My first thought when I discovered the Playseat Challenge: "Why in the hell didn't I have this during college!?" It would have saved many an awkward arrangement, bundling together random tables, counterweights, anti-slip mats, and whatever other implements were necessary to make playing my racing sims a fun (and safe) experience. Well, roommate of old, I apologize for not having a Playseat Challenge then - the perfect compact / storable racing sim cockpit. You know what they say, better late than never, well I'll have to agree. Let's get some laps in, shall we?
Put the pedal to the metal in the Playseat® Challenge sim-racing seat! Featuring a fully collapsible frame for a more temporary setup in your home, media room or dorm that easily folds down to fit into a closet or to slide under a bed frame when not in use. Providing the same realistic level of Playseat® immersion you've come to expect, the Challenge offers the same great functionality in a more affordable style with a much more accommodating storage design. The wheel support plate arm swings up for easy in and out of the Challenge seat and latches down to provide stable support of your racing wheel. Racing pedals attach to the lock base to keep them secure and at ideal driving length. Once the driving is done, the Challenge can even collapse with hardware still attached for easy storage of your full sim-racing setup!
The Challenge's Alcantara suede seat cover provides a classy look and feel for any room, and the powder coated steel framework is fully adjustable and supports all next generation steering wheel and pedal sets on the market for Playstation2®, Playstation3®, Xbox 360® and PC, including Fanatec, Logitech, Thrustmaster and MadCatz editions sold for Playstation2®, Playstation3®, Xbox®, Xbox 360®, Wii, and all PC platforms.
*Courtesy of Playseat America
Features & Specifications
- Compatible with Playstation2®, Playstation3®, Xbox®, Xbox 360®, Wii™, Mac® and PC
- Compatible with all steering wheel and pedal sets on the market
- Patented universal fully adjustable steering wheel and pedal set support
- Ergonomic adjustable seat with adjustable lumbar support
- Easy to set up and fully adjusted within seconds
- Superior build quality, stability and comfort
- Easy to store due to its unique and patented collapsible design
- Steering wheel and pedals are not included
- Recommended drivers length: Minimum 120 cm / 47 inches - Maximum 220 cm / 87 inches
- Recommended drivers weight: Minimum 20 kg / 46 lbs - Maximum 122 kg /270 lbs
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 136x54x96 cm / 53.5x21.3x37.8 inches
- Dimensions collapsed (LxWxH): 27x54x124 cm / 10.6x21.3x48.8 inches
- Net weight 9 kg / 19.84 lbs
*Courtesy of Playseat America
The Playseat is a bit like bucket racing seat meets folding lawn chair meets TV dinner table (this sounds a little like the janky setups I mentioned earlier, actually), although obviously much, much more polished and elegant than that. The seat back has a bucket seat look and is covered in a faux suede material which is soft and comfortable (but won't be spill-friendly).
The seat itself is comfortable, but my only gripe being a taller dude (6' 2") was that the forward angle on the seat's headrest was a little bit aggressive. I alleviated this by loosening the straps (with the "Challenge" embroidery) a bit to allow the chair to "unfold" a bit farther which gave me a more natural stance. The seat and padding is suspended between the frame so it has a little bit of a "bungee" give to it which I found comfortable. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how adaptable the ergonomics were able to be by adjusting the various support straps despite the chair having a fairly fixed geometry. It certainly doesn't feel super plush, but it's plenty comfortable for casual racing sessions - so if you're planning to conquer 24 / 48 hour of Le Mans races any time soon, you'll probably want one of Playseat's other cockpits or have a lot of other fresh butts - erm - I mean racers to take turns with.
The frame feels solid, the straps are all thick and the stitching appears to be durable. Despite the folding joints, once you're positioned and seated it feels very solid outside of a little bit of side-to-side rock that is noticeable when I was specifically paying attention but not something that I found distracting me while I drove and concentrated on the car.
I'm sure many of our ultra-observant readers (there are plenty of you) may have wondered how you actually get behind the wheel. The answer that you roll over a latch and the entire wheel stand assembly swings over to get you situated without any atheletic acrobatics. There's a small slide-out "kickstand" that prevents the chair from tipping when you open up the wheel stand - it's simple and effective.
While the wheel height can't be directly changed, you can tweak the angle of the wheel base to a position that's comfortable for you. The pedal position can be adjusted by a single locking knob and sliding the pedals out until you've got it dialed in.
The main feature of the Playseat Challenge is how it's able to quickly and easily fold for storage in a closet or under a bed. While I love racing sims, my free time is sporadic and thus the portability of the Challenge is appreciated - my racing cockpit need not be a "fixture" of my setup. It's super quick and easy to set it up when I have the urge for some racing action when I find a half hour to play and packs up just as quickly. The design has probably gone through countless iterations to balance the adjustability, shape, and bulk of the folded assembly, and I have to hand it to Playseat to be able to have it all be pretty universally comfortable and adjustable while still being able to get it out of the way with ease.
Overall the Playseat Challenge appears on all counts to be a fine compromise - providing a racing cockpit that can be stored away while still delivering a solid experience and a reasonable level of comfort. It strikes a great balance for racers like me who have a wheel and pedal setup, thoroughly enjoy the proper sim racing experience, but don't race enough to justify larger, more expensive, and space-intensive seats. The build quality seems to be top-notch from the sturdy frame to the double-stiching. The level of adjustability is impressive given what Playseat has been able to package together, although admittedly the adjustability of their higher-end seats will leave you feeling a bit spoiled when setting up the Challenge seat, but again, that's somewhat the point - to create a simpler, more portable / storable racing sim seat that is easier on the wallet.
With that segue, the Challenge will ring in at $250, which I still haven't fully come to a conclusion on. One one hand, it's certainly much cheaper than the more full-fledged seats, like the Playseat Evolution, which will cost upwards of $400. But on the other hand, $250 isn't an insignificant amount of money, and I feel like coming in right at $199.99 would make racers / gamers feel like the Challenge is a bit more of an "impulse" type of a purchase. This is especially true considering that if you're dropping anywhere from $150-300 on the high-tech portion of your setup, the seat itself costing that much is going to make it harder for many to pull the trigger. With that said, if this was around back when I was in college, would I have bought it? It would have required me to do some selling to myself, justifying it over the janky, messy setups I concocted to give me a decent racing experience, but ultimately I think I would have found it worth it. But, like I said, if it were in the $175-200 range, it would have been pretty close to a no-brainer. Overall, the Playseat Challenge is a quality seat that represents a fine balance of competing design challenges and adds to the racing experience without forcing you to make serious provisions - either financially or spatially.
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