Review: Thrustmaster T500 RS
Thrustmaster really set themselves apart from their competitors with their paddle shifter design by fixing to wheel housing instead of the wheel, so they don’t rotate with the wheel (somewhat like a rally car’s shifter). The solid-feeling, brushed metal paddles are big (nearly 7 inches (30cm) tall, each covering nearly a 90 degree arc under the wheel, so that you can (theoretically) execute gear changes no matter how the wheel is turned. In any case, all that seemed necessary was some time to adapt to the T500 RS’s shifter layout.
However, the more laps I turned with the T500 RS, the more I pondered Thrustmaster’s decision to go with fixed paddles. For me, it became a bit of a love-hate situation. I really loved the response and accuracy of the shifters — the micro-switches and lever geometry are very well done, and I never missed a shift, or had a double-shift, as I have had with other wheels. In this one narrow respect they’re easily the best on the market.
Getting my fingers onto the paddles is another matter. Although the paddles remain in a fixed location relative to the wheel housing, your hands are almost always in different places relative to the paddles as you turn the wheel. The result is that you can sometimes have difficulty getting a fingertip onto a paddle, even with fairly small wheel rotation angles. Worse still is that in order to keep the stationary paddles from rubbing on your fingers when you turn the wheel, Thrustmaster had to place them several inches forward from the wheel rim, so you have to make quite the reach with your fingertips to actuate a shift. Additionally, the large paddles have nearly the same edge-to-edge diameter as the wheel rim. So even with my size 11 hands, I found myself having to consciously stretch my fingers out and forwards to reach around the paddles, and doing so tended to compromise my grip and control on the wheel – which is a bad thing, especially with such robust FFB response.
Like the wheel housing, the T500 RS’s pedal system is massive. Made from 100% metal and weighing in at around 14 lbs (7 kgs), the pedal base includes three fully adjustable pedals that can be tweaked for pedal face location both in height and laterally (for heel-and-toe shifting or left foot braking). The action on each pedal is very smooth and resistance is well balanced for each pedal.
The T500 RS’s pedal base has a unique customizing feature allowing the gamer to switch from floor-mounted (F1 style) pedals to suspended or firewall-mounted pedals. The pedal base includes a metal frame built through a 90 degree angle, so that you can flip the unit over, flip the pedal faces over (swapping the throttle and clutch pedal faces between actuator arms) to create a firewall-mounted pedal set known as “GT Style” in the product manual. In doing this you unbolt the pedal base plate from one portion of the base and attach it to its opposing 90 degree shell. The heel plate is mounted with screws held on with wing nuts, making that portion a tool-free affair. Unfortunately it isn’t a hassle-free operation, as the wing nuts are just wide enough to impinge on the pedal arm braces under the base. This makes loosening and tightening a troublesome event. Well, four troublesome events to be specific.
Although I am a full-on convert to a firm, short-throw, load-sensing brake pedal, I really thought the traditional rotating-potentiometer style pedals of the T500 RS are very well done. The pedal faces are adjustable, and the heavy pedal unit can be mounted right side up or upside down (which is which depends on your point of view). That customizability is a really welcome feature. In stock trim the brake pedal has firmer resistance than it’s throttle and clutch siblings, but could use quite a bit more resistance. Thrustmaster includes a “realistic brake” modification with the T500 RS, but unfortunately whoever had this review copy of the wheel before SimHQ neglected to include that part in the box when they packed it off. Bummer.
The massive pedal base is both big and heavy, resting on four square rubber pads for extra grip. Despite this, the base’s bottom is otherwise smooth and has three longitudinal bars on bottom that conspire against the weight and rubber pads, making it easy for the pedal base to slide around on carpeted floors. It would seem that the pedals are at their best when bolted to a sim cockpit or wedged against a wall to prevent them from slipping.
All things considered the T500 RS pedals are nice and I really appreciate the configuration options they provided, but after driving with a load-sensing brake pedal, you really can’t go back to a rotating / angular measuring system. Still, they’re easily better than the G25 / G27 system.
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