Asetek Forte Wheelbase & Steering Wheel Review
One of the most hotly anticipated wheelbases of 2023 has arrived. Asetek has a reputation for quality and reliability in the cpu and gpu cooling space and a hardcore passion for racing. As with most sim racing companies, they believe they can do it better than the competition and today, we’re going to take a detailed look at their first attempt. I’m Laurence, welcome to the channel
Product link: https://www.asetek.com/simsports/?aff=LDusoswa
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There is an air of anticipation and hype around this brand, partly due to their own effective and credible marketing videos, many of which feature their CEO Andre who is the main driving force behind the brand and the vision. Asetek has many potential customers who are ready to pull the trigger on this wheelbase. It seems that many of the limitations of Simucube’s SC2 wheelbase have been addressed and improved. Asetek Simsports did a deal with Simucube early on in their journey where they acquired some of Granite Devices’ IP. Many things have changed over time and it seems that what we have in front of us is actually quite different from the Simucube offerings. As a point of reference, I will be referring to the 17Nm Simucube SC2 Sport, the 15Nm Simagic Alpha and the 16Nm Moza R16 throughout this review. The Forte wheelbase is an 18Nm unit so the expectations are relatively high.
I am currently in the process of reviewing the Invicta wheelbase also, but this review is focused on the Forte range. It will be safe to assume that the Invicta will have all of the features of this wheelbase but will feature more dynamic range.
All of the products in this review were sent to me free of charge for the purposes of this review and nobody other than me has had any say in the content of this video. The links to this product and its competitors in the description are affiliate links and if used will earn this channel some money at no extra cost to you.
- First Impressions
Asetek loves to give a good impression. I guess we’re at the stage now where the marketing has planted a seed and it’s time to harvest the crop. Firstly, the package presentation is beautiful. The cardboard used is very luxurious and the unboxing experience is pleasant right from the transport boxes down to the little boxes for the add-ons. Packaging doesn’t mean a lot to many people but at this price range you buy an experience as well as a product.
There were a lot of boxes, but luckily Asetek makes it quite easy for those waiting for their packages to do some prep, with these super short and useful installation and configuration videos. I watched these videos once, a few days before the packages arrived, and although there was quite a bit of work in it all, it was very intuitive and easy to remember. I’ll go into a bit more detail on that in a later section.
Once on the rig it is a visually impressive package. The slightly retro styling is not to everyone’s taste and I must admit that it looks a bit like Optimus Prime had a lovechild with a D-Box motion actuator. I must say though that it’s growing on me, but it’s quite easy to get my attention with customisable RGB.
I’ll discuss the force feedback in detail in a later section but despite a somewhat rocky start, this is a really good driving experience in the simulators that I tried.
This is a premium offering so it’s never going to be an entry level price tag. This is aimed at real racing drivers and hardcore sim racers, so with a €1.085,28 price tag for the base and a €671,84 price tag for the steering wheel, this bundle will cost you €1757.12 before you get it mounted on your rig. With a choice of 4 mounts, everyone is sure to find a good solution. I really like that they’ve thought about so many different mounting solutions. My pick of the bunch is the front mount which becomes a part of the wheelbase with a small amount of DIY. I was dubious at first, but it looks really good on my rig.
To put this €1750 package into perspective, a comparable Simucube SC2 Sport package with the Cube Controls Formula Sport comes in at nearly €1900. When you put it in those terms, the Forte’s extra torque and more feature rich steering wheel make it a very attractive option for almost €150 less .
- Installation – Hardware
I never really like when the first step of an installation means that I have to take a brand new product apart. However, it was my choice to front mount this unit. I could easily have base mounted it using the pre-installed t-slot nuts which are a very useful addition which greatly improve your rig mounting options.
The front mount just looks so good. It does however lack a bit of height. Where Sim-Lab and others have a kink in the front mount to bring it above the uprights, the Asetek front mount is straight across which means that I couldn’t easily get it to the height that I need it at on my rig. For most rigs though, I can’t see this being an issue. I use a seat mover so my seating position is somewhat raised. I love that they’ve allowed for different widths by allowing simple adjustment with a spanner and an Allen key. Getting this centered is a bit of work but worth it. I’d love if there were intuitive notches or markers on the front mount so that you could center your wheel without needing a measuring tape or similar.
One of the things I love most about the front mount is the built in kill switch and power switch. The power simply powers on the base when pressed and powers it off on a long press. The kill switch or emergency stop immediately disconnects USB connectivity and requires you to press the power button again to activate. If you don’t put these switches in the front mount, you can easily mount them to the rig in their original casings. However, if you are mounting them to the front mount, so care is needed. You see, the rear of the switches is completely exposed to the elements. This is something that I’m sure Asetek will address in the future but for now, it’s a bit of an issue. A tug of a USB cable or a tool slipping during adjustment can be disasterous. I found this out the hard way when I managed to crack the entire black aluminium threaded housing. This really needs to be sorted out soon.
Another thing that needs a little bit of fiddling when using the front mount is the quick release itself. You see, the front mount intersects the wheelbase and you need to offset the QR otherwise it will be very recessed into front housing. This requires 4 bolts but there’s no clear marking for where this QR should sit, so there’s a bit of trial and error involved unless you take measurements.
If you do want to front mount this unit, you’ll have to buy the Asetek front mount as it will not fit any of the competing front mounts at this point in time. That being said, the design does lend itself to easy installation as the nuts that hold the casing in place anchor nicely into the front mount allowing you to confidently offer up the bolts and get everything installed.
I’d also like if they provided a simple base mount drilling template for your rig to make base mounting a little bit easier for those who don’t have the correct pattern in their base plate.
The clutch paddles and extra upper paddles were surprisingly easy to install with absolutely no wiring needed. Clutch paddles are a must if you do standing starts and the upper paddles are very handy for things like pit limiter and flashing your lights at people with inferior Steering Wheels.
- Installation – Software
One of the most important things about our sim racing hardware is actually the software, and Asetek have impressed in that area in the past. I think that they’ve continued that trend here with in app prompts for updates, although you do still get redirected to the website to download a new executable file. It would be nice if that was seamless, like they’ve done for the wheelbase firmware updates. Visually, I loved the graphic on the invicta pedals software which gave a 3D image of the pedals. I’d love to have something like that for the wheelbase too but right now you get a fairly basic graphic that only shows your rotation.
When it comes to force feedback settings, I think they’ve done a very good job to make it accessible. I’d love a few default profiles for different sims but I’m sure they will be rolled out in time. The basic mode is actually really handy and inviting for those who are put off by too many sliders. For those who do want that element of control, the advanced mode gives absolutely everything I needed without being overwhelming. I do find the Simucube software a touch on the technical side but this interface does a good job of explaining what stuff is.
When you make a change to the settings, a ‘save’ button becomes enabled at the bottom right. This save button simply persists the profile but be aware that pressing it will cause major lag spikes within your game if you’re driving. So if you’re making an adjustment mid race, this is something to be aware of.
Strangely enough, when you make any changes to the steering wheel like LED colours or clutch bite point adjustment, you don’t get a save button. The LEDs work great out of the box in some sims and are synced up perfectly. In some other sims though I had to manually set the redline limits but thankfully this was made relatively easy as you can do multiple selection and the interface is quite intuitive. When changing the backlighting colours you can also select multiple LEDs at a time and then assign a colour. Although there’s a limited selection of colours, they cover pretty much every colour that you might need. Still though, it would be good to have a colour picker here to choose any colours imaginable, like you can with some of the competitors.
You cannot customise or preview the flag lights which is a shame. You can onlu enable or disable them
Finally, and it’s just a software setting that we don’t have access to, but I’d love if the wheelbase didn’t go into a sleep mode where you just get rainbow colours. I would prefer if it just stays the colours that I have set because part of the reason I love hardware like this is because of its visual impact. Having fading rainbow patterns on my right really ruins the look that I love. Yes I’m very aware that this is a first world problem.
All in all, this is a first attempt and we need to bear that in mind. By the time this video releases, some of these improvements may already be in place.
- Build quality
The build quality here is difficult to question from my experience. Everything fits very well in general. The only lack of quality that I experienced other than the unfinished rear sides of those buttons when installed on the front mount, was the quick release.
I found that if you push hard in the underside of the steering wheel, you do see the paddle of the QR moving. You have to exert a LOT of force to make the Forte wheel QR pop out of place but it is something that sows a seed of doubt for some. Honestly I cannot see this level of force being applied in any racing situation unless your motion rig tips over during a crash
The second QR that I got and used for rally, drifting and some MX5 racing has this issue a bit worse than the Forte QR. My biggest worry here is that there also seems to be a small gap between the male and female sides of the QR, so there’s some annoying play in the generic quick release. I’m sure other reviewers will pick up on this too.
In fact, Asetek issued a statement to announce that they have halted ALL shipments of wheelbases until the issues are resolved. Yes, that sucks for those of you who are waiting patiently, but you cannot question Asetek’s commitment to quality and making it right. I’m still not sure if this is a quality control issue, a badly machined batch or a design issue. Personally for me, the massive force needed to force an accidental release of the steering wheel isn’t an issue but I know that stuff like this is important to sim racers. I’ll let you all argue in the comments whether this is a real issue.
The more serious issue we will all agree on is the clunky play in the generic quick release. This is being addressed and Asetek wants to assure everybody that nobody is going to get a less than perfect QR.
- Quick Release
Despite the concern about the QR having a flaw as mentioned, I have put it in the ‘build quality’ section on purpose and am confident that it will be resolved.
That aside, this quick release is up there with the best quick releases I have ever used. I must stress again that the spontaneous release issue does not manifest itself in any driving situation that I put it through.
There are many reasons to be enthusiastic about this innovative quick release. Firstly, you can take off or put on a steering wheel with 1 hand. Even my 6 year old son can do it. Secondly, you cannot seat this unit incorrectly so there’s no need to worry about bent pins or stuff not being connected. Lastly, this wheelbase can transmit power to the steering wheel which makes for a very as feature rich and battery free experience.
This quick release looks very like the Simucube SC2 quick release and that has good reason, but what they’ve done has improved it vastly. I actually feel like Simucube is lagging behind right now and if I were them, I’d consider buying some of Asetek’s IP soon unless they’re already working on something else in the background. This QR eliminates the clunky pin which Simucube’s SC2 Range still uses to this day. It just feels old school and unnecessary despite being functionally sound. Asetek uses a little paddle which is very user friendly. It moves with the steering wheel but doesn’t stick out very far so I wouldn’t worry about this touching your monitors or dash display hardware.
The quick release is very satisfying to remove and probably my favourite quick release for wheel removal. Putting the steering wheel back on is not quite as rewarding as some of the competitors but again, I’m splitting hairs over a fundamentally first world problem.
One aspect of the QR that I was really hoping to review is the third party integrations which is an absolutely genius move and will ultimately be the biggest play that Asetek make in this industry. They have opened up their QR system so that steering wheel makers like GSI, Cube Controls, Ascher, etc can ship their Steering Wheels with an Asetek QR pre-installed. This opens up the entire market for them as it doesn’t tie people in to coming up with their own solutions for USB or wireless connectivity.
- Steering wheel
The steering wheel LEDs are great, but the lights being beside the buttons is a little disorienting to be honest. At least, they are taking me some time to get used to. I mainly drive in the dark so I’m a huge fan of a backlit button. None of these buttons have lights on the button itself which is a shame. Some people will not care about this, especially those who use VR, but I do. I must say that this is one of the best VR Steering Wheels on the market. The funky switches are nice and clear and within reach of your thumb. They could be closer to your thumb but in practice, their location wasn’t really an issue for me.
There are loads of scroll wheels but no traditional thumb rotaries. Honestly, I didn’t miss them at all. The detent on the scroll rotaries is crisp and tactile. The movement is small enough to be able to cycle multiple times in one movement but large enough to clearly count how many times you’ve activated it. Having 6 of them on hand is excellent and I found myself using them a lot for frequently used black box screens or ARB adjustments. These scroll wheels are all vertical scroll wheels. The 3 main rotary encoders on the centre of the steering wheel are nice and tall which isn’t the most visually appealing, but is incredibly practical.
There are two clearly identifiable switches at the top which are ideal for lights or wipers, however, they don’t move up and down like you would assume. They don’t move left and right either. They move diagonally which is a little but odd. I found myself putting far more force than I should trying to press them up and down during my first few stints, but as time went on, I got used to it.
Overall it’s clear to see with the steering wheel where cost savings have been made. The plastic rotaries and thumb rotaries perform exceptionally well. At this price point, some people will expect aluminium parts instead of plastic. You do get an incredible crushed carbon button plate housing and carbon weave front plate. This means that there’s absolutely no flex which I know that some of you really care about.
The grips are really comfortable and functional both with and without gloves. Asetek built this wheel to cater for alternative larger and smaller grip options in the future. I absolutely love this idea. Expect to see aftermarket products on Etsy in the coming months. They do suffer a little from lints and hairs sticking to them but that’s only really an issue if you’re a cat owner and make 4K Reviews b-roll footage.
The buttons have a clear click to them. They’re a bit smaller than some competitors but easy to reach. They’re good but not exceptional.
The shifters are plastic but have a great shape to them. They’re easily adjustable and I adjusted them to their outermost position as I found that to be the most comfortable. I have the additional paddles for both the clutches and additional inputs above the shifters. While I once thought these to be a gimmick, I’ve learned to like them on other Steering Wheels and even miss them when I don’t have them now. They’re not the best feeling shifters out there but above all, they’re very dependable.
Although it isn’t currently mentioned in the software or manuals, you CAN adjust the clutch bite point in game by holding these two buttons and rolling the left funky switch. The clutch paddles are extremely useful and if you do standing starts, you are missing a trick if you don’t have some form of dual clutch launch control capability. It feels like cheat mode.
For future versions of this wheel, the La Prima will sacrifice some carbon and introduce some Aluminium and the Invicta will feature a hotly anticipated screen. Asetek acquired Ultimate Game Tech a few years back which hints that they will be using that platform. However, the world seems to be moving more towards simhub capable screens so it will be interesting to see what architecture they decide on when the time comes.
- Force Feedback
This is the big one. Firstly, let me start off by saying that there’s plenty of power on tap here. My benchmark for testing force feedback is the original Assetto Corsa and I instantly noted that it was going to need quite a lot of setup because what I was feeling and how I was feeling it wasn’t consistent with other great force feedback experiences that I have had, including the SC2 Sport and Pro. It is worth noting that I used this wheelbase at the Sim Racing Expo and really enjoyed the GT3 driving experience. In open wheelers in Assetto Corsa, it seems like the forces while cornering slowly are too weak and the forces while cornering quickly are too heavy. Turning up the ‘Slips’ and ‘Road’ feel does address this somewhat and I’m sure the hardware is capable of exceptional force feedback, I just didn’t find it with an open wheeler in Assetto Corsa. Even playing with the friction and corner speed adjustment didn’t address the issues that I was having. The low speed corners and understeer or lockups make the steering too light in Assetto Corsa, and the high speed corners load the steering up way too much. However, it’s worth noting that this could be due to my lack of ability to set up the wheelbase. I didn’t experience this issue on Assetto Corsa with most other wheelbases that I have reviewed though.
On iRacing and ACC though, the force feedback felt very much as I had hoped. In fact, it was incredible. There’s plenty of overhead to tweak the forces and how they are delivered and I’d love to have seen some more default profiles in here. The force feedback is clear and I can’t imagine most ever needing more than the 18Nm that are on offer with this Forte wheelbase. For context, I have tried the Invicta which is currently mounted to my rig and it is more powerful. It has an even higher level of detail, but the Forte is an exceptional bit of kit. If I were buying and got to try these side by side, right now the Forte is better value for money for me. I have been looking for every excuse to race recently and I feel that this wheelbase is a big factor in that. I look forward to the ecosystem offerings of the future especially wheel rim selection and third party quick release integration as they are key factors in whether this becomes my wheelbase family of choice. All I really want is a good round rim and button plate from them and I will be happy with that and the Forte rim.
Even at 18Nm, this wheelbase seems to have more than enough dynamic range available for exceptional force feedback and when I land on the right settings, I’m sure I will put it up there with the best. I think that what I’m lacking in the force feedback right now is either a settings issue or the fact that this is a very new wheelbase offering and it interprets the force feedback from sim titles a little bit differently to others. In some areas it’s extremely pure and stands out from the crowd and in other areas I think there’s some room for improvement. Again, it’s very early but as these are software configuration issues with either me or the wheelbase, they can be easily solved.
- Final Thought
This is a first attempt at creating a wheelbase by a company with a proven track record in a non sim racing discipline. Despite this being a first attempt at a wheelbase, we need to take into consideration that we have been promised a lot. We also got a lot when they announced and released 3 separate pedal sets including modular versions last year. Asetek has been very vocal in their opinions and marketing, which is why many of you wait with bated breath to hear all the positives, but some are just here for the negatives, so let’s start with those.
I did have some issues with this wheelbase. On day 2 of my testing I had a power failure which had it happened in a race, would have been disastrous and for whoever I crashed into. However, with a swift firmware update, this is not something any of you will ever need to worry about as it only affected certain sims under certain conditions. The reason I’m highlighting it here is because Asetek seems to have a team of engineers ready to address any software issues with great urgency, which is reassuring especially in these early phases. This power failure was in Assetto Corsa only where there was an exponential multiplier of forces which triggered a safety cut-off within the firmware. This type of exponential multiplier may also have something to do with the force feedback issues I had in Assetto Corsa.
There are some elements of this wheelbase and steering wheel which despite being an incredibly good first attempt, they do appear to have been rushed. Namely the lack of protection of the wiring on the power and connectivity emergency cut-offs which are brittle and hacky as they stand. I even managed to break on despite being super careful. Anything software and firmware related can be fixed at a later stage if necessary. The power and connectivity kill switch buttons are really nice and rewarding to click.
The Forte rim quick release is incredible during use, but the way that paddle moves when you push upwards on the rim is slightly concerning and plants a seed of doubt. I hope they get this sorted asap. The front mount is excellent although I’d love if they had a slight step in it so that the wheelbase would end up higher. This is just a limitation of my rig which means that I cannot achieve the exact driving position I want unless i ditch my seat mover and lower my screens. The clunk in the generic QR is worrying and I have made them aware of that issue. I expect that this will be addressed asap as it was very unpleasant while driving.
The placement of the LEDs beside the dark buttons makes them a little difficult to locate in the dark. This is something you can get used to and one could argue that you shouldn’t need to look at your buttons at all while driving. But if that was the case, we wouldn’t have backlighting in the first place i guess. Other than that the LEDs are glorious though. The rev lights are lovely and bright and the accents on the base itself give my whole setup a very imposing look. I’d love if you could customise the colours of the power and connectivity kill switches too but I can’t see that being an option unless they change the hardware in those switches. In the future, I’d also love to see the LEDs on the base being customisable for flags or even spotter communications when there is a car on the left of right.
I’m not too keen on the styling. It doesn’t look like the focal point of my sim rig, and maybe I’ve just been spoiled for choice in the past but the looks don’t really make an impression on me. I felt similar with the Invicta and Forte pedals but they walked the walk when it came to the things that they promised to deliver. The LEDs definitely add a lot to the aesthetics of the Asetek lineup.
All in all the experience of driving and setting up this wheelbase and steering wheel is very pleasant. At times the force feedback is amongst the best I’ve ever used, especially in iRacing and Assetto Corsa Competizione. The original Assetto Corsa, which I feel has the best force feedback of them all, still needs some work. There’s an air of quality about this brand and they are very serious about being the best. They’re not afraid to take constructive criticism and have proven their ability to pivot and adjust their trajectory. I think that like Simucube, Asetek will gather massive communities of people who regard their products as the pinnacle of the industry. It is important to remember that this is a first attempt, and if we look at the aforementioned competitors: Simagic, Moza and Simucube, this Asetek wheelbase offering is already far ahead of where the competition was at this stage in their journey. As there are still some unknowns, and because there was a limited window for product embargo for this product, this has not been a long term review like most of my other Reviews. That’s why I have chosen to do a long term review for the Invicta wheelbase as I can experience firmware updates and more seat time before releasing that review. Most of what was said in this review will apply to that wheelbase also, and most of what I will say in my future long term Invicta review will also apply to future firmware iterations of the Forte.
Should you decide to buy this product, I have included links in the description which when used earn some money for this channel. There’s no obligation to do so but your support is appreciated immensely. Details about other companies with similar benefits are also listed. I’m Laurence, I stream every Tuesday and Thursday at 9pm UK/Irish time. Thanks again to Asetek Simsports for making this review possible and to you for taking the time to watch, hit the thumbs up or comment with your experiences or opinions. I’m Laurence, and I’ll chat to ye later