Featured image: XF1-Pro
This review sample has been sitting on my desk for far too long; I’ve already tested one of the Leoxz XF1 series wheels (the XF-1 Sport), which I really enjoyed – particularly as a Formula racing wheel thanks to its small diameter. Measuring in at the same size, the XF1-Pro feels really familiar. I can tell that since I last worked with a Leoxz wheel, the manufacturing processes have been improved – the wheel’s first impressions say a lot.
First Impressions and Setup
Leoxz wheels are very light and don’t take up a great deal of space. If I could lower myself into a Formula One car, I’d not be surprised to find something very much like this wheel waiting for me. And, in hand, it’s clear that the components: momentary buttons, two six-way joysticks, 3 front rotaries and two thumb rotaries are all high quality and the rotaries, in particular, feel nice to turn between your thumb and finger.
The wheel arrived with Fanatec’s QR1 hub fitted (which would mean no USB cable!) alas, I only have a QR2 fitted Fanatec CSL DD – so, the first order of business: is to fit the SQR hub to test on our main rig.
I might add that the wheel comes with a generous complement of stickers (and they look awesome with the stickers on) but, as I don’t own the wheel I tend not to put stickers on them. Fully “dressed” here’s what the XF1 Pro looks like:
Technical Setup and Software
Removing the Fanatec compatible hub was a breeze – 6 Allen bolts to remove. The bolts have a short thread – I think because the wheel’s PCB is very close to the hub mounting holes. A consequence, perhaps of having such a skinny chassis. On that note, be wary of the length of the bolts you’re using (or use the originals provided with the wheel!) or, you may screw straight through the PCB.
My (ready assembled) SQR hub and 100mm BG racing extension bolted on with no problems either – the rear layout of the wheel allows for easy tool access, fitting and removal of the QR components.
Once you’ve got the wheel built up, and fitted to your wheelbase, it’s worth remembering to do a few things:
- Reset the centre position of your wheel in TrueDrive (or whatever calibration software your wheelbase uses)
- Upgrade SimHub to the latest version
- Install Leoxz SimBridge
In most SimHub distributions, SimBridge is already an enabled plugin. However – as I recently had the XF1 Sport connected, SimBridge would not recognise the Pro, displaying that the XF1 Sport was simply disconnected – so a “remove” button would be nice in the software (unless I missed it!). This prompted me to uninstall Simbridge, download the latest version from the Leoxz website and start again. It’s altogether likely that SimHub and SimBridge needed to be fully up to date to support the wheel – that’s fair enough as it’s obvious they’ve been working on this product!
SimBridge, developed by Leoxz, serves as an essential middleware that acts as a SimHub plugin specifically intended to run all aspects of Leoxz devices, facilitating the smooth transmission of telemetry data to the steering wheel. This is crucial as SimHub cannot directly connect to Leoxz devices.
Aside from managing telemetry, SimBridge is also a tool that enables users to easily update the firmware of their Leoxz steering wheel via the USB connection, offering enhancements and bug fixes. Clearly, then, SimBridge is key for keeping Leoxz devices up-to-date and calibrated for proper sim racing.
If you don’t have SimBridge installed in SimHub (or it needs an update), follow these rough instructions:
- Download and Install Simhub
- Download the Leoxz SimBridge from here
- Copy Leoxz.PluginSimBridge.dll and the PluginsData folder to the Simhub (root) installation directory
- Open Simhub, it will detect the new plugin and ask if you’d like to activate it. That’s about all!
SimBridge has developed a lot since I last used it – there are so many more settings options on the main page. Each Leoxz product has a tab along the top navigation, and obviously, you can go quite deep with the settings for the Pro wheel – like setting the dash template cycle, assigning triggers and so on.
SimBridge will warn you if, for example, there’s a pending firmware update available. Download the firmware binary and then select it to upload to the wheel.
The firmware update mode is very well thought out, there are no scary moments and the whole process takes just a few minutes.
How does the wheel feel?
This is the 6-paddle version of the XF1 Pro. The shifter paddles have a firm, but not overpowering clack, they operate smoothly and quietly and are, frankly, as good as any other paddle shifter I’ve used recently. I like the two additional paddles at the top of the rear of the chassis – they’re assignable, obviously. Sometimes I just assign those as second shifter paddles.
Then, of course, the clutch paddles. Assignable via SimBridge, again, these Hall-sensing clutches feel wonderfully smooth and a pleasure to use.
Ergonomics and Grips
The grips have a nice, silky yet grippy feel and are (ergonomically) very well thought out. Because of the small diameter of the wheel (275mm I believe), clearly, this sim racing wheel is intended for F1 racing or GTE class / Endurance racing.
The smooth yet grippy texture of the grips means the wheel will perform well with or without gloves. Though, racers with (much) larger hands, may find the shifter paddles slightly cramped. To be very clear, though, I’m a fully grown adult with very typical-sized hands and I had no problem with the spacing of the paddles.
Interface and Controls
Navigating through the various controls while in-race is simple enough – you assign your controls in whatever sim software you prefer (I did a session at Snetterton in iRacing for this test). The buttons are well-placed and easy to access mid-race, with raised button shrouds offering a comfortable way to index your grip while keeping your eyes glued to the track.
It’s not a distracting wheel; despite the display screen. I really like the textured aluminium knobs on the 3 rotary encoders on the wheel’s faceplate – very easy to adjust on the fly.
Visual and Data Interface
The XF1-Pro’s dash screen is excellent. You can assign any dash layout you want to the screen (I was using TWF as you can see in the photograph).
The screen is very bright and colourful, and such is the resolution that even though it is quite small, you can see every detail on the screen very clearly.
In a heavily saturated sim racing market where competitive pricing often sacrifices build quality or performance, the Leoxz XF1-Pro (priced at around €559.95) is a significant option. The Fanatec compatibility gives Fanatec owners a really, really good replacement wheel option – I think this will appeal to those who don’t fancy any of Fanatec’s wheel offerings. The ease of use, plug-and-play design, and well-considered ergonomics stand out, offering a genuinely professional racing experience without demanding a professional’s budget.
While the wheel might not boast the bells and whistles of pricier flagship models, such as the Cube Controls CSX-3, the Leoxz XF1 Pro delivers a robust racing experience, especially considering its compatibility with various wheelbases, including Fanatec. The only issue I suspect Leoxz are thinking about at the moment is what to do about Fanatec’s new QR2 hub. I don’t think anyone is making an adapter kit for it (yet) although I would put money on Simon from Sim Racing Machines working on a QR2 hub adapter as we speak.
For those on PC, exploring the ideal wheel for F1 2023, iRacing’s Formula Cars or Formula mods in Assetto Corsa, the Leoxz XF1-Pro presents an attractive proposition, offering both functionality and build quality that punches well above its weight in this price bracket. Recommended!