The Steel Series Stratus+ is a symmetrical controller which can be used wirelessly with an Android mobile phone or wired with a PC (running Windows). More and more brands are launching their versions of mobile controllers these days, thanks to the boom of cloud gaming. Not only that, but – due to the range of compatibility on many – you may find them creeping their way onto the best PC controllers list at some point in the future.
The Stratus+ offers some solid features but its main selling point is likely the fact that it is a full sized controller that works with any Android phone via Bluetooth. It comes in at a $/£60 asking price, which I think is great value given you’re grabbing universal connectivity, a rechargeable battery, clickable console joysticks and hall effect triggers.
The Stratus+ is a relatively simple controller in terms of design and build quality. It doesn’t feel like a premium controller by any means but this is what you’d expect for the price point. However, its sleek, plain black aesthetic works and although simple looking at first has some small touches that really shine.
Thumb sticks are laid out in a symmetrical fashion, so may not be suited to gamers who are more familiar with an Xbox controller. The Steel Series branding sits nicely at the top and just below are four lights which indicate which player you are when connected to a phone or PC. You can also press a button at the top of the controller which use these lights to display how much battery your controller has left – a great feature for those on the go.
It has a power button, two menu buttons, an A/B/X/Y pad, two thumbsticks, and a regular d-pad. As I said, relatively simple.
However, here’s the good part. Next to the two top buttons are two small holes, where you can insert the included phone holder. This phone holder is awesome, when I first saw it I didn’t think I would use it but it’s simple to use and increases the portability of the controller by ten-fold. Your phone just easily slots into the adjustable grip so a phone of any size will fit comfortably (though it’s worth checking where the lock button sits in relation to the clamp). The fact that the phone holder is an optional addition which can be removed and added when required is the perfect solution for a controller with universal connectivity.
Lastly, the controller is wireless when being used with a mobile phone but is plug and play when being used with PC. The USB-C cable used for PC play will also charge the Stratus+, and we measured it at around 2m. I feel like the length of this cable is perfectly fine for those gamers who want to use their gamepad on PC, but still lean back comfortably in their chairs.
The fact that the controller states that it has universal connectivity is a little bit misleading, it connects seamlessly to Android phones via Bluetooth or via a wired connection to a PC. It does not work with iPhone, which was a little disappointing as an Apple user. It also doesn’t work with any consoles. When I see the phrase universal connectivity I kind of assume that it will work with everything (or most things) – like a universal TV remote. This is an Android-first product, but us iPhone users are really missing out – I would have loved to start using it as my main controller for mobile.
Now, the battery. Not only is it rechargeable, it lasts 90 hours on a full charge. No that’s not a typo – 90 hours of play time on a single charge. This feels insane to say. While many mobile controllers simply run off of the power from your phone, those gamepads can’t quite compete with this level of comfort (more on that below), so being able to get the best of both worlds with a battery life that lasts feels excellent. It is also equipped with fast charging which allows you to charge it for 15minutes to gain 12 hours of play time.
The controller also has clickable joysticks, an industry standard on console controllers but much harder to find on mobile. If you’re used to gaming on console and only use your mobile when you’re on the go you’ll greatly appreciate this feature, it makes it so much easier to play the games you know and love, the way you’re already familiar with playing them.
You’ll also find that the controller has hall-effect triggers, a new trigger design which allows for your inputs to be picked up faster and for longer periods of time until full release. This is something that isn’t even available on many pro level console controllers so it’s excellent that this is included.
For the price point, this controller is jam-packed with all of these great features, some of which you can’t even find from competitors charging almost double the price. This, along with the sleek design and removable phone holder makes for a solid features set overall.
I felt like I was just gaming on PC while using the SteelSeries Stratus+ on a mobile phone – aside from the much smaller screen of course. Although I’m usually used to gaming on an asymmetrical controller, the layout felt natural to me very quickly. The Xbox style button layout (A/B/X/Y) definitely contributed to this.
Not only that, but I actually performed so much better than I expected on many games, including Fortnite, which requires a great amount of input at the best of times. In my first session using this controller I seemed to be playing better on mobile than I had in my previous five games on PC with my regular controller. This controller will not hold you back in any way shape or form, and certainly doesn’t present a step down over more PC-focused gamepads.
All of the features worked as intended and I still cannot get over how amazing the battery-life is. I haven’t needed to charge the controller once since taking it out of the box and I’ve been using it every evening for over a week straight. After all of this it still says it’s at 75% battery. If you’re more of a causal mobile gamer (a couple of hours every week) then you could likely go a few months without charging this thing.
The only downside I found was that, when using the phone holder, I couldn’t keep my ASUS Zenfone 6 as central as I would have liked – as the clamp was positioned down on the lock button. That’s not the fault of the controller or the phone themselves but more just an unlucky compatibility issue worth checking if you’re planning to use in this way. Of course the controller and phone holder were still fine to use and functioned perfectly despite this.
The buttons and D-pad feel somewhat similar to the standard Xbox wireless controller. They’re not anything special in any way but they still feel alright to use and get the job done. This was the same when pushing down on the thumbsticks, that familiar feeling to Xbox, there was a good level of resistance where it felt like you didn’t have to push too hard but you also couldn’t accidentally push down on them. They had a satisfying clicky feel so you could tell when you had pressed it.
The shape and size of the controller was pretty much perfect for me. It felt normal to hold in my hands and there wasn’t any strain even after using it for long periods of time. Some mobile controllers either end up being too small or shaped weirdly to contribute to the portability but the Stratus+ didn’t feel like that at all.
Should you buy the SteelSeries Stratus+?
Overall, this controller is a great little wireless controller which still provides you with that comforting feeling of playing on console. If you’re on the look out for a great wireless controller to play mobile games with then I would honestly say look no further. This is such an amazing controller and well worth the $/£60 asking price given that you can also use it with your PC/Laptop, the battery life and the other features it has on offer. I would recommend this controller to the point that I might start using it over my current Xbox wireless controller for my PC.
The only thing holding me back from giving this controller full marks is the fact that it can’t be used with an iPhone, which is does leave a lot of players out of the equation, and is frustrating considering the previous Duo model was released in an iPhone version as well.
How we tested the Steel Series Stratus+ controller?
In brief, every controller that we have had our hands on is used in a series of different video games to accommodate most genres. This means that we’ll test the responsiveness of the sticks, face buttons, bumpers, triggers, and any other additional features found on the unit. If a controller is wired or relies on rechargeable batteries, then the duration of the lifespan is tested, too. The same can be said for any specialist software, such as drivers, that may be included with the gamepad as well.
For more on how we test controllers at GamesRadar+ check out our full article, and for something more representative of our holistic approach to the latest gear, check out our Hardware Policy.
If you’re on the look out for a controller for your console then take a look at our best PS4 controllers or best Xbox One controllers.
4.5 out of 5
Overall, the Steel Series Stratus+ is a great little wireless controller which still provides you with that comforting feeling of playing on console – and it’s jam packed with features for its low asking price.