; this setup was quite workable.

Let me take this opportunity to make something clear; with the heft of the T500 RS, it should not, under any circumstance, be used with a folding chair or television tray. That would be reckless and it would be just a matter of time before the unit came crashing down on someone's legs or feet. This would likely injure both person and device. Only use a sturdy stacking chair, at that.

PC Gaming Setup

For the PC-compatible side of things, I tested the T500 RS on my computer desk by taking my keyboard off of my keyboard tray and mounting the RS in its place. It clamped down nicely and held tight, and the pedal cluster fit nicely right in front of my desk, after slightly moving my PC out of the way. I tested it out with the Ignite! demo and it worked quite nicely. To use the T500 RS on the PC, I had go to the Thrustmaster website and download the Windows driver, first, but it installed without incident and the Properties Section in the device interface (in Control Panel: Device Management) includes the ability to tweak the steering wheel's lock-to-lock range and feedback motor strength, among other things. Changing the steering wheel's turning range can be a necessary step in making the T500 RS usable with various games on the PC; for Ignite!, I found a lock-to-lock range of around 300 degrees made it most playable. Overall, using the T500 RS on my standard computer desk worked nicely, but I should offer one warning: Carefully evaluate your desk for things that might shake loose as you play - especially if your desk, like mine, has a hutch and you have various items stacked precariously on its shelves. I was drifting around a hair-pin curve and bouncing off a wall when a stack of blank CDs lept down upon me unexpectedly from above. It was enough to get my attention, but could have been a lot worse.

Enthusiast Setup

The VR-1 Virtual Racing Chassis

My most "blinged-out" setup that I tested the T500 RS with (and the setup most likely to be similar to the average purchaser of the T500 RS) was setting it up on a Bob Earl Racing VRC-1 virtual racing chassis. Personally, I found the T500 RS steering wheel unit mounted securely on the wheel podium and stayed put just fine, likely due, in part, to the rubber pad on the top of the podium that gave the clamp something to "bite" into, but I did notice that on the Bob Earl Racing website, they suggest bolting the steering wheel to the podium, but that instructions are forthcoming. They also mention that the pedals should be bolted in place and, although I haven't done so yet, I agree that it would probably be a good idea. The VRC-1 has an angled mount for the pedals which, for run-of-the-mill pedals, puts them in a more realistic orientation. However, since the pedals on the T500 RS are already at a more realistic angle, this built-in angle makes mounting the pedals more complex than simply using velcro. Well, the weight of the pedal cluster doesn't make it easier, either. I found that I could use the pedals in the floor-mounted orientation without much extra work; it would be best to mount them in a more stable, permanent fashion, but for the purposes of testing, the pedals stayed put, as the very edge of the cluster just sort of lips around the VRC-1's pedal cluster support, keeping it from shifting laterally, while the heavy-duty Velcro kept it from scooting around. Using the pedal cluster in back-mounted orientation, on the other hand, would require mounting to the VRC-1 and, perhaps, some additional fitting. When I attempted this orientation, I found that the pedal cluster would slip up and over the end of the VRC-1's pedal support, due to the gap between the diamond plate footrest and the pedals, themselves in this orientation. Again, instructions on use with the VRC-1 is forthcoming on the Bob Earl Racing website.

Over-the-Top Custom Setup

Yes, you can take the T500 RS even further, if you wish. Here, for example, is a video showing a custom racing simulation cockpit which utilizes a T500 RS and the optional TH8 RS shifter (sold separately).