The Thrustmaster Universal Challenge 5 in 1 steering wheel is just one home video game console away from the ultimate compatibility. It is the Xbox 360. Though at least as cleverly-made and long-wearing console, in difference between the Sony PlayStation 3 which is its direct rival, the Microsoft Xbox 360 has always been a bit exotic in terms of support. You can always find at least a dozen of PS3 wheels any single moment you decide on searching for one, yet barely a few Xbox 360 wheels. Situation is relatively similar with games. However, owners of the Universal Challenge 5 in 1 racing wheel are provided with a good number of choices. It is fully compatible with two sixth generation consoles, two seventh generation ones and your Windows PC. Namely the: Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube and Wii, as well as the Sony PlayStation 3. All this compensates the lack of Xbox 360 support, hence it's a PS2 wheel, a PS3 wheel, a GameCube wheel, and a PC steering wheel with all the buttons functional on all of these. And if you're an owner of Xbox 360, depending on your budget you can consider the low-priced but well-made Thrustmaster Ferrari 458 Italia (paired to the exclusive OpenWheeler game seat provides a complete driving simulator with an entry-level steering wheel) the semi- driving simulator by Thrustmaster - Ferrari Vibration GT Cockpit or any of the alternatives by Mad Catz. Alternatively to Thrustmaster wheels and Mad Catz wheels, there are a few other choices as well. The reason not mentioning them is that we're likely yet to review those. Back to the Thrustmaster Universal Challenge 5 in 1 racing wheel, we consider it just suitable enough for keyboard and gamepad substitution. Worth noting is that every lack it has is somewhat of compensated by a similar functioning, though not always equally effective, alternative. Just like the force feedback motor. Let's first check on the favourite what is it in the box -part.
With a diameter of just 8 inches, Thrustmaster Universal Challenge 5 in 1 steering wheel is visually smaller than most of the driving wheels you can find. It is as much as whole 4" smaller than the flagship in Thrustmaster product line, T500 RS. And it's all-plastic on the outside. Despite of these, and the corresponding toy-like appearance, it has a handy layout and a stylish Ferrari black on yellow symbol. The 270-degree rotation is the ordinary one for the segment. There is a useful D-pad, 6 fully-programmable buttons, and Start, Select and Mode switches. Full remapping is available for all the buttons, the gear changing paddles and the pedals. The gear changing paddles are also pretty accurate. No doubt, they could have been larger, still the traditional Ferrari super sport blade-shape is applied. Together with the two-pedal unit, they do create a complete entry-level steering wheel set. If you simply join the Universal Challenge 5 in 1 to the metal frame chassis of OpenWheeler gaming seat, you will have an ideal entry- driving simulator set in your room. Eventually you can upgrade your driving wheel set, yet you'll still have the high grade OpenWheeler which supports all the steering wheel sets currently on market. Talking of universality and convenience, Thrustmaster Universal Challenge 5 in 1 is virtually plug-and-play to all the platforms it supports. No software is needed to set it as: PS2 wheel, PS3 wheel, GameCube wheel, Wii wheel or PC steering wheel. Still, we'd recommend downloading the calibration software for getting the most of it. As of mounting, due to the dimensions and materials used for this very steering wheel set, mounting it on a writing desk or a coffee table is surely to shorten its life-span and additionally cut your fun. Good news is that with a gaming seat, like the OpenWheeler you'll get the most of it, yet you can easily switch it between any consoles or computers you have. You can also switch between steering wheel sets, once having obtained the OpenWheeler. So, extreme mobility will be preserved (the wheel itself being lighter than a kilogram, and the OpenWheeler having in-built front wheels and hard floor protectors), and you'll be free of worries about ruining its clamping mechanism or any other damages improper sheltering could cause.
In games (e.g.: NFS: Shift 2 and, of course, the Mario Kart Wii we couldn't resist on trying once we had the chance to), Thrustmaster Universal Challenge 5 in 1 behaves the way you'd expect from a steering wheel in the category. Of course, you won't have all the extras like horn or lights at hand in GT5, the way you have them using any of the officially-licensed wheels (Gran Turismo 5 Prologue's Logitech Driving Force GT, or the abovementioned 1080-degree rotation and 65-Watts industrial force feedback motor, Thrustmaster T500 RS the GT5 official steering wheel), you'll even lack the fine-tune Manettino dial that you have on all the rest of the Ferrari-cooperation steering wheels by Thrustmaster. Nevertheless, this particular wheel is compatible with all these game titles and many more, that we appreciated. The wheel is light and easy to handle, all the buttons are neatly-arranged on your wheel rim and you're provided with a compensation for the lack of for force feedback or vibration - the Bungee Cord system. You can't really feel every bump on the track using it but it whenever you make a sharp turn going off-track for example, your wheel will self-center at the blink of an eye. It's convenient and the sense is similar to vibration from gamepad controllers. The gear changing paddles are tiny but precise. Having enough practice you'll learn to operate them using either of your index fingers only and speed up your races. The pedals have a standard steering wheel accessory's shape, instead of a replica to any Ferrari's like these on upper-range Thrustmaster Ferrari-certified wheels. Their performance is decent and we'd like to add that they're stiffer than they look on pictures. There's a narrow foot rest in front of them, and they're very, very light. Mounting them on the OpenWheeler gaming seat is to securely fix them, allowing you to position them within a comfort reach. The OpenWheeler is indeed worth of a separate paragraph.
In a single sentence - OpenWheeler is the well-built and reasonably-priced component of any driving simulator set! You can adjust the pedal unit's distance to suit any player's size regardless of his/her dimensions. The seat is textured with long-wearing 100% polyester and is elegantly coloured in black and red - the traditional Ferrari colours. The ergonomic sitting position allows you to play for as many hours as you'd like without the need of stretching your body every now and then. It's completely foldable and there are hard floor protectors provided, so that you can store it any place you'd like and stable locate it on any kind of surface. OpenWheeler's frame is made of stainless steel, as well as the rails the seat slides on, so that you know it'll last. You can pair any steering wheel currently on market with it and control it from a super sports cars' position. The seat is reclinable, so you can virtually choose any position for your driving experience, knowing that your body will have the support it demands for your driving journeys. Just like in real-life. What's even more, though, is that the OpenWheeler gaming seat is also suitable for your flight-simulators. Order your simulator seat now, provide yourself the ergonomic support you deserve, joining the immensely realistic world of racing!
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