Steelseries’ new Stratus Duo is a $60 controller (See it on Amazon) made to play games on Android, PC, and VR headsets like the Oculus Go and Samsung Gear VR. By adjusting a toggle on the controller, you can switch between a Bluetooth connection and a 2.4GHz wireless connection (using a small included adapter). If you’re really serious about your mobile gaming, you can also buy a $10 clip that attaches your phone to the Stratus Duo. The controller is also officially compatible for Fortnite mobile, which is the big message SteelSeries is pushing with the Stratus Duo.
Steelseries Stratus Duo – Design and Features
You wouldn’t guess it from the pictures of its drab, textureless frame, but the Stratus Duo feels remarkably solid. I was so surprised by its heft, I uttered a “wow” while taking it out of the box. Unlike many of the third-party controllers on the market, the Steelseries doesn’t feel “hollow” in the center. It weighs 246 grams, which puts it around the same weight as an Xbox One or DualShock 4 controller. The Duo features an ABXY button setup, and symmetrical thumbsticks, like the DualShock 4. The sticks feel well-designed, with sharp grooves that make them easy to grip. The D-pad also sports a decent contour, but it feels mushy, with very little clickiness.
My biggest issue with the Stratus Duo is that it doesn’t support any rumble or haptic feedback whatsoever. In 2019, this feels like a huge miss, and one SteelSeries fans will be all too familiar with. Neither its Nimbus or XL sport the feature, either. SteelSeries is (yet again) ignoring the trusty rumble while charging nearly the same price as its competitors.
My biggest issue with the Stratus Duo is that it doesn’t support any rumble or haptic feedback whatsoever.
The lithium-ion battery is rated at 20 hours—which is a sizable downgrade from SteelSeries XL controller, which is rated at 40 hours, but didn’t pack a rechargeable battery, so I’d say that’s a welcome tradeoff. Twenty hours is long enough for even the most extended gaming marathons, and the battery does seem to hold its charge well—a fact illuminated by a chunky light at the top of the controller. When it’s time to top it off again, you can plug it into any Micro USB cable you have lying around (on PC, you can play games while it’s charging).
SteelSeries Stratus Duo – Gaming
On my first time pairing the Duo to my Android device (Pixel 3), it took a weirdly long time. First, it couldn’t find the device at all; then the inputs took a minute to register. (Fortunately, connecting to a PC was as easy as plugging in the USB adapter and flipping a switch.) But once everything was connected, it didn’t take any additional tweaking. The controller inputs registered correctly across many games on both Android and PC.
It makes sense: Windows registers the SteelSeries as an Xbox controller, which is all-but uniform. Still, you never really know what weird button layout you’re about to encounter, especially hooking up a third-party controller to an Android device—and I was pleased with its performance.
There’s a small lip on the face of the controller, and the buttons all sit in a bit of a recess. That lip can make certain buttons feel like a bit of a reach. On the other hand, the groove is a comfortable place to rest your thumbs while you’re not mashing the buttons. The triggers feel ultra fast, and thankfully the controller isn’t loud, even when you’re slamming on the buttons.
The Duo’s main trick is its dual frequency—2.4GHZ wireless for PC Gaming, and Bluetooth for mobile VR and Android.
The Duo’s main trick is its dual frequency—2.4GHZ wireless for PC Gaming, and Bluetooth for mobile VR and Android. When playing wirelessly, you’ll need to connect a small adapter to a free USB port, where it will likely remain forever. The adapter is tiny, so if you’re likely to take it out of your PC often, you’ll need to be extra diligent about where you store it, or it’s going to disappear.
That dual functionality could be a huge boon, making the Stratus Duo your universal controller. But it likely won’t, because the Stratus Duo is limited to Android, VR, and PC. For some, that’ll be enough. But I was left wishing the controller could work with more platforms, like Mac, iPhone, PS4, Xbox, or Switch.
If you’re serious about mobile gaming (hey, plenty of people are!), you can buy a $9.99 SmartGrip (above) that clips your Android phone to the top of your controller. I tested it out, and while the controller feels undoubtedly top-heavy with a big phone stuck to it (not to mention your mileage will vary depending on your android phone), it did feel like a solid, if very niche, setup.
The SteelSeries Stratus Duo has an MSRP of $59.99 and can be bought at most major online retailers.