Evolving the controller has never been an easy task for any designer. Never mind that Nintendo has completely strayed from the traditional controller in favor of a waggling remote; how do you make the Xbox 360 controller – a gamepad considered to be one the best ones for any system ever and make it better? That’s the challenge Razer took up. Read on to find out if the Onza Tournament Edition is really better than the stock Xbox 360 controller or just fumes of smoke.
Features / Design
From an aesthetic point of view, there’s a lot to love about the Onza TE. It was developed with functionality in mind first. As makers of some of the finest gaming equipment for PC gaming, Razer applied its slick tournament precision and style from its gaming mice into the Onza TE. The result is a controller with four backlit “hyper response action buttons,” two analog sticks with adjustable resistance, two programmable buttons located above the left and right bumpers and two slick resistive triggers.
At first, I thought going back to playing with a wired controller would be a giant step backwards (I haven’t used a wired controller in years!), but after opening up the box and discovering a 15 foot long braided fiber USB cable, my fears instantly evaporated. There’s really no way to trip over such a generous mount of cable unless you are blind as a bat and extremely clumsy. I’m assuming most of us don’t fall into that category.
Immediately you’ll realize why the Onza TE is so special: its buttons. Unlike Microsoft’s official Xbox 360 controller that uses standard switches, the Onza TE uses mechanical switches – the same kind found in tournament gaming mice with super fast tracking and abnormally high press-to-click button ratio. In layman’s terms: the distance from pressing the button all the way down is much shorter, which allows for more buttons presses at once – hence naming them hyper response buttons. Using hyper response buttons isn’t considered cheating – they’re just buttons that are better designed. They also light up, so finding your controller in a dark room is never an issue.
The adjustable analog sticks are a godsend. Sometimes you just want a little more control with shifting the camera or steadying your aim in a game. By simply twisting the rings on the analog sticks to the right, they become stiffer. Surprisingly, in simulation racing games like Forza Motorsport 3, I found steering cars to be much tighter and crashes to be less frequent than normal. Adjusting the resistance is going to be different for every game and every gamer, but boy is having the option available useful when you need it. Let’s not forget about the triggers and bumpers. On each side is a multifunction button and corresponding remap button located on the underside of the Onza TE. In a shooting game, generally the right trigger is for firing and the X button is for reloading. For example, with the programmable button, I can remap the reload function from the X button to the new right multifunction button and perform the action all on one scoop, leaving my thumb on the analog stick.
In your hand, the controller feels light very comfortable. The finish on the Onza TE is a nice matte rubbery texture and not at all as sweat-prone as the official Xbox 360 controller. Its build almost makes it feel like the direct cousin of the Controller S for the original Xbox, minus the memory card slots and awkwardly placed Start, Back, Black and White buttons.
Things I didn’t like about the controller are the relocation of the Back and Start button from the left and right side of the Xbox 360 logo button to below the D-Pad and right analog stick. Doing so differentiates the controller a little from other designs, but it also makes pausing a game a longer stretch, which is a problem if you don’t want to get torn at midst of a zombie onslaught in a game like Left 4 Dead 2. There’s also the issue of the D-Pad being a little too stiff for my tastes. Fighting game fans might be overjoyed at the sight of any D-Pad that’s better than the one on the official Xbox 360 controller, but the “precision D-Pad” on the Onza TE never really felt right to me.
The Onza TE controller retails for $50. Microsoft’s official wireless Xbox 360 controller sells for $50 and the wired Xbox 360 controller goes for $40. With any third-party controller, there is the trade-off of wireless, because Microsoft does not allow others to get access to its wireless tech, but luckily for the Onza TE, despite it being wired, it’s well worth it. Many third-party controllers sell for $30-40, but don’t be fooled – those cheapo clones and imitations aren’t designed to one-up the official Xbox 360 controller. The Onza TE was designed to do that and it succeeds for the most part.
The only thing that keeps the Onza TE from being a piece of perfection is of course the D-Pad, the unfriendly position of the Start and Back buttons and of course the wired cord. Trust me when I say the Onza TE’s lovely tactile clicky A/B/X/Y buttons, short release triggers, adjustable analogs wrapped in a svelte non-slip body more than justifies the $50 price tag. You will not find a more precise controller out there for the Xbox 360. As an added bonus, the Onza TE is also compatible right out of the box for PC gaming, so should your Xbox 360 get a Red Ring of Death or you switch over to a PlayStation 3, the Onza TE is still good if you’re into gaming on your computer.