Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Is Thrustmaster's T-LCM loadcell brake pedal enough to make the T-LCM the best value pedal set on the market?
Thrustmaster incorporates loadcell
Thrustmaster have re-energised their sim racing product lineup and mounted a challenge to the likes of Fanatec with their new load cell pedals, the Thrustmaster T-LCM. The combination of load cell with Thrustmaster's H.E.A.R.T. (HallEffect Accurate Technology) system elevates the the pedals above the beginner level pedals such as the T3PAs or Logitech's non-linear floor pedals included with the G29 (PS4) & G920 (XBOX) bundle.
Load cell pedals have until now been reserved for brands such as Fanatec and Heusinkveld with prices for the Fanatec CSL Elite LC starting at €230/£210. Thrustmaster's T-LCM enter the market at £190, just under-cutting Fanatec's offering, but are they as good? (prices correct as of 23-06-20)
The T-LCM pedals use the same H.E.A.R.T. (HallEffect Accurate Technology) technology that can be found in the T3PA pedal set, meaning you get the same benefits of longevity and reduced wear owing to the pedal's use of a non-contact magnetic sensor providing the same 16 bit resolution.
The T-LCM's major party piece is of course the load cell kit installed under the brake pedal. The load cell kit can be adjusted by using various combinations of provided springs which provide up to 100kg of braking pressure. Although 100kg of pressure is more than most people are able to exert, the ability to customise the pressures felt in the brake pedal up to 100kg by mixing and matching the springs is a huge draw for enthusiast level racers.
The pedals themselves can be individually adjusted very simply with an included micro allen key. Adjustments can be made to height, spacing and even angle of pedal by adding or removing included plastic spacers. For sim racers who race mainly in open-wheel cars and are not interested in using the clutch with their sequential gear box, the ability to nicely space the accelerator and the brake is another convenience offered by the T-LCM.
The pedals are clearly designed with durability in mind. Weighing in at around 7kg it is abundantly obvious when you receive these pedals that they are built to last. The frame is anodized aluminium and the footplate is a textured steel in order to reduce slippage during hard racing. The pedals themselves have a lovely matte steel finish and feel completely rigid with absolutely no flex during racing.
So, are they as good as the Fanatec CSL Elite pedals?
The first thing to clear up is that only the Fanatec CSL Elite (LC) pedals come with a load cell kit for the brake (hence the LC bit). The pedals included in the CSL Elite Starter Kit and the CSL Elite F1 Edition do not come with a loadcell kit (although you can buy the loadcell kit seperately from the Fanatec website to install). So be careful.
However, since it is the Fanatec CSL Elite LC that sits around the same price point, it makes sense only to make the comparison between the T-LCM and the CSL Elite LC pedals.
Both loadcells perform similarly but they use different methods to adjust the pressure on the brake pedal. The T-LCM uses a series of different springs and spacers offering pressures labelled as "weak", "medium" and "strong". "Strong" presumably means the maximum declared value of 100kg although the instructions are not as clear as they could be. The T-LCM also includes spacers specific to the springs which can create a "pre-loading" effect on the brake pedal, offering even higher levels of realism and control. The CSL Elite LC uses 3 different springs with available pressures of 18kg, 40kg or 90kg. The CSL Elite system is undoubtedly simpler and less daunting to setup, although with a bit of work the T-LCM has the potential to offer a greater level of customisation.
There are some aesthetic differences between the T-LCM and the Fanatec CSL Elite LC pedals. We think the Fanatec pedals look slicker with their matte metal finish although the Thrustmaster pedals look more rugged with their metal foot plate. Ultimately, both pedal sets look respectable and so looks alone probably aren't a sensible basis upon which to make your decision.
The main difference lies not in the load cell pedals but in the other two pedals, the accelerator and clutch. The Fanatec pedals use a simple potentiometer in these pedals whereas the Thrustmaster pedals use their signature H.E.A.R.T. (HallEffect Accurate Technology) which provides greater longevity owing to the contactless nature of the magnetic sensor used as well as increased accuracy. Although both pedals output the same 16 bit resolution.
Perhaps, they are slightly better as a stand alone pedal set but should you buy them?
Annoyingly for readers, it's a big fat "depends".
If you already have a Thrustmaster wheel and are looking to upgrade the pedals for racing on a Playstation or XBOX, then it's obvious. Yes. Only Thrustmaster pedals can connect to the Thrustmaster wheel base and only the wheel base can connect to the console, not the pedals. The console specific electronics are embedded in the wheel base.
PC-only sim racers on the other hand have more choice since they can connect their wheels and pedals separately meaning that owning a Thrustmaster steering wheel does not tie you into buying a Thrustmaster pedal set.
If you aren't invested in the Thrustmaster ecosystem or are a PC-only sim racer, buying the Fanatec CSL Elite LCs may offer some advantages. Although you'd be investing in a significantly more expensive ecosystem, the possibilities for upgrading are far more extensive than with Thrustmaster.
The advantages of owning just one ecosystem is that not only can you use your wheel and pedal set on console, you also only have to download and configure one set of drivers and you can carry out your wheel and pedal calibration together using one piece of software.
If you are just an enthusiast and enjoy the odd race whenever you can
fit it in, the T-LCM is a very capable pedal set which will offer you realism and racing performance. If your goals are set at something higher and you hope one day to be competing in the big leagues then a Fanatec pedal set might be a sensible way in to the Fanatec ecosystem which undoubtedly performs far better at the top end.
If you opt for the T-LCM pedals, we recommend investing in the rubber pedal covers, especially if you race in socks!