Most competitive gamers likely use one of the best gaming keyboards on the market, but some are always looking to try something drastically different in an attempt to get an upper hand. That’s where the new Azeron Cyborg Compact joins the match, sporting more than 20 programmable buttons, a 3D printed frame and a look that’s straight out of old-school Cyberpunk.
The Azeron Cyborg Compact is expensive and different enough that you might expect a serious learning curve. Surprisingly it actually didn’t take that much time to get used to, but it also feels like you could spend a near-inifite amount of time tweaking things in the software and swapping out the many replaceable parts to get things just right for you. If you give it time, the Cyborg Compact can deliver a unique, enjoyable gaming experience. And it will definitely drum up conversations with people who see it sitting on your desk.
Design of the Azeron Cyborg Compact
What do you get when you mix a keyboard and a controller together? You get the Azeron Cyborg Compact by Azeron. This isn’t the company’s first funky controller like this. Azeron sells the regular Cyborg, the Classic, the Compact and the Cyborg Compact, which is what we have today. But here's one odd bit that really indicates how long the company has been working on these controllers. The Cyborg Compact (and seemingly all of the similar models) connect to your PC via a Mini USB port. Yes you read that right. The Cyborg Compact uses a connector that was replaced by Micro-USB in 2007. And Micro USB has almost completely been supplanted by USB-C at this point. Well, at least the Mini USB cable is 6-foot long and braided.
The original Compact isn’t drastically different than the Cyborg Compact, but the Cyborg variant has more buttons and is much more adjustable. When I first set up the Cyborg Compact, I was in awe over how many buttons are on this thing: 23 – or 25 if you count the two thumbsticks. While it’s nice to have so many buttons, at first there were numerous occasions where I accidentally actuated one by simply resting my hand. However, Azeron thought of this by allowing you to adjust the height of the buttons, or disable some in software that you find uncomfortable to use. The Azeron software is quite intuitive, and lets you set two profiles. This isn’t as many as I would’ve expected. Most peripherals these days support way more than that. Nonetheless, this will allow you to jump between games without rebinding keys.
The build quality of the Cyborg Compact feels great – most of its components are 3D printed (perhaps using one of the best 3D printers), and the whole thing feels like it could hold its own against rage quits. Nestled underneath the 3D printed buttons are mouse switches designed by premium switch maker Omron.
The attention to detail on the Cyborg Compact is gnarly– the color matching is literally perfect. Azeron sent us a model with the Tom’s Hardware colorway, and the sleeved cables matched the shade of red on the thumbsticks and trim. And nearly every button and piece can be ordered in one of 18 different colors. Note, though that the $172 model comes in basic black and white. Opting for several extra colors can push the price up to or above $250. Our configuration is priced at $274.
For that high price, though, Azeron includes a lot of goodies in the box, like a nice iFixit-like screwdriver, a second palm rest, extra screws, two mini screwdrivers and rubber grip tape. While I wanted to enjoy the pre-installed palm rest, it felt too tall for my hand, so I needed to install the low-profile one. While installing the low-profile palm rest looks daunting due to the number of screws and tiny cables spread across the device, it’s straightforward.The only issue is how tiny the connecting cables are. If you have massive hands like I do, it’s best to use tweezers to connect the wires. Changing a palm rest shouldn’t call for surgery on your Cyborg, but it could be worse.
My prayers have been answered. Activision has added round-based to Call of Duty: Vanguard’s Zombies mode. This felt like the perfect opportunity to try the Cyborg in a game, and even though it looks extremely complex and different from a keyboard and mouse or a traditional controller, getting used to Azeron’s keypad didn’t take that long.
When I got into the match, I took note of which buttons my fingers organically pressed and mapped them accordingly within the software. I didn’t run into too many issues in-game, but the ones I did face were pretty severe. The thumbstick is a bit too tall and heavy to press, even with my large hands. While Azeron sends smaller sticks with the Compact, installing them requires serious disassembly.
I’m a huge baseball fan, but because I’m on PC, I cannot play any of the MLB:The Show games, so I decided to install Cricket 22. The Cyborg was surprisingly more comfortable to use in this game than Vanguard, because I only had to rely on four buttons and the joystick. The joystick allowed me to aim where I wanted to hit the ball and aim my pitches either in the dirt or directly at the wickets.
The Cyborg Compact has a ton of buttons, and while I’m sure some gamers (primarily MMO RPG players) will utilize all of them, I kept clicking or accidentally rubbing up against the side button where my pinky finger sits, causing slight mental and physical irritation. But again, if something similar happens to you, you can disable that button and still have several others to choose from.
The Azeron software was easy to navigate, which made remapping the keys reasonably effortless. Obviously, we all need to start with some sort of reference if we’re remapping a keypad to act as a controller. Azeron has made it easy to remap the keys on the Cyborg by listing the actual names on Xbox controllers, instead of ambiguously hiding them behind numbers. Along with it being a controller substitute, the Cyborg Compact can also act as a numpad, macropad and a fully functional keyboard. The level of customization with Azeron’s software makes the Cyborg more than just a controller substitute – I can see it being useful for gamers with limited motor skills or other physical complications.
The Azeron Cyborg Compact is a very niche product. And despite its unique looks, it wasn’t too difficult to get used to while gaming with a mouse. Personally, the Cyborg Compact had too many buttons for me, which led to a significant amount of accidental inputs and irritation on my left pinky, although it is fairly easy to disable buttons in the software. But, chances are if you’re considering the Cyborg Compact, you may have experience with previous models or you just want to try something different – and this controller is definitely different.
If you like to tinker with software settings and the various swappable parts to make it truly your own, there’s a lot that you can do with the Azeron Cyborg Compact, especially outside of its primary focus as a gaming controller. And despite its heavy price tag, its 3D printed-structure and level of customization options make it worth considering if you want to mix up your gaming setup and try something different than a traditional controller or a keyboard and mouse.