Featured image: Pro-Sim H-Pattern sim racing shifter (source)
The premise for this guide is pretty simple. I’m going to review eight sim racing gear shifters that will take your gameplay up a gear and help you decide which one to buy. While some of the shifters I’ve covered are relatively common, others you may never have heard of before, but they all have something unique or distinctive to offer. Some of them are H-pattern, some of them are sequential, and some do both.
What are our top sim racing shifters?
- Logitech Driving Force Shifter
- Thrustmaster TH8A
- SHH Newt
- Fanatec ClubSport Shifter SQ V1.5
- Heusinkveld Engineering Sim Shifter Sequential
- Frex HShift
- Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod+
- Aiologs Sequential Shifter
- V2 JINX Sequential Shifter
- Pro-Sim H Shifter
The terms “H-pattern” and “sequential” will come up repeatedly in this guide, so in case you’re new to the shifter market and have no idea what I’m talking about, let me give a quick explanation.
H pattern shifters operate like a standard gear shifter in a manual car, meaning you need to move the shifter lever around a ‘gate’ in an up/down/left/right motion to find whatever gear you want to engage. Sequential shifters only require an up/down or forward/backward motion to move between the gears with no side-to-side movements, but as the name suggests, you must move through the gears in sequence, meaning you cannot jump from first gear to third gear for example as you could with an H-pattern.
As well as shifting modes, another term that you’ll likely hear when talking shifters is ‘throw.’ This refers to the distance the gear lever needs to travel to change gears. A short throw is often preferred for sportier cars, which means less distance, and that equates to a quicker gear shift.
With that out of the way, I’m going to get into the specifics of quality, features, and usability. My goal is not to rank any shifter above another, as for the most part, each one is priced appropriately for what you get. My aim is to give you the key you should know before you buy. Plus, while mounting your shifter isn’t all that glamourous, it plays a massive role in usability, so I’ll also cover some of the mounting options offered, and I’ll pinpoint the overall value of each shifter as we go through the guide.
So, let’s take a look at the shifters that I’ll be reviewing:
Logitech Driving Force Shifter
A highly popular H-pattern shifter, the Logitech Driving Force Shifter is the budget entry in the field and therefore doesn’t offer a sequential mode. This shifter can be used on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC when connected to a G29 or G920 wheelbase. Logitech doesn’t make an adapter to use this shifter as a standalone device on your PC, but these are available from several third-party manufacturers.
Being by far the cheapest option on my list, you would expect some compromises to have been made; the unit’s built from injection moulded plastic throughout with a steel shifter arm and faux leather trim. The shifter’s overall finish is quite nice, and it’s precisely what you would expect from a mass-market manufacturer like Logitech. When it comes to driving, the shifting feel is the least immersive of all the shifters on this list, and honestly, it feels a bit amateurish. As such, miss-shifts tend to occur now and then on the Logitech shifter.
This shifter includes a desk clamp built into the bottom of the unit and M6 mounting points. So, desk mounting is easy, but rig mounting may require additional mounting solutions. The Logitech Driving Force Shifter is worth a look for entry-level buyers, but if you’re searching for something with more realism, read on.
Next is the Thrustmaster TH8A. It features an H-pattern and a sequential mode, and it can be used on all three gaming platforms if you have a compatible Thrustmaster wheelbase. Thrustmaster was also decent enough to include a USB cable in the box as part of the package, so the TH8A can be used as a standalone device on PCs without the need to purchase any extra parts.
Like the Logitech shifter, the TH8A is also considered somewhat entry-level; however, the use of more metal in its construction and a more refined mechanism make for a significantly better shifting experience in H-pattern mode. The gate has a very positive feel, but the resistance is relatively light and unrealistic. In sequential mode, the TH8A falls short, and shifts don’t have any positive click to let you know the next gear has been engaged. The resistance is very light, and overall I would describe the sequential shifting experience as usable at best.
Furthermore, switching between H-pattern and sequential mode is a tedious process involving undoing the gear knob, removing four screws, removing the top plate, rotating the entire mechanism, replacing the top plate, and then repeating these steps in reverse to swap back. It’s not awful, but it’s also not something you’re going to want to do over and over again as you bounce between different cars. As for the build quality, all is good and the materials are great for this price point.
Mounting options for the TH8A aren’t exactly fantastic. You need to buy an additional Thrustmaster TM Racing Clamp, which will only work with a desk set-up. You’re out of luck if you use a sim racing cockpit of some kind, especially if it doesn’t have any shifter mount. So, you may have to find a third-party adaptor or fabricate a mount yourself, though it should also be pointed out that this shifter does have standard M6 threaded mounting holes provided.
The Newt is the latest SHH Shifter and is the company’s fourth evolution of this model. This shifter is capable of both H-pattern and sequential modes. Out of the box, this is a PC only USB device, but if you’re interested in using more bespoke sim racing equipment on your Xbox One or PS4/PS5, then there is a third party product called DriveHub, which allows traditionally PC-only sim racing equipment to function correctly on Microsoft and Sony platforms. The Newt is available in four colour options, with customisable features also possible for an additional cost.
The main casing on this unit is made from 3D printed ABS filament, which is known for its toughness and durability, but it still flexes a little when put to real use. The way this shifter’s internal mechanism works is quite innovative. To switch between shifting mode, you only need to push down the shifter lever and rotate it 90 degrees. By using roller bearings, the shifter gives a smooth action to all of your shifts, with the notches in between providing a feel of actually engaging a gear. Of course, this action is much lighter than what you would find in a real gearbox. Another plus here is that there is no contact with the magnetic sensing electronics when making a shift, which does away with a wear point that other shifters might have. This shifter has M6 mounting holes provided, but additional mounting frames will be required depending on your rig. Once mounted, the shifter can move around a little bit, but as the housing is made of ABS plastic, it’s not surprising.
Fanatec ClubSport Shifter SQ V1.5
The Fanatec ClubSport Shifter SQ V1.5 features H-pattern and sequential modes, adjustable resistance, a road car-style reverse gear inhibitor, and when it’s paired with a compatible Fanatec wheelbase, it can be used on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.
However, if you don’t have a Fanatec wheelbase and want to connect this shifter to your PC as a standalone device, you need to buy the Fanatec USB dongle. In my personal opinion, Fanatec has been somewhat tight-fisted here, and the connector really should be supplied in the box.
Mounting options out of the box are on the same page as Thrustmaster, so not great. But all of that aside, the actual performance of the ClubSport Shifter is excellent.
In terms of materials and the overall finish, expect a higher grade than Thrustmaster and Logitech’s offerings. The shifting feel is also significantly better than the two big names as well. The Fanatec shifter’s directness provides an excellent H-pattern experience, and the throw of the shifter is relatively short.
A downside is that even with adjustable resistance, you still can’t dial it up to the level of feel of a moderately sporty road car, let alone a racing car. However, that is a minor criticism, and for most people, I think the feel of the SQ V1.5 will be more than adequate. The story is the same in sequential mode, which you can access by sliding one switch on the side of the unit, making it a much more practical proposition to change from one mode to the other at a moment’s notice and because of the way the mechanism works the feel in sequential mode is identical to that of Hpattern; responsive and direct.
Heusinkveld Engineering Sim Shifter Sequential
Heusinkveld’s Sim Shifter Sequential is a very compact item, so if you only want sequential and no h-pattern, this is a pretty sturdy and compact addition to your sim.
The shifter has the feel of a real sequential gearboxbecuase of its ball spring resistance system. With a short throw action that has variable resistance depending on the position. This means that the lever requires a higher initial peak force before the resistance drops as the lever simulates the gearbox sliding into gear:
The unit features soft bump stops which makes shifting a relatively quiet procedure!
The HShift from Frex does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s an H-pattern only shifter that’s made for PC use. The shifter is modelled after the gear shifter from a Porsche 962 C race car. It has a short throw and a very nice engagement when pushed into the selected gate creating a satisfying tactile click.
It doesn’t take much effort to make shifts, and you do have some tuning capability when using this shifter by using its friction adjustment screw to dial your preferred resistance.
Due to its all-metal construction, the body of this unit has a nice solid feel to it. I think Frex made some excellent choices regarding where to use aluminium and where to use stainless steel, and the stainless-steel gate plate helps to give the shifter a smooth feeling action.
There is an irregular spacing between the gates, which takes a bit of getting used to, but you should be fine once muscle memory kicks in. The front mount does its job, but I think having an optional plate would improve this shifter’s overall performance and feel.
Overall, I think the price tag for this shifter is justified in the build quality and performance.
Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod+
The Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mod+ is a sequential shifter and analogue handbrake, and like the TH8 from Thrustmaster, it can be used on all of the major gaming platforms with a compatible wheelbase and on a PC as a standalone product with the correct cable which is included in the box.
This metal monster of a sequential shifter and handbrake is much more rugged than the TH8A, and it is a step up in terms of build and materials from the lower-priced unit. The shifter’s feel is direct, and it has a responsive click, but the resistance is still quite low. Still, it’s a big step up from the other Thrustmaster offering, and if you’re also looking for a handbrake, this is an excellent choice. Keep in mind that the same mounting issues the TH8A has also apply to the TSS Sparco Mod.
Aiologs Sequential Shifter
The Aiologs Sequential Shifter also does as its name suggests with no H-pattern offered here, and it’s for PC only. But don’t let that deter you. The materials used are fantastic, the build is excellent, and the shifting feel is superb. The resistance of the Aiologs is very realistic, and as you move the shifter, the firm spring resistance increases until you reach the click-point and feel a very tactile mechanical jolt as the lever engages the mechanism and activates a shift.
While the shifting is an electronic signal, this shifter comes close to feeling like a real mechanical system. It’s supplied with a sturdy metal desk clamp, and they’ve thoughtfully included a mounting plate that’s pre-drilled for use with aluminium extrusion sim rigs.
This could also be used on other metal tube type rigs with a bit of drilling – more from Aiologs.
V2 JINX Sequential Shifter
Jinx items stand out from a lot of the other manufacturers because they’re so impeccably finished. That same rule applies to their V2 JINX Sequential Shifter:
Jinx were new to me until they were suggested for inlcusion in my sim racing forum.
The Jinx Shifter can be mounted on any flat surface and any 8020 rig. In the package, you’re supplied with the required mounting 8mm bolts and a USB cable for your PC. Each one is custom made on order, so you can have your own logos put on the metalwork, choose the nylon shift handle, and so on. They’re shipped from Australia, so add another 2 weeks to the 14-day delivery quote! Still, Jinx items look the part and may be well worth the wait.
Pro-Sim H Shifter
The Pro Sim H-shifter is a six-speed shifter with a reverse gear. It’s for PC only, made of anodized metal, offers unbelievable immersion, and is overall one of the most amazing shifters on the market.
It’s been a long wait for race car simulator enthusiasts to finally get a proper ‘feels like you’re in a real car’ shifter, and this unit accomplishes just that.
From the parts used to the quality of the build on this shifter, you can tell that somebody knew what they were doing. The design and engineering that went into the development are just brilliant.
So much attention has been paid to the details throughout the design of this shifter. Having them manufactured at Quaife engineering proves that the guys at Pro-Sim made all the right moves on this one.
You need to provide a stable mounting solution to realize the full potential that this shifter has to offer. Plus, it’s much larger than most shifters that you’ve ever seen, so you’re going to need space on your rig to get it set up correctly. It won’t fit everyone’s budget, but once you have one of these units in your sim rig, you’ll know why it costs so much. It’s just that good.