Playseat Challenge - Bargain Gaming Chair OR Expensive Deck Chair?

We've all had a racing wheel and struggled to find somewhere to mount it. That old flimsy desk, the coffee table or even just balancing it on your lap. We tried, but we failed. Then there's the pedals, which move every time you press them, so you squeeze a pile of books behind them to try and keep them in place. If you've paid good money for a racing wheel and pedals, you simply MUST get something proper to mount them on - speaking from experience, the difference is huge!

10/10 for effort, but still not good enough...
10/10 for effort, but still doesn't do the job well enough...

The first step is to get something to mount the wheel and pedals on (and any accessories like shifters/handbrakes). For that there are many wheelstands out there - bespoke, sturdy metal stands that you can securely mounts your wheel and pedals to, so they don't move around. Especially if you have a wheel with force feedback, they are a must. BUT, they do have one important element missing - the seating position. If you are truly after that fully immersive experience, then you need the authentic driving position. This is where the Playseat Challenge comes in - think of it as a wheelstand, combined with a slightly modified deck chair. 

Price-wise, the Playseat Challenge is the entry-level gaming chair. Priced below £200, no other manufacturer is able to offer a gaming chair for a similar price. However, the affordability isn't the Challenge's main strength - Playseat claim this is the perfect gaming chair for anyone who doesn't have a lot of storage space available.

The Playseat Challenge folds up and becomes very compact, and so it is really easy to store, taking up minimal space. Then, when you want to use it again, just re-extend it and you're ready to go - it's not an instantaneous process, but doesn't take long at all. The Playseat Challenge is aimed at gamers that occasionally play racing games, who don't want to spend lots of money on a proper Sim Racing Cockpit and are short of storage space: and for these gamers, it is ideal. It is quite comfortable, reasonably sturdy and genuinely delivers a decently immersive experience, given its cheap design.

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The Playseat Challenge arrives in its box packaged well and separated into a few pieces, so requires perhaps 15 minutes to assemble it. Assembly is quite easy, though the instructions are purely pictorial, so sometimes it does take a while to understand quite what they are telling you to do. Assembly basically involves fitting the frame together, fastening a few straps and extending the parts of the chair out; it really is very simple, so it should not phase even the least competent individuals. The first thing you notice after assembly is the material that the seat is made out of - it is a very nicely padded, comfortable and grippy material. It does have a premium look and feel (which you would expect for ~£200), so it does mean than using the chair is comfortable. There is good adjustability too - the wheel stand has good angle adjustment, and using the supplied allen keys you may move the actual plate to suit your tastes/the requirements of your wheels. The pedal holder does a great job of keeping the pedals in place, and again there is adjustability to move them forwards/backwards dependent on preferece/height. However, the strap that you are supplied with which you're supposed to wrap around your pedals to stop any vertical jumping up/down is actually too small to fit around most 3-pedal sets (e.g. Thrustmaster T3PA pedals) - this is not very impressive; more on this later.

Height-wise, at 5"11, I found the Playseat Challenge to be adequate. The Playseat Challenge states that users must weigh no more than 120kg, but truthfully if you are over 80kg, we advise you buy something else, as it just doesn't feel very strong and stable. Also, the Playseat Challenge isn't very easy to get in and out of, especially when your wheel is attached to the wheel deck. As with all good gaming chairs, your seating position means you are hunkered low down with your legs above your waist and snugly fitted in the seat, so movement is already quite restricted. In the Playseat Challenge, your legs are underneath the wheel mount, which, when combine that with not-totally-sturdy frame, which you really don't want to lean on with all of your weight, it does make getting out a bit of a challenge (😉). Realistically, this would only be an issue for people who are immobile, and actually the feeling of being 'trapped' adds to the whole sense of immersion that you feel inside the cockpit of an actual racing car, so we like it!

Storage is very easy, and the footprint of the Playseat Challenge when folded is minimal. When expanded, it is quite large (think of a deck chair + small extension for the pedals), so you will need a reasonable amount of space, but actually the 'deck chair heritage' means that the amount of contact area on the floor required by the legs & supports are minimal. 

As mentioned previously, the strap provided to secure the pedals is not wide enough for even Thrustmater's T3PA pedals: a very common & popular pedal set. This is not ideal! Because the pedals aren't strapped down, the pedals frequently move around under heavy braking, so for anything other than casual gaming, the Playseat Challenge wasn't appropriate. The T3PA pedals are our minimum standard of pedals - we would not using anything worse/cheaper than them. So the fact that the strap only fit around cheaper 2-pedal sets is testament to the fact that the Playseat Challenge is not a real Sim Racing Cockpit, but instead is only a glorified deck chair intended for use by beginners only.

Another disadvantage of the Playseat Challenge is that there is no form of cable management whatsoever. Most Sim Racing Cockpits have cable management integrated in, as once you begin plugging in all your USB cables, power supplies and various other cables for your racing wheel, pedals and all your accessories, you find that actually you have a lot of wires dangling all over the place. The last thing you want is these wires getting in the way of your pedals, or worse still getting wrapped around the pedals, or your leg, and then getting ripped when you press the pedals. This lack of cable management further emphasises the amateur aspect of the Playseat Challenge - it is clearly not designed for sim racers who have many accessories or powerful racing wheels. Instead, it is designed for the beginner who has a small racing wheel and pedals only, and so few wires. 

Another disadvantage is that there are no accessories for the Playseat Challenge. Again, most Sim Racing Cockpits have (either included, or optional) accessories like Gear Shifter mounts, Handbrake Mounts, Button Box mounts and Monitor stands etc. This allows the sim racer to customise their setup to their own preference. The Playseat Challenge is not really a Sim Racing Cockpit, and is not intended for use by sim racers who want to upgrade their setup, so it doesn't have any mounts or accessories. As we said before, for the barebones beginner gamer then this is no problem, but for most gamers who want to add accessories, you will need to buy a proper Sim Rig

The Playseat Challenge is quite comfortable to sit in, as the material used in the 'seat' is comfortable and has a pleasant feel to it. The wheel deck is quite adjustable, with pre-drilled holes for hard mounting wheels. The wheel deck is quite strong, able to withstand wheels like the Thrustmaster TMX Pro and Logitech G29 sufficiently, but if you have a more powerful wheel, we do advise something else and the wheel deck does flex.

Conclusion:

Our final opinion is that the Playseat Challenge is in fact an Expensive Deck Chair, and so we only recommend it to complete beginners. For the majority of gamers and sim racers, there are much better products out there. Yes they do cost more, but they are much better value-for-money: you get a proper seat (not a thin, glorified deck chair); a stronger and more stable chassis, as well as larger and stronger wheel & pedal decks, which don't flex anywhere near as much and will be able to withstand powerful racing wheels. Furthermore, you get a proper, strong chassis with mounts for convenient & ergonomic placement of accessories like shifters and handbrakes; better build quality and aesthetics; forms of cable management, so you are able to neatly channel all your wires instead of having them dangling all over the place, and a more immersive and authentic racing experience. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that it is an innovative product and, if you want a gaming chair but don't have much money or space, then the Playseat Challenge will do what you ask, but no more.

 

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