To the casual observer an external dashboard probably seems like overkill for a sim game. After all, cars already have dashboards so why would we need an extrnal one.
First I'll mention the technical reason, and it's a good one. A custom dash is necessary especially when you're running triple screens and even when you're running a single monitor with a small field of view (FOV). When the FOV is set correctly on a triple screen setup in almost all cases the in-game dashboard is mostly below the monitor. That is, it's cutoff and you can't see anything, especially the important parts of your tachometer. This is where a custom dash comes in. Most people who run a custom dash are running some dash software on their phone and probably have some makeshift phone holder. While an inexpensive option that solves a problem, it's an inelegant solution. That inelegance is a lack of integration. How, while driving do I easily scroll through different data on my dash? If the dash is designed thoughtfully then perhaps a swipe on the screen might do it.
The lack of visible information about the car is an obvious problem. Importantly, for the sim racer looking for a simulation, a specifically designed hardware dash is a better choice.
With a custom dash regardless of the vehicle being driven, the driver is presented with the data required in a consistent format.
The siminstruments dash perfectly fills the need for a custom dash. This dash is hand made with custom built software that integrates into all the major sim racing games including;
- Codemasters F1 201x series
- Assetto Corsa
- rFactor 2
- Game Stock Car 2013 (and other rFactor based games)
- Live for Speed
- Project CARS
Having tested it with all these games (except Live for Speed) the game works well in all but is a revalation in iRacing, where it provides all the usual RPM, Lap time, Sector Splits, inCar Adjustments (brake balance, ABS, etc), as well as the all important fuel calcuations. My first usage in a race of this dash was in the iRacing 2014 Daytona 2.4, where cars stop for fuel two times and fuel calculations factor highly. I was often tabbing through the two line LCD display down to the fuel calcuations to see how much fuel I had left. The dash knows how much fuel you put in and how many laps remain and from that displays both fuel consumption (laps left) as well as notifies you if you don't have enough fuel to make the end of the race.
One very impressive and cool feature of the dash in iRacing is that conveys a variety of information by changing the backcolour of the LCD panel. If you've got the screen up that displays times relative to your best, when you're currently faster the LCD panel is various shades of green. When your'e currently slower, it's various shades of Red. You can also see both the instantaneous time and speed difference. This does away with the need to use the TAB key in iRacing.
The dash also displays a version of the F3 screen, the relative screen, showing the drivers in front and behind you. It's not as useful as the in game F3 and I prefer that particular screen in game, seeing it's so important.
If you're about to get lapped by a faster car the background colour of the dash will change from to Blue, to indicate blue flags. Very cool.
As well as the LCD background colour changes, there are 6 informational LED's that change colour to notify you of various events.
It's great that as you move around sim games and sim cars the information is always presented the same and you know that you can always see all the data possible. If there is information you want to see but can't providing the game exposes it the siminstruments configuration software easily allows you to change what information is displayed and where it gets displayed. The software uses an intuitive drag and drop interface to place the data fields where you like them. You can also configure the software to react to ingame events by automatically changing the screen that is show. Adjust your brake balance mid race? The software can detect that and briefly show the adjustments screen to confirm your changes.
Another thing not mention is this big LED's for the rev counter and the large gear shift indicator. This is such a dream to work with. The information is right there in your face, so visible.
The dash is available in a variety of configurations including:
- Logitech G27 plate adapter (with extra buttons)
- Clubsport Wheel Base mount
- Desk option
I got the clubsport wheel base mount option and while I waited for my wheel to arrive I placed the dash on the desk behind my old G27. I'm happy to report the ease of use was fantastic.
One of my teammates has reported that he can't see the dash completely when using the CSW and BMW M3 GT2 wheel (the same setup I use). However, I don't have any problems. I believe this is probably to do with driving position.
At $240 dollars the dash isn't super cheap, but what you get will almost certainly briing you 100% satisfaction. I love mine and would find it very hard to part with now. Especially now that I can run the optimum FOV and see all the information I need. It all feels so... simulatey.:)
Check out the guys at siminstruments.com