Simagic Alpha Review | 15nm Direct Drive Steering Wheel
This is the long awaited and hotly anticipated Simagic Alpha, the latest offering from Simagic, who brought us the surprisingly good and massively successful M10 in January of this year. I’ve been lucky enough to be using the Simagic Alpha for over 9 months now across many sim titles and also for competitive use, and as resellers are preparing to launch sales of the Simagic Alpha on their websites, I’m delighted to be able to share this worldwide exclusive long term review with you. I’m Laurence, welcome to the channel!
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Simagic is a Chinese company which uses authorised resellers around the world to distribute Simagic products. For those of you who watched my Simagic M10 review earlier in the year, you may remember that although the M10 was new to all of us, it had been on sale in Asia for some time already. The same holds true for the Simagic Alpha, which has also been on sale in Asia for some time. This has many benefits for Simagic, as they could identify teething issues early and deal with them in a much more scoped way. Obviously, we’re at a stage now where Simagic is happy with the product and is ready for a worldwide rollout. I’ve included a list of authorised resellers in the description below, and here they are on screen. Note that some resellers are not taking orders until they have stock.
The Simagic Alpha is a 15NM torque wheelbase which is currently only compatible with PC. Lack of console support is largely due to the licensing costs involved with console compatibility. On paper, the increased Torque is the main difference between it and it’s sibling, the M10, which provides only 10NM of torque. However, the differences go deeper. For example, although the Alpha has 15NM or torque, I usually end up running it at about 40% or 50%. So the question begs to be asked, why not just save some money and buy the M10? It’s very important to answer this question before I go any further. You see, the M10 uses a more affordable stepper motor, whereas the Alpha uses a 3-phase servo motor. The biggest advantage of the servo motor is that you get even more smoothness in your steering inputs and reactions. Where some M10 owners and users have highlighted that you can feel a slight notchiness in the steering wheel inputs at low speed, There’s absolutely no notchiness with this wheel. It’s smooth as silk. I will do a full comparison between the Alpha and the M10 in a future video.
The following prices may fluctuate as resellers set the prices. The base unit alone will retail in europe for approximately 1250euro/1350 USD. The full package with GT1 rim will cost around 1650euro/1750 USD and the package with GT4 rim is set to cost around €1750/1850 USD. Again, these prices include taxes and are subject to change, and ultimately set and controlled by the resellers of the products. HERE
We are straying out of the entry level Direct Drive market here, and those of you who are familiar with the prices of DD wheel bases will note that the price for the base unit will be very similar to that of the simucube sport and the Fanatec DD1. By the time you add your steering wheel and quick release to your Simucube or Fanatec unit, you’ll definitely not come in cheaper than the 1650euro price tag of the Simagic, so that’s worth considering when budgeting for your DD wheel.
This is a very nice looking piece of hardware, in my opinion. The sleek metal finish is very pleasing and seems to be extremely high quality. It’s passively cooled, as in, it doesn’t have a built in cooling fan. The motor is cooled by its contact with the outer casing. This casing does become warm but not too hot to touch. The surrounding fascia for the shaft is made of real carbon fibre which is a lovely touch. There’s a green light with the Simagic logo on it to indicate whether the unit is powered on or not. I’d like for this LED to be hidden or at the rear of the deceive, or even customisable so that I could fit it in with my colour scheme. I’m just knit picking though, it’s not that bad but looks a little bright and out of place.
Unlike the M10, the branding on the wheelbase is much more subtle, which really does add to the premium look that they seem to be going for with the Alpha. Your power and USB cable come out of the left face of the unit. At first, this seemed a bit odd to me as they’d be a lot tidier at the back. However, when I installed it on my rig I was very grateful as the lack of ports at the rear means that I could push my wheel away from me without worrying about the cables hitting my rig and potentially bending. This may not be ideal for people who love super tidy cable management but as you can see, I don’t invest much time doing cable management.
The other side of the wheelbase features a CAN-BUS USB port and peripherals SAFE-B port. This gives a strong indication that Simagic is likely to release peripheral products in the future. If the peripheral devices will be anything like the M10 and this wheelbase, then I’m extremely excited about the possibilities. They recently released this photo of a pedal on their social media. We’ll have to wait and see.
The power supply is relatively small for a DD unit. The Alpha also features a handy inline power switch. I’ve mounted this relatively close to my wheel and use it as a kill switch, if needs be. Although a proper dedicated kill switch, like the simucube or fanatec offering would be nice to have.
- Installation – Hardware
Installation is relatively straight forward provided you have mounting holes for a fanatec wheelbase. Unfortunately, the Alpha doesn’t come with its own metal brackets like we saw with the m10. This may be a concern for some, although it suited me. I don’t know what the wheel mount options will be for profile rigs at this point in time. They recently released a dedicated bracket for the Alpha, but not all resellers will have them in stock. However, I’m assured that all resellers can get them even if they don’t list them on their website.
The front face of the unit features mounting points which could be used for front mounting or for mounting button boxes. these mounting points sit in a 9cm square pattern. The lower mounting points are tapped so an M8 bolt will fit perfectly. The upper mounting points are not threaded so will require a nut to secure your mount.
The wheelbase is pretty heavy for its compact form factor. It weighs <8.x>KG. It will scratch relatively easily if you’re not careful.
- Installation – Software
Software installation is simple. The software is a simple executable which doesn’t need to be running once set up on your system. I recommend trying the default settings on your favourite sim, without any setup adjustment, and you’ll instantly be able to enjoy a glimpse of what the wheel has to offer. Just make sure the Simagic software has force at 100% and that you adjust your force feedback strength in game. That way at least the game gets access to 100% of the force of the Alpha.
You can easily apply new settings without exiting your game which is really nice, it allows you to change settings pretty much as you’re driving so that you can feel what exact effect it is having. That’s really handy for anyone looking to experiment with settings on the fly.
- Steering wheel options
The Alpha uses the same shaft and quick release as the M10, meaning that the GT1 and GT4 rims both fit and communicate wirelessly using Simagic’s wireless technology. The GT1 comes in round and D shaped offerings. The GT4 is their formula style wheel rim. Note that these wireless Steering Wheels don’t work on other wheelbases, but there are wired alternatives available and you can contact your local reseller for more information.
I love their quick release so much that I actually did a dedicated video on it which I’ve linked in the cards above. Both of Simagic’s wheel rim styles are extremely high quality. They feature brightly backlit buttons. The ones on the GT4 are customisable where the GT1 rim lights are limited to Red only. The rotary encoders on the gt1 could be better, and I’d love to see a directional hat on the GT1 rim as they’re pretty essential for making adjustments on the fly, and expected on a high quality sim wheel rim these days. The GT4 rim has 2 of those directional hats which also act as encoders and they’re absolutely brilliant. The buttons have a beautiful luxuriously sprung throw to them and the toggles are clean and clear. Both wheel rims have carbon fibre magnetic shifters. I’ll be reviewing both of those rims in a lot more detail in a future video. They’re by far the highest quality ‘stock’ rims I’ve ever seen on any sim racing wheelbase.
You can connect and disconnect the steering wheel rim without needing to plug any cables in or out. You don’t even need to charge batteries as the Simagic wheel rims receive power directly from the wheelbase. For all intents and purposes, it’s a wireless system, but there are small pins built into the quick release which transmit the power to the steering wheel base. This makes for a very pleasant experience for those of us who like to use multiple Steering Wheels, or even those who like to take the steering wheel off when exiting their rig and best of all, they don’t have power restrictions or concerns so they can have those lovely bright illuminated buttons, which is a huge benefit over many other wireless steering wheel offerings. This illumination is lovely and useful especially if you tend to drive in a darker room, like I do. They’re beautiful during the day too though. The startup sequence on the GT4 rim alone gives me a great sense of pride in owning one.
Of course, any aftermarket USB steering wheel will also work with this and you can buy a Simagic quick release for about €90. Do note that the QR only suits wheels which have a flange which allows you to fasten bolts in the direction of the quick release as shown here with my Cube Controls Formula CSX 2. If you wanted to mount an Ascher wheel like this f28-SC, you would need to fit a flange or bolt from the inside of the wheel outwards. If you look at the Simagic wheels you’ll see that the quick release is fastened from within the wheels housing which is a little tricky if you want to change it.
- Force feedback
The 15nm of torque is instant, crisp and more than enough for most high end sim rigs. I run the force feedback at 50% or less and even at that it’s very heavy, but very rewarding. When you hit a wall, you had better let go of the wheel. It sounds like a joke, but it really isn’t.
The thing that I like the most is the feeling of the suspension moving and warping under the car. Crests and bumps breath immersion into my experience and more than anything else, this wheelbase allow me to correct mistakes before they happen. Having the ability to easily and accurately correct mistakes like slides or lockups gives you more confidence to race on the edge.
There’s a kill switch of sorts in the form of an on/off switch. I’ve only ever had to use this once, after I had a Logitech wheel connected to my PC and forgot to change the force feedback settings. I’m glad I had it, but would love the option at least for a dedicated kill switch.
- Build Quality
The materials used for the Simagic products suggest that no expenses are spared. The gt1 rim alone features carbon fibre, leather and high quality stitching. It is substantial in weight and feels like a Very established product, as if it was lifted out of a real race car. The GT4 is no different, with lovely heavy clutch paddles and tremendously convincing click when you shift which may be a bit loud for some, but perfect for others. The base looks well thought out and it’s clean and easy to mount and use.
- Teething issues
As i mentioned at the start, I’ve been using this wheelbase for over 9 months now. Luckily for me, their main upgrades have been software and firmware upgrades and the internals have all largely remained the same.
There’s no flex in the quick release, although I did experience some vertical movement in the shaft itself on my particular wheelbase. Simagic offered me a replacement but I declined. My wheel comes from the first batch and subsequent batches, I’m told, no longer have this issue. The issue isn’t big enough for me to go to the effort of boxing it up and sending it back. The problem is so subtle that it’s actually very difficult to catch on film. I’m simply telling you this for transparency, but I have been assured that this issue is isolated to the first batch of these wheels.
Another issue I experienced was an odd wheelbase overheating issue. As some of my viewers on my livestream witnessed, I was losing wireless connection to my wheel After extended periods of use. This was incredibly frustrating but after some back and forth with the Simagic team, they sent me new firmware versions for both my Steering Wheels and wheelbase and once we got it sorted, the issue hasn’t happened since, even with subsequent firmware upgrades.
I must say that in both scenarios I got exceptional service. However, I must note that I was dealing directly with Simagic whereas anyone who buys via a reseller is expected to communicate directly with the reseller. I fear that the level of service that I got simply cannot be offered by a reseller, so this is worth noting.
- Final thought
I’ve often told people that the Alpha’s little sibling, the M10 is the best value Direct Drive package on the market, and I still think that that’s the case. However, the m10 is not perfect and the issues that the M10 has are polished and corrected with the Alpha by using a smaller, more attractive form factor along with a silky smooth servo motor. The price of the Alpha is higher as you would expect, but still considerably lower than competitors like Fanatec and Simucube’s offerings, especially by the time you add a wheel rim and quick release.
If you’re looking to get into Direct Drive for the first time and have the budget of €1650/$1750 for a relatively plug and play base and wheel rim package, then I have no doubt that you’ll be absolutely delighted with the Alpha, as I am. I’ve had it for over 9 months now and absolutely love it. It’s a complete, no fuss package.
Which brings me to my next point. Simagic has listened to so much of my feedback and iterated their products and firmware to constantly improve and make them even better. This type of openness to feedback and quick reaction time to get the improvements to market is very exciting. Granted, not everyone will be able to communicate with them like this, but in the past year we have seen rapid software and hardware iterations which show that there is massive commitment and investment on their side. I think that this will pay off for them in the long run.
As for support, well if you have any issues, you need to contact your reseller rather than contacting Simagic directly. This is quite a common policy found in many lines of business. But it may seem a little odd to some buyers who are nervous about trusting this new and relatively unproven brand. I’ve not seen many issues from people who have bought from Simagic before. Reliability is obviously high on the radar for Simagic, but no products are perfect.
I worry a little about the availability of stock. It seems like there is no clarity surrounding release dates or shipment dates of batches. On a similar note, I also have concerns over the fact that there are unauthorised resellers who sell and replenish their Simagic stock regularly. The question begs to be asked, how do unauthorised resellers keep getting stock, while people who buy through authorised avenues struggle to get their hands on their products.
Simagic recently launched their website which was well overdue. It looks really nice and professional. I don’t know if they’ll ever sell directly through their website but for now, their resellers seem to be doing an excellent job. I’ve included a list of them in the description below.
I think that most people who buy a Simagic Alpha will be so happy that they may never change their steering wheel base or rim again. That’s a bold statement but it’s quite true. I’m living this right now and if it wasn’t for this channel, I don’t think I’d be too tempted to change my wheelbase any time soon. I’m lucky enough to have access to more expensive hardware but an upgrade is very hard to justify.
Simagic have been hinting at expanding their eco-system. They have posted sketches of pedals and emergency stop buttons. They have expansion and accessory ports built into the wheelbase, and I think that they’re just setting themselves up to grow and grow. If they organise themselves correctly, they will establish a very loyal fan base.
In the wheelbase space, this Simagic Alpha ticks lots of boxes. It doesn’t quite have the big torque figures of it’s competitors, and in this game, those torque figures matter. At least, they matter to consumers in the same way horsepower figures matter, but in general they also equate to clarity and granularity of force feedback. I hope that some day they release a 25Nm wheelbase and really put it up to the professional grade competition. They have provided us with a beautiful piece of sim racing hardware with fantastic wheel rim options and a sublime quick release system. So much so that most sim racers wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the Alpha and a Fanatec DD1 or a Simucube 2 Pro in a blind test. But that’s for another video.
Let me know what you think in the comments below. Don’t forget to subscribe and give a thumbs up. I’ll respond to every comment personally. I’m Laurence and thank you for spending your time watching my video, I’ll chat to you later.