- Apr 13, 2014
Thus far in sim racing, direct drive wheels have been beyond the reach of the average consumer. With prices as much as $5,000 for a motor and cables alone, it would appear direct drive wheels are reserved only for the professionals. The SimXperience AccuForce aims to change that. While prices may still be relatively expensive when compared to other production wheels, they are just within the reach of the average sim racer, bringing direct drive force feedback to your sim rig. So does it hold up to the expectations, and is it really worth the cost?
First, let me explain the potential benefits a bit better. Direct drive gets rid of any gears or belts used, attaching the wheel directly to a powerful servo motor. The strength of the motor dictates much of the ability and quality, but direct drive alone makes a few substantial differences. Firstly, there is no gears to become worn, or belts to slip, making FFB more defined and efficient. Also, the degree of rotation becomes limited only by the FFB itself, this means an infinite amount of potential rotation degrees.
Another massive bonus is the ability to have FFB which is powerful, yet light. This means when you crash, or do something to encounter strong forces on the wheel, you have strong forces, but when you are just driving along the wheel can feel light and easy to turn as it should.
It also allows forces which do not alter the steering of the wheel, such as vibrations. This means engine rumble, comes through clear without distorting steering forces.
The AccuForce uses a motor very similar to what you would find in a CNC Lathe, so needless to say, it’s quite powerful. It is capable of delivering 13Nm of sustained force. Compare this to the CSW V2’s maximum of 7Nm.
“What good is all that power? Most real cars (even without power steering) don’t require that much force to turn,” you may be thinking. Well firstly, there is a use for having more steering force than real life. Race teams can crank up the forces to build strength and endurance. This can be a critical tool when preparing for long endurance races.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, more power means less of the potential power needs to be used to run massive forces, ensuring a long life. It needs to be used with a proper combination of controller however, or the communication process can disrupt the fidelity of the effects.
SimXperience seems to have found the magic combination here, the motor communicates flawlessly with the controller. This is only possible through an entirely custom combination of motor and controller. The extra power means that when you run true to life FFB strengths you can feel every little detail, and with minimal delay.
FFB response is largely limited by communication from pc to controller to motor. What it basically boils down to, is the match between controller and motor, and all the components used in the process. If they are able to communicate efficiently, and at the same speed this will create the minimal delay.
SimXperience say they have much of their focus into making sure the AccuForce operates with optimal efficiency and speed.
So how does it all work out? Is it worth the cost? Is it even practical?
The first thing you will notice is the striking appearance of not only the wheel itself, but the motor base. Its sleek and black with “SIMXPERIENCE” written on it in chrome and best of all, the face of it is real carbon fibre! It looks and feels so authentic it seems like it comes straight out of a GT spec racer. The rim is beautifully crafted with black suede leather and red stitching, also featuring adjustable carbon fibre paddles.
The paddles adjust using two small thumb screws, they provide a wide range of distances from the rim and pull distances. This makes it easy to get either a F1 style feel, or a road car style feel. The only drawback is that they tilt only, and cannot slide to maintain a constant angle.
The button box feels durable and heavily constructed. The buttons are light but have detents and give a good feel when wearing gloves, so no worries there.
I will say the paddles on the beta unit are a bit “edgy”; when the paddles are adjusted away from the wheel, you are grabbing the corner of it. However, I have once again been assured the final release models will have more rounded edges for added comfort.
The motor base mounts using eight, 6mm bolts, which is quite effective for a firm mounting. Mounting the wheel directly to a desk would not be very practical, however, as the wheel comes out at a 90 degree angle. So, if you plan to use a desktop, you will need some form of mounting bracket, which should eventually be available from SimXperience. For now I have constructed an angled mount from ¾ inch plywood and some wedges. Whatever you do, a rigid mounting is necessary and mounting to a rig is, of course, best.
Once the motor base and controller box are mounted, the wires ran and Sim Commander is installed the excitement kicks into overdrive. Time to feel what all the fuss is about. The rim locks into place with a satisfying thunk. The quick release is firm and rigid. You can tell it is not only built with quality, but somewhat overbuilt. This is a good thing, it ensures that not only does it perform well but also that it lasts a long time.
To start out I thought I would give it a test with raw feedback in my personal favourite sim, Assetto Corsa. For in game FFB settings, this meant setting the FFB gain to 100% and everything else to 0%. I set Sim Commander to give no FFB enhancements, running only game FFB at 100%.
Immediately, I felt a world of difference from what I was used to feeling from a FFB wheel. It felt real. It felt almost perfect right from the get go, so I knew I could get more out of it. The only thing missing was the feeling of vibration from the motor, road bumps felt a bit soft in racier car, and kerbs had little feeling. So a bit of tweaking, kerb effect up just slightly to 10% in game, and I decided to switch on some of the Sim Commander effects.
After some tweaking I had a setting that worked for any car in the game. If it was something like the Lotus T125 S1 which would have very heavy steering, it was just as heavy as I could imagine it being and if I wanted to take LaFerrari for a spin I just set the FFB gain to 55% in the car setup, and ‘Ta-Da’ light and soft steering.
What’s more amazing, with Assetto Corsa’s notoriously “difficult to set up, but excellent once you have” FFB, not only was the wheel easy to set up, but the differences from car to car, and all the little subtleties to the FFB really come to life. It really does bring out the best in a games FFB, at least in this case.
What’s most amazing of all, is the fidelity. Running the FFB effects at 100% in game and around the same in Sim Commander may sound like its running a lot. But it isn’t. The Sim Commander FFB Intensity can be increased to over 250%, which is still not much of a workout for the powerful servo motor. This may sound excessive but, even at full power, every detail comes through clean and without any clipping whatsoever.
The difference in fidelity is like going from a small black and white TV from the 1960’s to 1080p HDTV. Its possible to feel different types of FFB at the same time, without affecting each other. For example, when you are mid turn, and touch the kerb, if you are using a conventional wheel (non-direct drive) the mid turn ffb is affected and distorted by the vibration of the kerb (unless you have kerb effects reduced to near non-existence). With the AccuForce when you do the same thing, you feel the vibration of the kerb through the steering column, but it does not affect the feel of the other effects nor does it directly affect steering. With the combination of the response time and the fidelity it becomes much easier to drive by feel and to catch slides.
There is, however, a catch. While the stunning clarity, detail and capability can bring out the best in a game’s FFB, it can also bring out the worst. The massive range of FFB frequencies of which the AccuForce is capable means it can produce frequencies which become audible. R3E seems to have some effects within this range. When I initially tried it with R3E it produced sounds which sound something like R2D2 being slaughtered. After some tweaking I have reduced this effect to an acceptable level, but pushing the limits of the FFB intensity do bring them back. The simple solution is to use Sim Commander’s built in FFB.
Sim Commander also provides the ability to replace the game’s FFB with Sim Commander’s own FFB effects. This can be incredibly useful, due to the ability to tweak individual effects from a very long list and maintain a consistent feel across different sims. This can also be useful in a case of FFB that comes through with extra frequencies, such as I mentioned with R3E. Personally though, I prefer the feel of different sims, and the ease of setting it up without spending hours tweaking dozens of different effects, so as long as the in game FFB is good that does it for me.
Upon testing some other popular sims, I have come to a conclusion. This wheel will bring out the best in a sims FFB, and the worst. It’s just like any other wheel, and it takes some tweaking, but with the help of Sim Commander that is relatively easy. Once you get it dialed in, it simply cannot be beat.
One of the largest, if not the largest, selling points of the AccuForce is the long lifetime and durability. There’s only one way to test that in a short amount of time. To put it through the grinder, and run it hard until it gives or I do. For this, I set the Sim Commander Wheel mode to high with peaks (the strongest mode) and the FFB intensity to 200%.
The first thing I noticed, the engine vibration was coming through my pedals. This had no effect on the steering, but it vibrated from the motor, through my desk all the way to the pedals. This was something I hadn't expected, so I was thrilled at this fact.
While the wheel felt extremely heavy and provided quite a workout, it wasn't hindering. I could still catch a slide just as easily, if not more easily. To be honest, despite being unrealistically heavy in turns, it was quite a thrilling experience.
I kept this up for about two hours of non-stop driving, stopping only for tyres. At the end of the two hours the motor had lost nothing, and had not increased in temperature a noticeable amount. It was actually still cool to the touch, despite the room being considerably warmer than when I started. So, up to the max of 255% then.
Even still, no clipping, no loss of fidelity, no adverse effects whatsoever. The only way I could get it to clip at all was running the in game effects at 200% as well, which still was a negligible amount of clipping.
SimXperience claims to be bringing the AccuForce to customers at a minimum over cost. I believe them. The construction of the AccuForce really is bulletproof. It’s a beauty to look at and will make even the sloppiest of desks look like a professional race rig. Is it a direct drive wheel at a minimal cost for a direct drive wheel? In my opinion, not quite. It’s built with enough power for the most demanding of sim racers, it’s built for beauty and realistic feel. Could it have been done without a carbon fibre face and paddles? Yes. Could it have been done with a bit less power? I would certainly think so.
Personally, I think the AccuForce Pro was the way to go. If you are going to do it, do it all the way, and do it to the best you can. While this may not quite be the wheel for all sim racers, now we can hope for a cheaper version which really can put direct drive power and fidelity into the hands of every sim racer.
So yes, the AccuForce Pro really is everything it is supposed to be. I haven’t tried a Bodnar wheel yet, but I can’t imagine it being any better than this, especially at so much higher a price. This wheel is in a league of its own. There is no other production wheel which can match it on power, fidelity, feel, or construction. The components are all made to a high standard, and are sure to be long lasting. This really could be the last wheel you ever need to buy. Is it worth the money? If you can afford it, absolutely. Make no mistake, this wheel is not cheap, coming in at a price of $1,749.00 USD, but they certainly have not skipped any corners. The AccuForce Pro simply is an amazing wheel, not only is it likely the greatest production wheel made to date, but it is likely to change the game in terms of racing sim steering hardware.
Any complaints? My shoulders hurt.
The wheel tested in this review, as stated, was a pre-production beta model. Production models may have some variation from the model tested in this review.