Fanatec have rocked the boat of the direct drive wheelbase market, announcing their DD wheelbase a few months back. It seemed impossible to actually get one of these in our basket, but we’ve finally managed to get our hands on one. The Fanatec CSL DD Review commences, using the 8 Nm version to be exact.
Just under £600 more invested in Sim Racing Equipment, I set off on my review.
What is the Fanatec CSL DD?
The Fanatec CSL DD is a direct drive wheelbase, which is the cream of the crop when it comes to sim racing. It’s important to understand that a direct drive wheelbase doesn’t come with a steering wheel. Instead, the csl dd wheel base will provide the electronics which powers your steering wheels. The Direct Drive means that the steering wheel doesn’t require a belt or drive gears, and enables it to offer dynamic force feedback performance. Tl;dr direct drive offers a much better experience, but usually comes at a larger cost.
This is where the CSL DD comes into it’s own market. This is priced fantastically, allowing sim racing beginners to get started with a direct drive wheelbase. It costs just under £350, and before this product was released you would be looking at more than £750 for any DD wheelbase, as it’s a premium product.
Fanatec have marketed this to be the new standard of direct drive wheelbases, but does it offer enough?
CSL DD Performance Test
I know that Fanatec make excellent products, but I was really eager to test the CSL DD. Sometimes, when you see something with a cheaper price, you write it off. The CSL DD has taught me not to judge a book by it’s cover, even if it’s half the price of other products in the same family!
If you’re advancing through your Sim Racing journey and looking for an upgrade from a basic Logitech or Thrustmaster setup, you’ll feel a tremendous improvement. The level of detail that you receive through force feedback effects will honestly blow your mind. There’s a reason why professional drivers use direct drive wheel bases.
If you run wide on track, you’ll immediately know about it as the steering wheel picks up the smallest of surface changes. This works in the same way if you accelerate too fast into a turn and start to lose traction.
During operation, you’ll also be impressed to find that the wheelbase is completely silent. Instead of hearing a whirring noise on the fan, you’ll have uninterrupted audio so you can speak with your Sim racing team, or just listen to the exhaust notes of your favourite car. I haven’t stripped the wheelbase down, as I daren’t, but I presume that there’s some insulation inside which is buffing this. I’ve also read that there is no internal fan required, due to the design it can naturally remove heat via the passive heat sink.
This is another great benefit. The Aluminium surround is capable of working as a heatsink, so you don’t have to worry about the device overheating. This will help you to remain comfortable when driving and will allow you to focus on consistent performance and good lap times.
You will notice that there are two versions of the CSL DD. The first has 5 Nm of torque, with the Boost Kit 180 available that can increase this to 8 Nm.
The 5Nm direct drive wheel base does provide sufficient force feedback detail, whilst still remaining a safe option for beginners. It’s probably not comparable to a Simucube 2 Sport, but at the same time, it’s £500 cheaper! Enthusiast sim racers will still be able to have a great time on their favourite games, and all major racing games support the use of the Fanatec CSL DD Wheelbase.
When you gain experience on track, you might start to feel that the peak torque isn’t enough and you become thirsty for more power. Fortunately, Fanatec have thought of this and have creates the Boost Kit 180, which increases the maximum strength to 8NM. This is actually remarkable for such a small power supply, and it’s another win for Fanatec in the direct drive market.
I will discuss the Boost Kit in detail below, so continue reading if you are interested in the optional boost pack.
Fanatec CSL DD Design Overview
Fanatec have stuck to their design blueprints with the CSL DD, but fans of the DD1 and DD2 will immediately notice the size difference as soon as you open up the box. It’s significantly smaller than previous direct drive wheel base models, probably by around 60%. It weighs just over 5kg total.
Where the CSL DD differs from it’s older siblings is the Outer frame that contains all of the electronics. The CSL Direct Drive has grooved edges, similar to a heatsink. That’s because it’s been designed to act as a heat sink, as I briefly mentioned above. This design will allow the machine to remain silent whilst offering it’s maximum strength output.
The excpetionally well crafted Fanatec logo is present on the front, side and rear of the base, which helps to finish it off with an exceptionally crisp yet intimidating finish. If you’re a lover of carbon fiber, I should tell you that the steering axis is surrounded with it.
Although I prefer the smooth finish of the DD1 and DD2 bases, the fins help this to retain some aggression whilst being physically smaller.
Ordering, Receiving and Unboxing the CSL DD
It’s important to say at this point, that if you order the CSL DD, there will be no steering wheel attached. It’s the base unit only. However, you will get the option for adding a fanatec steering wheel, csl pedals and other accessories. Their website is pretty good, and will warn you if any of the CSL steering wheels aren’t compatible.
You can pay by AMEX, Visa, Paypal and even direct bank transfer. This covers pretty much all bases. They only deliver with UPS, which is a big win, as you don’t want companies such as MyHermes delivering expensive items… they’ll literally leave it on the doorstep or launch it over your wall.
Unless you purchased a bundle, the CSL DD doesn’t come with a steering wheel. There are plenty that can be added though, with some favourites being the McLaren Gt3 wheel or the Fanatec CSL Flat Steering Wheel. (I won’t go into the wheels too much, as it depends on the game you’re playing really).
I always enjoy unboxing new equipment. Whilst a steering wheel is my favourite piece of art, you can always trust the quotes that Fanatec add to their packaging. As you unearth each cardboard slot, it reveals another sentence of a brilliant quote. I truly believe this quote adds excitement to the opening of the package, so I’m not going to reveal it.
Included in the box are the traditional Fanatec stickers, which you can plaster all over your PC tower or wherever fits best. There’s also a pretty in-depth instruction manual, followed by lots of insulation foam. Beyond this, you’ll find your fanatec wheelbase which you’ll undoubtedly be excited to set up. When setting it up, you can get the table clamp for this, but due to the power of the csl dd motor technology I would recommend a direct hard mount to your sim racing rig.
Hard Mounting has many benefits, for example, you can be sure that it won’t come loose over a period of time. I’ve used table clamps in the past, and the biggest issue is that if they come loose during a race you may aswell retire the car. Note, the CSL DD Table Clamp is an optional extra, but it’s very cheap at £30.
CSL DD Price: Should I buy it?
Fanatec have definitely helped Sim racing reach a broader audience with their pricing structure alone. This is an extremely competitive price and I can’t even think of an alternative that comes close. If you’re into Sim Racing and you want a more immersive experience, you can do-so now without having to spend thousands of pounds on equipment.
I don’t work for Fanatec, but honestly, if I did this thing would be easy to sell. You won’t find a better priced force feedback wheelbase than this. Once more, you get a two year warranty, so you can be sure that even if you’re pushing the pedal to the metal, the structural chassis won’t give up on you.
If you haven’t tried direct drive before, this is the perfect one to start on. It won’t hurt you when you crash, like some can, but you’ll immediately have a heightened sense of realism when racing. You should buy it, and you won’t regret it when you do.
Optional Boost Kit: Worth it?
I was in a similar position, asking myself this question. I had decided that I would purchase the Fanatec CSL DD, but unsure if the 5NM would be enough power for the wheel base to truly flourish. However, it does, it harnesses the same technology from the DD1 and really pushes on. However, more experienced sim racers might be suited for the boost kit, to kick things on even more.
The Boost Kit 180 is an optional extra for the CSL DD, but it’s entirely worth it. You can purchase it directly as a bundle and save around £25, or purchase the 5NM and upgrade the power supply pack later down the line. This may actually be the better option, as you can determine if the motor efficiency is enough for your power needs and upgrade where necessary.
The jump from 5nm to 8nm may seem miniscule, but it’s definitely noticeable. I think hitting over 7nm is the sweet spot, where you start to feel the difference in the direct drive technology.
Even with the optional boost kit added to the CSL DD wheel base, I think that it shouldn’t be compared to their flagship products, the DD1 and DD2 which produce 20nm of torque. However, I’m a huge fan of the CSL DD and it’s certainly an industry leader at the price point of £300.
The boost kit is definitely worth buying, but there is no rush to purchase this. It’s a standard power supply, which means you can upgrade at any point.
You shouldn’t struggle with compatibility issues with this wheelbase. This is because every single product that Fanatec make can be used with the CSL DD, as often is the case with the Fanatec product range. Any Steering Wheel, Pedal Set, Handbrake and Gear Shifter is compatible.
However, if you have a Playstation, you’ll have to wait patiently for now. The CSL DD is only compatible with PC and Xbox consoles. If you’re looking for the Playstation version, you’ll want the Gran Turismo DD Pro.
Conclusion: Fanatec CSL DD Review
This wheel base is great for beginners, or someone that hasn’t experienced direct drive just yet. If you’ve got a Logitech G920 or something similar, this will be a great wheelbase to upgrade to. It doesn’t break the bank, it’s actually the best priced direct drive wheel out there. However, the power is restricted to a maximum of 8Nm, whereas the DD1 will hit levels upto 20Nm (Albeit for double the price).