Have you ever wanted to take the wheel of a high powered vehicle and go speeding down the road, out running the police and dodging other cars, while exceeding speeds over 100 mph and without regard for personal safety? Don’t think your parents would let you borrow the family car? Well don’t worry, with current computer gaming technology and with a Saitek R440 Force Feedback wheel you don’t have to commit a felony to get the same rush. This wheel along with the Force Feedback technology puts you right on the road – feeling every move you make in the game. Add to this a complete range of features, including pedals and gearshift paddles, and you have the perfect driving solution.
- TouchSense™ Technology
- 4 Wheel-mounted Buttons
- 2 Gearshift Paddles
- Gas and Brake Floor Pedals
Ease of use
As with most USB devices, installation of the wheel was fast and flawless. To set up the Saitek R440 Wheel, we followed the manual which says you must install the drivers first, and then during the install process you will plug in the wheel. This prevents the operating system from installing the wrong drivers. On my first attempt to install the Wheel I plugged the R440 wheel in first and the driver installer actually told me to unplug the wheel before it would continue. After unplugging the wheel, it resumed the installation, and later asked me to plug it back in. You will notice that the drivers are not Windows XP certified. This does not affect the performance of the R440 wjeel but it would be easy for Saitek to fix.
After it was installed, we loaded up the setup screen and made sure that the pedals and steering wheel were all properly calibrated. Calibrating the pedals is easy. Make sure you click the ‘Test Input’ tab, and just depress each pedal. Calibrating the wheel is just as easy. You just turn the wheel all the way to the left and then all the way to the right. This will make sure that when you turn the wheel or push the pedals, the game actually responds correctly.
We used the Test forces tab to make sure the force feedback was functioning correctly. Clicking on each of the buttons gives you a different type of force. This is a way to feel how the steering wheel reacts to different situations. You can also use this with the ‘Gain Settings’ tab to set the strength of the forces. I found it more useful to actually play a game, then come back and adjust the gain settings.
There are several cables, in addition to the USB cable, that need to be attached before you can use the wheel and pedals. The pedals obviously need to be attached some how, and Saitek choose to use a plug similar to an ethernet plug (RJ45). This plug goes in the back of the wheel and snaps in with a solid click and stays. There is another plug that needs to go in the back of the wheel, and that is the power plug. The power is used for the force feedback motor. Without the power the wheel is not usable, and Windows does not even know it is plugged in.
I personally feel that the design of the R440 Wheel is very solid. Even though it is made entirely of plastic, it holds together well and feels tough. There are several unique features that have been added to make this design especially nice. However, there are also some things that make the wheel very difficult to use.
The wheel grips are made of soft rubber and are thick and comfortable. They give the user a very positive sensation of control over the unit and prevent slipping when your hands get wet from sweat. The angle of the wheel is deep which allows the wheel to set away from your desk. The wheel also features four buttons that are integrated into the steering wheel at 11 and 1 o’clock and two ergonomic paddle shifters behind the wheel, within easy reach of your fingers. All the controls that one would need are in easy reach. There are also several rubber pads on the bottom of the wheel base that help to keep the wheel from slipping around. But you really need to use the clamp to keep it secure.
The clamp that holds the wheel in place is actually separate from the wheel unit itself, and is quite unique in design. This design provides a much smaller footprint for the wheel and a very tight and secure fit to your desktop. The Saitek clamp locks the entire unit, front to back and side-to-side. Once the unit is clamped, it is there to stay. I had a problem with the clamp because I have a desk with a lip on the front and a slide in keyboard tray. The clamp would conflict with the tray so I had to remove the keyboard tray and work around the lip on the desktop. The clamp also doubles as a lap adapter, and is shaped to fit comfortably between your legs. This will save you from having to take your desk apart like I did.
Have you ever used a racing wheel with pedals, and during the end of the race you found your self having to streach to reach the pedals because they had slid around? Sliding pedals are one of the most common complaints with racing wheels. Pedals have been slipping for years, and it seemed like engineers had given up coming up with a better design. Then comes along the R440. The pedals on the R440 offer a different design that uses the weight of the your feet to keep the unit on the floor. This design more closely matches the movement of a real car. If you haven’t noticed, car pedals are hinged at the top and come down to your feet. Using the pedal design from a real car, Saitek’s pedals give the user a much more realistic feel and response. The spring tension is tight, which means the pedals won’t flop around and the range of motion in each pedal is good and allows for fine throttle adjustments.
There is one complaint that I have about the whole set up, and I think it is something simple that Saitek could easily resolve. The problem is that the USB cable that goes into the computer is way too short. Those of you that have your tower right next to your monitor will not have a problem, but I keep my tower on the floor next to my desk. I measured the cable and it was only 4 feet 2 inches long and that was about 2 feet too short for my setup. I ended up having to purchase a USB extension cord in order to make this work.
Overall it takes about 2 minutes to set up the wheel and pedals. This isn’t too lengthy, but could definitely be improved.
After hooking up the steering wheel I decided it would be a good time to play some games and try it out. I downloaded and installed the demo for Need for Speed Underground and Colin McRae Rally 04. Both games needed to be set up to use the steering wheel and pedals. Colin McRae Rally 04 was a little more difficult to set up, but in the end I figured it out.
Both games responded very well to the wheel. The buttons are easily configured and you can set the pedals in may different configurations. Just about the only thing that you cannot adjust is the sensitivity of the wheel or pedals. This would have been nice, but it is probably a function saved for more expensive and more sophisticated wheels. Before this I had been playing driving games with just the keyboard, and I found myself loosing interest in the game very quickly. With this wheel I have a hard time quitting the game because it is so much fun.
Overall, I have to give this wheel my highest recommendations. Despite some of its minor flaws and shortcomings, it really is an exceptional value. It truly brought enjoyment to all the games I played and made a tedious driving game into a fun and exciting adventure.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|