With the S1 I wasn’t sure what to expect, the design is nothing like a standard racing wheel. The small compact design makes it easy to pack up and bring out and is perfect for taking to LAN parties. The downside of course is the small design means you don’t have any way to attach it to your desk. That means anytime you are racing you are holding your arms out slighting, for a fat guy like me this could be a form of torture.
There is a reason why F1 race cars layout everything on their steering wheel, it’s all easy to get too even in the middle of a race. By taking that same design with the S1 they made every single button and knob easy to reach. Each of the buttons uses a switch similar to what a mouse uses, giving them a defined click when you push them. Not only does this make each button easy to use but it also gives it a quality feel. Most other wheels would just go with a mushy silicon switch for their buttons, the SteelSeries engineering is showing through here. Speaking of a quality feel, the entire wheel has a very solid feel to it, you can’t flex it no matter hard you try.
Without a traditional mount to rotate on the S1, much like todays phones, relies on sensors to detect how far you have turned. I was a little worried when we first received the S1 that it wouldn’t be as accurate. Surprisingly it did a really good job. There were a few times with the steering dead zone in game where we saw a slight bit of jitter when holding the wheel straight (it was never an issue while turning). With it set in game to 5% dead zone we were good to go and ready to race. I spent time playing a variety of games. With Simraceway being in beta I did experience a few issues that prevented me from doing as much testing in game as I had hoped. For the other games most of my time was divided between F1 2011 and Dirt 3, but I did get a little time in Need for Speed: SHIFT. Here is a video of me in Dirt3 and F1 2011 with the S1.
The on the fly sensitivity knob came in handy a few times; you can adjust the sensitivity to register full lock from 180 degrees to 360. I spent most of my time with it at 180 just to prevent my arms from getting tangled. Unlike traditional wheels you can’t let go to readjust your arms to turn farther. That’s where the downsides to a free motion wheel come into play. As I said before the hardest part is holding the wheel for extended periods of time. Without a way to rest your arms on the wheel it makes long racing sessions hard to do without your arms getting tired. I noticed that they did include a mounting spot on the back of the wheel. If they introduced a way to mount the S1 it could be the best of both worlds.