Not too long ago, Simagic came up with their replacement for the Simagic M-10 wheelbase, the Simagic Alpha Mini. The gentlemen from simwear.eu were kind enough to provide us with the Simagic Alpha Mini – GT4 bundel for this review. In this bundle you will find the 10Nm strong Alpha Mini wheelbase (separately €595,00) and the GT4 stuurwiel with 2 paddles (separately €629,00) or the variant with 4 paddles (separately €679.00). The complete bundle is available from €1099.00 for the combination with the GT4 steering wheel with 2 paddles and costs €1199.00 for the bundle with the steering wheel with the 2 extra clutch levers.
Because we had been very curious about the capabilities of this direct drive wheelbase, we couldn’t wait to get started immediately with installing everything onto our rig.
Packaging & Contents
Like a child on christmas eve, we were thrilled when we received the box. It was a large brown box measuring 44x45x42cm with clear Simagic logos on each side. After carefully cutting open the top, we saw that a second brown box was packed tightly in this box. This Matryoshka phenomenon is for an extra protection of your beloved content. In this 2nd box we came across the boxes of both the wheelbase and the steering wheel. Despite the fact that it doesn’t matter at all for the functionality, we were positively surprised about how nice and neat the boxes looked. They are boxes with a nice glossy finish and clear text with pictures to indicate what is inside.
What is of course important is the contents of these boxes. The wheelbase is packed in the first big black box. In addition to the wheelbase itself, this box also contains a power supply, a separate mains cable with a Chinese plug, a travel plug from Chinese to western European, a long USB cable to connect your wheelbase to your computer and some mounting material with an Allen key. In short, everything you need to attach your wheelbase to your sim rig. Each part has its own compartment in the foam filling in the box. This way you can be sure that your belongings have been protected as much as possible against any uncareful people who have had the box in their hands.
In the second somewhat smaller red box we find the steering wheel including a sticker sheet to customize it and a USB cable to update your steering wheel. But more about those possibilities later.
Simagic Alpha Mini
The Simagic Alpha Mini is a direct drive wheelbase that looks very clean, thanks to the beautiful black compact housing it also has a sleek appearance. To complete the look, there is a Simagic logo at the top and the first letter of the Greek alphabet with the same name as the wheelbase, namely the Alpha. If you look closely, you will also notice that there is no fan. This is because this direct drive base has passive cooling. This means that it does not need a fan to cool itself during intensive use.
The Simagic Alpha Mini has an internal servo motor that can deliver up to 10Nm of torque. This places it in the market between the Fanatec CSL DD including boost kit and the Simucube 2 Sport, where it can also be placed well in terms of price. Please note, the Simagic Alpha Mini can only be used on a PC and can therefore not be used on the Xbox or Playstation.
One of the things that also stands out about this wheelbase is that it has a lot of holes. In terms of mounting, the Alpha Mini is as versatile as it gets. Whether you want to attach the wheelbase from the side, from the bottom on a wheel deck or from the front on a front mount, it is all possible.
Of course there are also the necessary inputs and outputs on the housing of the Alpha Mini. The real essentials can be found on the left side of the base. Here you will find the USB connection for the connection to your computer and the input for the power supply. The right side of the base contains a CAN-bus connection and an RJ45 connection for possible add-ons such as a shifter or handbrake.
Ultimately, there is the output shaft of the wheelbase. The output shaft of the Simagic Alpha Mini is definitely not mini, it is a solid shaft that is as solid as it looks. The shaft is also relatively long. The advantage that this entails is that your (main) screen can easily be placed between your wheelbase and your steering wheel. This allowed us to bring our screen at least 20 cm closer to us compared to the Fanatec CSL Elite wheelbase that was previously on our sim rig. Your screen can also lower a little further, so that we (because of the Formula style sitting position of the FXU) can look more straight ahead at the screen instead of slightly up.
In addition to these advantages, the axle is of course intended as a connection between your steering wheel and the wheelbase itself. For a strong connection between the servo motor and the steering wheel, Simagic has its own Quick-Release system. At the end of the shaft are 2 rows of dimples, of which 1 row (with 6 dimples) is at the top and 1 row (with 4 dimples) is at the bottom.
A nice advantage that the Alpha Mini also has is that in addition to a mechanical connection between steering wheel and wheelbase, there is also a signal connection. A kind of Wi-Fi logo made of metal can be seen on the end of the output shaft. The pins that are in the steering wheel of Simagic are placed exactly on the metal surface, so that no extra cables are needed to make your steering wheel work properly on this wheelbase.
But hey, did you forget to mention the power switch? No definitely not. The Simagic Alpha Mini does not have the power switch on the housing itself, it is attached to the power supply cable.
Simagic GT4 Steering wheel
In addition to the wheelbase, we also received the Simagic GT4 Steering wheel. The variant that we reviewed is the steering wheel with the 2 paddles (so without the dual-clutch system) at the back. The first thing we notice about the wheel is that it has quite a large size. With a diameter of 300mm, it is of course also a full GT steering wheel.
The base of this steering wheel consists of a CNC machined aluminum housing with handles made of Alcantara wrapped silicone. The handles themselves are relatively thick, so that the wheel lies comfortably in your hand and feel very good. The only minor flaw that we were able to discover on the steering wheel is that the finish on the edges where the handle transitions to the wheel itself is not very nice. In our opinion it would have been a little nicer if these ends of the Alcantara had been trimmed down a little further.
At the front of the steering wheel we find 8 illuminated push buttons. These are all equipped with a raised protective edge so that you do not accidentally press your pit limiter or switch on the windscreen wipers in the heat of battle. What is also a nice feature of the push buttons is that they can have different colors. The buttons on the steering wheel can simply change color by pulling a small lever on the back of the steering wheel and then pressing the button that you want to change color. You then have the choice between 7 different colors or the option to turn off the backlight of the button. However, in our opinion, there is 1 small drawback to the buttons, which is that logos are already incorporated in the buttons. Functionally, it doesn’t matter at all, of course, but it still feels a bit clumsy to operate your DRS with, for example, a windshield wiper button or with the pit limiter.
In addition to the normal push buttons, the steering wheel is also equipped with 2 funky switches including rotary knob. This way you can operate menus on the left and right of your steering wheel or additional functions on your car. As if that weren’t enough options on the steering wheel, there are also 2 larger functional rotary knobs to top it off.
On the back of the steering wheel we find the shifters. These are magnetic shifters with a nice compact carbon paddle. At first glance, these shifters seem quite far back. However, if you hold the steering wheel in your hands and operate the shifters, you will soon notice that they are very easy to reach and that they are actually (for our hands at least) at the perfect distance. The magnetic resistance and the sound when you shift are very comfortable and give a nice feedback when changing gears.
Perhaps one of the most beautiful eye-catchers of this steering wheel is also located at the rear. Which is the Quick Release (QR). This QR is a beautifully finished metal ring with a satin red color and the Simagic logo. It is also equipped with a strong retaining spring and is easily accessible from the front with two hands. Despite the strong spring, this QR can still be operated very smoothly.
To keep the front nice and clean, there is a mini-usb connection on the back of the steering wheel to update the steering wheel and also a lever to switch between Mode 1, Mode 2 and the set-up mode.
Mounting and installation
With everything neatly unpacked and having had a good look at it, it was time to attach the wheelbase to our sim rig. This is where our first luxury problem came up, how are we going to fix the wheelbase? Because we have all possible wheel decks from our FXU, we had the option of attaching the Alpha Mini in all ways. In the end, we opted for the front mount because it secretly looks the fanciest. This turned out to have been the right choice for us, because when we went through the supplied mounting materials, we found out that the bolts for mounting from the front are not standard in the box. Fortunately we still have some bolts and we were able to mount the wheelbase.
Mounting the Simagic Alpha Mini on our sim rig was actually effortless. Thanks to its compact size and relatively low weight, we could easily hold the wheelbase in place with one hand while turning the bolts in from the front with the other hand. Attaching the base to our front mount was done literally within 2 minutes. Then it is a matter of plugging in the USB cable and the power cable and the wheelbase is ready for launch.
The power cable, however, gave some small hurdles. This cable did not go straight into the connection to the wheelbase. We felt we had to use excessive force to plug in the cable. The cable can only go in one way, so luckily the plug cannot be broken for incorrect insertion.
The second hurdle of the power cable is perhaps a real disadvantage. As mentioned before, the wheelbase itself does not have a power switch and it is placed on the power cable itself. Halfway through the cable from your socket to the transformer is a kind of small lamp switch. We ourselves have neatly concealed our socket in a kind of podium where the rig is placed so that we do not have our cables criss-cross along and around our rig. Unfortunately, this cable cannot be hidden by us because the switch is located close to the power strip instead of near the wheelbase. A second side effect of this is that we always have to reach behind our pedals to switch the wheelbase on or off.
With all cables and plugs in place, we can flip the switch and turn on the steering wheel to install the drivers. Using the Simagic website, it takes a while to find the right place. Simagic is a Chinese company and the language is also in Chinese by default. Fortunately, you can find a button “English” at the very bottom of the page to make things a bit more readable. Pay close attention to the downloads, because the manual indicates that the software for the Simagic M10 must be downloaded while the Alpha Mini has its own software.
After you have downloaded the software you can open the “AlphaManager” software to adjust almost all functions of the wheelbase to your taste. One of the first things that strikes us is that a few pre-sets have already been made in the software for Assetto Corsa and iRacing, among others. This saves a lot of research to find the optimal settings for a certain sim. Now all you have to do is make some small tweaks to make the settings to your liking and you can save them as a new pre-set. Very useful if you are active in different sims!
A small disadvantage though, the wheelbase does not remember the last used settings. This means that before you start racing you have to restart the software to ensure that your wheelbase gives the desired force feedback.
Before you dive into the action, don’t forget to update your firmware and of course your steering wheel. This is the only time when you need to connect the steering wheel directly to the PC. By sticking the beautiful pink detailed cable in the back of your steering wheel and in your computer, there is a direct connection. Upload the correct settings from the software to your handlebars and you’re done.
With everything ready for use, it is time for the first test laps. Despite everything being ready, the steering wheel feels extremely “loose” in the menus. With 1 finger you can tap the steering wheel and it turns completely to the end. This feels a bit uncomfortable, we ourselves prefer to have some resistance in the steering wheel so that we know that it is on. Just put the WheelFriction up in the software and the WheelSpring to make the steering wheel self-correcting and it immediately feels like a worthy wheelbase.
Of course you don’t have a Direct Drive to feel good in the menus, so lets quickly start a race session on Assetto Corsa and make some meters. My goodness, how well this wheelbase comes into its own! Together with the steering wheel, the whole comes to life. Although 10Nm doesn’t sound like a lot, you soon notice that the Alpha Mini makes you work hard to keep the car in check. In the long corners you have to do your best to keep the steering wheel in place and if there are also kerbstones under your wheel, your steering wheel will be shaken well. It soon turns out that 10Nm is really enough to give you a really good experience. Because it is a Direct Drive wheelbase, you can also feel the changes in the road surface in great detail. Whether you’re driving on the gray asphalt or the green astroturf, you will immediately notice the difference in the feedback from the wheelbase.
Because the feedback felt so great in Assetto Corsa, we are also very curious how good this feedback would feel in rFactor2 (since this sim already has insane FFB on its own). However, there is no pre-set for this and we decide to play with the settings ourselves. This turns out to be quite difficult. With the wrong settings, your steering wheel can take on a life of its own. When our steering wheel starts to swing wildly up and down while we are still driving in the pitlane, we are immediately looking for the emergency stop. Oh dear! Unfortunately, that is not included with the Alpha Mini. Since the off button is out of reach and we can’t get out of the cockpit with F1 attitude without coming close to the wheel, we have to get the wheel back at the risk of our own fingers. In retrospect, very stupid of course, since it only dawns on us later that we can also go to the menu with the keyboard. Therefore, always remember that a strong wheelbase is absolutely not a toy and you should handle it with care. You can really hurt yourself if things go wrong.
The steering wheel itself also contributes significantly to the experience of racing. With its large diameter, it is quite a sensation to tear across the virtual track. The shifters and buttons all work well and provide pleasant feedback in the form of a tactile click, so you know you’ve pressed the button well even with headphones on. The placement of the buttons seems a little less ergonomic, the top 2 buttons on the left and right are easy to operate, but you still have to let go of 1 hand (partially) for the other buttons. However, these are of course luxury problems with the amount of buttons on this steering wheel.
We do occasionally get in trouble with the shifters. The moment you don’t press the shifters with conviction and actually pull it very slowly towards you, it sometimes wants to shift 2x. So with good confident driving there is absolutely no problem.
Although we sometimes feel a little slack with some QR systems, the QR system from Simagic proves that it works as well as it looks. Changing direction under high load is absolutely no problem. The steering wheel feels like it’s welded to the wheelbase and doesn’t move at all separately from the base.
After a few hours of racing we are sweating. The Simagic Alpha Mini and the GT4 steering wheel give you a good workout that will make you feel warm! However, we also give the wheelbase quite a workout. When used for about 1-2 hours (which is not bad for a qualifying + race), the wheelbase gets so hot that you can almost fry an egg on it. Because the wheelbase has no active cooling, it does run quite warm. It is therefore good to take into account that you do not touch your wheelbase after a longer period of racing. Fortunately, the wheelbase doesn’t suffer in hot conditions and the elevated temperatures don’t seem to affect performance.
The Simagic Alpha Mini in combination with the Simagic GT4 Steering wheel surprised us in a positive way. Although it may not be a very big name yet, they have pretty much everything you would expect from a big company. Everything from packaging to use is in tip-top shape. The beautiful appearance and the many options for mounting make this wheelbase a pleasure to work with. On top of that, it delivers plenty of power and great detail to make racing a pleasure (if it wasn’t already). You will of course keep small minuses and so the power supply is the weak point of the Alpha Mini. However, this has nothing to do with the power, but a plug with a loose adapter and a bad placement of the on/off switch are below par compared to the rest of this product. Because in general we can say that the Simagic Alpha Mini genuinely is a very good wheelbase.
The GT4 Steering wheel was also a joy to drive. From the QR system to clicking the buttons, everything seems to be right on this steering wheel. The large size, the nice location in the hand and the possibilities for adjustments with lights and stickers actually make up for the fact that the Alcantara is not perfectly finished and that there are already logos on the buttons.
Alltogether, we think that this bundle gives you a very nice Direct Drive set that also seems to be of very strong quality. If you are looking for a good wheelbase in combination with a steering wheel, we are convinced that this bundle is a good buy.
If you have become enthusiastic after reading our review, then we have good news for you! In collaboration with simwear.eu, the Alpha Mini from our review will be given away to a lucky winner. All you have to do is sign up for the simwear.eu newsletter and you automatically have a chance. The lucky winner will be announced on October 8, 2021 by simwear.eu. Good luck!