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Thrustmaster T818 Review: A shaky debut to direct drive

After much teasing and waiting, Thrustmaster finally revealed their first direct drive wheel base at the end of 2022, welcome to our Thrustmaster T818 review.

The Thrustmaster T818 is a huge leap forward for the French manufacturer, offering players a higher quality experience than any Thrustmaster product before it.

Sim racing has seen an explosion of direct drive wheels recently, with MOZA entering the market and Asetek about to join the fun. While Thrustmaster's traditional rivals for the entry-level wheel, Logitech, released their first direct drive wheel in late 2022.

So how does the T818 measure up to the competition? And is it something you should consider? Well, we got hands on with the new wheel base to give you EVERYTHING you need to know about it.

Review unit provided by manufacturer. Tested on PC across a range of games.

Thrustmaster T818 review

Let's start with the technical details. The T818 is a mid-range direct drive wheel, producing a continuous 10Nm of torque. This doesn't sound like a lot when there are some on the market that kick out 25+Nm but it is plenty for most drivers.

It also boasts of having no saturation and no filters between the games output and what you feel on the wheel.

Thrustmaster T818 control panel on PC
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As a result, Thrustmaster is confident the wheel can provide the fidelity and feel of even high-end wheels. This is something we've heard before from other mid-range direct drive models.

The Thrustmaster Control Panel allows you to alter steering rotation, the overall strength of the force feedback, and the damper forces.

There's even an option to alter the RGB LED strip that runs around the front of the wheel base to whatever colour you like.

Thrustmaster T818 quarter view
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Within the wheel there are four modes: Comfort, Sport, Performance, and Extreme. You have to "unlock" the latter two, which prompts a warning to come up that these modes "unleashes features which are for high level e-sport - not recreational!"

Given the lower torque output than true esports wheels this is more of a safety warning for children and the inexperienced than those who have been sim racing for years. Just remember to take your hands off the wheel if you crash at max torque!

Driving experience

So now that we know the technical stuff, how does it drive?

Well, we tested the wheel across a range of games from F1 22 to Assetto Corsa Competizione and WRC Generations and enjoyed our time driving with it.

While Thrustmaster boasts about no filtering of feedback, that's only if you get to the Extreme setting. Otherwise the wheel base will provide some damping and filtering of the experience making it suitable for everyone.

Thrustmaster T818 mounted with the Open Wheel rim
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In the Comfort setting there is a lot of sponginess in the wheel that you will want to tune out, while the Extreme setting is almost overdoing it with the amount of feedback you get. The problem is that those four presets are the only real options you have to play around with it beyond FFB strength and damper force tuning.

We were able to find a happy spot with Performance and 50% strength of all forces and damper. But if you can't hit your sweet spot with those tools then you are a bit stuck as the software is not nearly as tweakable as we have found with other wheel bases.

Thrustmaster T818 side panel switches
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There is also a frustrating amount of play in the wheel connection. This is fine when track racing but when you get to rallying it becomes a problem. This is almost certainly down to the quick release mechanism and the adapter needed to mount existing Thrustmaster wheels to the base.

Once you get into the flow though, the T818 does provide everything you would want from a direct drive base. You can feel the grip beneath your car and every bump on the track surface.

Awkward design

Aesthetics are always going to be subjective. To some the unique hexagonal look of the T818 will be a standout, to us though, it's a bit of a rough look.

This design's major drawback is that the T818 bolt holes do not align with the wheel deck for our GT Omega Prime cockpit or any other cockpit out there.

This is the first wheel we have tested where that has been the case, and perhaps worse still the holes align so closely that if we were to drill new ones they would overlap and destroy other holes.

Thrustmaster T818 mounted to a GT Omega PRIME cockpit
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Fortunately, Thrustmaster sent along their desk mount which can be used as a cockpit mount too. However, this is sold separately and adds extra height and tilt to the wheel.

Then there is the build of the wheel base itself. There is a lot of plastic on the base. From its air intakes to the front surround of the LED strip and the quick-release system. It just isn't a good look and really makes the T818 feel lesser when compared to its sleek metal rivals.

The same goes for the quick release system, which while quick to use looks remarkably poor. The huge chunk of plastic that is the quick release adapter for each wheel rim only adds to the cheap and low-quality vibe of the T818.

The adapter is also tricky to remove from your wheel for transfer to another. We had to lever the adapter off with a screwdriver. Over time this will only add to the play in the wheel that already exists.

Price

Now one of the big reasons Thrustmaster went with all this plastic in manufacturing is price. The usual direct drive price bracket is about £100 per Nm of torque. Some come in a little more than that and some are a little lower, but the T818 is much lower.

The T818 comes in at a shockingly low £599 and this can only be because of the amount of moulded plastic in use. Thrustmaster claims this is to save weight, but given you will rarely be carrying the T818 around it just leads to a less-than-ideal visual product.

The rear of the Thrustmaster T818, showing the power button and connection slots for power supply, USB C, and pedals.
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There are also a lot of extras with the T818. The £599 price tag does not include a wheel rim or pedals. Now if you've already got a family of Thrustmaster products that's ok but if you are just diving into their products it is a hidden cost.

You'll also need that desk mount (£44.99) or cockpit mount (£34.99) if you don't want to drill your rig and if you have multiple rims you will probably want a quick release adapter for each of them, and that's another £34.99 per wheel.

Verdict

The performance of the T818 can be really good, but only after some tinkering. We had very few issues with the wheel base when driving, but when stacking it up against the competition it does come up a little short.

From the look of the wheel base to the play in the wheels and the mounting issues, there are several qualify of life problems that other bases just don't have.

When you sit down to race you can have a great time with this wheel base, but there are negatives that don't exist with others.

It feels like Thrustmaster has gone too far down the affordability rabbit hole and compromised on too many aspects. The extra strength of the T818 doesn't make up for the ease of use that comes with Fanatec's CSL DD or MOZA's R9.

The affordability also goes out the window to a degree when the base is limited to PC players and requires extra spending just to mount to a rig or connect a wheel.

If you are already bought into the Thrustmaster family then the T818 is a good upgrade, but if you are starting your sim racing journey or making the leap from a G923 to a direct drive base then there are better options out there for you.

Thrustmaster T818 Review
Thrustmaster's first direct drive wheel base offers a good driving experience but design and quality of life issues undercut the raw performance.
7 out of 10

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