Razer Sabertooth Review

ClayMeow - 2014-05-16 14:13:39 in Input Devices
Category: Input Devices
Reviewed by: ClayMeow   
Reviewed on: May 20, 2014
Price: $79.99

Razer Sabertooth Introduction:

While Razer is best known for its line of mice and keyboards, the company has a whole slew of products that span the gaming spectrum. Razer lives by its motto, "For Gamers. By Gamers." If the company's founders Robert Krakoff and Min-Liang Tan think gamers want something, no matter how obscure, they will have their engineers create it. This was of course no more apparent than with the unveil of the Razer Nabu smartband at CES 2014.

The product I'm reviewing today is the Razer Sabertooth Elite Gaming Controller for Xbox 360, or Razer Sabertooth for short. Despite the "for Xbox 360" portion of its full name, it's fully compatible with Windows XP and up, as long as you have a free USB 2.0 port. I first laid eyes (and fingers) on the Razer Sabertooth at CES 2013 and was immediately impressed. It had a solid construction, additional multi-function buttons, an OLED screen, and simply seemed like a substantial improvement over its predecessor, the Razer Onza.

Now, after more than a year, I finally get my hands on my very own Razer Sabertooth. Will it live up to my expectations and be as good as I remember? I guess it's about time we find out.

Razer Sabertooth Closer Look:

If you happen to shop in a brick-and-mortar store that sells computer peripherals, Razer products tend to visually pop on the shelves. While the boxes are predominantly black, the bright green flair really contrasts nicely and they always feature an image of the product so you know exactly what's inside. The box for the Razer Sabertooth is no different.

The majority of the front of the box is filled with a slightly off-center image of the Sabertooth controller, making it easily discernible for most gamers that this is an Xbox-style controller. The Razer logo appears in the top-right corner, while the bottom-left corner contains "Razer Sabertooth Elite Gaming Controller for Xbox 360", with the emphasis clearly being on the word "Sabertooth", which is a reflective silver color. The bottom-right corner contains a green "Licensed for Xbox 360" logo imprinted on the box, letting us know it's an official third-party controller. In tiny white print at the very bottom, "for gamers. by gamers" appears on the left, while "www.razerzone.com" appears on the right.

 

Flipping over to the back of the box is where you really get the bulk of the information. While the front of the box mostly represents it as your typical Xbox 360-style controller, albeit with an OLED screen, the back of the box is where you see all the bells and whistles it really has. These include the detachable cord, the included carrying case, the extra shoulder buttons, and the bottom rocker switches. If you wondered why the Sabertooth comes with a bit of a price premium, the back of the box provides the answer.

 

The left side of the box features a portrait and quote from Kendall "Arctic" Smith, founder and captain of Team AmazYn (a United States professional Gears of War team), who contributed toward the controller's design. Below the quote, which appears in English and French, the word "elite" is highlighted in green above "expert" and "essential" in gray, reinforcing that this is an "Elite Gaming Controller". The right side of the box highlights three of the main features that sets the Sabertooth apart from other Xbox 360 controllers, which include the six additional programmable buttons, the OLED, and the high quality components for reliability and mobility.

 

 

The top of the box shows the top of the controller (shoulder buttons, triggers, and the detachable cable), along with the words "unlevel the playing field" in green. The bottom of the box lists the detailed specifications, system requirements, size and weight, package contents, and of course a multitude of barcodes, regulatory symbols, and copyright information.

Razer Sabertooth Closer Look:

The Razer Sabertooth box is held shut via clear tape and can be opened on either side. While it seems minor, I found it pretty neat that the tape on both sides had a non-sticky tab that allowed me to easily pull it off the side and open the lid – no knife, scissor, fingernail, screwdriver, or any other apparatus needed to slice it open! The inside of the box is the bright Razer-green color through and through, with a black carrying case nestled within. In between the case and box, you'll find a Quick Start Guide, a letter congratulating you on your purchase and informing you of Razer's social media pages, and a pair of Razer logo stickers. The Quick Start Guide provides a "device layout" diagram to familiarize yourself with all its buttons and features, along with instructions on how to use the OLED to program the additional buttons (more on that later).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The carrying case is a black, textured rectangle with rounded corners, featuring a green-rubber zipper and the Razer logo embedded in the top. Opening the case unveils what we've all been waiting for – the Razer Sabertooth controller itself! The Sabertooth sits within a molded foam inset, while the top of the case contains two mesh pouches, loosely sealed via Velcro. The top, larger pouch contains the detachable, braided cable, while the bottom pouch contains analog stick covers, a tiny screwdriver used to remove or reattach the multi-function triggers on the underside, and two rubber covers if you decide to remove those triggers.

 

 

Looking at the face of the controller, it's quite apparent that it's an Xbox 360 controller. Not only does it have the Xbox's unparallel analog sticks, Razer even included the Xbox button at the top center with the Xbox logo, flanked by the Back and Start buttons. The Razer logo, on the other hand, is imprinted, black-on-black, on the right grip. Aside from that, there are probably a few other differences you'll notice right away: the OLED screen toward the bottom flanked by two buttons on either side, the detachable cable connection at the top, and the directional pad (D-Pad) with separate, distinct buttons for each direction. This is a marked improvement over a standard Xbox 360 controller, which has it all in one piece. Peeking just under the OLED screen is a 2.5mm headset jack. The face buttons (ABXY) are "backlit Hyperesponse action buttons", which have a distinctive click to them, like the sound of a mouse-click.

 

 

 

 

 

No controller these days would be complete without dual-analog sticks. As I mentioned earlier, and as you'd expect from an official Xbox 360 controller, they're unparallel. As you can see from the close-up, they're slightly textured, but if you're like me, that won't matter because you'll quickly pop on the bright green rubber covers. They were fairly easy to get on and feature a hexagonal pattern in the center for added grip. I don't foresee ever removing them except maybe to clean them.

 

 

Of course, the other things modern controllers wouldn't be caught without are shoulder buttons, and the Razer Sabertooth certainly has you covered there. Aside from your typical shoulder bumper buttons (LB/RB) and triggers (LT/RT), you'll also notice two additional multi-function buttons (M1/M2) toward the center. These additional buttons are much smaller than the additional shoulder buttons on the Razer Onza, which means there's less likelihood of accidental presses.

 

If those two buttons weren't enough, flipping the Sabertooth over to expose its underbelly reveals its most unique feature: four removable multi-function triggers (M4/M6 on the left and M3/M5 on the right). These triggers are actually more like rockers and activated with your middle or ring fingers, depending on how you hold the controller. If for some reason you find them uncomfortable, you can use the provided screwdriver to remove them and replace them with rubber covers. Removing the triggers was extremely easy, as was popping in the rubber covers – the reverse, not so much. The rubber covers sit so flush that it was not easy getting them back out. Once you do though, screwing the triggers back on is easy. The one thing I did find odd was that the rubber covers are labeled L and R, yet the triggers are not. Considering they're both identical, it's not a big deal, but so are the rubber covers, so that didn't really make much sense. That being said, there's no point in removing them anyway, as even if you don't want to use them, they can be completely disabled while still attached, and they don't provide any discomfort, at least for me.

 

 

 

Last, but not least, is the detachable cable. The connection is notched and fairly easy to screw in without any tools necessary. The cable is 10 feet (or three meters) in length and fully braided, save for a couple of plastic sections. One such plastic section is roughly six inches from the USB connection, and actually allows you to "break" the connection, though I don't really understand why you would ever need to – if you ever want to transport the Sabertooth in its carrying case, you need to completely detach the cable anyway. And before you say it's so you don't have to reach behind your computer if using a rear USB port, that argument would have maybe made sense if the breakaway point was closer to the controller and not within inches of the USB port.

 

Razer Sabertooth Specifications:

Razer Sabertooth Features:

 

All information courtesy of Razer @ http://www.razerzone.com/gaming-controllers/razer-sabertooth

Razer Sabertooth Testing:

Testing a game controller, or any input device, is largely a subjective process. Sure I can tell you if all its functions work (which is obviously crucial), but for the most part, it all comes down to feel. If this was a mouse or keyboard review, I could break it down into three basic categories: everyday use, work, and play. But this is a game controller, so there's only one use: gaming. As this is a computer site, all the game testing is done on a PC, but gaming on an Xbox 360 should be no different.

Even though it technically doesn't have an impact on my experience, before I get on to the plethora of games I played using the Sabertooth, here's my rig:

I am a PC gamer first and foremost. That means I love me some keyboard-and-mouse (KBM). Nothing beats KBM in shooters, real-time strategy games, and MMOs, but there are plenty of genres that play best with a controller. While every genre can be played with KBM, assuming a game supports it, I feel platformers, fighting games, and racing games play best with a controller, and so those are the genres my testing will be focused on. While the underbelly triggers would in all likelihood provide an advantage in shooters compared to a standard controller (allowing your thumb to never leave the right analog stick), it wouldn't be fair for me to play a shooter with the Sabertooth since I Ioathe using dual-analog sticks compared to my trusty KBM.

Games Played:

All gameplay videos found on the subsequent pages were recorded using NVIDIA ShadowPlay and with me using the Razer Sabertooth as the sole control method.

 

Razer Sabertooth Customization:

Before I discuss how the controller felt and performed during the aforementioned games, I thought now would be a good time to discuss its customization. All customization is done on the controller itself and stored locally on the controller in one of two profiles. The button to the left of the OLED display cycles through the two profiles, while the button on the right is used to enter and exit Program Mode.

 

 

If you've been paying attention, you'll know that the Sabertooth contains two multi-function buttons (MFB) on the shoulder and four multi-function triggers (MFT) on the underbelly. Configuring these is extremely simple: while in Program Mode, you simply press and hold the MFB or MFT you wish to configure, then press the button or trigger you wish to assign to the MFB or MFT. You can assign any pressable button to these, which essentially means everything except analog directions. This means all of the following can be assigned to any MFB or MFT: any of the four D-Pad directions, A, B, X, Y, LB, LT, RB, RT, either analog stick button (LASB / RASB), and even Back and Start. Each MFB and MFT are disabled by default, and if you want to re-disable them, you simply press the Program button while holding it down instead of one of the other buttons. You can always just completely reset a Profile if you want as well, which I won't get into, but the instructions are clearly laid out in the Quick Start Guide.

If that wasn't enough, you can also change the individual sensitivity of each analog stick. Sensitivity is set at 00 by default and can all the way up to 10 (high sensitivity) and all the way down to -10 (low sensitivity), in increments of one. The sensitivity settings are saved to the selected profile, so if you like playing first-person shooters with a controller, you can have one profile set at normal sensitivity and switch to a lower sensitivity profile when sniping, similar to what some KBM players do with mouse DPI settings.

While this is a nice degree of customization, one thing you cannot do is set macros. Some of the hardest moves for me to pull off in fighting games are usually the ones that have a "Left Right" or "Right Left" sequence, as half the time I wind up jumping in between. The individual D-Pad buttons certainly help alleviate that problem, but it would have been awesome if I could assign that as a macro to one of the MFTs. I could assign "D-Pad Left" or "D-Pad Right", but not both together in one command. From my understanding, Razer could not include macro-support (nor rapid-fire support) because of Microsoft regulations if it wanted the Sabertooth to be an "Official Xbox 360 Controller". That sadly means PC gamers must suffer as well.

Razer Sabertooth Results:

Injustice: Gods Among Us

Injustice was the first game I tested the Sabertooth with because it seemed most fitting – the fighting genre is the one genre the majority of people agree plays better with a controller, more so than any other genre. It also happened to be the main reason I wanted a new controller. If you're not familiar with Injustice, it's a 3D-rendered fighting game on a 2D plane based upon the DC Comics universe. It probably has the best Story Mode of any fighting game I've ever played, and its graphics and special effects are top-notch as well. If you've never seen the game, I recorded one of the S.T.A.R. Labs missions (basically a ton of unique missions for each character), featuring Scarecrow altering the world as you try and defeat Raven as Batman:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In any case, the Sabertooth performed wonderfully in Injustice, though I did not. I thought maybe it would be the magic elixir to my 2D fighting game woes, but alas, it seems I'm only good at 3D fighting games (eg. Soul Calibur). That being said, the separate buttons of the D-Pad certainly made pulling off combos much easier than when I used a joined D-Pad. To really test things out, I assigned M5 (the lower-left underbelly trigger) to "D-Pad Left" and M6 (the lower-right underbelly trigger) to "D-Pad Right". It took me a couple matches to get used to it, but eventually I got the hang of it and it certainly made pulling off the "Left-to-Right-plus-Attack" maneuvers easier. I still used the D-Pad for all other movement and combos, just resorting to the MFTs when I wanted to do one of those aforementioned combos. It was pretty sweet!

 

Castle Crashers

Castle Crashers is a side-scrolling beat 'em up, which harkens back to the days of Double Dragon and Golden Axe, while mixing in a few RPG elements. The game originated as an Xbox Live Arcade title, so utilizing an Xbox 360 controller is only natural. In fact, not using an Xbox 360 controller is rather difficult because all the in-game prompts are the 360 prompts. Thankfully, that's not an issue when using the Razor Sabertooth, and as I'm sure you imagined, it performs perfectly.

 

The one aspect of the game I don't necessarily like very much is how magic is performed. Using magic requires you to hold down RT, then press a direction and attack button. It's mostly the holding-RT portion that annoys me, so I thought of assigning that to an MFB or MFT, but couldn't really come up with a better solution. That's not the fault of the controller though, outside of the lack of macro support. That being said, Castle Crashers is still a highly enjoyable game – as long as you don't mind poop humor.

 

Guacamelee! Gold Edition

I chose to play Guacamelee because 1) complex platformers are best with a controller, and 2) I attained the Platinum Trophy for the game on the PS Vita, so I am intimately familiar with it. I did also play DuckTales: Remastered for nostalgia's sake, but since it's a basic two-button (jump and attack) platformer, it's not a good gauge of a controller's worth. Guacamelee, on the other hand, is a Metroidvania game with multiple attacks, throws, special moves, and combos; and you can turn into a chicken; and you can switch between the land of the living and the land of the dead. So yeah, good luck doing all that with a keyboard!

Having already beat the game twice on the Vita (once on Normal and once on Hard to get the Platinum Trophy), I used an officially sanctioned cheat code at the main menu screen to unlock Hard Mode from the start. Being a Metroidvania game, Guacamelee can certainly be quite difficult if you don't take the time to discover secret chests that eventually grant you permanent boosts to health and stamina. Enemies hit extremely hard in Hard mode, so you'll definitely need some extra health, while stamina is used to pull off the special attacks and thus becomes absolutely essential in later combat situations.

 

As I mentioned before, the controls can get quite complex, especially once you unlock all the special moves. The Sabertooth performed admirably, never being the reason I got killed or failed a complex platform puzzle. I found it much easier to handle some of the insane platform puzzles (eg. switching between worlds while jumping and soaring through the air) than I did on the Vita; though that may be chalked up to being familiar with the game. The game also takes full advantage of the Rumble feature, so you feel every bone-crunching hit you deliver or take – something I didn't experience in the Vita version.

Razer Sabertooth Results:

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed (SASRT) is an arcade kart-racing game and thus another great test for any controller. SASRT is like Mario Kart, but with characters from Sega and a few other games (including Team Fortress 2 on PC), and with transforming cars mid-race to tackle land, sea, and air. The game uses the left analog stick to steer (not allowing the use of the D-Pad), to allow for precise controls, and the Sabertooth manages that perfectly. Of course, if you don't find the default sensitivity to your liking, you can always alter it, as mentioned earlier. While the main racing component on the ground and sea only utilize left and right, the analog stick is fully utilized when engaging flight mode.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm sure a racing wheel would be the ideal control method for SASRT and most racing games, but for someone who just plays the occasional racing game like myself, using a gamepad is perfectly suitable. And in a game like SASRT where the steering is variable, using an analog stick is definitely preferable over keyboard controls.

 

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

For the last game in my official testing, I just had to try Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition. Dark Souls is a notoriously difficult, third-person action role-playing game, which launched on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011 before being ported over to the PC nearly a year later. I bring up this brief history lesson because the latter part is rather important as to why I chose to test the game with the Sabertooth. Just as notoriously difficult as the game is, the PC port is notoriously poor. Resolution, framerate, and graphics options aside, the biggest atrocity may have been how horrible the keyboard and mouse controls were translated.

I tried the default keyboard and mouse controls, and they were bad. I then installed a community-made hack to improve the controls, and they were certainly better, but, having played the game a little on an Xbox 360, I knew they were still pale in comparison to a controller. So then I tried to use my old controller. Problem solved? Not quite. See, my old controller was not an official Xbox 360 controller, yet all the in-game prompts were for the Xbox 360. Figuring out what controls did what was frustrating, especially in the heat of battle. But now I have the Sabertooth and all is good in the world!

Dark Souls' control scheme is a rather interesting one and why a good controller is essential. As you'd expect from a 3D game, movement is handled by the left-analog stick, while the camera is handled by the right-analog stick. But this is where things get complicated: each direction of the D-Pad is assigned to a task (spells, items, left-hand, right-hand); A interacts; B backsteps, rolls, or runs; X uses the selected item; Y switches to a two-hand weapon stance; RB attacks; RT does a heavy attack; LB guards or ripostes; LT parries or does a shield bash; and pressing on the right analog stick (R3) target locks. If that sounds like pretty much every single button of a standard controller is covered, that's because it is. The only one not utilized is pressing the left analog stick (L3).

 

So yes, a good, comfortable controller is pretty much essential to fully enjoy Dark Souls, and thankfully the Sabertooth proved to be one. I'm happy to report that I got further in the game with the Sabertooth than any of my previous attempts! That's not to say I didn't die…a lot. I mean, it IS Dark Souls after all – but my plentiful deaths were certainly not due to the Sabertooth. In fact, thanks to the customization, the Sabertooth made it slightly easier, allowing me to assign the R3 to M6 for easier target locks (I always hate having to press analog sticks).

Razer Sabertooth Conclusion:

The Razer Sabertooth is billed as an "Elite Gaming Controller" and as such, it unsurprisingly comes with a premium price. With an MSRP of $79.99, that's more than twice as expensive as other Xbox 360 controllers on the market, and if all you care about is using it for a PC, one of the highest rated PC controllers on Amazon is a quarter of the price. But as the old adage goes, "you get what you pay for."

While the extra programmable buttons and triggers are certainly a welcome addition, it's the build quality that impresses me most. The Sabertooth is extremely light, at just over half a pound, yet feels solid and well constructed. The analog sticks are as good or better than any I've used in the past, they snap back nicely to the center, and I did not notice any dead zones. The green rubber covers are also a nice touch, and though I haven't used it enough to get it all sweaty, it's nice to know I can always remove them and wash them with soap and water if it ever gets to that point. The separate D-Pad buttons are outstanding and should really be standard on all controllers. Lastly, the face buttons (ABXY) are mechanical, so they should last quite awhile, but I'm not necessarily a fan of the "mouse-click sound" they make; if for no other reason than people around me probably think I'm doing something silly like Cookie Clicker. The back-lighting of ABXY is also completely unnecessary, but whatever.

Arguably the Sabertooth's biggest flaw is the inability to set macros for the additional buttons. I understand that it would have never passed official Xbox 360 certification, but having macro support on the PC side would have been nice, even if it required external software to configure (eg. Razer Synapse). That being said, I did find the underbelly triggers quite useful for certain situations, so those extra buttons are not entirely wasted. And, though it does take some getting used to, those aforementioned underbelly triggers are quite ingenious. This is especially true if you play console shooters, as you can use them to map ABXY and never have to take your thumb off the right analog stick. The additional shoulder buttons not so much, at least for me; I just couldn't find a comfortable way to hold the controller and still be able to easily access those. Regardless of their ease of use, configuring them is easy and intuitive, and requires no additional software.

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that, for the price, most people would probably expect it to be wireless. With a nice long ten-foot cable, you should have no problem reaching your PC or console under normal circumstances, but a lot of people simply don't like cords. I personally don't trust the response rate of wireless devices for gaming, but I concede that I'm in the minority; at least for console gamers. I would have loved to see Razer implement the dual wired/wireless technology it has on the Razer Mamba gaming mouse; though seeing as that's priced at $129.99, that may have substantially increased the price of the Sabertooth beyond what most gamers would be willing to spend.

If you do not care for wireless, then you'd be hard-pressed to find a better Xbox 360 controller on the market than the Razer Sabertooth. The same holds true for PC unless you really prefer parallel analog sticks, or unless/until Razer comes out with a new Xbox One controller. Razer products always come with a slight premium, but in the Sabertooth's case, it's backed up with unmatched quality and enough bells and whistles to justify the added cost. If all you care about is using it with a PC and not an Xbox 360, then the price may be a bit hard to swallow, but if you have (and still use) both, then it's more than worth it.

Pros:

Cons: