When it comes to mobile gaming I have always preferred dedicated handhelds like the 3DS or PS Vita. The one thing that drives me nuts about gaming on a smartphone or tablet is that your fingers and thumbs obscure the action on screen. The SteelSeries Stratus is a wireless micro-controller that brings a full console-like control experience to your smartphone or tablet using a Bluetooth connection.
The Stratus requires iOS 7 and only works with the iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, iPad mini, iPad Air, iPad (4th gen) and iPod Touch (5th gen). The platforms I used for this review were my iPhone 5 and iPad (4th gen). Both worked flawlessly without any perceptible lag between input and effect. The small form factor makes it super convenient to pack in a laptop bag and the Stratus comes with a hard plastic cover that protects the buttons and sticks when packed. There are also snaps on the back for added grip when in use. I don’t know if I got a bad unit or not but my plastic cover never really stayed on either the front or the back. That’s disappointing but the quality of the rest of the controller is top notch.
Given the small size I was concerned it might be difficult to use with my big hands but to my surprise I found that it is actually very comfortable. Both the d-pad and twin analog sticks feel good as well do the four face buttons. Of note is that the four face buttons are also pressure sensitive. The analog sticks have a nice tacky feel to them. The two sets of shoulder buttons, which are stacked on one another, prove to be a bit more difficult to use. The top buttons are fine enough because they extend wide to the edges of the Stratus but the bottom two shoulder buttons are more difficult to reach simply because they don’t stretch as wide as the top ones.
The selection of compatible games numbers around a hundred right now with the promise of many more to come. A full list can be found HERE. Games like Age of Zombies and Real Racing 3 really showed off the precision and sensitivity of the thumb sticks. They really do feel fantastic. If I have one concern about the Stratus is that it is not cheap. At $80 it is rather expensive when compared to standard console controllers. I highly advise trying to find this thing locally if you’re in the market. I saw them available at an Apple Store.
Provided you can justify the price tag, the Stratus certainly brings a console-like experience to playing games on a mobile platform. This small controller has certainly opened my eyes to more games on iOS and will make me think twice about packing my Vita or 3DS the next time I travel. Suddenly gaming on my iPhone or iPad is a far more attractive proposition.