The Shifter & Handbrake Guide: Dec 2022
Last updated: 7 December 2022.
In this article we will compare every sim racing stick shifter and handbrake on the market as of December 2022.
This article contains all the products from reputable manufacturers, but we have not included products from vendors on Alibaba because there is little reliable information on those products.
When it comes to shifters and handbrakes however, it is worthwhile looking into those options yourself as these are some of the least mechanically complex items of equipment in your sim racing setup, so it is simpler for non-specialists to manufacture well.
Most modern race cars use paddle shifters, but if you are into racing old school cars or road cars, then a shifter will certainly add to your immersion! And if you are into rally driving, then you will also be interested in a handbrake.
Whether it’s a budget Logitech shifter or a top end Aiologs sequential shifter with a satisfying, mechanical click when you shift, we cover it in this article. If there is a shifter or handbrake we missed, don’t hesitate to let us know by leaving a comment below and we will add it to our comparison tables. Your input is appreciated!
- Stick Shifters
- Quality of Build
- The Complete Stick Shifter Comparison Table
- Types and Sensors
- Quality of Build and Compatibility
- The Complete Handbrake Comparison Table
- Further Reading
You will need a stick shifter when you are driving old school cars or road cars. The most important consideration to make is whether you need an H-pattern or sequential shifter:
TYPES OF STICK SHIFTERS
- ♢ H-pattern. The type of transmission in manual transmission road cars, where each gear has its own slot. You also need to pay attention to the number of gears the shifter has, some have 4 + reverse, others 6 + reverse.
- ♢ Sequential. This shifter you can only move up and down, where clicking it shifts up, and down shifts down.
Note there are a few shifters that have both modes that you can switch between. However be aware that some just need you to flick a switch, while others require you to unscrew and replace the plate the stick fits in. So if you are frequently switching between cars, you may want a shifter that makes it easy to switch modes.
Also note that two of the shifters can double as handbrakes. Since you would only use this in rally driving, and modern rally cars use paddle shifters, it is a frugal choice.
Quality of Build
You should consider the quality of the build. The four factors are:
QUALITY OF BUILD FACTORS
- ♢ Resistance. The cheaper shifters will have a low resistance without much tension, while the top end will have a proper resistance.
- ♢ Mechanical feel. The click when you shift on a sequential shifter can be basic, or unbelievably satisfying.
- ♢ Materials. All the sticks are metal, but the box and its internals may be all metal or a combination of plastics or metals. The knobs themselves can be metal, plastic or even alcantara.
- ♢ Noise. Depending on your living situation, you may want to minimise the noise.
Lastly, be aware of the compatibility with platforms. Most shifters are only compatible with a console if they are attached via a wheel base that itself is compatible with that console. Note that Playstation requires a security chip to be placed inside the wheel base. Xbox requires a security chip inside the wheel rim.
Some shifters are compatible with a console if they have a special adapter. Regarding PC, almost all shifters are directly compatible, but some need to go via a wheel base or they too need a special adapter.
Also double check that the shifter you are buying is compatible with the games you intend to play.
THE COMPLETE STICK SHIFTER COMPARISON TABLE
|Sim Characteristic Racing|
|Logitech Driving Force Shifter||SHH Newt Shifter||3DRap Pikes Shifter||Heusinkveld Sim Shifter Sequential||Aiologs Sim Shifter Sequential||Thrustmaster TH8A Shifter||BJ Steel Shifter 3.0||Fanatec ClubSport Shifter SQ V1.5||Simagic Q1S||Thrustmaster TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod||VNM Shifter V1||Frex HShift 6Speed+R||Pro-Sim Quaife PSL Sequential Shifter V2||V2 JINX Sequential Shifter||Pro-Sim Quaife H-Pattern Shifter||Simmaster Sequential Shifter***|
|Very Low||Low||High||High||High||Very Low||High||Medium||High||Low||High||High||High||High||High||High|
|N/A||Switch||N/A||N/A||N/A||Replace Plates||N/A||Switch||N/A||N/A||Replace Plates||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
Types and Sensors
While shifters will find wider use, handbrakes are mainly used in rally driving and drifting. Given that, it’s only wise to invest in one if you plan on playing these styles a lot, particularly so for rally driving. Do keep in mind that the Thrustmaster TSS Sparco Mode sequential shifter doubles as a handbrake, as does the VNM Shifter V1.
There are two main types of levers:
TYPES OF HANDBRAKE LEVERS
- ♢ Vertical lever. The resting position of the lever sits upright, and you pull back on it.
- ♢ Horizontal lever. The resting position of the lever is forward and down, and you pull up and back to use it.
Note most models enable you to switch between a vertical and horizontal lever.
Handbrakes use springs, load cells and/or hydraulics to provide resistance. You may have heard the term load cell before? Well, yes, the best sim racing pedals use load cells to process pressure as the input on your pedal. Similarly to pedals, handbrakes use four main types of sensors to determine how hard you have pulled your lever:
TYPES OF SENSORS
- ♢ Potentiometer: Measures the position of the lever and uses a mechanical sensor.
- ♢ Hall Effect: Also measures position but uses magnets as sensors and thus has fewer mechanical parts than the potentiometer, and is less prone to wear and tear.
- ♢ Load Cell: Uses a transducer, a device that converts one form of energy into another, which in this instance converts pressure into an electric signal.
- ♢ Hydraulic Pressure: A high-end sensor that converts hydraulic input into electrical impulses.
Load cells and hydraulic pressure offer a more realistic simulation, but sensor and resistance type will have a mild impact on your performance at best. This variability is far more relevant to pedals.
Quality of Build and Compatibility
Regarding build quality and compatibility, see above. The same that applies to shifters also applies to handbrakes.
THE COMPLETE HANDBRAKE COMPARISON TABLE
|Sim Racing Characteristic|
|Aikeec Universal Handbrake||Fanatec Clubsport Handbrake V1.5||3DRap Akina Handbrake||Aiologs Hydro Handbrake||BJ Sim Racing Handbrake||Heusinkveld Handbrake V2||VNM Handbrake V1||Meca EVO Handbrake||VNM Handbrake V1.5||Thrustmaster TSSH Sparco Mod||Simtag Hydraulic Simulator Handbrake|
|Hall Effect||Potentiometer||Potentiometer||Potentiometer||Load Cell||Load Cell||Load Cell||Load Cell||Load Cell||Hall Effect||Pressure|
We hope this article guides you along your sim racing journey, from the rickety seat of an old VW Golf with a H-pattern shifter, to the dirty windscreens of a Subaru Impreza in its natural habitat. This specific guide is intended to give you an overview of all your options, but be sure to do further detailed research when you seriously consider a specific one.
Note that Simplace is a marketplace for all sim racing and flight simulation equipment. From wheel bases to steering wheels to pedals to shifters, we stock gear from many of the big brands including Moza Racing, Trak Racer and Innato. Check out our selection of handbrakes and shifters here.
Note that we have also up-to-date guides for the following:
> A Beginner's Guide to a Sim Racing Setup: This article provides an overview of your entire setup.
> The Wheel Base Guide: A comparison of every single wheel base on the market. We show the torque, platform compatibility, price and other relevant information in tables.
> The Steering Wheel Guide: See types of wheels and the other considerations when buying one.
> The Wheel Compatibility Guide: See the bolt patterns and QR Hubs of all the major wheel and wheel base brands.
> The Rig and Seat Guide: See the two types of rigs and the other considerations when buying one.
> The Shifter and Handbrake Guide: A comparison of every sim racing stick shifter and handbrake on the market.
> The Pedal Guide: A comparison of all the budget and entry-level pedal sets, and the most popular mid-range and high-end pedal sets on the market.
> How to Earn Money in Sim Racing: An overview of the various ways in which you can get income from your favourite hobby.