Thrustmaster TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod Review – Part 1
When you are a sim racer and you like to participate in a variety of virtual racing disciplines, chances are you might end up with a Rally or Drifting game. While any racing wheel and pedals will get you started, you are also going to need a handbrake to become competitive. Currently, the sim racing market is flooded with wheels, pedals, and shifters, but when it comes to handbrakes the (affordable) choices are limited.
About a year ago, Thrustmaster revealed their TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod for PC users. The TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod is the newest product whereby Thrustmaster worked closely together with the renowned Italian SPARCO brand. Currently, you will also be able to purchase the second generation of the product, named TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod + which is now compatible with Xbox One, PS4 & PC (Windows 10, 8, and 7)
Interestingly, when you purchased a TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod or Sparco Mod + you will in effect own two items for the price of one. The TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod features two user modes. It will eighter let you set up the unit as a heavy duty USB progressive handbrake, or have you convert it to become a very precise and sturdy sequential gear shifter. This might be just what the doctor ordered.
Most of the time I like to do circuit racing, but now and then a Rally title appears which sparks my interest. It all started years ago with the famous Richard Burns Rally, which could easily be called a racing simulator instead of a run of the mill game. While for a long time nothing came close, my interest was ignited ones more when Codemasters released the original Dirt Rally title back in 2015. Now that Codemasters have released a sequel with Dirt Rally 2.0, it was time for a new handbrake.
When browsing the web for a quality yet affordable handbrake, you will soon notice that we are not spoiled for choice. Most of the available units tent to be part of the high-end market and have a price tag to go along with it, or you find flimsy cheap units which will probably won’t last long when erratically cranking the handbrake while trying to keep your car out of a ditch.
That is where the newest addition to Thrustmaster’s race-sim peripherals line up becomes interesting. At first glance, the Thrustmaster TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod looked like a durable solution and seemed to be good value. The fact that I could convert it to a sequential shifter should my current unit brake down, was a plus.
So here we go with part-1 of my review. In the first part we will have a detailed look at the product, while in part-2, I will mount the unit to my existing racing chassis, to find out how much fun it actually is to use.
Out of the box
Let’s face it. Unpacking new hardware is half the fun. The box lists that the content is 90% made out of metal, and judging by the weight, I was sure they were not exaggerating. When I opened up the packaging the first thing I noticed was the size. The TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod was slightly bigger than I expected and it was apparent that this is a very robust piece of kit. So far so good.
Another pleasant surprise was the fact that besides the Shifter/Brake arm, everything was already pre-assembled making it possible for just about anyone to have it up and running in a flash. Besides the shifter body and the arm, the box also contains the necessary bolts, nuts, nylon and steel washers, and a 13mm wrench and 2 Hex keys to fit the arm to the body without the need for additional tools.
The box also contains a spacer and adapter which will let you assemble the arm in an angle, turning the unit into a GT style handbrake instead of the regular upward Rallycar handbrake system.
Lets put it all together
The TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod comes with a detailed assembly schematic, but even without it, I am pretty confident everybody would easily be able to figure out how to assemble the arm.
When you set up the handbrake in its straight-up rally config, its just a matter of selecting your desired height, inserting the two bolts and lock it all together by tightening the included nuts. A nice detail is a fact that Thrustmaster also supplied some nylon washers which keep the arm mount in pristine shape, should you regularly be adjusting the brake arm.
Configuring the Handbrake to be in a horizontal or angled position takes a little more work, but is still pretty straightforward. At this point, we could try to explain how it is done, but I am sure a picture does indeed say a thousand words.
While the height (or length when horizontal) of the Brake/Shifter arm is highly adjustable, the comfortable 85mm Sparco knob which is a 1:1 replica of a Sparco rally gear knob does allow for even further fine tuning. The aluminum arm is threaded which lets you further adjust the height of the knob, by screwing it in or out and locking it to the desired setting by tightening the red aluminum locking nut.
What makes it brake?
Some might think that mapping a button to the handbrake function of a game would do the trick, but unfortunately, that is not the case. To accurately simulate a handbrake which lets you control your vehicle, you will have to be able to apply the correct amount of braking power. The Thrustmaster TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod is a progressive handbrake, meaning that you have total control over the actual brake force you are applying. This firm, yet progressive feel will make a huge difference when driving Rally or Drifting simulations.
To achieve this progressive feel, the TSS handbrake makes use of Thrustmaster’s H.E.A.R.T. Hall effect technology which measures the movement of the handbrake by use of magnetic sensors. Also, the Hall effect is a contactless technology, which reduces the risk of component wear.
While the product is pretty much plag&play out of the box, Thrustmaster does supply a calibration software suite to further tweak the unit to suite your perrsonal preference.
Two Trick Pony
While the main concept of the product is to mimic a progressive handbrake, the unit can also conveniently be converted to a sequential shifter. All you have to do to toggle between the handbrake and shifter modes is adjust set of mechanical pins by means of four screws, an flick a switch. In the handbrake mode, the magnetic hall effect sensors will read out the exact position of the brake lever while in sequential shifter mode, the unit will switch between three positions being up, down, and center with a centering force of 8.8lbs / 4Kg.
Lock it down
As far as mounting is concerned, and due to the nature of the product, the TSS handbrake is initially intended to be hard-mounted on a racing rig or solid surface. The bottom of the base features eight different mounting holes threaded to receive M6 bolts while the unit also has three mounting holes on each side of the base. This should give you enough options to securely mount the TSS on just about any existing sim-racing chassis.
Keep in mind that the TSS handbrake does not come with a clamp system out of the box. People who want to mount the handbrake on a desk will eighter have to be creative or purchase the optional Thrustmaster TM Racing Clamp which can be attached to a 15 to 50mm thick desk. The TM Racing clamp should be available for € 99.99 / £89.99 / $99.99.
Should I get one?
If you are in need of a sim racing handbrake, the short answer is … Yes. When we look at the current market, and the price settings of quality handbrake units, the Thrustmaster TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod is pretty good value for money. Its made out of durable materials, it’s robust and can stand the physical abuse a handbrake usually gets to endure. It also looks the part which is not unimportant to further add to the immersion when doing rally or drifting games.
If you then take into account that the Handbrake can also be converted to a sturdy quality sequential shifter, the price point is pretty spot on, sitting smack in between the budget and ultra-high-end market.
The Thrustmaster TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod is compatible with selected racing wheels on Xbox One & PS4, and all racing wheels on Windows PC. The Thrustmaster TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod is available at a suggested retail price of €249,99 / $269.99 / £239.99 taxes included. ( pricing can vary internationally)
Keep in mind that when you are on Console, you will have to get the Thrustmaster TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod +. The original (non +) Thrustmaster TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod is only compatible with the PC!
- Officially licensed by Sparco
- 2-in-1 product: lets you change from the shifter (+/-) position to the progressive handbrake position, and vice versa.
- 90% metal: steel and aluminum.
- High-grade components: technical bushings made in Germany, industrial-class flat coil springs with 8.8lbs/ 4kg resistance.
- 1:1 scale replica gear knob : (3.4″/8.5cm in height) crafted of aluminum, from the Sparco rally and drift range.
- Lever adjustable in height.
- H.E.A.R.T HallEffect AccuRate Technology – – Precision that won’t decrease over time (contactless magnetic sensor). No tact switch or potentiometer (for an unlimited product lifespan)
- Attachment system for cockpits and mounts: built-in M6 screw threads.
Compatibility (TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod +)
- Compatible on PS4, Xbox One, PC (Windows 10, 8, 7)
- Compatible on PS4™ with T-GT and T300-Series racing wheels*
- Compatible on Xbox One® with TS-XW and TX-Series racing wheels*
- Compatible on PS4™ and Xbox One® with games listed on the following website: https://support.thrustmaster.com/
- Compatible on PC (Windows® 10, 8, 7) with all racing wheels on the market.
Handbrake/sequential shifter, detachable gear knob/handbrake lever, mini Allen key, key wrench, detachable DIN/USB cable, proprietary detachable Mini-DIN/DIN cable, Horizontal Mode Add-On, user manual, and warranty information.
Official Webpages – Thrustmaster.com
Guillemot Corporation is a designer and manufacturer of interactive entertainment hardware and accessories. The Group offers a diversified range of products under the Hercules and Thrustmaster brand names. Active in this market since 1984, the Guillemot Corporation Group is currently present in 11 countries (France, Germany, Spain, the UK, the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, China [Hong Kong] and Romania) and distributes its products in more than 85 countries worldwide. The Group’s mission is to offer high-performance, ergonomic products which maximize the enjoyment of digital interactive entertainment for end users. www.guillemot.com
About SPARCO®: The famous high-quality motorsports equipment maker acclaimed by racing drivers
The Italian company SPARCO® S.p.A has been producing high-quality motorsports equipment such as racing steering wheels, racing seats, racewear, and a huge list of motorsports-related accessories since 1977. SPARCO® is widely regarded as one of the global leaders in its market.
SPARCO® is also no stranger to the sim-racing world: many community members use SPARCO® seats on their custom racing chassis, and some even use modded real-world SPARCO® racing steering wheels on their sim rigs. Following on from its partnerships with game developers, it now comes as no surprise that SPARCO® has discovered the huge market potential of eSports and sim racing-related hardware, in particular.