Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hardware Review - Ferrari Thrustmaster F430 Wireless Controller

Okay, let's get the most obvious thing out of the way... what in the world was this company thinking when they named themselves "Thrustmaster"?  Don't even want to google that, god knows what I'd see.  Keep in mind also, that I think this model is discontinued, but subsequent models are very similar and have the same features.

Anyway, I'm always looking for add on controllers for my rig - especially wireless ones.  The Xbox wireless (PC) controller I have is the gold standard.  It plays and feels great and there are gazillions of combinations to program its use in MAME.

So how does the F430 compare?  It doesn't, EXCEPT for one important feature.  It's has an optical dial/wheel.  This could be very important if you don't have a spinner on your MAME machine.  There are many, many games that require a spinner for full enjoyment: Tempest, Forgotten Worlds, Xybots, Caliber 50 are some of the great games that use a spinner or rotary joystick and almost all steering wheel driving games.

The controller sets up easy enough and has all the buttons the Xbox controller has, but it just doesn't feel or play the same.  The buttons are mushy and sticky, the R2 and L2 are in weird positions and the analog sticks feel flimsy (insert Thrustmaster joke here).  BUT, it all works fine and does have the benefit of wireless(ness).

The one big feature, the optical wheel, is wrapped around the D-pad where your left thumb goes.  It doesn't move very far clockwise or counter (about 90 degrees total), but you can program the sensitivity in MAME.  It'll take some getting used to playing Omni shooter type games where you walk around with the joystick and aim with the spinner, but it works.

So, my conclusion is that it is not a great controller and suffers in comparison with the Xbox one.  However, if you don't have a spinner or steering wheel, it serves that purpose and still does the rest of its job adequately.  In my opinion, you need to have a wireless controller for fun in emulation (not just MAME) - so get the Xbox one.  THEN, if you don't have a spinner/rotary dial, get the Ferrari Thrustmaster F430 (or its successor).

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