Cube Controls Formula CSX2 Review
by Laurence Dusoswa
We all dream of high end hardware. I think it’s something that’s built in to every hobby. We like to think that higher end hardware makes us better at our hobby and to a certain extent that may be true. But I think it’s more than that.
Today I get to review one of the most impressive looking pieces of sim racing hardware on the market, The Cube Controls Formula CSX2. I’m Laurence, welcome to the channel.
Cube controls packages their products extremely well. They try to surround them with an experience, including trendy phrases on the box and making the unboxing of the product an important part of buying and owning a CSX2. The box contains a coiled USB cable, power adapter, some mounting hardware including a tweezers for sticker application, a manual, 2 sticker sheets, and the wheel itself which comes with a protective, branded, drawstring bag. It even comes with a Cube Controls T-shirt. You can specify your T-shirt size when you order your steering wheel. When I first grabbed the wheel out of the box, it was surprisingly light. I was expecting it to be heavier but it is largely made of carbon fiber and aluminium. And it doesn’t come with a quick release as that’s up to you to decide which wheelbase you’re going to fit it to. The wheel has some stickers pre-applied, but most of the stickering is left up to your personal preference.
It has a 4.3″ Ultimate Game Tech LCD screen, 13 backlit buttons, 6 along the left and 7 along the right hand side, 2 toggle switches, 6 rotary encoders; two at the top of the grips, two thumb encoders either side of the screen, and two on the face of the wheel, just below the screen. It also features a full 8 way directional joystick with integrated rotary encoder and click down. There are two magnetic shifters, and two clutch paddles. Finally, there’s a red rotary dial at the bottom left which allows you to control the clutch’s bite point on the fly. I’ll go into more detail on each of these later in this review. Unfortunately, there isn’t a wireless version of this steering wheel. there are just too many inputs for most systems to handle. For example, The Simucube wireless system, which some of the other Cube Controls GT and Formula wheels use, supports up to 28 inputs. That simply wont suffice for the CSX2, which sports an incredible 56 inputs. That’s pretty unbelievable.
The grips on the wheel are elastomer moulded using a Cube Controls Proprietary technology. I don’t know exactly what that entails, but it makes for fairly rubbery feeling grips. I’ve had steering wheels with a similar feel before and the first thing that crossed my mind was how dirty those other wheels got as any dust and cat hair just stuck to the grips. However, this is probably where that proprietary technology comes in, as the CSX2 doesn’t suffer from this problem at all. The level of grip that you get with bare hands is huge, and with gloves, it feels like the wheel is glued to your hands. The material is going to wear well, and wouldn’t look out of place in a real race car. This is not only down to the materials though, the size of the grips just seems absolutely perfect for the type of driving I’ve done with it. I’ve raced all sorts of open wheelers, from F1 to Indy Car to Skip Barbers and Formula 3. I don’t think that any other wheels I’ve used have fitted my hand this well. This was a real surprise for me, especially as I initially wasn’t sure about the material.
The buttons have a really short throw. They’re quite heavy, so you wont end up accidentally pressing them. The buttons are backlit, 4 red, two at the top and two at the bottom. There are two green buttons in the middle and the other 7 are all blue. They came up with a nice combination but I can imagine that many people would love the ability to change the backlighting like you can with some other wheels.The toggle switches are really discrete, and when switched to ‘on’ mode, they light up in red which is a really nice touch. Both the on and off positions register a shared input, so the input is perfect for things like headlights or even wipers.
The rotary encoders on this wheel are pretty perfect. Their feel is like no other encoders I’ve used. They’re really clear to the touch and the detent is crisp and accurate. While I'm waiting for others to grid up, i often just play with them because they really feel so nice. Their locations are good and it’s really easy to make adjustments on the fly. There are more than enough even for the most complex of requirements.
The 8 way encoder is pretty cool too. Where most other encoders, including the other ones on this wheel, register 2 inputs, one for when you scroll one way and one for when you scroll the other way, the 2 large encoders on this wheel actually have 8 inputs each. This is perfect when you have specific presets or scenarios that you need to select.
The magnetic gear shifters feel really good. Not too clicky, but still have a good throw so you have no chance of doing a double shift by mistake. The paddles and mounts are made from carbon fiber, and even sport a cube controls logo which you can barely see. They’re probably the same shifters that they use on all their rims, and I’m very happy with them.
Clutch paddles are one of those features that you never really knew you needed until you experience them. Clutch paddles allow you to release the clutch to a specific bite point to get the car rolling without breaking traction, ensuring maximum grip off the line. The paddles again are made of carbon fiber and feel really good, they perform extremely well. The real genius here, and what makes these clutch paddles a joy to use, is this little red dial. This allows you to adjust the clutch’s bite point on the fly. This is especially useful as track conditions may vary between sessions and your bite point may be slightly different. So at the start of every quali session, I do a few test launches and adjust the bite point. Although this dial is out of the way, I have occasionally hit it and changed my bite point by accident. I’d love if there was a mechanical lock on this dial to keep it in place as it’s not the type of thing that you want to accidentally adjust. The springs on the paddles themselves could be slightly heavier for increased accuracy.
The wheel’s main attraction is the 4.3″ full colour screen. The resolution of 480×272 doesn’t sound huge but it’s more than enough for its size and purpose. This screen is the Ultimate Game Tech V2 USB screen which is also used on some other steering wheels. This is the brain of the operation. All of the CSX2’s 56 inputs on this steering wheel are routed through the screen’s circuit board. When you load up your favourite sim title, the logo of the sim appears on the screen which is a lovely touch. I’d love to be able to change the image easily though as some of the images don’t take full advantage of the screen’s potential. However, this is something I’ve communicated with UGT who make the screen, and we may see it in a future software release. The screen is surrounded with 21 LEDs with colour and brightness control, using the UGT software. The UGT software is needed in order to use this wheel properly. It must be running but it’s not resource intensive. The software comes with several preset screen layouts, with so much variation that I haven’t felt the need to create one from scratch yet. However, you can clone an existing screen and customise it with lots of details like track name, car name, etc to make it completely personalised.
It’s really nice to be able to view your sector times, leaderboards, etc, easily and consistently between sim titles. Pretty much any textual into that you show on your on screen apps or overlays is available on screen, and you can easily map the buttons on the wheel to cycle through the various screens, so you can properly customize the way it works. You can include or omit screens per sim title which is a really clever feature. The screen alone warrants a detailed video. I wont go into the depths of the UGT software in this review as there’s so much you can change, and it is really well thought out.
Installing a quick release is super simple. I used a 70mm PCD quick release and I have secured it with the 3 supplied bolts. The flange on the back of the wheel housing makes installing your boss kit really simple. The location of the bolts is a little tricky due to the shifter and clutch paddles but it’s very manageable.
The wheel requires a mains connection for power as USB alone will not power it. Cube controls supply a branded adapter to split the USB 2 cable coming from the steering wheel. I didn’t get a UK plug on my power lead so I had to use a travel adapter which isn’t ideal, but works just the same. The coiled USB cable is more than long enough for my needs. However I do have one issue with this system. There’s no on/off switch. This seems like a very basic oversight in my view. I have relayed this to Cube Controls and I expect to see a power switch on future versions. Where the USB cable connects to the wheel rim is effective. However, the materials don’t seem as high quality as you may expect from a top end sim racing product. I’d love to see some metal parts used here.The Ultimate Gamer Tech software installation is really simple. It auto-detects your games and automatically discovers your wheel provided it’s plugged in correctly. As mentioned before, I advise mapping a button to switch between screens. The top right rotary encoder does the job perfectly for me. I’d love if the software was Cube Controls branded, even if just a white label branding on the software. The software and screen are extremely good and you don’t know where Cube Controls ends and UGT takes over. It feels like one product, the way it should be.
Let’s not beat about the bush here. This is an incredible looking and incredibly performing piece of hardware and is priced accordingly. The Formula CSX2 will cost you 1499 for the black model which is the one you see in this video. There are also two variations, but the differences are minimal. There’s a red version where all the metal bits are red. That will cost you 1526euro, and the blue version will cost 1536euro. I’m not sure why those colours warrant a price increase, when you’re already paying a premium for the hardware. Now it doesn’t matter who you are and how much you earn, that’s a hell of a lot of money for a piece of sim racing hardware. However, when compared to many hobbies, the price becomes quite easy to justify to those who can afford it. This isn’t just another pretty steering wheel. A set of tyres for a race weekend can cost the same, and those who will buy this wheel will be very aware of that.
I think that it’s only a matter of time before Cube Controls releases a D-shaped or round Version of this wheel. This formula style rim is pretty special and when I do change to a rally title, I miss the data on screen which I’ve become a bit reliant on.
I love that the stickers aren’t all pre-applied, however, the lower ‘menu’ and ‘SCRL’ stickers partly expose the housing bolts underneath and don’t look like they were designed to either hide or expose those bolts. Similarly when I went to install wiper and headlight toggle stickers, they kind of hovered over the housing bolts. I’d prefer if the bolts were all exposed as I feel that they add to the look of the wheel.
The buttons are all housed by a hard plastic material which is ergonomically moulded and really helps to remind you which buttons you’re pressing, without needing to look. when applying stickers though, it soon became apparent that the stickers won’t stick well to that surface so this clutch sticker for example, fell off soon after application. However, The other stickers do stick to the carbon fiber perfectly.Now, some of you may say that this wheel isn’t useful if you use VR… But I hope that it is clear that this wheel is far more than just a fancy screen. The grips are sensational. Dare I say, they’re the best I’ve ever used. The adjustable clutch paddles are a dream to use and if you like a quick launch, you’ll get amazing value out of the on the fly adjustment feature alone. Perhaps the Formula Sport or the Formula Pro are more suited to VR and you can save yourself some money in the process.
The 280mm width makes this a relatively compact wheel suited to all types of driving, provided you don’t need to apply much countersteer. The closer your wheel is to the your eye line, the better as you don’t want to be looking down and taking your eyes completely off the road every time you need some info from your CSX2. It does lend itself better to a formula style seating position but even with a more upright setup like mine, the screen is very accessible and useful. If you’re very reliant on on screen apps, it may take some time to adjust to using your wheel’s screen instead, but if you rid your game view of all on screen hud and overlays, you drift into a very pure, involved and realistic driving experience which really does feel like a massive upgrade. It becomes less of a game and more of a sim. All in all, this is a seriously impressive device, both functionally and aesthetically. It feels like a high end product, as if it was lifted straight out of a real race car. Although it’s a fraction of the price of a similar wheel for a real race car, it’s not within budget for most sim racers. Many will ask whether it’s worth it, and that’s a very subjective question. Those who buy one will be very happy and very proud, it will become the centerpiece of their rig.
Most of us will simply dream of products like this and live vicariously through the people who own them. One thing that’s for sure though, is that we need high end products like this to give us something to dream about when we’re not sitting at our simulators.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. I’m Laurence, thank you so much for your time.
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