Back when Thrustmaster released their high-end T500 RS (See Thrustmaster T500 RS Review) steering wheel early this year, the company announced to release an additional shifting unit later on. 10 months later, the company has released the TH8 RS Shifter, offering much more than just a simple addon to an existing wheel.
The TH8 RS Shifter is a standalone USB unit, combining both a 7+1 manual gated shifter and a sequential shifting unit. The unit uses Thrustmaster’s proven H.E.A.R.T HallEffect AccuRate technology that already powered the T500 RS wheel, using contact-less magnet sensors that don’t wear out and give the product a long lifetime.
Aside from having the choice between using the unit as completely manual or sequential shifter, the TH8 RS is highly customizable, allowing users to tension, stroke & deadzone both via hardware adjustment and by using Thrustmaster’s extensive configuration tool. The adjustability dosen’t end there as the whole shifting plate is adjustable by 360 degrees and buyers have the choice to replace the shifter knob with other real-life knobs thanks to an authentic size.
Design & Build Quality
Thrustmaster has set a new standard in terms of sheer product size and weight with the T500 RS wheel and the TH8 RS shifter is no less impressive. The unit is made of 90% metal and you´ll instantly realize that you´re dealing with high quality hardware when unboxing the shifter. The TH8 RS is a large and heavy beast, giving you the feeling of actually using part of a real car instead of a computer hardware accessory.
Sticking out of the massive metal base is the 13cm tall gear stick that houses the authentic shifting knob. Thanks to sticking to common standards, players can use third-party knobs if they don’t feel like using the metal one Thrustmaster provides with the shifter. Out of the box, the shifter comes with the 7+1 H-gate shift plate for full manual mode. In order to convert the shifter to sequential mode, the plate needs to be replaced, a task that is completed by unscrewing four screws on top with the provided tool and putting the sequential plate on.
Players who frequently want to switch back and forth between manual and sequential mode will get used to this task quickly as it takes less than two minutes to complete. The lower side of the shifter holds the clamping mechanism and once again, Thrustmaster isn’t playing when it comes to the chosen materials. The whole clamping mechanism is purely made out of metal with plastic only being used for the handle of the main screw.
The whole unit is absolutely stunning to look at thanks to the high-quality materials and the sports car-like look, especially with the neatly-designed manual plate on. My only slight gripe is that the shifter dosen’t completely follow the same design line as the T500 RS which uses black & grey plastic on the base and black metal on the wheel, making the shifter look a slightly bit out of placed when used side by side with the wheel.
But that is a pet peeve, the shifter really shines when you first give it a try. When shifting through the gears, you can instantly feel the high-quality internals. The gears have a nice click to them, giving you great feedback. There’s no feeling of unwanted resistance, sliding or scraping, no whining sounds or anything else but a smooth shift through the gears.
Absolutely everything about this shifter gives you the feeling that this thing is made to last a life-time. Apart from the top cover and the screw handle, nothing is made of plastic or other cheap materials and the internals are set up to sustain any type of wear as well.
After unboxing and admiring the unit, it’s time to set it up. For the best possible experience, the TH8 RS requires you to find a fixing spot that is located below your wheel due to the 13cm tall gear stick that reaches high up. Placing it on the same level as your wheel won’t work, the stick just rises up to high, forcing you to reach up with your arm when placing it beside your wheel – Which is both unrealistic and tiresome for longer driving sessions.
I´ve been using the shifter on my rig that comes with a shifter holder, most cockpits and wheel stands (like Playseat gaming chair) will offer similar solution. Even though the base allows hard mounting (and Thrustmaster actually recommends it), the TH8 RS is prove that a solid clamping mechanism can make hard mounting obsolete. When put on tight, the shifter dosen’t move an inch even when frantic pulling and pushing on the knob takes place.
The TH8 RS is compatible both to the PC and Playstation 3 with PC users having the upper hand in terms of usability. On the PC, the shifter is compatible to pretty much every simulation that supports multiple USB devices – Just plug it into the USB port, assign the gears in the simulation and off you go.
There’s no need for driver or software installation unless you want to use Thrustmaster’s Advanced Calibration to fine tune the shifter (see below). On the Playstation 3, compatibility is still very much limited as the TH8 RS only works with Gran Turismo 5 with more titles likely to be made compatible later.
Usage & Configuration
Like explained above, using the shifter on the PC couldn’t possibly be more straightforward, after plugging it in the shifter is instantly ready to be used. Driving with the TH8 RS is a smooth experience and very immersive, especially when using the completely manual mode. Combined with a manual clutch, driving street cars becomes a whole new challenge as not missing gears can be tricky at first.
The shifter makes it as easy as possible though, working smooth and without any grinding or unwanted resistance as the stick moves through the gates with a nice clicking feedback, making the TH8 RS a rewarding piece of hardware to use. Personally, I would have been fine with the way the shifter works with the standard settings but Thrustmaster has cut no corners in terms of adjustability.
First, players can adjust the tension by adjusting a screw on the shifter’s base. But adjustability dosen’t end there as Thrustmaster provides and advanced calibration and setup software to tweak the last bit of customization out of the unit.
The advanced calibration tool dosen’t just allow comprehensive testing of the unit and firmware updates, it also allows highly customized settings in terms electronic gear stroke, deadzone and more. The tweaked settings are saved on the shifter’s internal memory, allowing them to be used on the Playstation 3 as well. Thrustmaster provides an extensive manual for the Calibration software for those who are a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities.
The TH8 RS continues Thrustmaster’s push into the upper-class market of sim racing hardware as, just like the T500 RS wheel, the shifter is a feature-rich, exceptionally well made unit that easily becomes the benchmark in its field. That being said, the market for addon shifters is rather small as the TH8 RS is pretty much the only option in this price range as competitor products from companies such as FREX sell for up than three times the price of the TH8 RS.
For 149.99€ sim racers get a highly durable, flawlessly-made unit that couldn’t possibly be any easier to use or more adjustable. Apart from the limited PS3 compatibility, it’s extremely hard to find any kind of flaw here as the shifter doesn’t really have any obvious weak spots. If the purchase is worth the price largely depends on your driving habits as players who mostly used modern open wheelers or sports cars will want to stick to shifting paddles for the sake of realism.
Friends of road-going machinery or historic race cars with manual gearboxes will easily get their money’s worth with the TH8 RS though as the shifter boosts the immersion factor of driving such cars immensely.
- High-quality materials, very durable
- Highly adjustable
- Great clamping mechanism
- Very easy to setup
- Smooth & rewarding driving experience
- Limited Playstation 3 compatibility