Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller review & comparison

January 20th, 2012

Wherein the author reviews the newly released Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller and compares it to the OEM Microsoft Xbox Controller and the Razer Onza. The Playstation DUALSHOCK3 is also featured briefly.

In August of last year, Mad Catz announced a series of Major League Gaming branded accessories. While the MLG logo emblazoned FightStick was simply a Tournament stick with new decals, the other product announcement got gamers’ attention: a new controller design with customizable inserts, allowing users to configure the layout according to their own preferences, potentially freeing the gamer from the sloppy and inaccurate clutches of the Xbox 360 dpad (and to be honest, the dpad was 90% of the reason I ordered the MLG Pro Circuit Controller).

Last week, the new controller finally shipped, and I’ve got a few solid days of testing in. How does it stack up against the competition?

First Impressions

Like most of the offerings since the Great & Sudden Mad Catz Quality Turnaround, the MLG controller feels solid and well-built. With the controller packaged in a two-sided flip up container with display windows, the unboxing experience is pleasant, reminding one that yes, I really did just pay $99 for a third party game controller.

But whatever. Kudos on the nice presentation, but is it any good?

Clockwise, from the top left:
PlayStation DUALSHOCK3, Razer Onza, Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller, and Xbox OEM controller.

Where controllers are concerned, I’m an Xbox apologist. The OEM 360 controller is one of the most comfortable I’ve used, is arranged smartly, and aside from the horrible dpad, features generally excellent buttons and sticks all around. The PlayStation controller, on the other hand, has an awkward legacy design that feels too small for my hands and convex sticks positioned too close to each other, but a responsive dpad and face buttons.

The Mad Catz and Razer controllers take design cues from the 360 controller, with each improving on its deficiencies in differing ways. Both controllers resolve the slow-turn issue that some have seen with the OEM sticks, with the Onza going a step further, letting the user adjust the stiffness of the sticks via a twisting torsion control.

Mad Catz, on the other hand, has done something entirely new, allowing the user to completely remove and relocate the two sticks and dpad (the face buttons cannot be swapped out), rearranging them into preferred positions or replacing them entirely with new variations that are expected to be released sometime soon. Assuming the next console revision doesn’t change up the controller scheme, I can see gamers using the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller well into the next generation.

Both Razer and Mad Catz have relocated the Start and Back buttons, the Razer’s positioned at the bottom of the controller face, the Mad Catz’ up top, just above the Guide button. While each lessens accidental presses, I find the Razer Start/Back buttons easier to reach and more convenient for games that use them often.

Buttons & Triggers

I like the bumper and trigger buttons on both the Onza and MLG Pro Circuit Controller. The assignable extra set of bumpers on the Razer are fun to have around (I usually have the top right mapped to Back, for example), but I haven’t found myself missing them in any way on the MLG controller. There were rumors for a time that the MLG would feature the ability to swap trigger/bumper assignments, but there’s nothing of the sort in the final version. Sure, it would’ve been a nice touch (Hi Dark Souls!), but the lack of such an option isn’t a deal breaker.

Bonus! Fan of the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller? Here’s a 1680×1050 desktop background version of the above image.

The face buttons on the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller feel very much like the 360 OEM setup, with comparable button travel and resistance. I’ve never really had a problem with the 360 buttons, and these are just as serviceable in use.

The Razor Onza microswitch buttons, on the other hand, are extremely sensitive and tactile, requiring only the slightest touch to activate. They do take a bit of getting used to, and even after months of use I still occasionally fumble in games that have both tap and press to hold actions assigned to the face buttons (hi Skyrim!). I can see some gamers preferring them over the OEM and Mad Catz buttons, but I give the edge to Mad Catz here.

One other minor point: the Razer face buttons are backlit, while the Mad Catz are not.

Sticks

The Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller ships with two pairs of sticks: one concave dimpled set, matching the Xbox standard, and one textured convex set, similar in feel to those on the DUALSHOCK 3.

As far as I can tell, both sets function exactly the same and are roughly the same height, so choosing one or the other will depend entirely on your comfort preferences. I like the concave dimpled sticks, myself.

Dpad

Thank you, Mad Catz, thank you!

Not only has Mad Catz been kind enough to give us two dpads – an Xbox style one-piece over the base dpad and a PS3 style separated nubs under the base dpad – but both of them are good! While I prefer the PS3 DUALSHOCK 3 pad mounted in the Xbox position, both are responsive, accurate, and well constructed. A notable improvement over the original (and the Razer), I can’t say enough good about ’em.

Razer tried, bless their hearts, but the Onza dpad is as bad as the one on the OEM Xbox 360 controller, just in an entirely different way. While the 360 dpad is sloppy and inaccurate, the Onza dpad is clunky with a ridiculous amount of travel. Sure, it’s great for weapon switching or to call up menus, but for games that use the dpad as a primary means of control, it’s awful. That’s unfortunate, as the rest of the controller is so well designed.

Accessories

The MLG Pro Controller ships with an entire extra set of magnetic plates that attach to the face and grips of the unit, letting the user choose between the lightly textured matte or shiny smooth plates. I prefer the matte plates, and set aside the shiny ones for a paint job sometime in the future.

A quick note about cables. Thanks to Microsoft’s stranglehold on their wireless format and the baffling disdain of the hardcore towards wireless, both the Razer and Mad Catz controllers are wired. They each make up for this with extra-long braided cabling, with the Mad Catz MLG Controller going a step further, allowing the user to unscrew and detach the cable completely for storage. A good idea in theory, but in practice, the extra bulk of the cable attachment brings the center of gravity on the MLG Controller too far forward. Luckily, this can be mostly counteracted by the included weights that fit in where the battery on a wireless controller would go. I’ve found the best balance by using only the rear-most weight, but I’m sure everyone will have their own preference.

Speaking of weight, out of the other three controllers, I believe the DUALSHOCK3 is the lightest, followed by the Onza, with the Xbox OEM the heaviest of the bunch. Without any of the weights added, the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller sits somewhere in the middle, but once the two 35g weight cartridges are in place, it’s noticeably heavier than the others.

To complete the package, Mad Catz includes an MLG-branded case to store the controller and all your extra bits in. The compartment walls are velcro so you can rearrange them as you please, and the case is padded enough to keep everything fairly secure.

So is the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller worth $99? The OEM 360 controller is by no means a bad controller. If you have no complaints with it, then hell, keep what you’ve got and game on. But if you do, and if you have no problem spending a little extra on a quality piece of kit, chances are that Mad Catz has resolved your issues with the release of the MLG Pro Circuit Controller. You’ll be happy with this one.

Honestly, my only real complaint with the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller (if you can even call it a complaint) is that it doesn’t magically work with both the PS3 and Xbox 360. That’s a shame, as it means I’ll probably end up doling out another hundred bucks down the road for the PS3 compatible version. What can ya do.

Is it worth the upgrade cost if you already have a Razer Onza? If you cherish the idea of a quality XBox 360 dpad, or want nothing more than the PS3 stick layout on your 360 controller, then yes, it absolutely is. Otherwise, aside from the input swapping, the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller does lack the bells and whistles of the Razer Onza. I don’t miss them, but your story may be different, so try to get your hands on one for a few days to give it a shot before buying. Still, I have a feeling that if you’re currently watching the controller landscape even after owning an Onza, you’ll probably end up siding with the Mad Catz.


23 Responses to “Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller review & comparison”

  1. Chris A on January 20, 2012 11:48 am

    On the wireless/wired thing, from Patrick Miller:
    Competitive gamers don’t like wireless controllers because pairing a wireless controller is a nightmare in a venue with 90 Xboxes. That’s why you can’t use wireless controllers at Evo.

    We are notoriously lag-phobic folk and will do anything we can to reduce lag in our controllers and displays etc. But the reason it’s banned is interference + syncing issues, not lag.

  2. Dan H on January 20, 2012 1:14 pm

    I just want to know is this controller really that good for a 99 dollar price tag on it? I been looking at it but not to sure I want to fork out 99 on this.

  3. Chris A on January 20, 2012 1:37 pm

    I believe so, but then again, I get to write off the purchase. Like I said above, if you do a lot of gaming and have issues with your current controller choice, then yes, it’s absolutely worth it. With the ability to easily swap out sticks/pads, the MLG controller will probably give ya years of gaming time.

  4. JamesC on January 20, 2012 1:56 pm

    On the whole wired/wireless thing. Most hardcore people don’t have an issue with wireless controllers as much as having to deal with the wireless itself. When you’re at a tournament with multiple boxes, and you’re moving all over the place, trying to pair your wireless from box to box can sometimes affect other people’s games.

    To share a story, I was at a tournament in Orlando, FL, and one of my friend’s teams was playing the final game in their series. Suddenly, the Xbox guide went up in the middle of the game. Turned out, someone on another station was trying to sync their controller to their new Xbox on a different station. This happened multiple times, and eventually, my friend and his team had to replay the final game 3 times before they finally got it without someone’s wireless mucking it up.

  5. AugieM on March 5, 2012 9:21 pm

    The Razer Onza is bad btw. The material used in the sticks wears down excessively fast. It’s a very cheap rubber. The head of my joysticks (both left and right) changed shape on my Onza regular edition within 2 months of purchase. In addition, the slow turn problem wasn’t fixed with the T.E of the Onza, in fact the sticks begin to slow turn far far worse than any OEM xbox control ever has.

  6. Chris A on March 5, 2012 9:38 pm

    I read about some folks still having slow turn issues on the Onza, but I never saw them on my own. I haven’t noticed any excessive wear on the controller sticks, but I’m lucky if I get 10 hours of Xbox time a week, so I might’ve played used it enough.

    All that said, I haven’t touched the Onza since I picked up the MLG controller.

  7. Ian McSmith on April 23, 2012 8:51 am

    I have a question I can’t seem to find an answer to. If I buy the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller is it compatible to use on both 360 “and” PS3? It seems like the answer should be obvious but I can’t get a direct answer and I’ve looked at like 10 different sites/reviews >:/

  8. Ian McSmith on April 23, 2012 8:53 am

    lol massive fail I quit reading the review 3 paragraphs short sorry for the moronic comment and moment.

  9. Chris A on April 23, 2012 11:20 am

    Heh, no worries. I’d love to see cross compatibility in the MLG controller.

  10. Joshua M on May 4, 2012 1:23 pm

    Man I’m really on the fence about this. The MLG looks awesome and I’ve never been quite sold on the Onza, so to me it’s a shoo in. My problem is with shipping this bad boy will cost me: $130.19! That to me is REALLY pushing it, considering it seems more like a vanity item.

    Does the performance of the MLG really stand out over the standard OEM? Does it stand out enough to to be worth $130.19?

    Thanks.

  11. Chris A on May 4, 2012 1:32 pm

    Hmm, that’s a tough call. It’s an excellent controller, but an additional 30% is rough. No other sources to buy it that won’t charge as much for shipping?

  12. Thierry on May 10, 2012 2:41 am

    Hello i’m a swiss french speaker and i didn’t see if the MLG controller have the vibration or not???
    Thank you for the response
    See u

  13. Chris A on May 10, 2012 3:39 pm

    Yep, it does!

  14. Keith on May 27, 2012 9:37 am

    I’ve had many of my controllers become worn out over the years (at least 6 OEM controllers, 2 of which had the rotating d-pad) & wanted to try something new & different. After looking over the Onza & the MLG controllers, the MLG gets the verdict from me because of it’s interchangeable & relatively cheap & easily replaceable parts. If the joysticks or d-pad wears down or breaks, it’ll only cost me $15 to replace the parts rather than the whole controller. :)

  15. D-PAD ON TOP! on May 31, 2012 5:01 am

    >I have a question I can’t seem to find an answer to. If I buy the Mad Catz MLG Pro Circuit Controller is it compatible to use on both 360 “and” PS3?

    No. Microsoft won’t allow that so Mad Catz (or anyone who makes an officially licensed controller) can’t do it.

  16. J on December 30, 2012 10:21 pm

    The dead zone on the analog stick was insane so i sent mine back. I don’t know if it was just my one but im not bothering with a replacement.

  17. Chris A on December 30, 2012 10:35 pm

    You had that problem on both analog sticks? I haven’t noticed any problems with em since the original writeup, both have been solid.

    Offhand, I’m guessing the stick didn’t sell incredibly well, as I haven’t seen Mad Catz push anything related to it (such as all the additional customization options that were promised) since just after the original release.

  18. BLAKE T. LYNCH on February 14, 2013 8:58 pm

    i just want to say thank you chris i have been look ing at both the mlg and razor but i couldnt decide if i wanted to spend that money on another p.o.s. controller plus i have had bad luck with mad catz in the past so i done a lot of reserch and your post by far was the most helpful review i could find and thanks to you i am now on my way too buy the mlg controller and i hope it is everything you say it is and again thank you.

  19. Chris A on February 15, 2013 12:08 am

    Thank you! Come back and post your thoughts once you’ve had some time with the controller, I’d love to hear what you think.

    I actually picked up a second controller (this one for the PS3) a couple weeks ago when Amazon had a handful available as a warehouse deal. The PS3 style d-pad on the new one feels more accurate than the same d-pad on my first MLG controller, but otherwise they are pretty much the same. The PS3 controller does lack vibration, which is kind of annoying, but not a dealbreaker.

  20. Mike on April 18, 2013 5:13 am

    New pad Razer Sabertooth Elite Gaming Controller for Xbox 360

  21. 3lijah on August 15, 2013 8:24 pm

    Hi there! Quite the informative review, Sir. Just one question, and I really haven’t been able to find this info anywhere else.

    Does this thing work with Windows, like the OEM wired controllers do?

    Thanks much!

  22. Chris A on August 15, 2013 10:47 pm

    Yep, both the 360 and PS3 versions should work just fine.

  23. Linchu on October 13, 2013 12:59 am

    But i have a MLG PS3 version controller , is not working on my Windows PC game , could you please advise how to do ? or need to install some of drive and programs ?

    Sincerely
    Linchu

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