It's no secret that games like Gran Turismo 7 or DIRT 5 are made all the better with a compatible racing wheel. Flicking your car in various directions with the DualSense controller, while still fun, will never reach the same heights of immersion and entertainment as heaving that wheel around to make a tight turn. However, if you’ve fancied dipping your toes into the driving peripheral waters, you’ll know it isn’t the cheapest of hobbies out there. And where do you even start?
Well, that’s where the Thrustmaster T128 steps in. This haptic-feedback racing wheel, which is officially licensed by Sony, is being marketed as the perfect entry point for racing enthusiasts. But does that mean a cheaper price point? And does the T128 still maintain those high end features? We've spent the last couple of weeks drifting around with the T128, so let's answer those questions.
What Is the Thrustmaster T128?
The Thrustmaster T128 is a racing wheel compatible with PS4, PS5, and PC. It comes with full PlayStation integration so you'll find the likes of the home button, squares and triangles, and even the share button. The wheel comes with an easily adjustable clamp for desks and tables, and a set of pedals for braking and accelerating.
Here in the UK, the whole package will set you back around £170, or $200 in the U.S. That might not be the low-level price you'd be hoping for in an entry point racing peripheral, but the T128 does come with some nice features for the price.
The big selling point of the T128 is its haptic feedback in the wheel. PS5 users will be well used to the fantastic immersive capabilities of haptics through the DualSense, and while we aren't anywhere near that level of detail, we are far beyond basic vibrations here — but more on that later.
What Is in the Box?
The Thrustmaster T128 comes with some no frills packaging, containing the wheel, the clamp and screw, the power, PS5, and pedals cables, and of course the pedals themselves. The three cables can be a little fiddly to attach to the wheel with some awkward port placement, but once attached, you'll have your T128 synced up with your PS5 in no time at all.
Build Quality & Hardware Features
Straight out of the box, our initial impressions of the T128's build quality weren't stellar. The all-plastic build comes across as quite cheap at first glance. However, once you have everything set up, those initial impressions quickly fade away.
The solid table clamp immediately shows how sturdy this piece of kit can be. With the aforementioned PlayStation buttons, you'll also find a pair of magnetic gear paddles on the back of the wheel. These are really well positioned, although as they turn with the wheel, it was easy to lose which was up and down when enduring particularly twisty tracks. However, a lot of that confusion was down to the fantastic 900 degree turning axis, meaning you could whip this wheel around for those super tight corners.
The real quality of the T128 comes out to play once you feel its haptics and wheel resistance. The haptics aren't incredibly detailed, but you can immediately feel which type of ground surface you're on as you switch from tarmac to dirt trails. The wheel resistance is what really impressed us though, as it would make certain turns more difficult, and even turn against our will depending on what was happening within the game. It was tied especially well to car physics in DIRT 5, which would see our steering knocked to the side if another car crashed into us.
Disappointingly, the pedals are the biggest threat to a loss of immersion for two reasons. For one, if you're playing on a carpeted floor like we were, you'll find the pedals slipping away quite often, leaving you to pull them back with your feet. Secondly, with a really short connecting cable, we couldn't tuck the cable behind our set-up with the rest of the wires, leaving it dangling down the front, and often getting caught on our legs. It's a shame, because the pedals themselves have a nice bounce to them, but they certainly stood out as the weakest element of the T128.
The Racing Experience
Talk of the T128’s technical features is one thing, but experiencing them is another. Out on the road, we had an absolute blast with this set up, and we couldn't imagine going back to controller after this. With experiences like Formula 1, WRC, Assetto Corsa, and even Farming Simulator 22, there are plenty of experiences to try out on PS5. We'd have loved for more arcade racers like Hot Wheels Unleashed to make an appearance, but the T128 is definitely marketed for those more hardcore driving experiences.
We spent a lot of our time with DIRT 5, and its various tight bustling tracks were the perfect technical showcase for this wheel. Launching off a ramp through the air, to feel the thud of the wheel as we bounced back off the ground was nothing short of exhilarating. And the wheel resistance meant that we were gripping tightly to it as we performed risky drifts, or began to spin out and lose control. When you get into the thick of a race the T128 makes its experience all encompassing, and frankly, we couldn't get enough of it.
Should You Buy the Thrustmaster T128?
The Thrustmaster T128 is one of those products that you will already know whether you want or not. £170 is a steep price for something that's supposedly entry point, but the technical features packed into this wheel feel decidedly premium. It has the odd pitfall here and there, and ultimately the build quality could have been a little better, but for those that really care about that, there are more expensive options available, like the T-GT II.
For the racing enthusiasts out there that spend hours upon hours revving, drifting, and tailgating on the digital tracks, you'll not be disappointed with the Thrustmaster T128 as your first wheel. Price aside, this thing will massively elevate your driving experience, and leave you wondering why you ever played with a controller at all.
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What do you think of the Thrustmaster T128? Does it sound like it will be worth the price for you? Drift on over to the comments to let us know.