E3Expo 2006 Thursday’s Report Page 12

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Technology

Logitech’s New G25 Force Feedback Wheel

Sporting the most expensive booth of any simulation-related exhibitor at E3, Logitech’s huge South Hall display was the launching point for a surprising new product announcement. Adding to it’s long line of capable and successful racing wheel products such as the MOMO Racing Force Feedback and Driving Force Pro, Logitech used E3 to unveil it’s new Flagship racing wheel product, the sophisticated and feature-packed G25.

Only pre-production variants were available for a test drive at the show, which were also being used for durability and quality testing. Heavy use at E3 helped to quickly identify some design issues that have already been identified by Logitech, and alterations are in work. Of note, the simulation being used to demonstrate the new wheel was none other than ISI’s rFactor, hooked into their newly licensed mod that replicates the Panoz line of exotic and racing vehicles.

After a brief discussion on the pricing and release date on the wheel with Gaming PR Rep Pamela McCracken, I was directed into a long and fascinating discussion with Ruben Mookerjee, Logitech’s Director of Marketing. As luck would have it for our hobby, Ruben is a club racer from England, an avid fan of both real and simulated motorsports (specifically, Live For Speed). It was truly gratifying to know that Logitech has someone so passionate about cars, racing and race sims on the team that’s developing this new product. Needless to say, I think he and I hit it off, and I really appreciated the time we were able to spend discussion the G25, racing techniques and race sims in general.

Okay Logitech, we’re lusting! The new G25 makes it’s debut.

The G25 is designed to fill a empty place in the market for a high-end wheel with features beyond those of Logitech’s MOMO Racing Force Feedback wheel, but less sophisticated than ultrahigh end wheels, such as the $1000+ TSI wheel. Reviving some aspects of the discontinued Logitech MOMO Force Feedback wheel (the old red unit), the G25 features a leather-wrapped wheel stainless steel paddle shifters and pedals, and rugged black plastic housings. Here’s the specifics:

Chunx’ Notes On The G25:

  • Leather-wrapped, 11″ wheel (for comparison, the MOMO Racing has a 10″ wheel) with stainless steel spokes. Of note, the wheel tube’s cross-section is elliptical, just like a real racing wheel. It feels really nice — and it should, since real racing wheel manufacturer MOMO assisted in the design. On the pre-production examples on display, there were only two buttons on the wheel itself, which Chunx felt was a bit lacking. Ruben explained that the goal is to replicate less sophisticated racing vehicles, but it seemed that there wasn’t a full evaluation of “function over form” and acknowledgment that a sim racing wheel must accommodate for “sim-isms” such as the need for view buttons (assuming many folks don’t own a NaturalPoint TrackIR unit), pause and reset buttons, etc. Hopefully, the wheel will sprout a couple more buttons before it’s final form is set.
  • The wheel features a 900 degree range of rotation.
  • Quieter gearing mechanisms to reduce wheel noise when making large steering inputs.
  • Dual force feedback motors allow for more elaborate and robust FF effects.
  • Compared to the MOMO Racing FF, the G25’s wheel assembly housing has smaller “footprint” on the desk, which will be a welcome feature for those with limited desk space. On the down side, the current 2-clamp clamping system, although easy to use, seems to prefer mounting on a desk with a thicker profile, around 5/8″ or more. When mounted on a thin metal platform of the VRX Simulator, thick rubber spacer blocks were required to keep the wheel clamped in place.

VRX
  • The unit comes with a separate 6-speed shifter pod, which includes a “finger panel” just in front of the shifter containing an array of 8 programmable buttons and a 4 way switch. The shifter assembly has it’s own clamping mechanism, isn’t very large, and has a rotating lock-out knob that allows the unit to switch between gated 6-speed mode and sequential operation (most modern race cars use sequential shifters, so the gated 6-speed should be useful in street car and historical racing sims). On the pre-production example, it was noted that there was almost no retention force to keep the gated shifter in-gear. This made the shifter feel very vague as to whether it was actually in gear. It was also extremely easy to knock out of gear with the slightest pressure, and at times the shifter would just flop out of detent and return to Neutral. In a shifter, floppy is not a desired feeling.
  • Three pedals, one each for throttle, brake and clutch. The pedals are placed to allow for heel-and-toe braking in titles that feature cars with manual, gated transmissions, such as historical racing and street cars.
  • Stainless steel paddle shifters and foot pedal tops. In fact, the foot pedals can be removed with two fasteners, allowing for the possibility of replacing them with after-market pedals for customization. This may be a necessity for Chunx, who felt that the gap between the brake and throttle pedals was too great for effective heel-and-toe shifting control. That’s a matter of personal preference, but many people may find this to be true. It seemed that if these two pedals were just ¼” wider ( ½” closer together) that heel-and-toe ops would be easier to accomplish.
  • The three pedals use a piston-like movement assembly, ensuring that there is no flexing or misalignment of the pedals as they work through their full range of motion. This is required because each pedal uses its own linear spring, and each pedal offers a different level and graduation of resistance throughout its throw. Each of the three pedals already have a very nice and quite unique feel to them, but Ruben said that he’s working to get the resistance of the brake spring raised a tad higher in order to better replicate the rock hard feel of a race car’s brake pedal.
  • Apparently, the G25 is “smarter” than previous force feedback wheels. No, it doesn’t do your taxes, but when you crank up a game title with the G25 activated, the wheel “talks” to your game title, and determines what G25 features the game supports. The wheel looks to see if the title supports 900 deg wheel rotation, Force Feedback, and 6 speed gated shifting. For each feature the title doesn’t support, the wheel automatically defaults back to lower level of operation.
  • The design intent for the G25 is for the sim-driver to wear thin-soled shoes while using the pedals. With the steel pedals, stiff spring forces and need for heel-and-toe in some games, I think shoes will finally find a home in the sim-racers wardrobe — if you’re using a G25 wheel.
  • Learning from their previous Driving Force Pro wheel, the G25 is purpose-built as a cross-platform wheel that can operate on Play Station and PC systems (although on a PlayStation the shifter will only operate in sequential mode).
  • The venerable and highly capable MOMO Racing FF wheel will stay in production alongside the G25, helping Logitech to cover a wider range of price and features in the racing wheel market.
  • Although the gated, 6-speed shifter on the G25 would be a perfect fit for the cars modeled in GT Legends, it seems that GTL’s code is written such that it can’t see or utilize that feature. That’s no crime, since GTL was written long before the G25’s design was solidified. Logitech is hoping that SimBin will offer a small patch that will allow GTL to recognize and use the G25’s gated shifter. We sure hope SimBin takes this project on, because a gated shifter would really add to the realism and immersion of their great title. On a happier note, both ISI’s rFactor and Live For Speed already recognize and support the gated shifter of the G25. Hooray!
  • Release expected in October 2006, with a MSRP of $299.95

For Chunx, the G25 represents one of the most significant revelations at E3 for fans of the simulation genre. SimHQ is hoping to receive one of these great new controllers for review later in the year. Roll on, Logitech!

– Chunx

Chunx drives the new Logitech G25.

 

 

 

 

 

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