SteelSeries Stratus Duo review: A versatile mobile/PC wireless controller

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SteelSeries Stratus Duo PC/Android game controller

With the popularity of mobile gaming and the rise of cloud gaming, the dual purpose Stratus Duo controller really is a no brainer.

9.5/10 rating

With mobile gaming on the rise and companies like Google and Microsoft promising even more game streaming with services like Stadia and Project xCloud, companies are continuing to break out Bluetooth mobile controllers. Our SteelSeries Stratus Duo review takes a look at a Bluetooth controller with Wi-Fi for use on mobile devices or your PC. Read on for our full review!

Specifications

The SteelSeries Stratus Duo has the following features and specifications:

  • Easily game on the go with any Android or Windows device
  • No software needed – pair and play on Windows, Android, Oculus Go, and Samsung Gear VR via Bluetooth or the USB Wireless Adapter
  • Steam enabled: Play 5000+ controller-enabled Steam games
  • Lithium-ion battery for 20+ hours, plus charging while gaming
  • Cable length: 1.8 meters/5.9 feet
  • Connectivity: 2.4GHz, Bluetooth v4.1, or Wired USB
  • Battery Type: Lithium-ion (20+ hours)
  • Range (2.4GHz): 12 meters/40 feet
  • Connector Type: Micro-USB
  • Compatibility: PC (Window 7+), Steam, VR (Oculus Rift/GO, Samsung Gear VR), Android 4+
  • Width: 150mm/5.91 inches
  • Height: 110mm / 4.33 inches
  • Depth: 63.2mm / 2.49 inches
  • Weight: 245g

What’s in the box

  • Stratus Duo Controller
  • USB wireless adapter
  • Micro USB cable
  • Product Information Guide

Design

The SteelSeries Stratus Duo controller is roughly the same size and shape as an Xbox One controller with a couple of exceptions. Namely, the grips are a bit narrower and longer. The controller is matte black for the most part with a few gloss black hints and strips throughout.

The SteelSeries Stratus Duo PC/Android game controller
The SteelSeries Stratus Duo PC/Android game controller.

Unlike the Xbox One controller layout, the Stratus Duo features the side by side joystick layout. This means the dual analog joysticks sit parallel to each other towards the grips. Above and to the left of the left analog joystick is the 8-way directional pad while the X, Y, A, and B buttons sit to the upper right of the right joystick. The letters on the gloss black buttons are matte black and there are four colour indicator dots in the middle of the button array.

Centered above the joysticks are your back/select button, home button, and forward/start button. Above these buttons are four narrow LED indicators to indicate which player you are if you’re playing with multiple people. These are labelled 1 through 4. Finally, for the front of the controller at least, the SteelSeries logo is debossed into a slanted cutout across the top.

Flipping the controller around to the back, you’ll find your R1/L1 should buttons and R2/L2 analog triggers. These are actually pretty fat and wide, but are comfortable and easy to find while playing games.

There are also a few other switches and buttons not normally found on controllers. These are, from left to right when looking at the back, the wireless mode switch, wireless pairing button, Micro-USB port, battery level button, and power switch. The wireless mode switch has a green or blue background depending on where it is switched to while the power button has a green or red background.

The switches, buttons, and ports on the back of the SteelSeries Stratus Duo game controller
The switches, buttons, and ports on the back of the SteelSeries Stratus Duo game controller.

Side-by-side joystick layout aside, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is pretty comfortable to hold, even for longer gaming sessions with an Android device mounted on it. The build quality is definitely there. It feels strong and sturdy and there isn’t any flex if you try to twist it while holding onto the grips.

Ease of Use

There are three ways to use the Stratus Duo: wired, wireless, or via Bluetooth. Wired is easy and straightforward.

When using it wirelessly with a PC or laptop, plug the included 2.4GHz wireless USB adapter into a full-sized USB port on your computer. Next, power on the controller by switching the power switch to on. Finally, switch the wireless selector so the green background with the wireless symbol is showing and you should be good to go. Should the connection fail, you can press and hold the wireless pairing button until the controller indicates it is paired with a player number LED.

For Bluetooth devices, namely Android smartphones, after you turn the power switch to on and the wireless selector so the blue background with the Bluetooth symbol is showing, you’ll be ready to pair the controller to your phone. On first use, all four LEDs should be flashing and you should see Stratus Duo listed in your Bluetooth devices. If you need to pair to a new device or re-pair with your existing device, simply press the wireless button until the LEDs flash to enter pairing mode once again.

Once connected, using the controller is just like using any other controller and the controls will vary based on what game you’re playing.

Performance

We tested the SteelSeries Stratus Duo on a desktop PC, gaming laptop, and the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a XL smartphones. In all cases, the controller connected as expected with no issues.

During testing, I played a number of games including Forza Horizon 4 and Gears of War 4 on the PC. On the Pixel phones, I played Fortnite, Sonic, and a couple other games. While an Xbox One controller on PC still feels much better, the Stratus Duo still performed well and I noticed no input lag or experienced any frustration from inputs not being recognized.

The real experience, however, was gaming on a smartphone with the controller. I was actually surprised at how smoother Fortnite was with the controller as opposed to touch controls. Sonic was more fun to play as well with the controller with controls being more fluid and natural feeling for a long time console gamer. The other games we tested out played just as nicely with no lag or delay.

The SteelSeries Stratus Duo with SmartGrip and Pixel 3.
The SteelSeries Stratus Duo with SmartGrip and Pixel 3.

Battery Life

When powering on the controller, the LED lights will light up indicating 25, 50, 75, or 100% battery remaining. You can also check this by pressing the battery button on the back of the controller.

SteelSeries claims the Stratus Duo gets 20+ hours on a single charge, and boy are they right. During testing and while gaming a couple hours of night with the controller on a PC or Android device (we swapped between the two), the controller easily lasted a couple of weeks. On that note, you can definitely game all night or all day if you wish without having to worry about the controller dying on you mid-game.

When the battery does run out, you can continue to play in wired mode while charging. When depleted, it took about a couple of hours for the controller to fully recharge when not in use.

Accessories

While the SteelSeries Stratus Duo works great out of the box for PC via USB or the wireless USB dongle, it helps to have the company’s SnartGrip if you’re planning on using the controller with your Android device.

SteelSeries SmartGrip attached to Stratus Duo controller
SteelSeries SmartGrip attached to the Stratus Duo controller.

The SteelSeries SmartGrip has the following features:

  • Compatible with most phones 4 – 6.5”
  • Fully adjustable angle and height
  • Protective rubber bumpers to prevent scratching
  • Fits all SteelSeries controllers

The SmartGrip doesn’t look like much. It has a curved gamepad slot on one end which includes a fix lock which sits on tip of the controller. An adjusting screw sits between this and the phone clip. A metal buckle and buckle cover are located on the back, more on that in a second. Finally, a metal stand bar is located near the bottom so you can stand it on a flat surface while taking a break and not having to worry about the weight of the phone toppling everything over.

To attach the SmartGrip to the Stratus Duo, the fix lock needs to be raised, then the buckle cover and buckle unclipped. Once the controller is in place, the buckle presses against the back of the fix lock and pushing up on the buckle cover locks everything into place. It’s easier than it sounds but yet I still fumbled with it a few times before remembering how everything clicked into place.

Once attached, you can place your Android device in the phone clip area and adjust it to a comfortable viewing angle with the adjusting screws. Once set, you’re good to go and on your way to full controller mobile gaming.

As far as branding goes, the only thing on the SmartGrip is the SteelSeries icon on the back of the phone clip portion.

My main, and only I suppose, complaint about the SmartGrip is that when it is attached, it blocks the Micro-USB port and buttons. It’s not a huge deal but the fact that it blocks the power and wireless switch basically means you have to take it on and off each time you want to use the controller. However, the controller does go to sleep after awhile so you can always leave it connected and wake it up the next time you want to play a game on your Android device. Still, you’ll have to remove it when you need to recharge the controller.

Price/Value

At US$59.99, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is pretty much right along the selling price of other console controllers. Even though you can’t use it with a console, if you’re a PC and mobile gamer, being able to use the same controller with multiple devices is definitely a plus. Not only that, the Stratus Duo has fantastic battery life for true wireless gaming.

Given the purpose though, I’d have loved to see the SmartGrip included with the Stratus Duo instead of being a separate purchase. That being said, I guess it does give you the option to pass on it if you’re not into mobile gaming…

Wrap-up

With the popularity of mobile gaming and the rise of cloud gaming, a dual purpose PC/mobile controller really is a no brainer. The SteelSeries Stratus Duo is definitely a great choice given its performance and price point.

*We were sent a sample of the SteelSeries Stratus Duo and SmartGrip for the purposes of this review. In some of our articles and especially in our reviews, you will find Amazon or other affiliate links. Running a website does take money, along with time. Any purchases you make through these links often result in a small amount being earned for the site and/or our writers.

SteelSeries Stratus Duo

US$59.99
9.5

Design

9.0/10

Ease of use

10.0/10

Performance

9.5/10

Battery Life

10.0/10

Accessories

9.0/10

Price/Value

9.5/10

Nailed it

  • Sturdy construction
  • Compatible with multiple systems
  • Easy to pair and use with PC/Android
  • Responsive
  • Long battery life

Needs work

  • Side-by-side joysticks (personal preference thing)
  • SmartGrip covers ports and buttons on the back

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