Back in October of last year, Seven Star Garage owner Oliver Aquino offered to lend us one of his racing rigs. Needless to say, we were all quite stoked at the idea of having something like this right in the office. We could all use it to have a little bit of fun at work, and video games should be able to help with the recovery of our editor-in-chief.
Funnily enough, over the span of four months, he wasn’t the one using it most of the time.
Shamelessly, I have to admit that this racing rig sure does beat the experience of playing racing games back home on the couch with a controller. And if you want a custom-built sim, feel free to reach out to Seven Star Garage on Facebook.
Now, onto this specific rig. The entire setup is about 1.34m long, 1.48m tall and 1.32m wide with the keyboard deck swung out. There’s a carpet that acts as your “safe space” so others don’t disturb you and to ensure that the frame doesn’t scratch the floor. A standard rig costs about P30,000. It comes with a seat, a screen deck, a keyboard, a mouse and a shifter mount. You can also get a “light rig” for P25,000 that only has a seat and a screen deck. Alternatively, you could always have one custom-made.
As for the screens, the speakers, the racing wheel, the pedals and the PC (or console), you’ll have to provide them yourself. Seven Star Garage also sells Thrustmaster peripherals.
For those wondering, these are the parts used in this particular rig:
- Speakers – Creative Inspire M5300
- Wheel and pedals – Thrustmaster T150 (with T300 pedal pads and modified brake pedal spring)
- Primary display – Kogan 34-inch ultrawide monitor
- Secondary display – 15-inch Philips monitor
This configuration is meant to be used with a PC. There’s a dedicated swing-out tray for a keyboard on one side, and a secondary monitor mounted directly above the primary screen that’s meant to show your stream chat or display a mini map of the track that you’d be driving on. It’s configurable, so you can do whatever you want with it (except if you’re using a console).
Installed on the PC is iRacing, one of the most authentic and (subjectively) hardcore racing sims that I have ever played (so much so that I was slightly intimidated about using it for fear of “ruining” Oliver’s game credentials). Instead, I hooked up the office’s PlayStation 4 console and mostly played Gran Turismo Sport with it. My colleagues preferred it as well as it was far easier to set up, and there are no personal accounts to mess up.
So, how was it?
Firstly, the “cockpit” greets you with an actual car seat. Without going into specifics, it is vastly more comfortable compared to the hard plastic chairs you’d usually see on arcade machines like Wangan Midnight or Initial D. This means you can play for as long as you can keep going because of the soft cushions. It’s no bucket seat, but you can have one installed if you have wallets deep enough for it.
Having an ultrawide monitor is kind of essential for having an immersive experience. The dedicated 2.1 speaker setup with a subwoofer significantly helps with the realism, which can be silenced with headphones if you don’t want to disturb others. If you can’t find a good ultrawide monitor, any 16:9 monitor or a small TV will work.
As for the steering wheel and the pedals, I can only speak of how the included Thrustmaster T150 performed. It is one of the entry-level enthusiast controllers, and I can only sing praises of how it feels compared to a typical arcade machine. Force feedback was great, and I even had to dial it down as I tended to get exhausted fighting the tiller after completing half a Nurburgring lap.
Now, I know that most people would agree that getting into racing sims is somewhat cost-prohibitive for most of us mere mortals. For example, the popular Thrustmaster T300RS will already set you back by roughly the same price as one of Seven Star Garage’s light rigs. Though, if anything, it was extremely nice to be able to dip my toes into something I wouldn’t normally be able to afford. If you’re a serious player, having a dedicated rig is definitely one of the biggest things you can invest in to enhance your gaming experience.
As for me, I’ll stick to trying to find a damn PlayStation 5 that isn’t absurdly priced by scalpers so I can play Gran Turismo 7 when it comes out (even if the game’s release is delayed to next year). But as far as gaming experiences go, this racing rig really did come close to being “The Real Driving Simulator.”