Razer entered the PC peripherals market back in 1998 but flourished about seven years later with the release of mice such as the Diamondback, Copperhead and Viper. Since then they have been pumping out durable, well built and aesthetically pleasing mice, keyboards, and mouse pads, particularly designed for the gaming market. The introduction of the Onza Gaming Controller was somewhat unexpected for many including myself but it was only time until Razer capitalized on the ever growing console market.
Since the public unveiling of the Razer Onza Tournament Edition the majority of the attention has been oriented at its use with the Xbox 360 (X360). Razer developed this controller as a gateway into the console market but its second target platform, the PC, has been overlooked. It may be a surprise to some including some PC gamers but PC gamers use controllers too. Sure it is not considered “essential” gear for many PC gamers but for fans of racing games and for those playing console optimized games a controller could mean the difference of winning and losing.
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The Onza TE came packaged in top notch fashion in a cardboard backed clear plastic casing. The cardboard is colored in matte green and matte black with the features of the controller printed in a glossy coating. Inside and beneath the controller is the standard product logo in reflective silver. Razer didn’t cut any corners with this packaging even putting a rubber lining to the shelf hanger of the box!
There isn’t much Razer can include with a product such as a gaming controller. Hence, the Onza TE came with a high quality envelope with the certificate of authenticity, a quick start guide, two Razer stickers and other necessary documents. The only thing missing in the box is a Velcro strap to keep the 15 foot braided cable at bay. Yes, a 15 foot long cable! That’s over double the length of the cable on the standard Xbox 360 controller including the quick release feature.
Build, Design and Comfort
At first glance the Razer Onza TE appears larger than the standard X360 controller but in fact it has nearly identical dimensions. The key difference in design is the curves used to shape the controller. In the case of the Onza the curves accent the controller to make the surface space more usable than on the X360 controller where that space is rounded giving it a chubby appearance.
Getting rid of bulky curves also enhanced the feel of the controller. For example, both controllers have a dip behind the triggers, but on the Onza the dip is pointier while the outside of the dips are shaved down creating a more comfortable grip.
Adding to the comfort factor is the rubber coating exclusive to the TE. The standard Onza comes with a textured surface similar to that of the X360 controller. The special rubber coating keeps the controller grip-able with less force, thus enhancing the gaming experience. However, the coating is also thinner than what you might expect. Razer has managed to do a great job with the rubberized coating on their mice but in the case of the Onza TE it feels as if they just didn’t or couldn’t spray enough rubber on it.
Another key player in terms of comfort is the Onza’s weight. With the original X360 controller my wrists would end up slouching on the edge of my desk after using it for about an hour. Simply speaking, the controller would begin feeling too heavy to hold up and lead to soreness in my wrists while sitting upright. With the Onza this was not the case! There are no official figures for the weight of the Razer Onza but I would have to say the Onza weights about 20 to 30% less than the original X360 wired controller which weighs approximately 281g.
While comfort is important it is not the sole reason to buy a gaming controller, in the end performance matters just as much if not more. Appropriately Razer designed this controller attempting to address the complaints of gamers regarding the X360 controller and many of those were regarding the D-pad.
The D-pad on the original x360 controller is a single button solution. It is basically a circle that can be pushed down in four directions. In theory it was a great system but it turned out as a nightmare for many. Pushing down a specific direction is far too easy and often not accurate. For example, when trying to lower the windows in Test Drive Unlimited 2 with the “down” direction, I often came to take off the top which is the “up” direction. What Razer does differently is that it split the D-pad into four individual buttons. As a result, Razer’s D-pad makes it harder to make a mistake, it makes it considerably more accurate and the buttons feel clearer when being pressed. However, if you are playing a fighting game or similar it still doesn’t match up to the practicality and feel of the the Nintendo cross D-pad.
The Joy Sticks
Carrying on to the joy sticks, Razer fitted them with adjustable resistance knobs allowing users to tweak the amount of resistance or tilt to their preference. The height of the joy sticks is also higher than on the original X360 controller, thus, increasing precision. For instance, in GRID I ended up increasing the tension of the left joy stick in order to help stay on the racing line while corning. On the other hand, in Borderlands I left it at the most sensitive setting to aim and turn quicker. Even within Test Drive Unlimited 2 the ability to tighten the joy stick managed to decrease lap times with cars such as the Bugatti Veyron which looses speed on corners if turned too quickly.
The ABXY, Start and Back Buttons
On the original X360 controller the ABXY buttons use rubber membrane switches. Razer has backlit these buttons on the TE but more importantly they have fitted the ABXY buttons with mechanical switches. The buttons are not as protruding while clicking each button is easy because they are soft enough and it feels like the button of a high-end gaming mouse. Rapid repetitive clicks have never been easier on a gaming controller.
A significant difference between the original X360 controller and the Onza lies also in the position of the Back and Start buttons. Instead of being put on either side of the Xbox logo the buttons are located below the D-pad and the right joy stick. At first I was slightly boggled by this choice as it felt awkward and uncomfortable but within days I realized that the placement couldn’t have been better. In case of the original X360 controller you have to remove your hand from the grip of the controller to press the Back or the Start button with your thumb, with Razer’s placement you can simply lift your finger off the ABXY buttons or joy stick and click without having to lose your grip on the controller.
The Triggers and Multi-Function Buttons (MFB)
One of the biggest differences between the original X360 controller and the Onza comes on the front. As you can see the triggers are elongated and feature a profound arc. What you can’t see are the softer springs that Razer has fitted on the Onza TE. Some have argued this combination is only good for racing genre gamers, and certainly I’ll agree that the softer springs allow for far better control of acceleration and speed while keeping your index finger from getting tired from holding down the gas. On the other hand, I believe that this modified design is also beneficial for FPS gamers. Even though the trigger doesn’t bounce back as quickly or as forcefully like the original X360 controller the actuation point is quicker. That means it doesn’t have to be as depressed to trigger a shot and it makes firing faster, especially in the case of semi-automatic weapons or melees.
Above the trigger Razer has shrunken bumper buttons and added a pair of multi-function buttons. These two buttons can be reprogrammed to any of the buttons besides the D-pad or joy stick buttons. It can be changed, firstly, by simply pressing down the button on the under part of the controller on the side that you want and, secondly, by selecting the button you want programmed to the MFBs. Positioned between the two buttons to change the MFBs is a light up panel which indicates which button you have assigned to the MFBs when one of the modifier buttons is pressed.
So you may be asking “Why you would want to use this function?” Well if you are in a shooting game such as Borderlands or L4D2 and you are playing with the controller you need both thumbs manning the joy sticks, one to move, the other to look. The MFBs are located above the bumpers, and, therefore, you don’t have to lift your thumbs off the joy sticks. Basically, you can get rid of the ABXY bottoms and assign commands such as switching weapons, reload or throwing grenades to the MFBs.
Like the start and back buttons the bumpers and the MFBs take some getting used to. Both of them are smaller than on the original X360 controller and, consequently, it is likely you’ll keep hitting the MFBs or both the bumpers and the MFBs in the beginning. Besides, they are louder than on the original X360 controller and may bother other people in the room or even yourself if you aren’t wearing headphones.
Drivers and Ports
The Onza TE uses the standard Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller for PC drivers available on Microsoft’s site. I believe this is due to Microsoft licensing, similar to the reason rumored as to why there isn’t a wireless variant of the Onza (TE). As for ports the Onza TE only has a 2.5mm jack and therefore some Xbox Controller accessories may not be compatible, though if you are on PC this shouldn’t be a concern.
Taken as a whole, the Razer Onza TE is a well designed blend of comfort and performance. Razer has listened to complaints about the original X360 Controller and implemented some good ideas on the Onza TE improving the overall gaming experience. These changes include adjustable tension joy sticks, a split D-pad, mechanical ABXY and additional customizable rapid fire bumpers.
The Onza Tournament Edition is definitely a major upgrade over the Microsoft X360 PC gaming controller. I wouldn’t think twice about getting an Onza TE over the Microsoft X360 PC gaming controller and I would even suggest that serious PC controller gamers look at replacing their Microsoft controller with the Onza TE as well.