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Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Steering Wheel

Microsoft's entry doesn't impress

About.com Rating 2 Star Rating

By

Although this isn't a terrible product, there are better choices out there for the same (or even less) money. The pedal unit really needs some improvements before the Sidewinder will make it to my recommended list of products but the force effects are strong and the programmable buttons are a great addition that make the Sidewinder an OK choice.

The Looks

The Sidewinder is a 10" plastic wheel with grey rubberized grips at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions. When force feedback is active the word "Force" glows green in the center of the wheel.

The pedal unit is lightweight textured plastic with realistic looking drilled gas and brake pedals.

Convenience

Plug everything in and my PC recognized it on the fly, installed the drivers for it and I was ready to race.

The wheel clamp is a "rocker" arm that pivots under the desk to hold the wheel in place. You tighten it down with a knob. The wheel also features a quick release handle but my experience with that is that the handle doesn't loosen the clamp enough. I still had to twist the knob down manually to remove the wheel.

The Feel

The Sidewinder seems to have only one way to express it's effects, all out. Getting the car a little loose off the corner in Bristol starts a wrestling match with the wheel that is overwhelming. I've never actually driven a NEXTEL Cup car at Bristol. But there is no way that the wheel jumps out of your hands like this when you get a little loose.

Also, although the Sidewinder has nice rubber grips at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions, I drive with my hand at the at the 1 o'clock position. This means I'm squeezing plastic instead of the nice grips.

The Sidewinder ships with Monster Truck Madness 2 so I tried out the wheel with that game. Strangely enough the over-the-top force feedback effects really add to the raw fun of a racing game like this.

The pedals look nice and are at a comfortable angle but are just too light. The spring tension on the pedals was also very light. This makes it very hard to feel the pedals under your feet and dance the car through the corner.

Other Features

The six programmable buttons and two fingertip paddle-buttons are a great feature. This allows you to program any button to perform any keystroke. You can call up the standings, change air pressure, etc without taking your hands off the wheel.
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