PC Racing: Much Easier With A Steering Wheel!

ACT Labs Force RS

The Force RS by ACT Labs commands immediate respect. The casing is the most solid of all those we tested and the pedals no less so. As for looks, it's not so handsome. Some people will appreciate its serious side, whereas others will find a bit too bulky. The wheel is clamped by a rather clever system of pads tightened by two dials on the sides. This is not the fastest method, but does ensure great stability. The wheel is classically shaped - perfectly round and trimmed in artificial leather. As for its comfort level: it is good and pleasant to grip, but there are some aspects that make it seem cheap. The plastic of the spokes does not look very good, and the two levers behind inspire little confidence. Yet, the ergonomics are good and honest with a straight, relaxed position. There are no less than nine buttons and a d-pad in the middle, so you shouldn't need to use the keyboard.

The pedal set is so heavy that it's not likely to slip. Although its position might be odd, it is still pleasant and restful for the feet. The travel is not long enough for both the brake and the gas pedals, but it is fairly firm.

The real innovation here, however, is the plug-in cartridge system at the back. This holds the electronics and connections so that the wheel can be upgraded without having to buy new equipment. The cartridges allow for connection to a serial and a USB port. Not just this, but you can also add extra modules for more complete shift and pedal sets. More on this later.

There were no installation problems. You can install the driver and plug-in while your computer is running. We found no difficulties with either Windows 9x or XP.

As usual, we tried it with Colin McRae 2 and F1 Championship. It behaves well in rally games, taking sharp turns in stride. On the other hand, F1 simulation reveals some weakness in central precision. It's not bad, but nowhere near as good as the MOMO and Microsoft models. You'll find that everything depends on game adjustment capacity. If you can set neutral, linearity and displacement, you should manage to achieve satisfactory precision. The force feedback is incredibly harsh, so you won't be able to complain that it is lacking in effects, though it's not the tops for vibration nicety. Its price is pretty stiff at $140.