Over the holidays, my wife and I went to stay with my parents in England, it was the first time my parents had met her and of course it wasn’t long before they broke out the home movies. My wife only really understood what racing simulations have meant to me when she saw me in those movies, at aged 14, sat infront of a computer with a steering wheel in my hands.
In December, 2008, I moved with my wife from Chicago, Illinois to Woburn, Massachusetts. I moved for work, for iRacing, to continue a dream that I have been living ever since racing simulations first entered my life. In a tangent, Chris Dunagan – Managing Director of Obutto – moved to Beijing in his attempt to make a go of his racing cockpit and it’s thanks to him that when I started work after the holidays, a half built Obutto oZone Racing Cockpit was here waiting for me to test.
The cockpit couldn’t really be much easier to build. The individual pieces are light and easy to handle with only the seat being bulky enough to give me difficulty. When I got the cockpit, it had been half built and stood awaiting completion; I took it apart and took it home so I could do it justice. Dismantling was easy and when home, so was the rebuild; I put the cockpit together using a photo of the cockpit from the Obutto Web site after finding I’d left instructions at work.
Parts are minimal: You have two large pieces for the base which attach to each other, you bolt the seat to the rear piece and the adjustable monitor and wheel stands drop into the front piece. There’s also a large keyboard/mouse shelf, a shifter platform which can be dropped into the rear base piece on either side of your seat, and a sloping shelf for the pedals which just slots over the front half of the base.
I fit right where medical science says I should when it comes to body weight, but I fully expected before seeing the cockpit that in my review I was going to have to say bad things about the strength of the cockpit. Luckily, I don’t have to say that because the Obutto cockpit is plenty strong enough for me and I would think anyone else who can comfortably sit in it. Its Carbon Steel construction seems extremely sturdy and frankly, I can’t give the frame and its support enough compliments.
I find the Obutto seat very comfortable and supportive. So much so that I would like to throw out my computer desk and write all emails, race all simulations and play all games from the cockpit.
The seat is a car sports seat which can recline and also slide backwards and forwards on top of the rear half of the frame, it is well padded and I believe that when using this cockpit my back is in the best position I’ve ever had it when running a simulation. I achieved this comfortable position using the following notes from the Obutto Web site:
1. Steering Wheel Height: The height of the center of the steering wheel is near the height of your collarbone.
2. Distance to Steering Wheel: The easiest way to set achieve the ideal distance from your steering wheel is to adjust your seat so that when you stretch your arms straight out your wrists lie across the top of the steering wheel. Make sure your shoulders are touching the back of the seat.
Once you place your hands in the 10 & 2 or 9 & 3 positions on the wheel your elbows will be bent at an approximate 90 degrees.
3. Distance to pedals: The ideal position varies but it’s best to not be too close to where your legs are cramped and not too far so that you can’t push the pedals without stretching your legs.
My only concern with the seat is that when I push down on the edge of the seat to stand up, I am afraid I am going to break it. The first night I had the cockpit I felt movement within the padding on the sides, so from that moment on I got in and out while putting my weight on the shifter platform instead. Better safe than sorry!
Features: Shifter platform and keyboard/mouse shelf
The shifter platform seems to be designed around the Logitech G25 shifter (it is perfectly sized), but is officially compatible with Saitek and ECCI also. Obutto do say on their Web site that the platform will fit other shifters, but they do not specify which. I would think it capable of fitting most though, it is a flat platform with no lips on the edges, so if your clamp is too wide you could always clamp the platform with a piece of wood cut to size.
The platform can also be swung out like a door or inwards almost over your knees, it is fully adjustable and can be clamped in position. Another nice thing is that it can be mounted on either the left or the right.
Shifter platform size: 6¾” x 6″ or 17cm x 15cm.
They did a fantastic job fitting this enormous keyboard and mouse shelf into the compact design of this cockpit. There is enough room on this thing for my cell phone, a drink, my keyboard and my trackball mouse. There’s even room for the various cat toys that I keep by me while I race so that I can distract the kittens if they start to mess with me while I am racing.
As mentioned above, the keyboard/mouse shelf can be placed on either side of the cockpit, but whichever side the shelf is, the shifter platform must be opposite.
Features: Wheel platform
Herein lays my only problem faced with the cockpit. I use a Fanatec Porsche 911 Turbo Wheel at the moment and found that because there is a little lip on the underside of the platform; my clamp cannot close enough to lock itself to the platform. I got around the problem by initially stuffing junk mail between the bottom of the platform and the top of the clamp, giving the platform extra thickness.
Other than that problem (which is as much of a Fanatec problem with their clamp design as it is a problem with the cockpit), I’m thrilled at how adjustable and stable the wheel platform is. You simply undo the tightening clamps and then you can slide the platform up and towards or down and away.
Features: Monitor platform
Behind the wheel platform, sits the monitor platform. Once setup and tightened, the monitor platform is not going to move anywhere. It is extremely strong and its position right behind the wheel is just perfect. I am using a single-screen display and feel totally immersed when driving.
A nice feature is that the Obutto oZone cockpit is so compact that I could easily remove the monitor display (or just lower to minimum height) and the front end of the cockpit would slide perfectly under my desk, allowing me to setup a triple display or huge HDTV on there at exactly the right height.
One thing that you may like or dislike is the way the force feedback effects travel through the framing. I am able to feel a lot of the effects produced by the wheel under my seat and through the pedals. The downside, of course, is the vibration itself: If you live in a shared building, with thin walls and floors, you might need to place the cockpit on a bit of extra carpeting.
Personally I find this extra vibration adds even more to the immersive experience a sim racing cockpit can give you. Being able to feel any kind of jolt not only in your hands and arms but under the seat and with your feet is an extremely interesting experience that definitely adds to my awareness.
I have tried to tip the cockpit over and unless you purposely lift it with the aim of doing so, it won’t even move. The floor design is such that the pivot point for a heavy display is quite far inwards. I would avoid putting something extremely heavy onto the display stand and instead use the oZone’s compact nature to your advantage by sliding it underneath or near to some other TV/monitor stand. Any normal monitor of relatively light HDTV should be fine.
I think for business use at tradeshows or an event, the Obutto is probably not suitable. Although it is a very sturdy and well-built cockpit, its adjustable nature doesn’t have the right look or feel for putting on a show.
One thing that is lacking is some kind of attachments for audio. This is an understandable omission though because audio equipment varies greatly in design.
An awesome option for home use.
It is more than worth the price and I have seen comparable cockpits selling for hundreds, even thousands of dollars more.
It has a compact design, yet when you are sat it seems surprisingly large.
It’s adjustability and extendibility is simply amazing. Each extended item like the platforms can be moved and placed wherever you want them. Each adjustment is shockingly simple to perform.
Sturdy frame that can support anyone who can comfortably sit inside. (I’m told 300lbs guys buy and use them).
Large extended items. The keyboard/mouse shelf will have a wide variety of uses because of its size. Now you don’t even need to leave your cockpit to eat your Dinner!
One of the real delights is that with the force feedback enabled, I can feel it travelling throughout the frame, giving me an extra sense of immersion.
The racing seat, with its adjustable forward and backward positioning, is extremely comfortable and supportive.
Link: obutto.com – Price: $329 (Excluding Shipping) as of 07/2010
I grew up in a household where waking up at 2am to watch races in Australia or Japan were the norm. We were huge fans of motor racing, so playing racing games seems like a natural extension of that.
My first racing game addiction was with Geoff Crammond's 'Formula 1 Grand Prix' released in 1992 on the Commodore Amiga. This game kept me going for a long time thanks to various editing tools which were available, and I continued to play it until I owned a PC. After that, I played through most of the Papyrus and Image Space Inc. titles, but have most fond memories of Grand Prix Legends.
I founded a major sim racing site that led to my employment at iRacing, Image Space Inc. and later on, Studio 397. The difficulty in working in the industry is how little time you often have to play your own games. Quite often I escape with space games instead!
Tim is British and lives in the United States with his wife and kids.
He works for software developers Image Space Inc. and Studio 397 on their racing simulations, and is a fan of Gaming, Motorsports, and photography.