Cube Controls F-CORE | Long Term Review
There are some high end brands in sim racing who are so established, that people often know that they want one of their products, before they actually decide on the exact product. Cube Controls is one such brand, combining italian style with the incredibly high standards that sim racers expect. This is the brand new Cube Controls F-CORE and I’ve been using it for the past few weeks. I’m Laurence, welcome to the channel.
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It’s incredible how much Steering Wheels mean to sim racers. More than it does to most real race car drivers. That’s because we are our own race engineers and need full control over everything in the car. If we don’t adjust something, nobody else will. We also have the unique opportunity to drive multiple cars and sims which means that one steering wheel needs to cater for a lot. So needless to say, when Cube Controls told me about this 290mm steering wheel with both wired and Bluteooth wireless functionality in the same unit, I had to get my hands on one. That’s right, this is normal Bluetooth. You don’t need to own a simucube device. People are constantly asking me for steering wheel recommendations for VR and I have hopes that this one ticks almost all of the boxes.
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
The unboxing experience is really nice with Cube Controls products. There’s a lot of attention to detail in the packaging and everything from tooling to sticker sheets is taken care of. The packaging materials are luxurious and you’re instantly hit with a carbon fiber face plate. One thing that strikes me about Steering Wheels these days is that they’re getting more compact and lighter without losing rigidity. This one piece die-cast aluminium housing is practically bulletproof and the carbon fiber front plate ensures that there’s zero flex in this wheel. The quality shines from it and it extends to the grips which remind me of the excellent grips on the CSX3 which I reviewed a few months ago. Having spent a lot of time with the CSX3, my expectations of a Cube Controls steering wheel are really high.
I always dive straight into the price of hardware because for most, it’s a huge factor in whether they can or can’t buy it. All the priced I mention include taxes. This steering wheel starts at around €550 which is exceptionally good value for a steering wheel of this quality and pedigree. They also offer a hub which you will only need if your quick release is NOT 50.8mm bolt pattern or if your quick release bolts don’t allow you to bold into the back of the steering wheel. For me, I installed an NRG style quick release so I needed this €70 hub to provide enough clearance for the bolts going into my quick release. That brings the total up to around €620. For me, if you do standing starts, clutch paddles are an absolute must. They are an added extra too though and bring the price up to just shy of €750. So the costs add up but in later sections I’ll be checking out all the features in great detail.
- Installation – Hardware
Installation is a breeze. The clutch paddles came pre-installed and so did the hub. So at least when you pay extra for them, you don’t have to install them yourself. I simply used 3 bolts to attach my 70mm quick release and that was that. For connecting to the PC, the Q-Conn cable is excellent. I have one of these on the CSX3 and I love it. You’re not limited to a cable here though, as this steering wheel features Bluetooth connectivity too. So you simply hold this yellow button while powering on the steering wheel and hey presto, you’re in Bluetooth mode. You’ll see the blue light flashing at the top right. So this steering wheel also has a battery in it and that charges with, you guessed it, the Q-CONN cable. They really can’t make it any simpler. I wish all wheel manufacturers were this forward thinking. There’s a battery status warning light on the top left. The battery lasts quite a long time and even if you connect the Q-CONN cable while driving in Bluetooth mode, it wont trigger USB connectivity so you can even do it while in game without worrying about the PC getting confused.
- Installation – Software
There’s Cube Controls software to configure things like calibration for your shifters and clutch paddles. You can also assign a rotary to be able to set the clutch paddle bite point without needing the software. However, I had some issues with clutch paddle calibration and assigning it in iRacing. It’s a little finicky with the Cube Controls software. I believe you can also do it with simhub but I didn’t see the option. This definitely needs some refinement, but as it’s a software issue, I’m confident that it will be resolved soon. It seems like I can only adjust the clutch bite point when the cubesetv7 software is running. However, while the software is running, I can’t use the clutches in game. As I say, it will probably be sorted soon. In fact, they’ve already sent me a new version of the software which I haven’t been able to try yet.
That aside, You can set the encoder pulse width which basically means that you can ensure that you get the right number of inputs per movement for your preference. You also need to add this wheel as a Bluetooth device if you choose the wireless option. This is pretty simple and even a basic Bluetooth adapter seems to do the trick. I didn’t get any latency or disconnection issues but I would recommend having your Bluetooth adapter within 1 meter of your steering wheel and in direct line of sight.
- Buttons & Switches
The buttons on this steering wheel are quite different to previous Cube Controls incarnations. The overall size is somewhat larger than before. There’s not a lot of travel on the buttons but there is a very clear and tactile click which meant that I was very aware when the button click tool place. There’s enough resistance on the buttons to prevent accidental double clicks and their positioning is well within reach of your thumb at all times. There are dips and groves on the plastic bezels which surround the buttons. These do hide the carbon fiber a little but from a practicality point of view, I always knew which button i was pressing without needing to look. The buttons are colourful but not backlit.
The switches are great. They light up when activated and that green backlight is not customisable. It makes them perfect for things like pit limiter or lights. I’m happy to see Cube Controls still using this type of switch because it really does add an element to the immersion. It’s not just another button.
- Rotaries and 7-way hats
This wheel features a good number of rotaries for its price point. You have the two obvious ones on the lower middle of the steering wheel which are slightly more difficult to reach and probably more suited to adjustments like abs or traction control. They have a crisp detent and are relatively small. They’re a really nice high quality plastic material which at first glance looks like a metal. There are also two thumb rotaries and these are really nice. They’re easily accessible from both the front and the rear or even both which makes them ideal for sensitive adjustments like brake bias. They sit proud of the steering wheel and are very easy to find and use. With a clear detent and well sized grooves for your fingers to latch onto, these thumb rotaries are pretty perfect.
Finally, the 7 way hats are excellent. We call these 7 way hats because they have 7 inputs. 4 for directions, a rotary function and a click down function. They have very clear directional movements and are very easy to click down without activating any of the other inputs. Despite being quite short, I didn’t have any issues using the rotary functionality but some people may find this a little more difficult if you have larger fingers or wear gloves.
- Shifters & Clutch paddles
The shifters are nice and compact. They’re a nice blend of the same high quality plastic we saw on the rotary encoders. Honestly, I had to examine them in detail to determine that they weren’t aluminium. The paddles on the shifters are carbon fiber plate with really nice little holes for your fingers to latch into. There’s a lot of adjustment available and this is really welcome. The paddles are tactile but not particularly loud. They’re definitely not clicky. They are confident and accurate. However, they are a little bit high up on the wheel for me in their standard configuration. I like the shifter to be around the vertical center of the wheel so I ended up flipping the shifter paddles upside down which makes for a more comfortable shift in my opinion.
The clutch paddles have similar adjustment available and the added ability to alter the end of the throw means that you can be clinical in your launches. When in their default position, they’re far away and cannot easily be mistaken for shifter paddles. One thing of note is that the clutch paddles are modular and not exclusive to the F-CORE. They’re known as the PRO clutches and are fully aluminium and carbon fiber. These clutch paddles are the same as the ones you find on all of Cube Controls’ flagship Steering Wheels.
These grips have a familiarity for me. The material is not too hard and not too soft, but the most striking thing is the shape of these grips, namely the depth which like the CSX2 and CSX3, reminds me of holding a weapon. There’s not one part of my hand that isn’t making contact with the grip and that gives incredible confidence and control. As you can see in the footage, grips like this are susceptible to hairs and lints sticking to them. They have enough grip to be very accurate without gloves but when you use gloves, your hands mold to the wheel. There’s plenty of space for larger hands too. I really like these grips.
- Final Thought
What looks at a glance to just be a new version of the formula sport range, actually has some nice little tricks up its sleeve. The main one for me is the Bluetooth functionality which is built in as standard. I have a cheap ebay Bluetooth adapter and it seems to work just fine with no latency. This greatly increases the potential target market as they’re not limited to a single manufacturer protocol like Simucube’s SC2 wireless. The USB Q-CONN cable is magnetic and doubles as a charging cable. They have offered us the best of all worlds here without needing to worry about which wheelbase you’re using.
The size of this wheel is 290mm which is for me is right in the sweet spot between formula and GT style driving on a simulator. The aluminium body and carbon front plate are beautifully crafted, with no shortcuts taken. Just look at how minimalist the rear housing is with its smooth edges and subtle branding. The front plate has smoothened edges too which catch the light beautifully. The logo on every Cube Controls wheel is hand painted. There’s a real air of something special around this. Couple this with the fact that it comes from the EU where labour costs are significantly higher, I think this represents good value for money, albeit not for everyone.
Larger buttons make for great practicality although I’d love to see them being backlit. Adding the black stickers makes the buttons a lot more subtle. However, I think the biggest thing about this wheel is that It’s pretty much perfect for VR users. In fact, I think it was designed specifically for them. The buttons are all perfectly within reach and the 7 way hats are exactly where they should be, despite being a few millimeters shorter than I would like. The grips are sensational and the thumb rotaries are the best ones Cube Controls has ever produced. The use of plastic on high end rotaries usually causes quite a lot of backlash at higher price points, but this plastic is so good that it’s difficult to tell apart from anodised aluminium. If I was forced to find flaws, I’d love 2 more thumb rotaries and two extra rotaries on the front plate, but I’d expect to pay extra for them.
The shifters are clinical albeit a bit high and I highly recommend spending the extra money on the PRO clutch paddles if you do standing starts. If you never do standing starts or have excellent foot clutch control, you don’t need them. All in all, I think that this steering wheel, even with all the bells and whistles attached, represents excellent value for money. It’s lovely visually, but it’s even better practically. If I used VR, this would be my weapon of choice.
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 <> 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