Logitech G29 to Fanatec CSL Elite - How Much Of A Step Up?
Updated: Jan 6, 2021
It’s been about 4 months since I waved goodbye to my Logitech G series wheels and finally upgraded to the mid range Fanatec CSL Elite wheelbase. In that time I’ve been really active on my favourite sims such as iRacing, and dabbled in some new ones such as Rfactor 2 and ACC. That’s plenty of time to really get my head around the new dimension of force feedback that comes with such an upgrade. So, months down the road, here are some fully cooked thoughts on the leap from G29 to CSL Elite.
For the time-poor, here are the headlines;
Yes, it’s a massive step up from a G29.
Yes, it’s good enough to justify the cost.
Yes, it will help you find speed faster.
Yes, it works fine on a desk, and
Yes, I am completely happy with mine.
My G29 cost me about £200 whereas my Fanatec configuration with my optional upgrades cost me around £1000. But despite the pretty crazy outlay for what is essentially a gaming peripheral, in all aspects of life I am a mega tightwad and I hate getting bad value for money, so hitting the checkout button for me was a leap of faith. I don’t want it to be a leap of faith for you, I want to paint a picture of what it’s like so you can better inform yourself as to whether sim racing is becoming a big enough passion to step it up into the enthusiasts world.
Before you read on, let me kindly point out that I have a Fanatec affiliate link that visitors and viewers can use to support me, so if you find this video helpful and want to proceed onto Fanatec to get shopping then it would help me out a great deal if you used my affiliate link here to travel to the Fanatec store, so they know I sent you and can thus they know who to credit if you eventually buy. I want to say a sincere "Thank You" to all who have already done so, it's making a big difference to what I do.
I want to start with what I think about the experience. Going from a G29 to a Fanatec CSL Elite is a massive jump, let’s just make that clear. The CSL is in another class and that’s what makes it such an enticing step up for G29 owners at the moment, provided the outright cost will be justified. If you’re like me, when you upgrade something you want to KNOW it’s an upgrade. About 15 years ago I swapped my Sony earbuds for a set of Sennheiser HD headphones and all of a sudden everything in my music catalogue had twice as much character, and I’ve relived that feeling all over again with the CSL Elite. The agility and strength of a belt drive wheel over the G29’s gear drive means everything has so much more vibrancy.
So let’s try and describe that force feedback a little more, now that I’ve gushed about how much more enjoyable and flavourful it is over a G29 I need to try and explain why. Let’s imagine you are about to hit a chicane with high kerbs, such as at Monza, full aggression. Your inside front wheel hits the kerb and the front end crashes and bounces in response. If you do this on a G29, you will feel a little jolt, but if you grip the wheel with any kind of force you can pretty much just ignore the forces that the sim is trying to communicate to you through the wheel. On a CSL Elite this isn’t the case, you absolutely will be receiving the message loud and clear with a big deflection on the steering wheel which you won’t be resisting. The speed at which the force feedback can change direction is also much more rapid compared to a G29 which means that as you drive on tracks with uneven surfaces such as Sebring, you’re feeling contours in the road that just weren’t really there before.
When you initially make the upgrade to the CSL you may find yourself thinking “Oh god, I feel like I’m barely in control of this GT3 car that I was absolutely flying in yesterday. How is getting chucked around by kerbs, bumps and undulations an advantage?”. Well, it’s something you get over very quickly and you soon weave the signals and cues from what the car’s telling you into your driving. If you’re braking hard but you detect that the road surface is becoming less favourable, you’ll instinctively ease off to prevent a lockup. If you’ve run slightly wide on a corner exit and you can easily tell that your outside wheels are not yet off the danger zone, you’re more likely to be able to control your throttle according to what your car’s telling you. I also find that the differences in the force feedback languages between iRacing, Assetto Corsa and Rfactor 2 are much more obvious now and certainly in the case of rFactor 2 it’s easy to understand why it’s held up as the best sim for force feedback because I’m feeling a great amount more of what it was designed to do. The first time I strayed onto a painted kerb on rFactor 2 and felt the outside tyre slide across the smooth surface as I locked up, I was legitimately impressed with how authentic it felt. As well as all the fine details you’ll now feel, it’s all with a belt drive that delivers force sufficient to really work your arms and lift the heart rate to put you in that zone where you start to trick your mind into being immersed.
Since upgrading to the CSL Elite I can say that the rate of my mistakes has dropped considerably. On the G29 there were moments where you were certain you nailed a corner but still found yourself having an incident or losing the tail. You always felt like you were on the edge, but the edge was just that little bit fuzzy so it was hard sometimes to know if you were on it, or over it. On my old wheel I’d have put my spins down to running too close to the limit and trying too hard and telling myself that if I want to make it the full distance I need to back off a bit. Now I can confidently say that this uncertainty is just no longer there - with the CSL, if I make a mistake I can only blame myself and I can tell what I did wrong straight away. If I push too much and reach the limit of the car, it’s my fault if I spin, because there’s always that split second where the instinct should take over and rescue a lairy corner. If you sometimes feel like a spin or an accident just comes out of nowhere, then this is what I’m talking about. I’ve lost count of the times now where I am convinced that a spin or an accident was avoided only by virtue of better force feedback. This is something I’ve heard many times before and at the time you don’t give it much thought, but having experienced the difference first hand I can totally vouch for it. This boost to consistency is absolutely real and not a myth, so if you find yourself racing amongst people that are a similar pace to you but make less mistakes, chances are you’re at the limit of what your G29 can do for you and it’s time to move on.
So let’s say you’re feeling like it’s time to make the move away from the G29. There’s the Fanatec CSL Elite, yes, but what about the Fanatec Clubsport Wheelbase or CSW as it’s known, what is that all about? I’ve had a try of a CSW and I would say it’s noticeably smoother and stronger but by no means does it render the CSL Elite redundant at all. Simply put, if you’ve got the money for a CSW then go for it, it’s capable of stronger output, a bit smoother and probably more durable and resilient than the CSL because of it’s heftier build but there’s not a big gap in terms of what you feel in your hands between the two models, certainly nothing like what you feel when you go from G29 to CSL.
I also want to revisit a point I made in my prior video that if you are using a G29 and want to go faster, a wheel upgrade won’t be the silver bullet but I want to add a bit of dimension to that viewpoint because I’ve reflected on it and it’s not completely correct. If you spend long enough with an entry level wheel like the G29 then you will, eventually, become fast. You’ll be able to reach 99% of your maximum ability with a G29, but you won’t be having as much fun doing it, and that remaining 1% will probably always be out of reach. I am also quite sure now that it would take a lot less time to get to that same level of practice with a better wheel. If you’re just starting out with sim racing, I think it would be much easier for newcomers to see eye-to-eye with everything if you have a CSL Elite or better. With that said, logitech deserves credit for having been so many people’s first encounter with racing wheels and I’d be lying if I didn’t just used to get on with it and have a great time in all my sims with mine in Live For Speed, Dirt Rally, the lot. There are some guys in eastern europe who could whop the lot of you in Live For Speed using a mouse and keyboard, believe me.
Let’s face facts as well, a Fanatec wheel and pedals setup will cost several times what a G29 costs depending on what you add to it. It’s expensive for some demographics and exchange rates so It’s more of a fork in the road rather than a step up the ladder because of that fact. But if you enjoy your sim racing to any serious degree, it's a excellent tool with which to enjoy one of your passions. The first lap using a CSL after using a G29 was a real ‘Oh my god, awesome’ moment and if you’re on the brink of spending a lot of money, that’s exactly what you are hoping to get. It’s 4 months on for me, and that feeling hasn’t gone away.
Now the bad bit. I’ve had no problems with my own equipment, but I have my fingers crossed it stays that way, because whilst every manufacturer out there has to deal with the odd defect or dud, Fanatec Customer Service seems to be a bit distant and this leads to people running a bigger gauntlet than they need to when things go wrong. In the EU I’ve heard stories about having to post their equipment back to Germany at their own expense to be repaired and it taking ages, and when you’re without your sim racing kit that’s a painful delay and hard to swallow after paying good money. It’s because of this irritation factor that people who have issues with their equipment and have to deal with customer service tend to be so put off they tell the world about it. Be aware of this before you buy so you don’t get wound too much in the unlikely event it happens to you. Saying this, there are also many stories of successful customer service and warranty work to sprinkle on top of the bad stories, so it looks like it's simply luck of the draw.
The final word on the upgrade from G29 to CSL Elite is that I’m very, very satisfied with mine and I feel like it was well worth the money. I’m the sort of person that researches a lot, makes sure to get the best value for money option, and I hate nothing more than spending a lot of cash and not having my socks blown off. Well I didn’t have that problem, the Fanatec CSL Elite is a gigantic upgrade from a G29 and I don’t feel short changed in any way, shape or form. When you’re trying to decide whether it’s time to upgrade, it’s this sort of feedback from the front that helps out a lot, which is why I offer mine. If you love sim racing and you’ve been using a G29 for any length of time, you will thank yourself for taking the plunge and making the upgrade to a belt-driven wheel, be it a Fanatec CSL Elite or similar.
It’ll make your sim racing way more fun, boost the immersion factor and ultimately make each hour you spend more fulfilling, and it will do it by such a level that it will justify your hard earned cash.
That’s it - get in touch with me if you have questions and leave your own feedback on the Youtube video at the top of the article if you’ve already upgraded and have your own thoughts to share.