By: Jonathan Kwan
September 27, 2013
A lot of times, I think it is reasonable to expect the name of one thing to correspond to the entity it represents. Unfortunately, in the real world, it is not always true. Recently, I came across this rap song called "Black Acura" by Pac Div. When you call a song "Black Acura", what do you expect? I don't know about you, but I would expect some references to a black Acura, or at least have a black Acura appear somewhere in the music video. After enduring four minutes and thirteen seconds of IQ-lowering lyrics (Sorry, no real genius would write "I'm a mother****ing genius and you in some bad ****"), there was not even a single reference to a black Acura. Heck, the words "black" and "Acura" never actually appear in the entire song. I watched through the entire music video as well. With my IQ now sitting somewhere in my basement, no black Acuras ever appeared on screen. What the heck? Unless I am missing something, I do not have a single clue why they named the song the way it is. I mean, even calling it "Black Escalade" or "Yellow Lamborghini" would have made more sense. Recently, Genius sent over one of their latest racing wheels, the Speed Wheel 6MT. The good news is, unlike "Black Acura", it is actually a racing wheel, not a keyboard or something. The bad news is, I have no idea where they came up with the 6MT designation. Normally, 6MT refers to a car's six speed manual transmission. This means it should have a third pedal, and an H pattern shifter on the floor. The Genius Speed Wheel 6MT has only two pedals, and paddle shifters behind the wheel. 6MT? Not quite. But is it still awesome? Well, let's find out.
Our review unit of the Genius Speed Wheel 6MT came in quite a large brown corrugated cardboard box from the company’s American offices in California, USA. When I say large, I really mean large -- check out my photo above. I am sure the FedEx guy had a lot of fun carrying them up our doorstep; not because it is heavy, but because of the sheer volume. Good thing it was not heavy. Either way, everything arrived safely and securely to us here in Calgary via their ground service. It was a Friday afternoon when I received the package, and knowing what is in the box, I wasted to no time to crack it open for the weekend.
Genius sent along a retail package of their Speed Wheel 6MT for our review today. The retail package is actually roughly half the size of the shipping box it came in, which is quite interesting, as the shipping box is branded for the wheel, too. It is probably used more for sending to warehouses than for consumer distribution, but this is just a conjecture. The retail box design carries forward the company's standard design language we have seen in the past; delivering a tone of formality even in the presence of a gaming peripheral. Kind of like Logitech, if you know what I mean. At the top right corner, you will find Genius' logo. The product name and description is stretched across the bottom, presented in white text on red background. A photo of the Speed Wheel 6MT is prominently shown in the middle; a blue sports car is faded into the background to give the consumer a feel of what it is. Feature highlights and specifications can be found on the remaining sides of the box. Overall, I think Genius has done a fine job at designing the packaging for this racing wheel.
Speaking of features and specifications, before we move on, let's take a look at the list, as obtained from the manufacturer's website:
- 11” gaming wheel compatible with PC/PS3
- D-pad, manual transmission and two-hand levers
- Foot pedals are sturdy and slip-resistant for acceleration and braking
- Two C-Clamps fit most tables and desks
OS Support: Microsoft Windows 8 / 7 / Vista / XP / 2000 / ME / 98
PS3 compatible: YES
Foot Pedals: YES
To ensure the ten year old inside of you won’t get disappointed by any damages incurred on the Speed Wheel 6MT for whenever Christmas happens for you during the year, Genius has done a fine job at wrapping out the contents inside. Everything is individually packaged in its own plastic bag, with tons of cardboard partition to ensure everything stays in its place unharmed. Out of the box, you are only going to receive everything required for operation; this includes the wheel itself, two C clamps, the pedal base, and of course, a multi-language manual. It is pretty darn intuitive to get rolling from here, so let’s take a closer look at the wheel itself, and then we will grab some shots of the pedal base.
The form of the Genius Speed Wheel 6MT can be seen in our photo above. At first glance, it reminds me of the wheel found in the latest Honda Accord sedan; simply due to the way the center part of the frame is designed. The Honda Accord is one of the best selling vehicles in the United States, known for its relatively sporty handling, but probably better recognized as a classic family sedan. So does it make it less exciting? Actually, why does it matter? The only thing its eleven inch diameter in conjunction with this form factor limits you from is establishing a so-called ‘crotch grip’ when you are cruising on your cross country trip, eating up the miles on a completely flat highway at close to speed limit, while your wife is yelling at your two kids at the back. (Full disclosure: I own a Honda Accord, and this has never happened to me, since I am neither married nor have any children.)
Of course, personally, I would have much preferred a standard diameter racing wheel close to a real racing or touring car, but keeping in mind this is a budget racing wheel, I am going to keep that complaint to myself. Furthermore, when you are attempting to nail a perfectly negotiated drift around a corner in DiRT 3 at a hundred miles per hour, you are probably going to keep your hands at the ten and two position -- which I find the Genius Speed Wheel 6MT perfectly accommodating in this regard. The wheel physically rotates up to ninety degrees left and right. While it does not simulate the one and a half turns or so in either direction on real cars, you are probably never going lock to lock in game at speed anyway.
The red on black accents used on the Genius Speed Wheel 6MT gives the product a nice sporty appearance. Across the middle is a series of buttons created obviously with physical symmetry in mind. This racing wheel is designed mainly for PS3 compatibility, as you will see from the button labeling. That said, it is also compatible with both PC and Xbox. On the left side of the Speed Wheel 6MT, we have a D-pad. In the middle, starting from the left, we have Select, Menu, Start, and R2. On the right side of the Speed Wheel 6MT, a D-pad designated in standard PS3 form (Triangle, square, circle, and X for top, left, right, and bottom, respectively) will definitely send you looking for your button designation conversion table if you are using anything other than your PlayStation. Genius’ logo in the middle is not a horn if you depress it; not that I have expected it, haha.
Overall, the button quality is pretty average. I don’t expect severe service endurance like your favorite console game controller used for Call of Duty, and neither should you. Of course, you are probably not going to use the Genius Speed Wheel 6MT to play Call of Duty either, so at the end of the day, this is not a realistic usage scenario. On the other hand, these paint on these plastic buttons are probably prone to wear and tear, and based on my past experience with this kind of manufacturing process, sooner or later the raw plastic underneath will make its appearance.
Taking a look at the right side of the Genius Speed Wheel 6MT, you will find a shift stick, along with the right paddle shifter mounted behind the wheel. As I have mentioned in the introduction of this review, the Speed Wheel 6MT, contrary to what its name suggests, does not actually come with an H-pattern shifter found in cars designated with a six speed manual transmission. In other words, this is no Logitech G27, but again, it comes in at a fraction of the price. Furthermore, the sequential shift stick tilts in three directions -- L3 for front, R3 for back, and L1 for right -- rather than just towards the front and back.
Two plastic flappy pedals, designated L1 and R1, are located behind the left and right side of the wheel, respectively. They are curved outwards towards the user’s hands for easier usage, but they are significantly smaller in height than your favorite pseudo-manual automatic or automated manual vehicle in real life. Again, there is not a whole lot of substantiality when the paddle shifters are engaged by the user -- expect more of just an electronic click -- but this is only a complaint if the Genius wheel is several times more expensive than what it is now. In other words, this is perfectly acceptable for the money the company wants for this gaming wheel in my personal opinion. By the way, if you have been paying attention, yes, there are two L1 buttons.
What’s a racing wheel without the pedal base? Actually, I have owned some really cheap, made in China wheel when I was twelve years old without a pedal base, but that’s another issue. Again, contrary to what the product name suggests, this “6MT” racing wheel does not have a clutch pedal. This leaves two floor mounted pedals -- one for the gas and one for the brakes, obviously. In case you are a female driver reading this review, the one of the right is gas and the one on the left are brakes (Just kidding!). The face of the pedals has a limited tilt angle to accommodate gamers of differing physical stature and equipment setup. For the sake of authenticity, real racing pedals are better off being metal rather than plastic like it is here, but again, price is definitely something we need to keep in mind.
Five small rubber grips on the bottom of the base are designed to keep it from sliding around while you are handling Bergwerk on the Nurburgring. I have tested it on hardwood floor, which is a pretty ideal surface, and frankly, it does not grip. If you rest your foot accordingly on the dead area on the pedal base, you should not have any problems. But if you drive it like your real car, and nail the pedals back hard, do not expect a whole lot of resistance.
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The setup process is pretty simple and intuitive. A non-detachable cable with an end resembling a phone jack originating from the pedal base connects to the left side of the racing wheel. The length of that cable is 155cm from my measurements. During usage, I found that a bit short; lengthening it to about 200cm is probably more desirable. A non-detachable USB cable originating from the wheel connects it to your computer. That cable is 210cm long according to my measurements, which is pretty reasonable in my opinion.
A pair of C shaped clamps locks your Genius Speed Wheel 6MT to your table. I found it to be a pretty secure method, and works well on a variety of surfaces. This is very important, because this is a force feedback product. The downside to it is the retaining hand screw protrudes only a limited length, so if your table is too thin, it will have trouble locking down the wheel. This was a problem in my setup shown above. To alleviate this problem, I folded up a piece of cardboard, and put it between the retaining hand screw and the bottom of my table. This effectively thickens the table to allow it to be locked properly. With all this said and done, I am ready to play.
The Genius Speed Wheel 6MT is quite literally a plug and play device. I did not really need to bother with the installation media on my Windows 7 Professional machine. It detected the wheel as an Xbox controller, and that was that. Next, I fired up some racing games for testing. I gave Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, which is more of an arcade game, as well as Shift 2: Unleashed, an arcade/simulator mix, a shot. After weeks of testing, I got all my impressions set.
Firstly, let's start off with the wheel. As I have mentioned earlier on in this review, the Speed Wheel 6MT only rotates 90 degrees left or right (Half turn lock to lock, in automotive terms). Right off the bat, we know it does not simulate a real life wheel, since most cars are in the area of two and a half. That said, you can't really make a full turn at speed anyway, so being a budget wheel and all, I think this is a perfectly acceptable compromise. However, I had a hard time adjusting to the Genius Speed Wheel 6MT, not because of its rotation angle limitation, but because of its non-linear sensitivity. You can rotate the wheel a good ten to fifteen degrees left or right, and it does not do anything to the input. Once you are past that point, it suddenly becomes sensitive at an exponential rate. This means it does not feel completely linear past that point, which makes driving simulation quite a challenge to adjust to. For most people, it is probably easier to drive a car in real life than to play on your PC or PlayStation simply because of this design limitation. On the other hand, its vibration feedback works pretty well.
The brake and gas pedals are a little better in terms of analog response, but still exhibits similar characteristics as the wheel. You can press it down about 15-20%, and you will not see a whole lot going on, if at all. Once you are past a certain threshold, acceleration and deceleration will become available. Generally speaking, I found it fairly hard to modulate the throttle and the brakes. It is probably a bit more linear than the steering though. However, my biggest complaint is not the pedal response linearity -- most of the time, you will just be mashing the gas and the brake to the floor anyway. As I have briefly pointed out earlier in this review, the base has no grip on the floor, which may require some adjustment to for most users.
For an MSRP of $89.99 USD and retailing for about $75 at press time, the Genius Speed Wheel 6MT is a product that will appeal to casual racing gamers on a budget. From its full featured button layout to universal system compatibility, the Genius Speed Wheel 6MT even offers vibration feedback. This is definitely a welcomed addition to something at this price. Sure, it has a ton of room for improvement, nor is it really '6MT' as its name suggests. But unlike the rap song "Black Acura', the Genius Speed Wheel 6MT is definitely a wheel for people who like to speed in the virtual world. I can go on about its shortfalls and ding the Genius Speed Wheel 6MT for it, such as its small diameter, only half turn lock to lock, not exactly linear steering sensitivity and throttle input, as well as the pedal base that has almost no floor grip. But for $89.99 MSRP and less than that in retail, does it still deliver a racing experience for people who are not so hardcore on their equipment? Sure it does, and in my opinion, this is what that matters. At the end of the day, for the money you are paying, you are getting a force feedback gaming wheel, with both paddle shifters and a manumatic shifter, and a dedicated brake and gas floor module. If you are a casual gamer interested in some racing titles, pick up a Genius Speed Wheel 6MT and don't worry too much about your next credit card bill. You can always get something better later on, but remember: They will all take a load off your wallet.
Genius provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
6/10 means A product with its advantages, but drawbacks should not be ignored before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 6.0/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
The Genius Speed Wheel 6MT serves as a good choice for casual racing gamers looking for a budget gaming wheel.
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