capsule review

Saitek R100 USB Racing Wheel

Does playing racing games with a keyboard and mouse drive you crazy? If so, the R100 USB Wheel from Saitek could be worth a pit stop. And at $40, this racing wheel won't eat much of your gas money.

Getting into Gear

The R100 is as sure-footed as a dashboard navigator -- it attaches to a desk via a large plastic clamping mechanism. A USB cable connects the wheel to the Mac, and a peripheral cable plugs into the bottom of the foot pedal assembly. The base includes brake and throttle pedals, both spring-mounted and contoured for easy grip.

Installation is quick and easy, and entirely Plug and Play thanks to USB. The R100 USB Wheel requires games that support InputSprocket -- I recommend InputSprocket 1.7.3 or later--the software is available as a free download from Apple's Web site. At the time of this review, InputSprocket's Mac OS X replacement, HID Manager, was not available for testing.

Compact Economy

The R100's composition is more Hyundai than Mercedes. The contoured steering wheel is made of firm red and black plastic that can get rough on the hands after a couple of hours of use. Two programmable thumb-triggers are located on the wheel and two Formula 1-style gear shift paddles lie within easy reach on the stalk. The wheel turns 90 degrees to the left and right before locking, and springs back into place when quickly released.

One Hand on the Wheel

While the R100 is worth considering if you're tired of using the keyboard during driving games, it does have its limits. For example, MacSoft's recent release, Driver, includes nine additional functions on top of steering, acceleration and braking. With only two buttons on the R100 to map these functions to, users are still left reaching for the keyboard.

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