"This One Goes Out To All You Cheap-Ass NASCAR Fans…"
Yow, have I ever been getting a lot of hatemail lately. It's all been about some disparaging things I've said concerning NASCAR racing in my reviews of both NASCAR Revolution and Jeff Gordon XS Racing. I've been accused of being everything from an ignorant fool who should quit his sweet-as-honey job to an outright, godless, un-American… communist. But then it occurred to me. If NASCAR fans have enough time on their hands to send me all those lovely, supportive comments, they must not have much else to do.
NASCAR fans tend to not be part of the idle rich, and they're not making any overtime pay when they're writing to me. So, let us assume that all of these guys and (presumably) gals who play racing games and dream all year of the Daytona 500 have little money to waste on costly PC racing controllers. They need some lost cost options. So, if you're one of them, or anyone else who doesn't like to sink $200 into a fancy new Saitek R4 Force Feedback racing system, you may as well level your sights on the $50 range of wheels, like the Thrustmaster NASCAR Charger and the Saitek R100.
The Saitek R100 wheel is, in no uncertain terms, not worth your money. An extremely light weight, cheap plastic construction removes any feeling of driving from using this wheel. Button placement is sub par, the thumb buttons being to far recessed, and the cheap, bendable plastic butterfly shifters are too far back. The clamp warps it's own plastic when firmly affixed and the pedals are angled badly, have lousy resist, and slide too easily. Saitek didn't even create any unique drivers for the wheel, instead configuring it as a two-axis, four-button joystick. At $50, it's overpriced.
The Thrustmaster NACAR Charger, on the other hand, is quite satisfying for its pittance of a cost. Although the wheel has no rubberized grips, its stainless steel shaft and solid spring tension make for smooth, substantial driving. The Charger has four well placed buttons that click satisfyingly and two well placed and smoothly operating butterfly shifters on the back. Although the Charger lacks a NASCAR style stick shifter and the pedals are a bit to small to remain perfectly stable on a carpet, the entire package is good enough for any racing title you can throw at it.
The good feel of the wheel and it's relatively low desk space requirement make for a wheel that won't require you to rearrange your desk to use, like the Saitek R4 or other large wheels. The Charger is a solid, easy to live with, and satisfying wheel that will give you your $50 worth, and then some.
There're both cheap, they both lack any serious frills, and you won't get any specialty options if you buy them. But if you are on a tight budget and just can't stand NASCAR 3 with the keyboard, go pick up the Charger. Forget the R100 unless you find it in a bargain bin for $10. Just please stop sending all the damned flame-mail. Play the games instead. They're fun. Yes, more fun that bothering hard-working reviewers. Take those words to heart… wisdom is not often seen, read, nor properly digested. Vroom!