As entry-level systems go, Thrustmaster have pulled one out of the bag with the T128 wheel and pedal set for Xbox. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not up there with the more expensive options on the market, and we’d still have you pointing to Thrustmaster’s T248 if cash allows for it. But should you be needing a gaming wheel and pedal set in your life and the mere thought of cracking open the wallet as you scout for funds has you sweating, it’s the T128 that will come to your rescue.
That’s not to say the Thrustmaster T128 Wheel for Xbox is cheap. It’s not, but at £169 it’s certainly going to appeal to those who would baulk at the £299 asking price of the T248. Honestly, unless you’re looking to take your racing game to pro levels, you probably won’t have any issue with this cheaper solution either.
The T128 is Thrustmaster’s attempt at dragging in a whole new racing crowd. What was once a playground for those with cash to burn, in recent years the interest levels surrounding wheel and pedal systems for gaming have risen immensely. You only need to run a search on YouTube to see how the fastest racers out there urge anyone looking to shave milliseconds off their times to get a wheel in their hand; say what you like but the feedback you receive is on an altogether different level to when using a standard controller.
We’d go along with those thoughts too, even if it’s not necessarily perfect for all racers, nor all racing games.
See, a big part of our racing sessions are taken up by the open-world pleasures of Forza Horizon 5, and whilst a wheel is of much interest when taking part in the latest Seasonal Championships found in the ever-rotating Festival Playlist, we’re not as keen when it comes to hooning it around, flying over jumps or partaking in those stupid Eventlabs. Blame the madness of Forza for that.
But thankfully there are a ton of other titles which mostly focus on the racing and for the last few weeks we’ve been using the Thrustmaster T128 with the likes of F1 2022 and WRC Generations. It’s worked superbly for each, and lap times have, quite literally in the case of WRC, tumbled.
As a gaming peripheral that is coming in at the lower end of the market, we can’t fault the T128, even if it doesn’t come up to scratch if we continue to compare it with a higher priced product.
Out of the box you’ll find both the wheel unit plus that of the pedal system. Both connect to each other with utter simplicity; a single mini-DIN cable runs from the pedals to the wheel, with another two then going out from there to power things up; one to your mains power and the other to your console. A quick link is a nice touch enabling you to unhook the USB cable which attaches to your Xbox console, ensuring that you don’t need to remove the wheel entirely to shift it out of the way.
Without that, things could get a little tricky, as the wheel itself attaches to a desk via an under-unit clamp system. Honestly, it takes a matter of minutes to have the T128 set-up and running.
From there, you’re pretty much good to go with whatever racer you fancy. A licensed for Xbox product, the wheel itself has all the usual Xbox buttons in house; Nexus, Menu, View, screenshot, a D-Pad and full face buttons. There are left and right shoulder button situated on the inner wheel, whilst bumpers are found in the form of magnetic paddle shifters on the back of the unit.
It all feels nice enough and is well configured, with the paddles the stand-out of everything in place, apparently with them running at some 30-milliseconds in response time. They feel great to use and pulling hard on them as you move through the gears can feel joyous. But that said, the placement of two red handbrake buttons can occasionally annoy. It’s mostly due to their placement and we’ve hit the one above the Y button more times than we care to remember when trying to activate DRS in F1 2022. I’m not really sure of the point in them to be honest.
Whilst it works well and feels nice, the T128 is certainly not on the same level as more expensive wheels. That is no more true than when you consider the trim levels; the wheel itself being full of scratchy plastic, even if it allows for decent grip all the same. Just don’t expect any form of luxury fit and finish here. That said, the inclusion of a very bright LED strip front and centre is welcome, helpfully signalling optimal gear changes. It’s not something you’ll be fixated on, but it’s bright enough to be of use in your peripheral vision.
What you should expect though is feedback and until you’ve used a wheel and experienced the rumble of going offline, or smashing your car into a barrier, you’ve not lived. The T128 very much excels here with some seriously beefy feedback. We’re not sure if it’s the exact same system as in the T248, but if it is, then it’s good to know that our wrists have become accustomed to the power that it brings. It’s certainly powerful enough that it’s something you’ll need to get used to.
Accompanying the wheel is the T2PM pedal system and you’ll want to get used to left foot braking asap. Again this is very plasticky – in fact, it’s just a slab of black plastic with a couple of plastic pedals stuck on – but once more it works okay. There’s some decent feel to the pedals, but for the most part you’ll no doubt be found slamming one, easing off slightly and then slamming the other. It’s here where we have issues and unless you find a way to secure it properly – and you can as screw holes are ready for that – you may find the pedals sliding around under you. Four small rubber feet are hardly worth speaking of.
All in all though, the Thrustmaster T128 wheel is certainly a racing accessory you should be considering, especially if your budget won’t stretch to higher levels. It may lack any fancy trim levels and there’s a lot of plastic at the fore, but the feedback it brings and the promise that its use will have you setting lap times you could only previously dream of, means the cash outlay should well be worth it.
Huge thanks go out to Thrustmaster for providing us with their T128 for review. You can pick one up for yourself by visiting Thrustmaster direct. Expect to pay around £169.