Ford or Ferrari? In the car world, drivers have long had the option to buy either an affordable car or a fancier one. The existence of those sexier cars doesn't hurt us non-rich folks, and the world is far more interesting with luxury vehicles than without.
This year, mass-produced luxury controllers also became a thing – starting with the Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller from Microsoft. But supplies of the Elite Controller are extremely limited at present. Those shortages create opportunities for third-party manufacturers like Razer and Power A to swoop in with luxury controllers of their own.
The Razer Wildcat Controller for Xbox One and Windows is a direct competitor to Microsoft's Elite controller, selling for the same $149.99 price. Although the Wildcat lacks wireless support, it sports several unique features of its own such as a four-button d-pad, built-in headset volume controls, four unique multi-function buttons, optional stick covers and palm grips, and more. Read on for our detailed review with video!
Inside the box
Open up the Razer Wildcat's box and you won't find any wasteful packing materials. The controller and all of its accessories are contained within a zippered carrying case.
- Razer Wildcat controller
- Carrying case (~7.75 x 5.75 x 3 inches, a bit larger than the Elite case's 7 x 6.5 x 2.8 inches)
- Braided USB cable (9.5 feet)
- Torx screwdriver
- 2 Rubber analog stick caps
- 2 Rubber palm grips
- 2 Razer stickers
- 1 human soul
The Wildcat itself measures 6.14 x 4.17 x 2.6 inches and weighs only 260 grams/0.57 pounds, making it lighter than either the standard Xbox One controller (262 grams) or the Elite (348 grams).
The controller body consists primarily of matte black plastic with a mild texture. A glossy black area at the top resembles those of standard Xbox One controllers, although its shape is thinner and sharper. The bumpers, triggers, and the Wildcat's unique multi-function M1 and M2 buttons share the glossy plastic – which means they have a nice shine, but easily show fingerprints.
Compared to standard/Elite controllers, the Wildcat follows the same basic shape but has more angular, pronounced grips on the rear side. The rigid edge along the rear handles provides a clearly defined position for your middle fingers to rest, directing them to align with the Wildcat's exclusive rear M3 and M4 Triggers – a clever design.
At the top of the controller lies a recessed micro-USB port. Although the Wildcat lacks wireless support, the required cable detaches and stows away inside the carrying case. Razer claims the absence of wireless functionality is due to the controller's intended tournament use, but it also happens that Microsoft doesn't allow third-party wireless controllers on Xbox One or 360.
The USB cable has a break-away end, so you don't accidentally pull the console off the shelf. The end of the cable that plugs into the controller has a micro-USB connector, but it's surrounded by a proprietary endcap that keeps the cable securely in place within the controller. A regular micro-USB cable will not fit inside, annoyingly. Lose the cable and you'll have to go through Razer to replace it.
Stick and buttons
The Wildcat's carbon steel analog stick necks match the Elite controller's default necks in length but are slightly wider. The stick tops are about 3mm wider and 1mm thicker than the Elite's standard tops. These feature a uniform mildly textured surface. This has the advantage of not collecting dirt, unlike the edges of the sticks on Microsoft controllers. On the whole, I find the larger textured tops of the Wildcat more comfortable than other controllers.
Just as the Elite controller features a unique D-pad design, so does the Wildcat. Actually, the Wildcat's directional pad consists of four buttons – almost exactly like those of a PlayStation controller. The D-pad buttons here don't feature a texture like the DualShock's, presumably to make rolling motions easier in fighting games. Since no other Xbox One controller currently sports a PlayStation-style D-pad, I can see people reared on DualShocks getting the Wildcat just for its pad.
The face buttons here are colored, unlike the black buttons of the Elite. I like the colors. They also produce audible clicks when pressed. I believe they use microswitches (like a mechanical keyboard or arcade stick buttons), which you absolutely never see on regular controllers. The clickiness helps tell exactly when the buttons actuate, which could prove beneficial to gameplay.
The Xbox Home/Guide button on the Wildcat doesn't light up. It still looks sexy though, thanks to a non-chrome silver finish. A white light just beneath the Home button indicates the controller is working.
Triggers, bumpers, and multi-function buttons
Up at the top of the Wildcat lie bumpers and triggers. They resemble those of Microsoft-brand controllers, especially the triggers. The bumpers do have a unique, softer click than those of the Elite, though. They still feel more responsive than launch-era controllers, thankfully.
A few millimeters towards the center of the controller you'll find the Wildcat's multi-function M1 and M2 buttons. By default, these act just like Left and Right Bumper. You might imagine having six buttons on top instead of four would be confusing, but no! M1 and M2 are offset and shaped in such a way that makes them easy to reach but impossible to hit by mistake. I'm surprised more controllers don't go with six buttons like this.
The rear of the controller holds two Trigger Stop switches, just like the Elite. Normally, the triggers fully actuate when pressed down at 18 degrees. Enabling the switches will stop the triggers at five degrees – that's 72% less travel. This will let you fire non-automatic weapons more rapidly since you don't have to press the triggers down as far.
Also on the back are two aluminum multi-function triggers: M3 and M4. They perform the same functions as the regular triggers by default, although as digital rather than analog buttons. As mentioned earlier, the shape of the controller grips puts your middle fingers directly on these secondary triggers. And quite unlike the Elite's paddles, nobody will hit these triggers by mistake. You have to reach inward for them a bit, which is perfect.
Although I find the secondary triggers unobtrusive, some players might not like them. They can be removed, but it's a much harder process than taking off the Elite's paddles. Each trigger has a built-in screw that you have to loosen with the included Torx screwdriver. It's way too easy for the driver to slide out of the screw's slot. And in doing so, one could potentially strip the screw. Since the screw is built into the trigger, you'd have to seek a replacement from Razer if that happened.
Once you get the extra triggers off, the hinge closes up into the controller. Sliding a switch next to the hinge pops it out again for reattachment. But given the difficulty of removing and replacing these triggers, I doubt many people will swap them in and out more than once.
Quick Control Panel
The Wildcat has a 3.5mm headset jack on its bottom, along with a built-in Quick Control Panel (QCP). Although the headset support is appreciated, the lack of a data port means you can't use the Chatpad with this controller. No third-party controllers currently offer data ports, so the absence might be a restriction imposed by Microsoft.
Getting back to the QCP, the four-button panel has two audio control buttons. One simply mutes, whereas the other performs a range of functions. Tap the volume button to raise headset volume. Hold it and press up or down on the D-pad to raise or lower volume. Pressing left while held will increase game audio while pressing right increases chat volume. A bit complex, but it works.
The other two QCP buttons deal with button remapping. Only the Wildcat's four multi-function buttons (M1-M4) can be reprogrammed by default, although an upcoming Xbox One system update will enable additional remapping options for all controllers. Being able to reassign them all right now through the controller would be better for disabled gamers, but oh well.
To reassign an M button, first press the Profile button to select custom profile 1 or 2 (as indicated by green LEDs on either side of the Home button). Then press and hold the Program button, press and hold the M button, and press the standard button you'd like to assign to it. The controller will vibrate and reassign it under the selected profile.
You can reassign any digital button or trigger to the M buttons – even View, Menu, or D-pad directions. This creates some exciting opportunities to do things in games without having to move your thumbs from the analog sticks. For instance, stick the pause button on a multi-function button and then you can rapidly pause while playing a game. In the old days, that's how the Slow Motion function on controllers worked.
Finally, the QCP also allows players to enable a Hair Trigger Mode independently from the Trigger Stop switches. Press and hold the Program button and either primary trigger, then press the A button. That trigger will now activate from any press, no matter how minor.
If you're looking for a quality wired controller to use with your Windows PC or tablet, then look no further. The Wildcat is compatible with Windows 7, 8, and 10. You might need to download a driver upon installation.
Having installed the Wildcat, it functions exactly like a normal Xbox One controller. You can still reprogram the M buttons just like on Xbox One; they don't show up as separate buttons. The volume control buttons don't work with Windows, but Razer says they will in the future (likely just with Windows 10).
Rubber stick caps and palm grips
The Wildcat comes with two sets of optional accessories: rubber analog stick caps and hand grips. Both are a loud and tacky shade of green styled after the Razer logo. Bright green might look good on a box, but big gobs of green rubber on a controller don't fare so well. I'm surprised a company like Razer that excels at aesthetic design would opt for such a cheap and unpleasant color for these accessories. At least they're optional.
The stick caps simply slip over the analog stick tops. They add an extra texture that supposedly improves grip. Some people like stick covers, but I think you lose too much sensation. Err, I mean these covers feel too spongy for my tastes. Luckily they go on and off pretty easily.
The palm grips, on the other hand, are just a disaster. They attach via adhesive and can't be reattached if removed. The instructions provide very little guidance on alignment, nor does the design of the controller help much. If we're supposed to apply the grips ourselves (already a bad idea), the plastic of the controller could at least have some obvious grooves for guidance.
I got in too much of a hurry while applying my grips and they came out rather uneven. Plus the edges of the grips just don't go on very smoothly due to the curvature of the controller. Admittedly I could have done a better job, but the application process has way too much room for error in the first place. Either the grips should be built in (and subtly) like the Elite controller's, or Razer should have simply left them out.
The Razer Wildcat has a lot going for it: top-grade parts, a unique d-pad, clicky buttons, excellent ergonomics, superb vibration and feedback motors, and four nigh-perfect multi-function buttons. As far as controlling games goes, it offers clear advantages over standard Xbox One controllers. A few elements like the multi-function buttons even beat out the Elite controller.
Still, a few things hold the Wildcat back a bit. First, it can only be used wired. That's not Razer's fault, but it still gives the Elite a big advantage for wireless fans. Second, incompatibility with the Chatpad is a big shame. The Chatpad hadn't been released during the design process of the controller, I know. But I love that little keyboard and miss it when I need to input text with the Wildcat.
And finally, those rubber palm grips… However perfectly applied, the Wildcat looks better without them. Even with the perfect application in stock renders, the day-glo green presents an eyesore to consumers. Thankfully we can just toss the grips away, and that's exactly what I recommend.
The Wildcat is an excellent luxury controller, but a bit too pricey when compared against the Elite's extra functionality. Razer should drop the price by $20 or so to give the controller more mainstream appeal. Mainstream aside, the Wildcat's ergonomics and versatile multi-function buttons make it a clear choice for tournament competition and professional gamers.
The Razer Wildcat launches on Thursday, December 10th.
Will the included human soul make me a better player Paul XD Great Review. For the same price though, I think I'd rather go with the official Elite controller.
Thanks Paul another swell review
I recently got the Elite and other than the too-easy-to-trigge-by-mistake paddles, its pretty much perfect. For a controller with less functionality and not able to be used wiressly the price for this Razer one is too high by far. Plus, I've never had a good experience regarding the longevity of any razer products. They feel a bit cheap and nasty to me.
I prefer wired to wireless, but I wonder how Rock Band was able to make wireless controllers for X1. Did MS allow them to because it is a high profile game?
Microsoft has allowed wireless guitars for a while (and the Tekken wireless stick on 360), but never a regular controller.
Very good review,most helpful seems faster.
I think that rock band works with a USB dongle,I recently bought guitar hero live and I was surprised that the guitar needs it. Still remember when I bought guitar hero 3 on x360 and it worked directly without dongles so that feels like a downgrade for me. Ohh and if you want to play with another player on GH live, you need another guitar and usb dongle, it's one per instrument.
I have Rock Band 4 and there are no dongles. The guitar and drums work wirelessly without any extra parts.
I have Rock Band 4 and there are no dongles. The guitar and drums work wirelessly without any extra parts.
I would see this as a great option for a person who wants a colorfully off brand elite controller.
Would love an Elite, and if they ate priced to close, then Elite wins. That d-pad is not to my taste, how easy is it to aim for a corner? That said, the standard Xbox controllers have always had the d-pad as their Achilles heel. I like the idea of a quick release, sounds like the original Xbox controller attachment. Saved me so many times!
Sadly razer doesn't have to lower the price to make sales. There like apple in this regard.
I agree, but with their PC products at least (keyboard gamepad and mouse) I've found them to be worth their weight in gold. My DeathStalker Ultimate has survived two lemonade can mishaps, my mouse has survived numerous rage induced hulk smashes and cannon throws, and my gamepad has taken a fair beating too.
Thought we are playing games to relax..
That's what she said XD
Too much for any controller. Insane.
That's true. But there is that ONE controller that is worth it. You know which one. Nothing better than that.
This thing seems out of sorts, I agree. Wired-only, and less customization, cheaper parts, and screwy accents mean putting this at the same price as the Elite is crazy to me. I don't mind the green one bit, though. It looks fine, but the application process makes them crap. Now what about that Scuf offering, have you done a comparison review with it? It starts cheaper than the Elite, but can get mighty expensive.
I think Daniel and Mark are doing a Scuf comparison.
A scuf with all the "customizations" cam go above $200, no? I'd never spend that much. I'd like to see what it's about but just for curiosity reasons. Plus, I don't like their name.
For my money, I'd much rather have the Elite controller. Wireless and a better design, I think so at least. Good write-up.
Would much prefer the Elite. I bought a Mass Effect 3 version of the Razer Onza Tournament Edition Xbox360 controller only to have it fail within months. I contacted Razer and showed them that I had snipped the cord of it and they sent me another, only to have the new one also fail shortly. I'm still rocking my Mass Effect 3 version of the Black Widow Ultimate (notice a pattern here) but I'm not going to get any more Razer Xbox controllers...
Those N7 products were amazing. Too bad I couldn't afford them.
Razer products always tend to die out shortly, that's why I never bought one. All of my gamer friends who bought products from Razer, none of them were able to get a full year's of service without any hiccup. Most of those failed within months, and had to be replaced within warranty. After a year, when the warranty is over, the replaced product fails again. And this **** thing happened to every one of them!
really do agree about the Razer Onza, but I've been pretty happy with the Black Widow Ultimate keyboard...
The Onza seems to have had widespread problems... But most of the Razer products I've used, including the Wildcat, have been great.
oh yea, I like the Black Widow and I forgot I have a left handed Razer DeathAdder that's been working well for years. I will say one thing about the Wildcat controller, Razer got the D pad right. I much prefer separate buttons. I have a Evil Controller mod for my Xbox 360 Controller that has shell casings for the D-Pad buttons and I love it.... So the D-Pad is the biggest issue I have right now with the Elite controller (that is without ever holding it), however that said I'd still tend towards the Elite....
Yeah, the Wildcat needs a price advantage to be competitive. We'll see if that happens.
Palm grips as stickers? Really Razer? At $150 price I would go with the Elite controller anyway (I bought one already), but after seeing that horrible way of putting that sticker, I won't buy this even if it's sold at $50.
Elite Controller > Everything else
If you're crazy enough to spend that much money on one controller, then you might as well go with MS' official one. Controller still sounds pretty decent though. But I still feel $60 is a touch pricey for a controller, $150 is out of this world.
Great review, Paul. I'd definitely get one myself, but I have too many controllers already. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone though.
Another great review Paul! A bit too pricey for me, but if I ever need to replace the 360 controller I use with my PC, I could try and look for one on sale. I've always loved Razer products, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if I came to love this controller if/when I choose to buy one.
looks good. quite the controller. if only i needed one. I tried wildcat in the past. they create a good product. they must if there still around after all these years.
Hello Paul. A year and a half since you posted this article hehe. How is the controller behaving? I am thinking about getting one but I've read reviews saying things like The triggers get stuck The triggerstops broke The controller sends random input to the console even if you'te not touching it The shell feels hollow and cheap The M buttons broke. Also, I'm curious about this: The stick caps, Have they held? Are they worn out? Have they loosened? The green grip stickers, are they still in place? Have they peeled off? The sticks, Does the neck of the stick grind the plastic? The controller runs for 75$ at amazon ATM and while it is not expensive, it is not not cheap either and I do not intend to replace this controller every 6 months. I am looking for an advanced controler that is reliable under regular use (You know, sometimes it falls from the couch, it's used 3 times a week for up to 6 hours, room temperature is 28C, user may or may not eat nachos while playing) Looking forward for your input :D
Hey Compy, sorry for the late replay! To be honest, I haven't used the Wildcat more than a few times since writing the review. Not because it's a bad controller, but I strongly prefer wireless controllers. And it goes without saying that anywhere near the retail price is just too much for this particular controller - $75 sounds about right for the features and design quality it has.
Awesome, thanks for the answer! I was quite happy when I saw it for 75$ :) and most reviews agreed the 150$ price tag was too high, so I think I got a good product for the right price, specially considering it is only 15-20$ more expensive than a regular Xbone controller with (what I feel are) better specs :D
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