As I already own, and am very
happy with, a Saitek analogue gamepad, I was excitedly
awaiting the chance to try out their force feedback wheel,
the R440. As can be seen from the pictures, this wheel looks
very futuristic, with brightly coloured buttons and a
distinctive shape. The pedals are also immediately very
striking with them being top-hinged (something I shall
The wheel itself is primarily black, with grey rubber
attached on each side for better hand grip. It is a shame
that the rubber does not cover the entire wheel, as those
who prefer to grip the wheel at the top or bottom may find
their hand slipping if they are prone to sweaty palms whilst
driving. In the centre of the wheel are 4 LEDs, which
apparently is a variable torque display. When you are
driving you donít notice them at all, but they look pretty
standard with most wheels, there are two paddles behind the
wheel for gear changes. These feel solid enough and will
take a fair battering from those who shift their gears
aggressively. There are also four buttons on the wheel, with
two on each side. These are situated near the rim of the
wheel, which makes them very easily accessible. This is of
course very useful for when one of the buttons is assigned
the handbrake control, as this function needs to be
reachable at all times. One or two drivers may find that the
buttons are in the way of their grip, however, which may
cause them to accidentally press them whilst driving. Having
one red and one yellow button on each side makes it easy to
visibly differentiate between them if you have to look to
make sure you press the right one. They are also different
in shape, making at easy to tell which button you are
pressing by feel. It is little touches like this that make
it obvious that Saitek have done their research.
One very definite plus point to this wheel is the size. The
wheel is of course a standard sized wheel, but the actual
whole unit is really quite compact, which allows for easy
storage. There are actually four parts to this wheel, as
opposed to two (wheel and pedals), which is found in most
others. The pedal unit has two sections which need clipping
together, and the wheel has what is basically a separate
clamp to attach it to the table. I think the reason for this
is so that the wheel can be packed into a more compact space
I have to give praise for
the clamping system, it really is very simple yet very
effective. The clamp has only one screw in it, but the
top of it has a large surface area, giving a secure hold
that allows the wheel to be really thrown around if
necessary. The single screw also makes it very quick to
attach, which is very good if you have to put your wheel
away after every time you play. There are also rubber
grips on the bottom of the wheel unit, which adds to the
grip, and also ensures that your table will not get
The pedals supplied with the wheel are unique in design
because they are top-hinged, like the pedals in a
standard road car. This makes both pressing them down
and lifting off very comfortable. However, the springs
in the pedals are very weak, which leads to it being
difficult to have accurate control over your level of
braking or accelerating due to a lack of resistance.
This is a shame, as with testing this problem should
have been noticed. Grip on the bottom of the pedal board
is great, and I didnít notice any slippage at all.
I had no problems with setting up the drivers and
software required for the wheel; it is simply a case of
following the on-screen instructions. As with the other
two wheels I tested, the intensity levels of the force
feedback effects were fully adjustable, and it is worth
taking a bit of time to set these to your own personal
preference. One very good touch with the set up of the
wheel is the ability to test the force feedback with a
variety of different effects. This is excellent for
checking that everything is working without having to
start up a game. Software is also included for changing
profiles from game to game. As with all the other
wheels, I didnít use this as all of the games I played
allow you to change your controls in game. Pretty much
all driving games have this facility, so I doubt I would
ever use it. It is nice to have it there if necessary
I was initially staggered by the sheer strength of the
force feedback in this wheel. It really blew my mind
that Saitek have managed to cram such a powerful
mechanism into a wheel unit so small. Of course a
fantastically powerful force feedback is unnecessary and
sometimes downright ridiculous in some games, but the
effect levels can simply be turned down for these. It
is, however, very nice to have the capability there for
The wheel is operated using digital optical technology.
This means that the wheel contains a digital
potentiometer, which measures the angle through which
the wheel has been turned. This gives the wheel superb
accuracy and precision, which is obviously necessary as
it gives the user better control over the vehicle.
The light steering of the wheel hampered it somewhat in
this game. This is because it led to jerkier movements
as it is too easy to turn the wheel. Once I had gotten
used to it I managed alright, but I still struggled to
maintain the smoothness I can achieve with other wheels.
The force feedback effects are excellent and you have to
really fight the car with the levels turned up. For the
optimum performance, however, the effects need to be
tamed a little, which was of course easily done. I
struggled a little with the pedals here, as the weak
springs made it difficult to really feel how much force
I was applying to each pedal.
Colin McRae 04
This wheel really is excellent for this game. The force
feedback effects are superb, with every bump in the road
being felt. The lightness of the steering is a massive
advantage, as it makes it very easy to make the quick
adjustments required in rally driving. The placement of
the buttons really comes into play here as they are easy
to reach, making handbraking (when the handbrake is
assigned to a button) simple and quick. The wheel also
feels very solid, and I was quite happy to chuck the car
around safe in the knowledge that the wheel would stay
Need For Speed Underground
Using this wheel for Need for Speed really is a lot of
fun. This is mainly due to the strength of the force
feedback effects, as they really due convey the feel of
the road. To feel the wheel rumble when driving over
cobblestones really is something else. The pedals are
the only thing that lets the control of this game down,
being as they are light. It doesnít matter as much in
this game as it does in F1 Challenge, though.
Nascar Thunder 2004
As with F1 Challenge, the lightness of the steering lets
the wheel down in this game, as jerky movements are too
easy to make. This is especially true for Nascar
driving, as the cars should be heavy to handle. The
digital precision of the wheel is useful though for
ensuring the car responds exactly to the turn you make
with the wheel.
To summarise, here are the main pros and cons:
Futuristic good looks.
Amazingly strong force feedback.
steering makes it good for rally games.
take rough handling when necessary and stays firmly
screw on the clamp makes for very quick setup.
test forces before going into a game.
thing is fairly small for easy storage.
Steering is too light for track based driving games.
donít have enough resistance to give a realistic
four buttons on the wheel. This should be fine for
most games but the advanced racer may want more.
cable is not too long (about 1.5m), which may cause
a problem for those who have their computer body
further away from their wheel.
Logitech Formula Force GP
Logitech Momo Racing Force
Digital technology is excellent. Lightness of
steering and lack of pedal resistance can cause
Reasonable price gives good force feedback effects
and performance for the price.
Pretty good, although not quite as quick and simple
as with the Logitech wheels.
Works on all driving games Iíve tried, even older
Good performance on rally games and superb force
feedback. Lacking a little, however, when playing
track based driving games.
capable wheel, especially suited for rally
and arcade style games. Unbelievable force