In our latest hardware tech review, we take a look at the current Fanatec Podium DD2 wheelbase, to find out for ourselves if all the fuss around the flagship Fanatec offering is truly is justified.
- Fanatec top level direct drive wheelbase.
- Retails around 1500 Euros.
- Compatible with past, present and future Fanatec wheel offerings.
Direct Drive wheels - once the folly of a distinct few sim racers looking to tool themselves up with what was generally considered to be significantly overengineered hardware for the virtual racetrack, recent years have seen the rise of these impressive pieces of gear, so much so that mainstream sim racing brands like Fanatec have (reasonably) recently entered the marketplace - bringing this type of technology more and more into the homes of the average sim racer.
I say average sim racer, and to be honest that is probably a little wide of the mark as even the most entry level of direct drive wheels cost well north of £500, but let's use some artistic licence here, as certainly compared to recent years the level of choice, and cost of ownership, is without doubt much more attractive in 2021 than just a handful of years ago.
In this review we are taking a look at the flagship Podium wheelbase offering from German manufacturer Fanatec, one of the more recent and popular additions to the direct drive range of products, and a product that has been adopted in great numbers by the sim racing community.
I suppose the main question many people will have is- why is the Fanatec DD2 different to most other wheelbases within the direct drive marketplace?
One of the main points of interest for the Podium range over the competition is the Fanatec ecosystem of wheels. Traditionally direct drive bases offer a variety of quick release mechanisms to bolt your chosen wheel rim onto the base, and then the rim is connected to the PC via USB to allow buttons and shifter functionality. While this is a good thing to widen the scope of which rims are available to purchase, it does bring into play the downside of a USB lead interfering with the wheel rotation - something Fanatec have overcome by developing their own range of wheels that connect via the Fantec quick release connector directly into the base.
Frankly, these wheels are often works of art in their own right too, with many benefiting from official licences with brands such as BMW, McLaren and Porsche to bring really nice details and functionality to the experience. Downside to this is with the Fanatec DD you are locked into that exact same ecosystem of hardware - however thanks to backward compatibility to older releases, you still have plenty of choice to pick from, and many after market wheel designs now come with the specialist Fanatec adapter included for an additional cost.
The DD we are using for this review retails for around 1500 Euros, and for that price you get the motor itself, an emergency stop button (trust me, you'll be glad of it when things get frantic!) and all the associated cables - so you'll still have to find the funds for a wheel itself, however as previously stated, users certainly have plenty of choice when it comes to designs in the impressive Fanatec collection of wheels, a collection that seems to be steadily growing in choice in recent months.
In terms of performance, this is where a direct drive motor really shines through. The Podium DD2 is capable of achieving 25Nm of from the custom build outrunner-type motor, the wheelbase is capable of easily reaching high levels of both force and feedback detail, without heading into the dreaded zone of clipping and potentially losing the finer force feedback sensations.
Another nice touch on the Fanatec base, that again sets it apart from the majority of its rivals, is the inclusion of a build-in 2.7" OLED display within the base itself - something that is both aesthetically well-designed within the unit itself, and also exceptionally useful for both setting up different calibration options within the wheel software, and the telemetry output that offers real-time motor and force feedback data such as power output, FFB clipping and other useful bits of information.
So, in summary, it looks good, it's solid as a rock, it's as powerful as you are ever going to need, it comes from a reputable and established company, it's got loads of choices for wheel accessories and software updates.. it looks good, it's solid..... yeah, you get my point.
This really is an outstanding piece of engineering hardware, and if you are in the market for a direct drive wheel experience, I'd imagine for this sort of price it would be very difficult to look further than this.