Review: Razer Onza Controller

Disclaimer: I was presented the opportunity to both playtest and provide insight into the development of the Onza controller for over six months.

Finally, after a full year of coverage, I am able to review the final products of the Razer Onza Controller — both the Standard Edition (39.99 USD) and the Tournament Edition (49.99USD).  The Onza represents the first third-party gaming controller, specifically designed with the competitive gaming community in mind.  My initial article covering the Razer Onza predicted that the controller would vastly improve the user-end, competitive gaming experience.

Is the controller better than the standard Xbox 360 controller, or is it just another third-party failure?  To find out, stick around after the jump where my review will be discussing the following:

  • Design
  • Functionality
  • Pros and Cons
  • Who Should Buy

 

Video Review

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Design and Durability

As previously mentioned, there are two separate designs for the Razer Onza, the Tournament Edition (TE) and the Standard Edition (SE).  At first glance, the differences appear to be indistinguishable, only after playing with each controller are the three major differences noticed.  The Standard Edition Onza features a textured, matte black finish, no adjustable tension on the analog sticks and a standard 15-foot wired USB cable. The Tournament Edition features a black rubberized finish, adjustable tension on the analog sticks and a double-braided nylon 15-foot USB cable.  Both controllers feature:

  • Hyperesponse Action Buttons
  • Multi-Function Buttons
  • Improved D-Pad
  • PC Compatibility
  • Quick Release USB Connector

The overall design for the controller, despite the extra shoulder buttons, is actually quite similar to that of the standard Microsoft controller.  The Onza is about a quarter of an inch smaller and ergonomically it feels just as good in your hands as the MS controller. By some accounts, specifically that of my girlfriend (has smaller hands than me), the Onza actually “feels better” than the standard controller — that was said after a couple hours of Zombies on Call of Duty: Black Ops.  Additionally the rubberized texture on the TE Onza caters more to my liking when it comes to grip, but that is more of a personal preference.  The texture of Standard Edition Onza feels equivalent to that of the Microsoft controller, ultimately nothing is lost in the overall “feel” of the Onza.

The glaring design flaw with the Onza is that the controller uses a single 2.5mm input jack on the bottom of the controller for Xbox Live chat.  This eliminates use of the Xbox 360 Chatpad and some headsets, and anyone still using the 3-prong Xbox Live Chat is out of luck.  Some gamers may have issues with the controller only being “wired,” however I believe Microsoft has some influence in that decision — regardless I do not own and have never purchased a wireless controller (I sold them).  It has never been a make or break deal for me.

As far as durability is concerned, I believe it is really too early to see how the Onza will hold up.  I can tell you, this is no MadCatz or Nyko controller, so I expect it to last quite some time.  I will revisit and update my opinions should I notice any signs of failure.

Functionality

The functionality of the Razer Onza is the based around several key features of the controller including the additional shoulder buttons, referred to as the MFB (Multi-Function Buttons), the Hyperesponse action buttons, adjustable tension (TE only) and the altered D-Pad.

MS Should Buttons vs Onza Multi-Function Buttons

The Multi-Function buttons take a little getting used to, but the placement is about as flexible as any company is going to create.  I do not see the placement changing, unless Razer takes a page from Sony and places the buttons on the back of the peripheral (NGP style) in the next Onza iteration.  Even after such an extensive play testing experience, I still find myself occasionally hitting the MFB’s when I want to perform a shoulder action.  In order to set a shoulder button, select one of the two buttons located on the back of the controller and set it to a button.  I did notice that one minor “fix” to the issue is setting the MFB to the shoulder button, ironically that defeats the purpose of remapping additional buttons.

On the flip-side, once I became acclimated to the placement, the buttons really added more depth to a variety of games.  I was able to re-map certain functions on specific games like Gears of War that allowed for more precise and accurate actions.  Keeping my thumb on the analog while wall sliding and sprinting (both actions controlled by the A Button) for example are applicable because of the Multi-Function Buttons.  In a way, it makes up for the lack of controller configurations provided by developers.

Adjustable Tension

The other major functionality factor is the Adjustable Tension, provided on the analogs of the Tournament Edition Onza.  The adjustable tension is feature that should resonate well with the First-Person Shooter gamers.  The ability to finely tune how much resistance can be had on each analog is truly innovative on a controller.  Again, Gears of War is a great example of how applicable this feature can be for the competitive gamers of the world.  Gears of War only allows for three sensitivity settings: Low, Medium and High.  Compared to a game like Call of Duty or Halo which has a numerical scale of 1 – 10, there is obviously not much leeway on Epic’s part.  The Adjustable Tension allowed me to tighten (add resistance) my analogs and fine tune to a more precise sensitivity feel.

MS Analog vs TE Adjustable Tension Analog

I ended up playing Gears of War on the High sensitivity setting with a 3-click on my analogs.  As both a console and PC gamer, I know that I will never have the same aiming precision as I would using a mouse, but Razer is certainly making the argument of Mouse vs. Controller more presentable.  My only concern with the Adjustable Tension is how well it weathers the storm after a year of loosening and tightening the sticks.  There were also times that it appeared to be inconsistent in regards to where resistance was allocated the most (this issue should be resolved in the consumer models according to Razer).  Sometimes moving to the right was easier than moving to the left.

NOTE: I did not experience the dreaded slow turn on any Onza that I have received. Make sure your tension is completely released before testing your analogs for Slow Turn.

The Hyperesponse buttons feel very similar to that of a mouse-click.  Again it takes a little time adjusting to physically pressing them, but this is a much needed improvement over the membrane design on the Xbox 360 controller.  All traditional Xbox 360 controllers utilize a, now defunct, membrane based depress mechanism.  Essentially this process adds an extra “delay time” to executed actions.  Other problems include the “sticky buttons” or issues where actions are not registered.

MS Membrane Buttons vs Onza Mechanical Buttons

The Onza uses mechanical switches which process and execute actions faster than the membrane system.  In my experiences with the Onza, I found the Hyperesponse buttons to have a better feel to them than the MS controller’s traditional buttons.  I loved the lower design and hearing “clicks” with each button  press.  Absolutely none of the controllers I tested showed any signs of wear and tear, like some of my previous Xbox 360 controllers.  The lower design alleviates some of the problems associated with dirt build-up which in turn causes “sticky buttons.”  This was a common problem that usually occurred at eBash Video Gaming Centers, where dozens upon dozens of controllers become inoperable after a short period of time.  LAN Centers rejoice at the fact that Razer has solved one cost associated with the shoddy build quality of the MS Controllers.

Pros And Cons

Pros

  • No Slow Turn means a consistent FPS experience
  • Adjustable Tension is a gamechanger for Shooters (TE Only)
  • Rubberized Finish (TE Only)
  • Multi-Function Buttons add depth to gaming experience
  • D-Pad is better than standard MS controller
  • Hyperesponse action buttons are major improvement over MS action buttons
  • Outstanding Price for features at $39.99 and $49,99

Cons

  • Tension can be inconsistent at high resistance levels but should be fixed on consumer model
  • Single 2.5mm jack on controller limits some peripherals
  • Currently wired only models

End of the Day

Without shadow a doubt, the Razer Onza is a much better gaming peripheral than the Microsoft issued Xbox 360 controller.  Initially, I presumed that pricing for high-quality, console controllers was going to be astronomical, but Razer is making the Onza an easy choice for any type of gamer with their current price points.  There are enough features on both controllers to appeal to just about any genre-specific gamer.  Aside from the Onza being a wired only controller, it does not possess enough negative factors that should sway gamers from purchase.  I found it uncomfortable and frustrating to go back and play with the standard Xbox 360 controller after using the Onza — it’s just that much better.

MadCatz, Nyko and all other third-party hardware manufactures should be worried; their days of producing disgusting (yes disgusting), third-party peripherals is about to end.  Do yourself a favor and invest in an Onza, it just up’ed the ante for console gaming peripherals.

Available at Amazon.com




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About K.L.

Major League Gaming Pro 2007 -2010. Captain of AmazYn. Editor-in-Chief of ReflectzYn. YouTube Partner. All around techy dude.