Review: Simagic DS-8X H-Pattern / Sequential Shifter

Simagic DS-8X fitted and ready to shift
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Featured image: Simagic DS-8x


The Simagic DS-8X shifter stands as an intriguing (and very popular) addition to the sim racing shifter market, with the DS-8X known for its “dual-mode” (switch between H-Pattern and Sequential) functionality and adjustable resistance. It’s that blend of adaptability, feel and high-quality machining that very possibly places it a cut above many of its rivals. While not without room for refinement, the overall quality and features of the DS-8X deserve very high praise indeed.


So far we’ve reviewed the Moza HGP shifter and I’ve personally owned Fanatec’s SQ 1.5 since I began sim racing, so I’ve been waiting to write about the DS-8X for some time, which is now a permanent feature on my sim setup.

Simagic DS-8X sim racing shifter
My Simagic DS-8X sim racing shifter

The Fanatec SQ 1.5, a longstanding favourite, has set a certain standard for sim racing shifters in its price range with its (mostly) reliable and simple design, while the Moza is very much the budget option.

With that said, I do think the Moza HGP is quite a good H-Pattern shifter and very much worth the money. The Fanatec SQ is showing its age and I would very much expect Fanatec to be developing a SQ V2 that doesn’t need a USB dongle to work. If they’re not doing that now, I doubt they’ll see many SQ shifters sell over the rest of 2023.

DS-8X boxed with fitting bolts, installation and warranty card
DS-8X boxed with fitting bolts, installation and warranty card. Oh, and a USB cable.

At three times the price of the Moza HGP, I think the Simagic is clearly aiming at a slightly more refined market.

Installation

The DS-8X is relatively easy to mount, I mounted an 80×40 section with 3 brackets (pictured) to the left side of my cockpit.

3 brackets to support the additional profile
3 brackets to support the additional profile (excuse the scratches – when you’re testing you’re assembling and disassembling all the time)

That’s a slightly different mounting solution to a shifter bracket, but I’ve come to realise that it’s by far the stiffest mounting option possible. And when you remove any components that might add “flex” (like a shifter bracket!) you’ll inevitably get more mechanical detail from the item while it’s in use.

Shifter installed - interlock up allowing access to 7th or 8th gear
Shifter installed – interlock up allowing access to 7th or 8th gear

If you’ve got some spare profile and slide bolts, do yourself a favour and modify your rig to accommodate a shifter with the profile. Brackets are great but by their nature, they flex, which is never good in the sim.

The only drawback during installation was that the provided bolts were a few millimetres too short to mount directly to the profile, so I found some slightly longer ones just to feel a bit more secure. The manufacturer’s bolts are only just threading with the t-nuts otherwise, which doesn’t feel like the right method to go ahead with.

Besides mounting on profile, you can side mount the shifter with an optional L-plate bracket (sold separately) or Sim-Lab’s shifter & HB bracket.

Technical

With a full metal construction featuring an aluminium alloy housing and a steel core, the shifter feels solid, consistent and smooth in use. A unique selling point of the DS-8X is its “dual-mode switching” function that enables the user to switch between Sequential Mode and H-shifter mode via a lever located on the side of the unit. Obviously, you have to change your sim software settings to accommodate the change, but the modes themselves have their own very unique characteristics.

The SQ to H-Pattern selector (right)
The SQ to H-Pattern selector (right)

In the H-Pattern mode, the DS-8X offers a clever layout with 6 standard gears, with the addition of a 7th and 8th gear on the right. Both the 7th and 8th and the reverse gear (left) are activated via an interlock lift on the shaft.

The DS-8X allows for “convenient strength adjustment” (I’ve taken that from the manual), tuning the shifting feel to suit you. With “enhanced fatigue resistance”, the designer has built-in “long-lasting elasticity” – this makes sense, you don’t want the shifter needing a re-adjustment every few weeks!

The resistance adjuster (centre)
The resistance adjuster (centre)

Its plug-and-play nature, requiring no driver software is a relief: it just works! Plug it into a USB port, it’s detected as a game controller immediately. You can even see how H-Pattern vs Sequential works if you slide into the USB Game Controller’s “Advanced” properties:

“Sequential ” activates buttons 10 and 11 – H-Pattern mode uses buttons 1-10.

The Feeling

Now, onto the subjective part – how does it feel? The DS-8X is noticeably less resistant in H-Pattern mode than the Moza, making shifting a more relaxed experience. It reminds me more of the Fanatec SQ 1.5’s feel, rather than the HGP shifter.

I found it was initially easier to make mistakes while shifting (I ran around Watkins Glen in a Formula Vee while I was learning this shifter) – the lower resistance of the default setup makes it a bit too easy to hurry the downshifts, which is never good for a smooth corner entry because you can over-rev and lose rear end grip! But you soon get used to it, hopefully before you’ve blown up your engine.

Driving position view of the DS-8X
Driving position view of the DS-8X

Interestingly, in Sequential mode, it becomes a stiffer feeling unit, more reminiscent of the Moza HGP. The adjustable resistance, controlled via an Allen bolt located at the back and flush with the housing, takes some time to perfectly adjust how you’d like the shifter to feel, but to be honest out of the box it feels good enough just to go and race and get used to it.

Conclusion

I’m not surprised to see the success Simagic have been enjoying this year. The Simagic DS-8X shifter emerges as a strong contender in the sim racing shifter market. Its strength lies in its versatility, adjustability and enjoyable feel, making it a worthy addition to any sim racing setup.

Setup: Simagic DS-8X / Apex Race Deck (LED) / SimTrecs ProPedal GT / Cube Controls F-Pro / Buttkicker Gamer Plus

Cost-wise, it’s priced at around $389.00. To go one step further, you’d be in Quaife territory (and spending more than $1000). So, if you’re seeking a shifter that marries an array of nice features at a more reasonable price, the DS-8X is the one to go for.

Pros:

  • Build Quality: Built like a tank, indicating robust construction and durability.
  • Shifting Action: Solid and firm shifting action, providing a realistic and satisfying experience.
  • Ease of Mode Switching: The ability to flick a lever to switch between sequential and H-pattern modes is highly praised.
  • Improved Experience: Users noted it as a vast improvement over previous shifters like the Fanatec, highlighting its superior feel and functionality.
  • Realistic Feel: The resistance and mechanical feeling when shifting gears, especially in H-pattern mode, are noted to enhance the immersive experience, particularly with historic cars and tracks.
  • Sequential Mode Quality: While not the main highlight, the sequential mode is still considered to have an excellent feel, with a natural engagement for the reverse gear selection.
  • Longevity: Positive feedback on the shifter’s performance over time, indicating it holds up well with regular use.

Cons:

  • Sequential Mode: Some users felt the sequential mode was not overly impressive compared to other aspects of the shifter, although this is common with dual-mode shifters.
  • Noise Level: Increased resistance settings can lead to a louder, harsh metal-on-metal sound, which might be a concern for some users.
  • Fingerlift Lockout for Reverse Gear: The mechanism for engaging the reverse gear, which requires lifting with a finger, was seen as potentially complicating the use of custom shift knobs and extensions.

Issues Other Reviewers Found:

  • While the overall feedback was very positive, the main issues highlighted by other reviewers include the potential noise at higher resistance settings and the fingerlift lockout mechanism for reverse gear engagement. These aspects might not affect all users but are worth considering based on personal preference and the specific setup.

What I like:

  • The nice, slick feeling between shifts.
  • Adjustability
  • Mounting options are plentiful
  • Switch between H-Pattern and Sequential
  • No separate Windows driver or proprietary software is required!

What I don’t like:

  • The bolts provided were just a few MM too short to mount directly to the aluminium profile.

Happy shifting!


Review: Simagic DS-8X H-Pattern / Sequential Shifter