Playseat® Sensation Pro review on RaceDepartment

Playseat® Sensation Pro review on RaceDepartmentHardware editor AussieStig from RaceDepartment has written a great review about the Playseat® Sensation Pro. AussieStig is a big sim racing enthusiast and has written many articles for RaceDepartment.com, a well known sim racing and motorsport website that offers news, games, mods, hardware, forums and online racing events. In this review he discusses all the aspects of a race seat that are important to sim racing fans and gives his detailed opinion about our high end racing simulator.

Read the review below:

 

Late November it finally arrived – the newest offering from Playseat®, the Playseat® Sensation Pro. Whilst visiting GamesCom 2015 I had my first encounter with this evolved version of Playseat®’s earlier Top Gear® branded sim-rig. Although the basic design is similar to the previous iteration, this new version differs markedly from its predecessor and has some clever new design features to boot. This review is part one of a three part series which will include the AccuForce Pro DD wheel and Heusinkveld Engineering’s Pro three pedal set. Time to put this rig through its paces and see how it rates.

Design

Playseat® Sensation Pro

The premise behind this sim-rig is to provide the user with a true to life race car’s seating position. Having been lucky enough to have sat in a Blancpain series BMW GT4 car, I can safely say that this box has been well and truly ticked!

Actually, the whole rig has a racy vibe to it. The one piece polyester race seat is upholstered in a black alcantara-like material, which is adjustable by means of four bolts. Once loosened, this allows the seat to be adjusted for height and rake. In addition, a hydraulic adjuster under the right side of the seat affords the user with fore and aft adjustment.

With the exception of the pedal cage, this thoughtfully designed frame is made up of large gauged steel tubing, and has all the trademarks of a custom roll-cage. The more I look at this frame, the more details become apparent. For instance, on the right hand sides’ down tube there is a cut out at the top and at the base just before the first bend where you can thread your monitor or controllers’ wiring through it. It is this attention to detail that sets this sim-rig apart from many of the current crop of off the shelf rigs available today. It is a truly attractive rig to behold and it just screams out to be sat in!

Assembly

The Sensation Pro was delivered to me pre-assembled in what can only be described as a very large box, large enough to hold a small refrigerator! Included in this colossal box was a small instruction sheet for mounting the monitor stand and should it be needed, reversing the wheel mounting plate for high-end or bulkier wheels. Tie-rips, velcro and several hex headed bolts were also included.

The only assembly required was to attach the seat to its holding brackets by way of the four supplied hex headed bolts. In addition to this, the included monitor stand is an easy bolt on affair as is the optional shifter mount. The shifter mount can be mounted in three linear positions on either side of the rig. Depending on your brand of shifter, a majority of the major manufacturers drill patterns are represented.

Wheels and Pedals

Playseat® Sensation Pro

The Sensation Pro allows for the mounting of all of the major manufacturers’ wheels and pedals. Should your wheel have a large or bulky base, the mounting plate is also reversible, this lowers the height of the wheel by around four centimeters or nearly two inches. On the underside of the wheel assembly, you will find several pre-drilled and threaded holes which allow you to mount your wheel closer or further away from you. A really great feature is the hydraulically adjustable steering wheel assembly, which is operated by a small lever on the right side of the rig that adjusts the wheel for height and rake but not reach.

The pedal plate has a myriad of pre-drilled holes and a handy centralised cut out for any wires exiting your pedals. This mounting plate is adjustable for rake but once again, not reach.

High End Wheels, Pedals And Shifters

Playseat® Sensation Pro

Playseat® Sensation Pro

Although I am focusing on the Sensation Pro, I will take the time here to mention the mounting of high end wheels, pedals and shifters to this rig.

In my case, when mounting the Heusinkveld Pro pedals, AccuForce Pro wheel and SHH shifter to the rig, l had to adjust a couple of things to get my ideal control and seating positions. As you can see in the photo above l made use of the optional mounting plate and brackets from HE, going to the absolute minimum rake on the Sensation Pro’s pedal mounting plate in order to attain a near horizontal position for HE’s plate. In the process I had to custom drill four holes in HE’s plate to get the brackets to line up with the Sensation Pro’s pre-drilled ones. This was an easy job and took me only a few minutes to carry out.

Mounting the AccuForce Pro wheel was super simple, I reversed the wheel mounting plate by removing the four bolts, flipping the plate upside down and reattaching it in the correct position for the wheelbase. Then I bolted the wheelbase straight to it by way of two standard pre-drilled mounting holes that would normally be used for Thrustmaster’s range of wheels.

The SHH 3D printed shifter’s clamping system required that I fabricate a plate to mount to the standard pre-drilled holes in the Playseat® shifter mount. This plate has a protruding section at its rear which facilitates clamping the shifter to it and gives me a very solid connection to the rig.

Wiring And Cable Management

Playseat® Sensation Pro

With everything mounted to the rig, I made good use of the feature I mentioned earlier. The wiring from the wheel to the control box and the USB cables from the control box and shifter going to my PC, were all routed through the hollow downtube this made for a very convenient and neat cable management solution. Furthermore, the supplied tie-rips and self-adhesive velcro can be used to tidy up any other unsightly wiring you may have.

GT Seating Positio

Playseat® Sensation Pro

Playseat® Sensation Pro

With the seat only a few centimetres or inches above the floor, the best way to get into the rig is to rest your hand on the horizontal edge of the seat opposite to where you are standing. Support your weight and then lower yourself into the racing seat while resting your free hand on the other horizontal edge. Once seated, simply swing your legs inside the rig. Having a fairly average build, 1.8 meters or around 6 feet tall and approx. 70 kilos or around 154 pounds, the racing seat whilst snug, is not overly tight on me.

I take a few moments to adjust things to my liking. First impression, I feel as if am once again sitting in that Blancpain BMW I mentioned earlier! The Sensation Pro has a true GT driving position, if you ever wanted to know what it is like to sit in a GT race car, this is about as close as you will get to that feeling of being cocooned in a real world cockpit without being there.

Playseat® put a lot of thought and effort into the shape of their seat, not only is it a true race seat, function has been taken into account as well. An example of this is that when you use a sequential or H patterned shifter, your elbows are not banging into the sides of the ergonomically designed seat. Turning the wheel, there is room to move when you are fighting to control power oversteer.

The Driving Experience

Playseat® Sensation Pro

Once everything was hooked up to my PC, I couldn’t wait to try this rig on for size! With some truly top-shelf gear mounted to the Sensation Pro, I was ready to sample all that goodness!

The time I took in getting everything properly situated certainly payed off, the reach to the wheel, shifter and pedals is pure GT racer and I could race for hours in this seat without fatigue. Having said that, the combination of HE’s Pro’s and AccuForce’s Pro wheel, driving is a more physical experience and so it can become a real workout. I am a fan of having to work a little more for a faster lap time, so I don’t mind this at all.

After acclimatising myself to the Sensation Pro, on goes the Oculus Rift and I opt for Assetto Corsa as my first title. In honour of the occasion and to echo the driving position, the BMW GT4 is my weapon of choice. I find myself at Nords. Having driven so many virtual laps of this iconic circuit, I was hoping for a new experience. That is exactly what I got, for me it is a true wow moment, immersion is through the roof, mate!

The first meters and corners are already enough to convincingly convey the illusion of being in a race car. There are many superlatives to describe the experience, one stands out more than most for me and that is ‘’realistic’’! It is without doubt the most realistic driving position I have experienced in an off the shelf sim-rig! You really do get that slightly claustrophobic feel from being in a racing cockpit.

You are hunkered down into the seat, your hands are where they should be at 9 and 3 on the wheel, your heels are slightly higher than your backside and the shifter is right there, it just is all so natural! I am literally driving blindfolded with the Oculus Rift on my face, but because the Sensation Pro echoes most of the cars I am in, it is almost 1:1 with what I am seeing in the rift which magically completes the picture.

Practically speaking, the heavier HE Pro pedals and AccuForce Pro wheel exert more force on the rig than a Thrustmaster or Logitech product would. Because of this, there is a small amount of flex in the pedal and wheel mounting points. Is this flexing an issue? The answer here is subject to objectivity, driving vigorously and braking heavily, the flex may annoy some, while others may be totally oblivious to it. A missing option is a keyboard holder, not a deal breaker, but missing none the less. Other than the keyboard holder and the small amount of flex, everything on this rig is rock solid and very well designed.

Pros

  • Extremely well thought out design
  • Very high standard of fabrication and finishes
  • Quality materials used throughout
  • Can accommodate many wheels, pedals and shifters
  • Drivers of varying sizes are catered to
  • Very little assembly required to go racing
  • Optional matching shifter mount
  • Ergonomically designed one piece race seat
  • Hydraulic adjustment for wheel and seat
  • Monitor stand included
  • VR racing ready, endorsed by AussieStig
  • Stable construction

Cons

  • Reasonably large footprint
  • Price point
  • Small amount of mounting point flex
  • limited availability
  • No keyboard holder option

General Specifications

Recommended drivers length:
Minimum 120 cm / 47 inches
Maximum 220 cm / 87 inches
Recommended drivers weight:
Minimum 20 kg / 47 lbs
Maximum 122 kg / 270 lbs
Dimensions (LxWxH):
150x63x94 cm / 59.1x24.8x37.0 inches (without Monitor stand)
150x63x116 cm / 59.1x24.8x45.7 inches (with Monitor stand)
Net weight: 38 kg / 83.77 lbs
Manual and warranty card included

Pricing

Down to brass tacks then, what does a Playseat® Sensation Pro cost? I will list the price of the reviewed model and the optional shifter mount separately.

These prices were correct at the time of publication, December 2015. All prices were taken from the official Playseat® webshop and include sales tax where applicable.

Review model regular price €1869,00 / $2199.00 / £1358,58

Optional shifter mount regular price €109,00 / $119.17 / £79,23

Final Thoughts

This rig for me is everything that is right with sim-racing right now, it replicates the feeling of a real cockpit environment. Real world racing drivers whom have sat in the rig have confirmed this fact. Additionally you can bolt on almost any wheel, pedal and shifter combination you can think of. For me, this rig is the perfect static sim-rig for VR racing. Would I recommend the Sensation Pro to a sim-racer who has a decent budget and is in the market for a new sim-rig? Yes, I would indeed! I believe the initial investment, although on the high side, could be justified by this rig’s quality and to my mind, longevity. It is such a solid piece of engineering, I don’t see why it wouldn’t stand the test of time and give its lucky owner a decade or more of sim-racing pleasure.