If by any chance you, like us, can simulate “full motion” in your simracing rig (pitch, heave, roll, surge, sway and yaw), you are simulating a lot, but not g-forces. Until now. American company Simexperience was the first to release its G-Belt and now Chinese manufacturer PT Actuator has finally released Tension-R, which by all account is smaller, smoother and quieter than the American variant, plus it does not require you to screw it into the backrest of the racing seat itself in the racing rig. So… Easy choice for us. We ordered the very first production example of the Tension-R and after one full week of testing, we are ready to give you the very first review, in the world.
The very basic idea of an active, motorised belt tensioner of this kind is that it tightens and releases the four-point harness you wear in an simulator rig to create the illusion of g-forces. Everyone who has ever driven a really fast car knows how it feels and everyone who has driven a racing car knows how strong the g-forces can be and how they affect the human body. With an active belt tensioner, the motors work to, for example, tighten one side of the harness in one direction when you steer into a corner and tighten both belts around your shoulders if you stomp the brake. It sounds simple, maybe even strange, but it works. It works really, really, really well. Tension-R is advantageously mounted behind the seat, at the bottom of the rig and PT Actuator has a number of different types of brackets that you can choose from and they ask you as a buyer which rig you use and which dimensions you use, before they complete your Tension-R order and ship it. We bolted on the rectangular, black box with the help of the included, pre-assembled brackets and four M6 bolts and it went in a few miserable minutes, all-in-all. The belt is included and is already pre-assembled in the box upon delivery and in summary, it is a very well-designed overall product and package.
The software for PT Actuator’s products is made by Sim Racing Studio and it has been really easy to calibrate and fine-tune the functionality in Tension-R. In the manual for the system, you are asked to bind a key to the calibration function in the SRS software, which is a very flexible function that allows you to get a fully calibrated belt tensioner with a smooth, simple button press in a meagre second after sitting in the rig and tightening the belt. Tension-R always needs to be calibrated quickly if you change drivers or just sat down in the seat, to find out how much belt there is to use and where the shoulders are, and this works just as well as everything else regarding this product .
We primarily play two simracing games here at the Gamereactor office and they are Automobilista 2 and Dirt Rally 2.0. It is therefore of course in these two games that we tested the functionality of Tension-R from PT Actuator and both the gaming experiences are significantly improved with the help of this little black box. In Automobilista 2, it’s incredibly cool to sit in the Mclaren F1 GT1 and hurl your way out of the pit section at legendary race track Spa to feel how Tension-R really hugs your shoulders when you send Gordon Murray’s magical 90’s monster down into the iconic, brutal Eau Rouge-chicane and it’s equally sweet to feel how the side of the four point harness squeezes your upper body to the right side when you step into Les Combes. We have reduced the power of the system quite a bit from how it felt out of the box, and activated the maximum amount of “smoothing” in the software from SRS, to create a subtle feeling rather than something you register actively, and think about, when it happens. The idea of our entire simrig is “less is more”, regardless of whether it is about the Traction Plus platform from Next Level Racing, the Sim-3D Rumble Motor Kit on the Heusinkveld Ultimate Plus-pedals or the SR2 system from Swedish Simrig. Less is more. Always. It’s much better if you experience it as “immersion”, alone – rather than something that interferes with the racing itself.
It’s just as cool to go out in Dirt Rally 2.0 on the fantastic special stage “Newhouse Bridge” (Scotland) in Dirt Rally 2.0 and already there in the beginning when you throw your rally car (in my case Ford Fiesta R5 MKII) into the right hairpin before hurling up the hill, feeling the simulated g-forces by one belt pulling the body in one direction. PT Actuator Tension-R is a well-thought-out, nicely designed and physically small power package that works lightning fast without delay and gives a feeling of g-force that was lacking in our already superb full motion rig.
It’s a bit loud, though. According to the specifications, clearly quieter than the nearest competitor Simexperience G-Belt, but still so loud that you need a reasonably powerful surround system or good gaming headphones to completely overpower it’s noise. This is however not a problem for us at Gamereactor as our 5.2 sound system is constantly going almost full force in our simracing-room, so much that the windows actually vibrate. PT Actuator Tension-R is expensive though. $899 is expensive for a gadget that “only” pulls a little on the harness, but for those who do not want to compromise and have already put a lot of money on their racing rig but lack the feeling of simulated g-force, there is no better alternative today. It offers a reinforcement of immersion which you get attached to in just a couple of minutes and I would absolutely not like to live without it.