Razer is something of a newcomer to the whole arcade stick game. While the company is well-known for their comprehensive array of gaming controllers and peripherals, it took a bit of extra time before they brought out their Atrox arcade stick for the Xbox 360. That’s not to say that they simply sat on their laurels and did nothing; in fact, the Atrox was subject to a long and extensive beta testing program. The question now stands, did this long and arduous process produce something that stands out in a crowded market, this late into the current console generation?
Like any tournament-grade fighting stick, the Atrox comes equipped with the now ubiquitous Sanwa Denshi JLF-TP-8YT lever and OBSF-30 and OBSF-24 snap in buttons. Other features shared with high-end sticks are a control panel for turbo, stick selection and tournament locking, headphone jack and ten feet of cable (with its own storage compartment) all in a shell composed of high grade ABS plastic metal. In addition to these, the stick features a rubber bottom and detachable acrylic top panel for easy art replacement, similar to a few other sticks as well. At this point, it’s safe to say that the Atrox has just about every feature that’s standard in most tournament grade arcade sticks these days.
What makes Atrox stand out is how the stick was designed to be easy to open up and mod. Pressing down on the LED-lit release switch on the front of the case allows access to the sticks internals for players who wish to customize their stick. More on this later.
Given the Atrox’ design (that is to say, a big plastic box with nothing in the middle to offer support), there is some concern about how sturdy the thing is. Other sticks have all sorts of plastic supports inside to help give the stick strength – something that Razer did not have the luxury of when designing the Atrox. Indeed, the early beta units creaked when put under pressure. Happily, this is gone in the production version. The plastic sides now have better support than in the beta units and the top panels’ rectangular pegs fit better into the sides. Thanks to this, the stick feels quite solid now.
Another concern with the early beta units was the square USB B connector in the back. This has now been replaced with a proprietary plug that locks into place. The plug has a bit of wiggle to it but cannot be removed without actually disengaging the lock. As with any wired Xbox 360 controller, the cable has the mandatory breakaway connector that helps protect both the locking plug and USB connector in cases where the cable is pulled hard.
The Razer Atrox uses a variant of the now-familiar Taito Vewlix layout, first made popular by the Mad Catz Tournament Edition Arcade FightStick. As with that stick, having the buttons aligned straight from the right means that people used to American layouts can use those. The buttons themselves are arranged in the standard Microsoft mandated layout (the so-called “DOA4 layout” after the game it was based on) with the face buttons arrayed in a crescent. While the more familiar “Street Fighter” layout would have been preferable, the lack of any game-specific branding prevents Razer from using this. And in any case, most games these days have a default setting that corresponds to this. The stick itself uses a standard Sanwa balltop, however a bat top (with adapter) is also provided for those who prefer them.
One thing that may take a bit of getting used to is the fact that the Start and Back buttons are mounted on the right side of the stick and not on the back like the more common Mad Catz sticks. In addition to the unfamiliar placement, this also means that players will need to always engage the tournament lock to prevent them from being pressed accidentally when playing in cramped quarters.
As for other minor observations on ergonomics, the switches on the control panel are big and chunky. Unlike the switches on Mad Catz and Hori sticks, these feel heavy and quite substantial, fit for big hands. Meanwhile, in a stroke of genius, the top panel acrylic cover is screwed in from the bottom. This has allowed Razer to use some nifty, flush-mounted closed fasteners. This means that there are no protruding screw heads that can irritate sensitive palms during play.
Razer says that the Atrox has been “crafted to allow advanced modification,” and this is something that becomes pretty evident once you pop open the lid. Aside from the easy open top (which is supported by a gas strut on the left side of the stick). The Atrox comes with a host of other features that help make customization easier.
The first thing that folks will likely notice when opening up the Atrox is the unique honeycomb floor of the stick. Each hole in the honeycomb grid floor is actually a screwhole. This allows modders to easily install other PCBs (i.e. a PlayStation 3 PCB or an LED controller board) to expand the features of the stick. Doing so does not void the stick’s warranty – the Atrox’ main PCB is kept in a separate internal compartment, mounted onto the honeycomb floor.
Another nifty feature is the inclusion of a small screwdriver with both flat and Phillips heads. The former can be used in changing to the included Sanwa LB-39 bat top while the latter is useful for removing the top panel’s acryllic cover.
To make sure that anyone changing out the buttons doesn’t get confused, the Atrox has color coded labels on the wires. Swapping out the buttons is pretty easy. On the review copy sent to us, the buttons were easier to remove than on a Mad Catz TE or HORI RAP. We suspect that Razer may have made the holes a tiny bit larger to allow for easier replacement.
The Sanwa JLF lever is mounted to the top panel via a cross-shaped mounting bracket that’s similar in design to the one in Mad Catz sticks. Also like Mad Catz sticks, a second set of holes is provided to allow mounting a Seimitsu LS-32. That said, we did not have an LS-32 on hand to test this, but measurements of the mounting plates of both sticks showed that they had similar dimensions.
One of the biggest concerns for competitive players when it comes to arcade sticks (and their PCBs) is if there is any lag. To test this, we wired the Atrox and a Round 1 Mad Catz Tournament Edition to a single Sanwa OBSF-30 button. The idea was to set up a Ryu mirror match in Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition ver. 2012 with both sides jabbing at the same time (via the button wired to both controllers). Whichever side died first represented the slower PCB. You can check out one of the tests in the video below.
As you can see, the Atrox would often have its command come out faster than the TE. Of course, there are a few variables that could affect this. In this case, the version of AE 2012 used was the PC version and the Mad Catz stick was a PlayStation 3 stick. That said, I believe that we can safely say that the Atrox doesn’t really have any issues with lag.
The Razer Atrox retails for $199 USD, which at first seems like a lot. Realistically speaking, there are two ways to look at this. First is based on its features alone, of which the Razer is on par or above that of the competition. The whole concept of an easy open top panel has only really been done once before, on the Hori Real Arcade Pro 3 Premium VLX. What the Atrox lacks in terms of metal construction, it makes up for with its ease of customization (and a lower price point).
That said, it’s hard to simply look at things from a features standpoint alone. Most other arcade sticks retail for about $50 less. Mad Catz sticks in particular can be found for even lower due to their constant sales during tournaments. The only sticks that are at the same price range at the Atrox are unlicensed sticks that feature dual-console compatibility for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 – a feature neither Razer, nor any other officially licensed third party peripheral manufacturer, can legally implement – and Hori’s Fighting Edge. Against the latter, the Atrox has the edge with proven Sanwa parts and the ease of modding, but against the former it’s a tough sell.
The Razer Atrox arcade stick is a great piece. Razer took their time to try and make a stick that went beyond what the competition offered and, for the most part, they’ve succeeded. The beta program meant that Razer was able to address a lot of issues before its official release, resulting in a stick that is quite solid right out of the box. Meanwhile, the ease of customization should help folks who want to customize their sticks but are intimidated by thoughts of breaking warranties and the general work involved actually get into modding.
The only chink in the Atrox’ armor is the price point. While it could be said that the features packed into the stick are worth the cost, the fact remains that other tournament-grade sticks can be had for about $50 less (or even more after discounts). Outside of folks interested in customizing or modding their stick, most average consumers will likely not be able to appreciate the extras that the Atrox brings.
Aside from this, however, the Atrox is a nice stick overall. While Razer may have stumbled a bit on the price, we look forward to what the company can bring to the fighting game community in the future.
- Easy open top panel allows for quick access to the internals.
- Honeycomb floor allows for easy installation of new PCBs.
- Top panel plexi for easy art replacement.
- Bat top and screwdriver included in the box.
- Flush-mounted fasteners mean no screw heads to irritate palms.
- Proprietary locking connector doesn’t get unplugged easily.
- No lag on PCB, possibly faster than competitors’ sticks.
- Xbox 360 only.
The Atrox is currently available through Razer’s online store. Already own one? Share your thoughts in the comments below!