Last updated: October 3rd, 2023
Featured image: SIMAGIC DS-8X sequential / H-pattern sim shifter
Today, we’re looking at a handful of higher-end intermediate to advanced sim racing gear shifters – if you’re a bit fed up with your Thrustmaster TH8A or Logitech Driving Force shifter, this article is for you. The items in this list aren’t your “common or garden variety” units, as I’ve tried to pick shifters that are new to the market, lesser-known, or just outrageously expensive in some cases! We’ll mention options including hydraulic, elastomer damping, sequential, and H-Pattern sim shifters.
While they’re all a bit different, what they all have in common is the coolness factor… Manual shifting in the sim adds huge realism and the discipline of keeping the car balanced while changing gear under braking is something that directly translates into car control technique useful for the real world.
If you’re not sure about the right technique to use while shifting, check out my guide to heel and toe to rev-match in the sim here, and if you’re looking for the best equipment as a beginner, check out my sim racing beginner’s guide.
- Moza HGP H Pattern Shifter
- Simagic DS-8x Sim Racing Shifter
- Fanatec ClubSport Shifter SQ V1.5
- VNM Shifter
- Heusinkveld Engineering Sim Shifter Sequential
- Simagic Sequential Shifter Q1-S
- Simagic Sequential Shifter
- Pro-Sim H-Pattern Shifter
- Pro-Sim PSL Sequential Shifter V2
- Sim Lab Push Pull Rally Shifter
What are “H-pattern” and “sequential” shifters?
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 travels to change gears. A short throw is often preferred for sportier cars, which means less distance, equating to a quicker gear shift.
With that out of the way, I will 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. I aim to give you the key you should know before you buy. Plus, while mounting your shifter isn’t all that glamorous, 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.
Moza HGP H Pattern Shifter
A sim racing shifter “built to last”, with a sturdy full metal construction in black that ensures durability and stability even during intense use. For the money, it’s great with a few bearable software quirks.
We’ve just reviewed Moza’s latest budget shifter on our site (here’s the review) – for the $150 + delivery, it definitely punches above its weight, with the nearest competitor, the Fanatec SQ 1.5 being some $100 more expensive (excluding delivery). It features a 7+R, H-Pattern with Locked R and 7th Gear – there’s no sequential feature; so it does what it does and that’s about it.
It’s a very Motorsport-inspired design that might satisfy anyone looking for a pure H-Pattern shifter with a visible shifter gate. I found it has a high resistance although I suspect that might get a little looser over time. It has a very certain feeling to the shift, so it’s difficult to miss-shift.
This new entrant to the sim racing space is the latest “darling” of the sim racing community, it’s cheap and cheerful but once installed, gets the job done.
Simagic DS-8x Sim Racing Shifter
The Simagic DS-8X sim racing shifter offers a full metal chassis constructed of Aluminum alloy housing with a heavy-duty steel-core internal construction.
As you’d expect, it’s a solid item, and as a consequence very reliable. It’s also strength-adjustable and has a pull-out gear lock to make sure that gears 7, 8 and reverse are not accidentally engaged. It feels super smooth and it has become our permanent sim rig resident:
You can switch between the sequential shifter mode or, with 8 forward gears and 1 reverse gear a very versatile H-pattern shifter with one button. It’s a standard USB games device in Windows and needs no driver software.
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 USB connector really should be supplied in the box.
I’ve used an SQ shifter for about two years now, for the money, it feels pretty solid and it has been for the most part reliable (except for the need for one repair). It’s a great little unit, feels very certain in the hand and it’s easy to be consistent with it while driving in a hurry.
There’s a slider switch on the side of the unit that changes the shifter from H-Pattern mode to sequential. That’s a neat feature – but it’s pretty much where the features end. If you’re looking for a solid-feeling, manual shifter for your sim, the SQ 1.5 is pretty much unbeatable.
VNM Shifter V1
Immerse yourself in a robust and versatile sim racing experience with the VNM Shifter, proficiently crafted to cater to competitive sim racers with a penchant for realism and adaptability. This particular shifter seems to get a lot of attention and recommendations in the forums.
Flexibility is always a great thing to have, and boasting the capability to smoothly transition between a 7-speed H-pattern and a sequential gearbox. Only a handful of shifters can do this. So the VNM shifter not only accommodates your varied racing adventures but also replicates authentic tactile feedback, courtesy of its full-metal construction and tension adjuster.
Despite its compact dimensions of 110mm x 260mm, the VNM Shifter doesn’t compromise on the immersive experience, ensuring that it effortlessly integrates into your racing simulator through side or base mounting, accompanied by Spherical and Cylinder knobs.
Designed with universal compatibility, it adeptly fits a myriad of racing simulators available in the market, offering a straightforward USB plug-and-play setup for PC gaming (so, PC only). While it excels in providing a versatile and realistic sim racing experience, it’s worth noting that mounting clamps are not included, necessitating an additional purchase for those without an existing mounting solution. The VNM Shifter stands out as a compact, yet uncompromising piece of sim racing hardware, bridging the gap between virtual and tangible racing experiences.
Simagic Sequential Shifter Q1-S
This is a screenless version of Simagic’s Q1 shifter but very much based on the real-world mechanical design of a proper racing sequential shifter:
You’ll notice a few nice details on this shifter: firstly, the use of proper ball race ball bearings (instead of brass bushes). There’s a USB socket for your PC with an additional option to connect the device directly to a Simagic DD wheelbase via the RJ-45 connector on the side.
It’s a simple, reliable shifter unit for a very reasonable price.
Simagic Q1 Sequential Shifter
This is the “flagship” sim racing shifter from Simagic. It features two USB ports on either side of the shifter casing, so you can mount your shifter exactly where you want it on the simulator.
There are more customisation options available than its slightly less expensive sibling, too. For example, you can customise the shift “feel” from rough to smooth. The gear shifter itself has a clever planetary-style gearbox inside, which is inspired by an actual racing shifter mechanism. There are two stick lengths available (78mm and 120mm). You can see the build quality is slightly more industrial than its cheaper sibling, though the quality of the components used is plain to see. There’s also real-time data logging onboard when you’re shifting gears and 3 programmable buttons on top of the device.
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 feels like a real sequential gearbox because 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!
Pro-Sim H-Pattern Shifter
The Pro Sim H-shifter is a very high-end six-speed shifter with reverse gear. It’s for PC only, made of anodized metal, offers unbelievable immersion, and is one of the most exquisitely detailed sim shifters on the market. If you’re after the most authentic feeling of a racing H-Pattern gearbox, this offering from Pro Sim will be of interest:
This is a design that’s engineered to endure rigorous usage without compromising its integrity. Featuring an 8-speed system, it offers six forward gears and an additional two for reverse. These extra gears can be found beyond the reverse interlock on the gear lever, which can be accessed by pressing the lever down and across to the left, providing the option of driving in reverse either forwards or backwards. At a significant price, of course…
The tactile sensation provided by this shifter is a mirror reflection of real-world racing gearbox. As you shift gears, you can observe the selector rods engaging through the clear Perspex cover, mimicking the workings of an actual gearbox. Our design draws directly from a production Quaife H pattern gearbox, aiming for an immersive and true-to-life driving experience.
What sets our shifter apart is the sensation of the shift itself. Instead of relying on a top gate plate like other shifters, the Pro-Sim H-Pattern shifter delivers a more authentic feel by using selector rods and a centralization device commonly found in most gearboxes.
A great deal of attention has been paid to the details throughout the design. Having them manufactured at Quaife Engineering proves that the guys at Pro-Sim made all the right moves in their pursuit of Motorsport grade sim racing equipment.
The shifter comes standard with a short gear lever, akin to those found on a Caterham. For those seeking a more tailored experience, ASR offer a shaft extension, enabling an additional 150mm in height. This extension is adjustable within a range of 70mm, allowing you to fine-tune the height to your preferences.
The Pro-Sim H-Pattern Shifter features a USB B socket on its rear, allowing it to connect directly to your PC as a standalone device. To ensure a quality connection, a premium 2m USB A to B cable is included. Immerse yourself in a driving experience that’s as real as it gets with our simulator H pattern shifter.
Pro-Sim PSL Sequential Shifter V2
The Pro-Sim Lite V2 is a sequential shifter designed to bring an authentic, pure Motorsport feel to your sim racing experience. This is another sim shifter created in collaboration with Quaife Engineering. The internals are engineered to mimic a genuine Quaife gearbox, providing a robust ‘thump’ feeling every time you shift gears. This unique sensation is thanks to its solid construction from hardened 835M19 steel, a material used in aerospace applications, and typically found in high-end gear shifters. This design assures durability while maintaining a substantial weight of 2.8kg, enhancing the authentic feel.
As a USB device, this shifter boasts compatibility with virtually any PC racing game, including popular titles like iRacing, rFactor, Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, and DiRT Rally.
It’s a thing of beauty, though; this revised version is an update on its predecessor. The gear lever length and end stop are easier to adjust, and it’s far quieter!
It’s plug-and-play (PC users only) and supplied with a 2-meter USB cable. It comes with a mounting plate, a “formula-style” turned aluminium gear knob and a shaft extension if you feel like going all WTCC for the day.
Sim Lab Push Pull Rally Shifter
The SimLab Push-Pull Rally Shifter stands as a high-quality and somewhat unique piece of sim racing hardware, particularly for those interested in the rapid gear changes of rally racing. Incorporating a push-pull mechanism, it allows users to downshift by pushing and upshift by pulling, emulating the sequential shifting system often found in real rally cars. Fundamentally it’s a sequential paddle shift.
Designed to mount directly to your steering wheel, the shifter provides seamless gear transitions without the need to move your hands from the wheel, which translates to an immersive, efficient, and highly responsive sim racing experience. I think it’s a lot of fun having a sequential shift in paddle form, and the concept is, as far as I know, unique.