Bizarrely enough, this isn't the first time we've had a reader review on a video game controller, but I think this is a useful one. The Razer Onza Tournament Edition is a fully customisable Xbox 360/PC controller designed for competitive play -but does it cut the muster? Benjamin Golightly, better known on Kotaku as 'The Cracks', investigates.
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Take it away Benjamin.
Razer Onza Tournament Edition (Xbox 360 / PC controller) Many of you will be familiar with Razer as the company that makes PC gaming peripherals (such as mice or meltable keyboards). Recently, Razer have taken a step into the console gaming market with the release of the Onza. The Onza is an Xbox 360 wired controller that doubles as a PC control pad out of the box (with the appropriate drivers). Billed as a tournament class controller, and boasting several improvements over the already exceptional Microsoft standard controller, does the Onza live up to Razer's marketing? (Note: This reader review will focus on the slightly more expensive Tournament Edition).
Loved Multifunction buttons (MFB): The Onza TE includes two 'MFBs' located just above the left and right shoulder buttons, and act as an extra set of shoulder buttons that can be mapped to any other 'button' on the controller (with the restriction that the left stick button can only map to left MFB etc). The positioning can be a little weird at first, and you might find yourself hitting the MFB rather than the shoulder button, but the actual shoulder buttons expand at the edge to provide an easy-to-find surface. The ability to map face buttons to the shoulders of the controller is an obvious benefit to many games, particularly FPS, as it allows you to perform common actions without removing the thumb from the thumbstick.
Hyperesponse buttons: The face buttons (ABXY) use Razer's hyperesponse technology (used in Razer mice) to detect activation. This makes the buttons feel very much like a mouse click, and is a definite improvement over the MS stock membrane switch. It takes less force, and requires less depression, to activate the buttons. Also, you get a nice clicky noise and backlighting.
Rubber coating: Like most Razer mice, the Onza TE comes with a rubberised surface. It feels far more comfortable than the typical plastic housing of most controllers, and it provides a (relatively) non-slip surface for people with sweaty hands. Plus, the matte look is sexy.
Thumbsticks: Firstly, the Onza has thumbsticks that are slightly longer than the MS standard, which theoretically allows for greater precision. From what I can tell during play, the deadzone (region in the centre of the sticks' range of motion that doesn't respond to input) is almost non-existant. I'd never particularly noticed the deadzone in the MS controllers, but the Onza TE instantly feels better. The main drawcard for the Tournament Edition is the inclusion of adjustable tension settings on the thumbsticks. A notched wheel on the stick allows you to increase or decrease the tension for each stick separately, which determines the relative ease or difficulty of moving the thumbstick. I found that increasing the tension on the right stick has made it far easier to make small aiming adjustments with precision on higher in-game sensitivity settings. This is probably only of particular use to FPS games, however.
Cable: Microsoft don't licence the wireless technology used in their controllers, so all third party controllers are forced to use a cable. At 15ft long, the braided cable isn't too bad, but wireless is definitely preferable. The lack of a battery pack also significantly reduces the weight of the controller, which can be seen as a good thing, but I miss the heft of the MS wireless controllers.
Triggers: The left and right triggers on the Onza TE are similar in size to the standard MS triggers, yet they have an additional length of plastic jutting out from the finger rest. Placing your finger at the base of the trigger is comfortable and works fine, whilst using the extra length is awkward and uncomfortable and does not provide any immediately obvious benefits.
Relocation of the Start and Back buttons: The Start and Back buttons have been shifted from their traditional home flanking the Guide button to the bottom of the controller, just above the microphone jack. Not a big deal, but it can be awkward to press them.
Difficult to click thumbsticks: As you increase the tension on the thumbsticks, it becomes increasingly difficult to click the thumbstick button while the thumbstick is angled. Fortunately, the thumbstick buttons can be mapped to the MFBs if necessary.
Sharp edge: There is an edge on either side of the controller that is most prominant at the top of the controller and separates the shoulder buttons from the face of the controller. This edge is pointy. It hasn't ever been a problem for me whilst using the controller, and I doubt it ever will, but it would be nice to have this edge rounded.
I love the Onza TE, and cannot see myself willingly going back to the Microsoft controllers any time soon. The combination of minor improvements to a controller widely viewed as one of the best available results in something truly wonderful to hold and use. The ability to use the controller for PC gaming via USB is icing on the cake.
Disclaimer: Please note that this review is based upon my personal experience with the controller. Before I purchased the Onza TE, I saw several reports by users that had issues with their controllers, including malfunctioning buttons and the presence of 'slow turn'. I have had no issues with my controller, and the majority of user responses have been positive, but it is only fair to give warning of potential issues.