With the global pandemic keeping me at home, I’ve had a lot more time to play video games. After getting tired of Microsoft’s consistent failures with Elite controllers, I decided to venture out to the scary world of third party controllers and have fallen in love with the Razer Wolverine Tournament Edition. I also recently picked up the Ultimate Edition thinking that perhaps I would love it even more (I don’t, actually), but now that I’ve had a chance to compare the two, I wanted to talk about what the differences are. Some of them are pretty obvious, but others you’d never know about until you get them in your hands because no one, including Razer, seems to talk about them. Note that my goal is not to tell you which one you should buy, just to help you make an informed choice. So let’s dive in and talk about these two controllers one component at a time.
The bodies of the controllers are virtually identical. The major difference here is that the paddles are placed differently (which I’ll talk about later) and that there are a few extra buttons on the Ultimate for profiles, button remapping, and headset mute and volume. In your hands, however, they might as well be the same controller, so if you like the feel of one, you will like the feel of the other.
Triggers and bumpers
Okay, that’s two components, but these are also virtually identical between the two models. The Ultimate uses a different finish, but it’s not real metal. Otherwise, the feel of actually pressing the bumpers or pulling the triggers is the same. The trigger stops are also identical. On a personal note, I absolutely love the trigger stops on these. Whereas the Elite Series 2 has a very solid, very hard trigger stop, these have just a little give to them, so they feel more like pressing a button them punching a wall. With the Elite Series 2, the trigger stops almost hurt; with these, I’m never not using them.
By which I mean the guide, options, and view buttons (I think that’s what they are called). They are the same on both controllers. Completely unremarkable, but I’m including them here for posterity.
Here is where the differences start. On the Tournament, you have plastic thumbsticks and they can’t (easily) be changed; on the Ultimate, you get magnetized metal thumbsticks. The tops of the thumbsticks use the same sort of rubber, so they feel pretty similar to use, but you have a convex and a longer concave option with the Ultimate. I find the rubber to be a little on the slippery side, but still very usable. What’s interesting to me is that after using the Elite Series 2, which has the most buttery smooth sticks I have every used, I expected the Ultimate’s sticks to be noticeably smoother than the Tournament’s sticks. But they aren’t. This leads me to conclude that any lack of smoothness has more to do with an unevenness in Razer’s anti-friction rings than anything to do with the thumbsticks. Ultimately (har har), the reason to get the Ultimate is for the options, not for the feel, as they feel mostly the same in use.
As a side note, the shafts of the thumbsticks are wider than your average controller’s sticks for some reason. From what I understand, this was an intentional decision and you still get full range with the sticks, but it does mean that it’s not so simple to open up the controller and swap in a different pair of sticks.
On the Tournament Edition, you get one d-pad; on the Ultimate, you get to choose between two. Sounds like it ought to be a clear victory for the Ultimate, but for whatever reason, Razer opted for three completely different designs here. The Tournament’s d-pad is basically a smaller, clicky version of the PlayStation’s separated d-pad. It’s technically one piece of plastic underneath (preventing you from, say, pressing left and right at the same time, a big no-no in most pro use cases), but it functions like four separate buttons. The buttons have a very low profile, so rolling your thumb from one button to another feels great. It’s almost like having a disc-type d-pad, but… not. I find that I have to be a little more deliberate when going for diagonals than I would with a PlayStation d-pad, but overall it’s an excellent design and I rather like it.
On the Ultimate, you get a fully separated d-pad and a disc d-pad. Unlike on the Tournament, the separated d-pad actually uses four separate buttons. It seems to be aimed at the FPS and RPG crowd – people who just use the d-pad to select items and the like. The buttons look kind of odd in pictures, but in practice their shape makes it very easy to hit diagonals and roll between buttons. However, the buttons are much taller than the ones on the Tournament. That’s not likely to be a problem for most people, I think, but it was a less pleasant experience for me than the Tournament’s approach. Also note that while the fully separated design allows you to press opposing directions simultaneously, both controllers are smart enough to know you shouldn’t be allowed to do that and are programmed to only accept one at a time.
The other option is a disc d-pad. It’s one piece of plastic with four openings to push down on the tactile buttons below. This is aimed squarely at fighting game players as it is the easiest way to do circle inputs or really anything involving diagonals. At first, I thought this d-pad was kind of mushy, but it seemed to somewhat vary depending on how I rotated it before putting it in. After a while, I actually came to rather like it. It’s a little easier to press than either of the other d-pads and diagonals are super easy to hit.
If all you read are the Razer product descriptions and the reviews on various blogs, you’d never know these controllers have different buttons. But they do. The first and only time I heard about that was a random YouTube video that showed up on my feed one day. They both use the same Omron mechanical switches found in Razer’s mice, but otherwise the feel is totally different.
On the Tournament, it feels like there must be a spring or something similar under each button. They are a bit stiffer to press than standard Xbox One controller buttons and there’s a fair amount of travel before the actuation point is reached. The actual actuation does feel just like a Razer mouse button, though. To me, these feel more similar to standard buttons, but the stiffness makes button mashing a bit harder. On a normal button, you’d feel the press almost immediately even though there is travel distance just due to the nature of the membrane, but on the Tournament, you won’t feel the click (or actuate the button) until most of the way through the press. It’s a bit odd sometimes.
Conversely, the Ultimate has extremely low profile buttons with almost no travel distance at all. They need only the lightest touch to actuate and feel exactly like using a mouse (albeit with your thumb). These are a little odd to get used to, but they make pressing multiple buttons at once (with the same thumb) and button mashing incredibly easy.
Truthfully, I wish they had gone for something in between the two: a slightly less stiff button with slightly less travel distance than the Tournament but not quite as light or low profile as the Ultimate. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Both controllers have paddles and extra shoulder buttons (a Razer exclusive). The extra shoulder buttons (M1 and M2) are identical on the two controllers; they are nice and clicky and, at least for someone with large hands, convenient and easy to use. With some practice, you could probably even use both a trigger and M1 or M2 at the same time with the same finger to, say, pull out your weapon and engage focus mode for more precise control. I didn’t have a lot of luck with that, but with practice I could probably adapt.
The paddles, on the other hand, are completely different. On the Tournament, you only get two paddles. They are conveniently located where the handles join with the body of the controller and can easily be pressed with either my middle or ring fingers. I have yet to accidentally press one, but they are always right there when I want them. On the Ultimate, you get four paddles, but they are in the middle of the back of the controller. If, like me, you want to keep your fingers on them for easy access, you’ll find that you have to adopt a completely different grip on the controller. Instead of wrapping your fingers around the handles, you’ll basically be palming the sides so that your middle and ring fingers can reach the paddles. Although odd, especially since it completely defeats the purpose of having rubber grips on the back of the handles, I didn’t find it to be especially uncomfortable. Still, the longer I used the controller, the more my fingers naturally started to wrap themselves back around the handles, making the paddles much less convenient to use. With a normal grip, my middle fingers could still reach over and hit the paddles, but it’s a noticeably less convenient approach and just a really odd decision in my opinion. As with the face buttons, though, whether or not you like one approach over the other is entirely personal.
The last real difference is that the Ultimate has buttons for remapping, switching profiles, and for controlling your headset. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about these except for the volume button. I have primarily been using these with PC and with the Tournament, volume is controlled by the PC like with any other speakers. With the Ultimate, the Windows volume control does absolutely nothing. Volume is controlled on the controller. You can either press the volume button to select one of four or five preset volumes (which seem to be too quiet, too loud, way too loud, and deafening) or you can hold it and use up and down on the d-pad to adjust the volume in smaller steps. I like this approach, but I wish the smaller steps were even smaller for more subtle volume changes. When playing on Xbox, you can also hold the volume button and use left and right on the d-pad to adjust the balance between game and chat audio, though I have not experimented with this.
On the software front, both use Razer Wolverine for Xbox. I won’t go into great detail about the software as it is mostly utilitarian, but, despite the name, it does work on both Xbox and PC. Most of the reviews I’ve read, especially on Amazon, complain that there is no PC software, but there is; it’s just not done through Synapse like every other Razer product. You have to find it in the Windows Store, but the advantage of being a universal program is that it syncs your profiles across platforms. I’m not sure if that’s because it stores them all on the controller or because it takes advantage of Microsoft server magic, but either way, all my profiles show up everywhere. It’s quite nice. However, the main reason I bring up the software is that in a reveal video for the Ultimate, a Razer rep mentioned that you could remap all the buttons on the controller. For example, say you wanted to swap A and B (and X and Y) so that you could hook the controller up to your Switch (with an adapter) and play Nintendo games without having to reconfigure your brain for the Nintendo layout. Maybe this is possible using the remapping function on the controller itself, but it is not available in the software. That would have been a big difference between the Tournament and the Ultimate, but as it is, it seems that the software functions pretty much identically for both.
I said that I wouldn’t make this a “which one should you buy” post, so… I won’t. I haven’t been able to make up my mind which one I like best, so it wouldn’t make much sense for me to tell you which one to get. What I’d really like, though, is for Razer to combine the best from both and put out a new Wolverine Ultimate Tournament Edition controller.