Last updated: December 1st, 2022
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.
Contents: What are our top sim racing shifters?
- Fanatec ClubSport Shifter SQ V1.5
- Heusinkveld Engineering Sim Shifter Sequential
- Simagic Sequential Shifter Q1-S
- Simagic Sequential Shifter
- Pro-Sim H Shifter
- Pro-Sim Sequential Shifter
- Frex HShift
- SHH Newt
- Aiologs Sequential Shifter
- V2 JINX Sequential Shifter
- Simmaster sequential shifter
What is “H-pattern” and “sequential”?
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
Pro-Sim H Shifter
The Pro Sim H-shifter is a six-speed shifter with 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. There is so much “want!” in this shifter it’s unbelievable.
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.
Pro-Sim Sequential Shifter
If H-Pattern isn’t your thing (which is fine – it seems to be getting less popular these days) but you still want the thrill of a proper racing-style sequential sim shifter, then this particularly high-end sequential unit from Motorsport manufacturer Quaife should be the one for you. Warning: it’s €1,080.00!
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.
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.
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. 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.
Aiologs Sequential Shifter
The Aiologs Sequential Shifter also does as its name suggests sequential shift only. This is one of the best rated shifters we’ve come across with the highest material and build quality, and highly tactile shift feel. The Aiologs has a clever variable sprint resistance in the throw, meaning you’ll get a sense of where the shifter is actually going to shift. Feedback like this is gold as it adds a clear sense of realism to the experience.
Aiologs have developed this shifter to feel as real as a Motorsport sequential shifter would feel in a racing car. It also comes with the mounting plate and clamp you’ll need, too – so you shouldn’t expect too many issues during installation.
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 inclusion 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.
Simmaster sequential shifter
What’s especially cool about the latest offering from Simmasters is that the handle of this shifter has a built-in LED, so, it lights up at night. No more fumbling around for the grip!
With the WRC branding, this is obviously squarely aimed at our rally-driving fans – this model was tested and approved by multiple national rally champion Rok Turk.
Featured image: Pro-Sim H-Pattern sim racing shifter (source)