Comparison: New & Old Ferrari FF Wheels
The new Thrustmaster Ferrari wheel is very different from the old
Guillemot version on the inside,
but the outside looks very similar and the molds are the same. I think the
changes were to make the wheel cheaper to manufacture, but the end result is
The wheel mounted gas and brake levers are gone. The silver paint is replaced with gray, molded plastic which I don't care for as much, but that's just personal taste. The new wheel has a USB connection only. The serial plug is gone. Thankfully, it still has an on/off power switch, and as unbelievable as it seems, most popular Force Feedback wheels do not.
New wheel on the left, old one on the right. I like the old painted silver better. I painted the molded in hub screws black for more visual appeal on both wheels.
The clamping system is almost the same, but has been made simpler with just one large plastic screw to tighten underneath. The front clamp and second bottom screw are gone. It holds well as some of the suction cups on the bottom of the wheel have been changed to rubber pads.
|The single screw does a good job holding the wheel to the table.|
The pedals are totally different. They connect to the wheel via a telephone-like cable. The pads no longer swivel. The springs are very stiff and the pedals push more downward than the old ones.
|New pedals on left, old ones on the right.|
I'd like to see a weaker spring in the gas pedal, but the brake is excellent. If you prop the front of the base up about 2 1/2 inches, they're very good for racing sims like GPL, giving even better control than the old pedals . My lap times haven't really gone down (much), but are even more consistent than before. Pulling out of slides is easier, and overall, the new pedals modulate better than the old ones, and that's really saying something. Beware, though, on games like Midtown Madness 2 (I play it with the kids) your right knee will get very sore (for days). It's not a problem on GPL or Nascar 4 / Heat, though.
|Pedals push down, not forward like the old ones. This is okay for arcade style racing, but hardcore sim racers will want to raise the front of the base.|
On the inside, the old and new wheels are very different. There's only one printed circuit board and the belts are gone completely. That's right, it's gear driven. They're not the precision machined, fine pitched, metal gears that I've repeatedly touted as the best way to go in a Force Feedback racing wheel, but they're much better done than the gears in the MSFF or new Logitech wheels. I don't like the noise it makes when you turn the wheel back and forth rapidly (it sounds like you're cutting wood with a hand saw), but it's a small price to pay.
|Old wheel on the left is much more complex than the new wheel on the right. Both use the same motor.|
Also, being gear driven means that there's almost no drag on the system, and therefore, no damping of the Force Feedback, so effects can be quite abrupt. It's reminiscent of driving a cheap, old, loose sports car over a gravel road. You can almost hear the suspension rattle. I'm sure that if I was driving in a modern F1 game, I'd want to set the damping in Windows' controller panel very high. However, it's perfect realism when driving the classic Porsches in NFS:PU, GPL cars and (especially) the new Rally Trophy. I've had a bit of experience with these old cars (60's and early 70's), and this new wheel jarred back old memories. The steering pot is mounted to the side of the shaft with it's own gear to drive it.
|Loosening the pot and turning it slightly will help center the wheel if you want to fine tune it.|
At first I thought this was an
unnecessary complication and just added to the gear noise, but then I
realized it's using the pot's full sweep of about 270° with a wheel arc of
only a little more than
180°. That also explained why this wheel has such good steering
precision. This is one of it's strongest points. With the right settings, you can almost
eliminate the cogging (notchiness) that's felt in most FF wheels. While each
wheel uses the same motor, the gearing in the new wheel is different and translates
more of the subtle FF effects programmed into games. The new Ferrari
wheel is even better than the old LWFF for feeling these subtle effects. In
short, aside from the fact that the wheel feels funny when it's off and you turn
it rapidly back and forth, the actual driving experience is very good. And, as
you put more time one the wheel, that funny feeling (and sound) tends to
diminish quite a bit.
On the downside:
On the upside:
Before final testing, I
lubricated the gears. The wheel only requires 8% Default Spring to bring it to
center from full left or right. That's the best power to drag ratio I've
ever tested on any Force Feedback wheel. My old settings for Grand Prix Legends
don't work with this new Ferrari wheel. In many games you might want to reduce
the Overall Device Gain and add some Damper Gain, or even some Default Spring.
The Force Feedback is so sensitive that you don't run much risk of masking even
the most subtle signals.
Given the choice of using the older Guillemot Ferrari wheel or the new Thrustmaster Ferrari wheel, I'd choose the new one for most games.
UPDATE: January 11, 2002
I thoroughly removed the old drivers, including
entries in the registry, and the new drivers installed
perfectly and work on all games, including MTM2.
December 18, 2001