Razer's gamepad is finally out—was it worth the wait?
We’re no fan of the console-ification of PC gaming, either, but you’ve got to admit, Microsoft has had the gamepad market locked since it introduced the USB Xbox 360 controller more than five years ago. In that respect, it’s not really surprising that the first real challenger to Microsoft’s super-solid wired controller is, itself, an Xbox 360 controller: the Razer Onza.
The Onza was first revealed more than a year ago at CES 2010, so consumers have had a lot of time to ask questions like, “Is Razer really going to try and become a console peripheral company? Can a third-party controller ever really beat the first-party offering?” Well, we don’t have an inside line on Razer’s business dealings, but we do have the Onza in our hands, and we can tell you that the answer to the second question is an emphatic yes.
The Onza’s low-profile face buttons are much more responsive than the standard Xbox 360 controller.
The Razer Onza isn’t a wide departure from the standard 360 controller in looks—it’s the same shape, more or less, with a nearly identical layout of face buttons and analog sticks and feels as good in the hands as the original. A slightly rubbery, nonslip coating makes it easy to hold on to, and it looks nice in matte black. It feels just the tiniest bit lighter and less solid than Microsoft’s controller, but that still leaves it in “very sturdy” territory. Like the Xbox 360 controller, no additional drivers are needed in Windows Vista or 7.
Where the Onza controller beats the regular Xbox controller is in features. Notably, the Onza uses Razer’s Hyperesponse actuators for the light-up face buttons, giving them a much clickier and more responsive feel. Additionally, Razer’s controller packs two bumper buttons above each trigger—the bonus button can be bound to any of the other standard buttons—and the physical resistance of the two analog sticks can be adjusted individually.
The one questionable change to the Xbox 360 controller formula is the switch from a rocker-style D-pad to one with four oversize buttons with lots of travel. It’s not a disaster, by any means, but we can’t say we like it better than the rocker, and it might trip up people who use the D-pad for complex inputs, such as fighting game commands.
At just $10 more than an Xbox 360 controller (or the exact same price for the non-Tournament Edition, which lacks the adjustable sticks and light-up buttons), and with a strictly superior feature set, we’d recommend this one to anybody. Hands down, this is the gamepad to beat. $50, www.razerzone.com
Razer Onza Tournament Edition
Feels great; cool extra features; competitive pricing.
Slightly less rock-solid than the original; new D-Pad isn’t for everyone.