This racing sim rig upgrade has saved my living room — here’s how

Playseat Challenge X racing seat
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Racing sim seats are a minefield — a sliding scale of comfort vs convenience that makes it impossible to find the sweet spot between both…at least that’s what I thought.

You see, I’ve seen the big rigs. Hell, I’ve tried them at various shows and seethed with jealousy. I’d love to have an imposing setup with a fully-fledged cockpit with a plush leather seat and a rigid mount for my wheel, pedals and a monitor. 

However, I come up to the same two obstacles a lot of people do: space and money. My apartment is tiny, and while I do race on the daily, my bank account would suffer a very sudden heart attack if I was to try and buy one. 

So I find myself sliding back down the convenience scale, which led to an awkward, rickety option in the form of the Next Level Racing GT-Lite — a seat that gets uncomfortable after an hour and is next-to-impossible to actually fold up as advertised.

There is another option, though. One that I instantly fell in love with by striking just the right balance between comfort and convenience, which handles cable management well and can be compressed and stowed in a cupboard within minutes. That’s the Playseat Challenge X.

Playseat Challenge X: $299 @ Amazon

Playseat Challenge X: $299 @ Amazon
Fully adjustable, yet lightweight and easily foldable at the same time. This is the ideal mix of sim racing comfort and practicality that makes it easily the best option for those driving on a budget and/or in a small home with minimal space.

The biggest problem

(Image credit: Future)

Picture the scenario — you’re entertaining guests, whether it’s your friends, family or even someone you’re dating. You’ve worked hard to establish the right ambiance in your tiny box apartment, from cleaning and setting the Nanoleaf lights to a calmly pulsing recreation of the Northern Lights, to firing up the slow cooker for a gorgeous Butter Chicken.

Everything is seemingly in place, but your racing bucket seat is impossible to store in any cupboard, and sticks out like the sore thumb Charles LeClerc usually has from hammering the team radio button when Ferrari’s strategy is below par. It draws attention away from your hard work on fixing up the place and gets those usual questions that are laced with judgement. Anyone who is into this hobby will know them.

“So you find this fun?”

What follows your in-depth answer to try and explain why sim racing is indeed some of the most fun you can have in video games, you get the obligatory “oh…that’s interesting.” And you know that from that moment, you’re judged for life for having what the normies feel like is just a toy on full display in the living room.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The GT-Lite was supposed to fix that, but to actually fold it down like the pictures show requires a zen-like patience and a degree in physics. Put simply, Next Level may have exaggerated just how easy this thing is to fold and put away.

I mean there’s a reason a friend called my old setup the AVPS (Adult Virginity Protection System). Of course, this is 100% said in jest, but you get the point. You can’t help but feel more than a tad embarrassed when someone walks in and sees what amounts to a plastic wheel and pedals attached to a deck chair. 

Endurance champ

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

But this is the beauty of the Playseat Challenge X. In the space of just 2 minutes, I can go from fully set up to folded — ready to pop in a cupboard. Just two levers stand between me and eliminating the social awkwardness of having to explain sim racing. The only downside is that at 25.6 pounds, it’s certainly on the lighter side of driving rigs, but will need a bit of lifting to move into your storage.

And on top of that, this seat is versatile and properly comfy to boot. With adjustability to six seating positions, you can adapt to whatever posture is most comfortable to you or (if you’re a dork like me) move it to sit in the proper position for any car you’re in — be it the higher up seating position of a touring car or sinking down low into the F1 bucket.

Pedals can also be placed in two different angles to gain the optimal position for a full control of the accelerator and brake, which really helps with nailing the subtleties of trail braking. Then you settle in and get ready for an endurance effort in Assetto Corsa Competizione, and the Actifit breathable knit fabric on the seat feels both impressively cushioned and well ventilated to avoid your back getting too warm.

Add to that the flexibility of steering wheel and gear stick placement on the front plate, and you’ve got yourself an impressive sim rig that feels great to sit in, but is also super easy to stow away.

Perfect for tiny dwellers

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Yes, this is my new daily driver (literally), and it should be yours too if you’re a sim lover without the space for the beefy rigs you see your favorite content creators use.

The price is right, the adjustability is absolutely right, and it strikes that right balance between comfort and convenience. And after rubbing 2021 in Max Verstappen’s face by destroying in in full-length F1 23 grand prix, I know in my soul that whether you’re into quick sprints, time trials or endurance challenges, this will do the trick.

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Jason England
Managing Editor — Computing

Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He has previously written for Laptop Mag, Tom's Hardware, Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.