Razer Sabertooth review
Previously known for its range of gaming mice, Razer has steadily expanded away from the PC and towards the console crowd with a series of controllers and headsets. The Sabertooth controller is its best yet, combining the best bits of the Onza, released last year, with some new ideas that should make it a force to be reckoned with in the hands of FPS gamers. It will need to be in order to justify its £70 price, however.
Designed exclusively for the Xbox 360, the black, angular design is trademark Razer; The three snakes logo is embossed on the right side and the soft-touch rubber finish provides plenty of grip, but in terms of size and shape it's tough to spot anything that sets it apart from Microsoft's official controller – at least from the front. It’s a wired controller, with a braided cord that detaches like the official Microsoft one, but it includes an O-ring that lets you secure it in place, preventing an accidental disconnect mid-match.
Razer has been careful to match Sabertooth to the official Xbox controller in terms of size
Plug it in, however, and the face buttons light up with colour-coded LEDs and a single line OLED display springs to life. This lets you configure the sensitivity of each analogue stick, as well as remap the face buttons to your preferred play style. Each face button has an incredibly quick action that's more like clicking a mouse than pressing a button – Razer's PC gaming legacy is in full effect here, giving you instant feedback with a satisfying audible click.
The glowing face buttons look great in the dark, but you won't use them very often
The D-pad too is an improvement over Microsoft's sub-par attempt, with four separate buttons that bare a strong resemblance to Sony's PlayStation controller. We found it far easier to pull off the precise directional inputs needed to activate special moves in Street Fighter, although it's still no replacement for a full arcade stick.
You don't have to use the green thumbstick covers, but they look fantastic
However, it’s around the back that the Sabertooth reveals its secret weapon – two additional bumpers between the standard triggers up top, along with four tilt switches within easy reach at the rear. You can reassign any of the face buttons to one of these triggers, letting you bind actions like reloading, jumping, crouching and changing weapons so you can keep your thumbs on the analogue sticks. It comes into its own in fast-paced first person shooters like Call of Duty, where twitch reactions and well-timed reloads are crucial to earning a positive score. It took us several hours of play to get used to the new configuration, but it definitely improved our scores – if you’re a serious gamer or play in a clan, we can certainly see the appeal. If you feel like they get in the way, or you prefer to use the face buttons, you can remove them using the bundled screwdriver. We were also able to configure the controller when plugged into a PC, as it handles all the button assignments itself, rather than through the console.
With extra triggers on the back of the controller, you never have to let go of the analogue sticks
The controller comes bundled with a foam-lined carry case to keep it safe when taking it to LAN parties or events, along with some analogue stick covers for added grip. We certainly felt that we were getting a lot for the money, but considering an official wired Xbox controller costs £20, the £50 premium for the Sabertooth is still asking a lot.
It's a serious piece of kit that can make a big difference in games, but unless you exclusively play on a console and stick to first person shooters, there aren't many game genres that require both thumbs on the analogue sticks at once or precise sensitivity tweaks. For those that are, and have the patience to adapt to a new way of playing, they will soon notice the benefits and see their names shoot up leaderboards online. If you're more of a single player gamer though, you may be better off sticking with the official controller.
Considering the Sabertooth isn't compatible with Microsoft's Xbox One￼￼￼￼, you'll also be relegated to the PC or the previous console generation. With Xbox One support provided at present, whether you buy one will depend on how long you plan on playing your Xbox 360.