Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Joytech Nitro Racing Wheel for Xbox 360
- Excellent response, Customisable sensitivity, Comfortable to use.
- Pointless stopwatch function, poor horizontal grip.
The Nitro Wheel is the first steering wheel for the Xbox360 and backs up its market position with reasonable quality.
Price$ 149.95 (AUD)
Trying to find a high quality racing wheel is a hard task at best. Many wheels don't work as well as you would expect. Common problems include unresponsive and unrealistic turning and poor pressure on the foot pedals. The Joytech Nitro Racing Wheel bucks the trend with a customisable wheel that is both responsive and intuitive. It has other design flaws but from a pure usability perspective, it is quite impressive. At the moment, it also has the honor of being the only racing wheel currently available for the Xbox 360. However, this will soon change with the recent announcement at E3 2006 of the official wheel on its way from Microsoft.
Setting up the wheel was simple. Unlike the Joytech TriForce wheel (for Xbox, Ps2 and PC), there is no assembly required. The wheel is already bolted to the steering column. We preferred the TriForce design though as the wheel was attached to the column when setting up the device via a threaded ring making it far sturdier with less vertical shifting in the column. The foot pedals are attached via a proprietary connection with enough cable to easily accommodate any user without getting in the way.
The button layout on the unit is quite good although not without its problems. Most of the buttons are located toward the interior of the wheel with only the start and select buttons at the top of the wheel. Here lies the problem. During game play, there are many times when the palm of the hand will brush over the start button, pausing the game. This quickly becomes annoying and forced us to drive one handed.
The Nitro Racing Wheel doesn't have any real horizontal grip. The basel tended to slide left and right while driving. Joytech does provide two clamps though, which can be used to fix this problem and they work quite well. however, using the clamps restricts where you can place the wheel and what surface you can use it on. Two leg supports are also provided, which are affixed to the sides of the unit so it can be used while sitting on the player's knees. The supports worked quite well and were pretty comfortable.
The gear stick is essentially a substitute for the two buttons used to change gears on a regular controller. Like the wheel, the gear stick is rubber and feels very comfortable. Changing gears mid-game is fluid and natural adding to the realism of your gaming experience. Since this wheel is designed for the Xbox 360 there is also an easily accessible guide button. The wheel has four levers protruding from the column just under the wheel which are used as you would the bumper and triggers on the regular 360 controller. These are brilliantly designed and work well, sitting within reach of your fingertips. The directional pad rounds out the rest of the buttons along with a sensitivity button and 1/10 button for the stopwatch function.
The Nitro has a LED screen on the base that has multiple functions. The first and perhaps most confusing, is the stopwatch function. Why you would need a stopwatch function, we can't quite work out but it can't be faulted for anything other than its superfluous nature. The 1/10 button on the wheel switches the stopwatch from seconds to minutes depending on what you are timing. The LED also displays the number 5-5 at all times. The manual has no mention of what this means, and no matter what button we pressed, it stayed on 5-5. We spoke with Joytech to garner some information about the LED display and they informed us that the 5-5 display is a turning ratio from left to right. If you were to turn the wheel to the left or right, the numbers will adapt to the depth of the turn changing to 6-4, 5-7 and so on. This feature seems to serve no useful purpose and since it is on the turning part of the wheel, it is difficult to view during game play.
The biggest element of any gaming wheel is responsiveness. In this regard, the Nitro is quite good. At basic settings it is fairly easy to lose control, requiring quite a bit of effort to steer properly. In this mode it also has a dead zone about 2 degrees off centre on either side. Thankfully, the sensitivity can be adjusted with four levels of responsiveness. With each level the dead zone reduces and the wheel becomes a tighter racing experience. There is also two preprogrammed settings for the games Need For Speed and Ridge Racer Six.
The foot pedals also work very well and respond to light and heavy pressure accordingly. We had no problems with the pedals on this unit, although we would have liked the option to sit them at a 45 degree angle like they would be in a regular car.
The Nitro Racing Wheel has no force feedback at all. This is unfortunate since the TriForce has it and retails for the same price. Why Joytech failed to include force feedback is unknown and the vibration feedback they did include is not as good as it could have been. The vibration is noticeable when using the wheel but it simply isn't strong enough.
For the price, this is quite a good gaming wheel and since there is no other wheel available on the market we can confidently say that it is the best. That may not be saying much right now, but the real test will come for the Nitro later this year.
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