Italian manufacturer Cube Controls has unleashed their new premium steering wheel and it sure is a tasty one.
The way the sim-racing world has completely exploded in popularity over the past three years has been as fascinating as it has been gratifying to witness. Just something like the fact that the almost eight-year-old Assetto Corsa had sold just over a million copies before the pandemic and now stands at a breath-taking 13.8 million games sold, really says everything about how this genre has quickly become something other than a niche hobby for initiated racing geeks. With this, the amount of sim-racing products available on the market has of course multiplied and it is primarily the premium product segment that has grown the most in the past year. For those who are super serious about their sim-racing hobby, there are plenty of gadgets these days that hold exactly the same quality as components from a real racing car.
Italian manufacturer Cube Controls has for a number of years built some of the best premium wheels and with the newly released flagship CSX-3 they have taken another step towards what I would call perfection. Because this steering wheel is magnificent, there really is no other way to describe it. For the past three weeks I've been running only the CSX-3 in our racing rig and although I initially didn't think it could compete against the Fanatec Podium BMW Motorsports M3 GT3 Wheel in particular, it's up there fighting for the throne.
Cube Controls has not skimped on anything here, not compromised a millimetre. The steering wheel chassis is made of anodised aluminium, carbon fibre, and carbon fibre composite (graphite-reinforced polymer) and despite being Formula-small with a total width of 28 centimetres, the CSX-3 feels more spacious than all of Fanatec's Formula steering wheels of the same size. The feeling when you hold it in your hands is fantastic. The grips themselves are made of plastic, which at first I thought felt a bit... cheap, but after 50 hours with this fantastic wheel, I am convinced that this is the right way to go, as the plastic grips seem to last an absolute eternity and feel appropriately "soft" so that I can get a good grip with gloves on. I'm all done with alcantara, for example, that goes from "new" to "really rugged and old" in 50 hours, when it comes to steering wheels.
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The 32 buttons on the front of the steering wheel are of brilliant quality and the aluminium rotary knobs are of superb quality and feel very good in terms of resistance when you set the brake balance or the amount of "traction control" you want to use during an ongoing race. The rubber buttons are all illuminated and via Cube Control's own software it is super-easy to set specific colours and functions that allow the buttons to change colour at certain speeds or when the tires reach a certain temperature, for example. Perfect for the finicky sim-racing geek who wants to be able to customise every millimetre of their rig.
In the middle of the steering wheel is a 4" touch-LCD screen (800×480) that can be customised exactly how you want via Simhub, and at Racedepartment.com there are, as usual, thousands of different "dashes" to download completely free of charge for those who want replicate the look inside a specific race car. I've done my own graphics in Simhub's "Dash Studio" and can only say that the screen quality inside the CSX-3 is superb. Good pixel density, great maximum brightness, good blacks and good refresh rate. On the steering wheel we have reviewed there are six paddles on the back, two of which act as a clutch for those who want to drive Formula racing with a fully analogue gearbox, while the middle ones are of course gear selectors. The top paddles are an option that cost about £140 extra and apart from that I don't really know what to use them for, they feel well built and have been placed well, which means they don't affect overall impression or my grip around the wheel grips itself.
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The paddle shifters are the best I've tried on any steering wheel, ever, and have that distinct, Formula 1-esque "Click" to it. Right out of the box, I felt that the paddles were a little too far away from the actual grips, which meant that, despite my big hands, I was forced to "re-grab" my grip when shifting and in the end it led to me double-shifting at times. This required about 21 seconds of screwing with the supplied tool to fix, however, and as it feels today, it's the most pleasingly natural, high-quality wheel in the world of sim racing that I've ever tested. Cube Control's CSX-3 is a slightly expensive masterpiece for those who really won't settle for anything but the very, very best.
10 / 10
Beautiful design. Superb ergonomics. Fantastic materials. Rigid and stiff. Best shifter paddles on the market. Great LCD-screen. Very high quality cord.