SteelSeries Stratus Duo Review: A Decent Mid-Tier Controller

Mobile Accessories

A lot of us have held a controller in our hands at least a few times in our lives. From ancient Atari joysticks and odd three-pronged Nintendo 64 controllers to modern PlayStation 5 Dual Sense and Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons, your controller could mean your success or loss in any game. With battle royales like Fortnite Mobile seeing a sharp rise in hardcore gaming, some have felt the inadequacy of touch screen controls and turned to controllers for help. The SteelSeries Stratus Duo is one of the best Android controllers available for your phone!

 

 

SteelSeries Stratus Duo
Photo From Amazon

Early Impressions

SteelSeries Stratus Duo might look a bit underwhelming, but it’s one of the best controllers available for Android phones. A 20+ hour battery life, pair-and-play compatibility with controller-supported Android games like Fortnite Mobile, and best of all, for just $70!

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SteelSeries Stratus Duo Overview

Released in 2019, the Stratus Duo is part of the latest offerings from SteelSeries. Looking at the SteelSeries Stratus Duo, you’re probably thinking, “Huh, it’s just another controller isn’t it?”, and that’s where you’re going to be wrong. It may look simple and plain, but under that hard plastic shell, it’s got some of the best features for any gamer.

The SteelSeries team has outdone themselves with the Stratus Duo since they’ve made it compatible with games on PC and Android. Considered an improvement to the SteelSeries Stratus XL, the Stratus Duo has a few big differences from its predecessor like full Steam support, VR compatibility, dual wireless connectivity, ergonomic adaptations, hall effect magnetic sensors, and best of all, a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery with more than 20 hours of gaming time that lets you literally play till morning!

Aside from features, it also comes in at a decent $70 price point, a far cry from competitors like the Razer Junglecat and Razer Kishi, or the even more expensive Razer Raiju.

 

Pricing

SteelSeries Stratus Duo out of the box
Photo from the SteelSeries Website

As stated earlier, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is decently priced for a mid-tier gaming controller. When you do buy the Stratus Duo, what you’ll be getting in the box is the controller, a 2.4 GHz USB wireless adapter, a micro-USB cable, and a product information pamphlet. The SteelSeries website has a downloadable PDF version of the pamphlet in case you need it.

In our list of the best Android controllers, the Stratus Duo only placed fourth in the list, but that’s mainly due to it lacking a phone mount. But pair it with SteelSeries SmartGrip and you’ll find the Stratus Duo one of the sturdiest partners you can have with your mobile gaming.

 

Form Factor and Design

SteelSeries Stratus Duo Front Panel
Photo from the SteelSeries Website

The SteelSeries Stratus Duo looks underwhelming due to its generic black ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) hard plastic shell covering most of the controller. Although it looks like any generic Xbox-inspired third-party controller, the Stratus Duo has a few notable differences with its inspiration. The most obvious is at the forward panel, where you’ll find a few buttons astride the micro-USB port. These are the wireless mode switch, pairing button, battery level button, and power button. We’ll explain the features of the first two later on in special features.

Another Xbox controller similarity includes the ABXY button setup instead of a PlayStation controller’s Triangle, Circle, Cross, Square setup. Other similarities include the usual parallel joysticks at the bottom and four-button side triggers.

The Stratus Duo’s other specifications include a nice weight of 245 grams, placing it a little under the Xbox Elite controller but nearly the same weight as an Xbox One or PlayStation DualShock 4 controller. The lightweight is enough to make you “feel” like you’re actually holding something instead of just plastic. This lightness, though, would help keep you from straining your wrists when you’re using a SmartGrip and attached your phone.

Other aspects of the SteelSeries Stratus Duo’s design include a width of 150mm or 5.91 inches, a height of 110 mm or 4.33 inches, and a depth of 63.2 mm or 2.49 inches. These specifications give your hands a good grip on the controller with a well-placed notch on three sides to keep your wandering thumbs on the controllers’ gaming space.

 

Battery Life

SteelSeries Stratus Duo and Fortnite
Photo from the SteelSeries Website

Battery life is a gigantic hurdle when it comes to modern on-the-go smartphone gaming. Thankfully though, one of the SteelSeries Stratus Duo’s best selling qualities is its battery. Rated to keep the controller working for over 20 hours on just one full charge, you’ll probably need to charge your phone long before needing to connect the Stratus Duo to a charger.

A good reason for this 20+ hour gaming time may be due to the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery that the controller uses. Compared to nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) or nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries, li-ion batteries hold not just more energy but keep it for longer too. Overcharging the controller may lead to faster degradation of the battery and, therefore, a lowered battery life.

 

Compatibility

SteelSeries Stratus Duo with Compatible Devices
Photo from the SteelSeries Website

While we’ve been touting about how the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is a good choice for Android gamers, the controller actually excels for other devices, specifically for Windows, due to its ability to connect through three different ways.

The Stratus Duo is compatible with Android version 3.1 and up, Windows 7 and up, as well as Chromebooks, Oculus Go, and Samsung Gear VR. Ironically, even when it’s Xbox inspired, the Stratus Duo isn’t compatible with Xbox, PS5, Switch, or other consoles. However, it has good compatibility with Steam and the thousands of controller-enabled games it offers on its platform.

Compared to some Android-compatible controllers like the Razer Kishi that connects via USB-C, the Stratus Duo connects to Android via Bluetooth version 4.1. Although this Bluetooth version is backward-compatible with older and newer Bluetooth versions, you may want to upgrade your phone from our selection of the best gaming phones to take advantage of the features of the 4.1 version.

Aside from assured compatibility with Fortnite Mobile, it also works with other  Android games with controller support like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile.

 

Special Features

Since we mentioned it earlier, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is actually best used for players and gamers on Windows platforms instead of Android phones. The reason for that is simple — it has dual wireless frequencies you can use to connect it to your PC. Aside from the Bluetooth v4.1 connection, the USB wireless adapter that came in the box lets you use the Stratus Duo through a wireless 2.4 GHz connection by flipping the switch on the front panel of the controller. If worst comes to worst, though, and both wireless and Bluetooth connections fail to connect, you can still use the controller by connecting it to your PC through the included micro-USB cable.

 

How to Use the SteelSeries Stratus Duo

On Android Phones

SteelSeries Stratus Duo connected to Fortnite Mobile
Photo from the SteelSeries website

Compared to other gaming controllers for Android, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is quite literally a pair-and-plug device. You don’t need any complicated calculations or smartphone slot-size guessing, even with the suggested SmartGrip attached to the Stratus Duo.

Aside from sliding in the SmartGrip onto the Stratus Duo and sliding the phone onto the holder, the only thing you’d need to do is turn on your Bluetooth and pair the controller to your phone. You do have to make sure that the switch on the front panel of the Stratus Duo is set for Bluetooth mode instead of the 2.4 GHz wireless mode, though.

On PC

SteelSeries Stratus Duo with 2.4 GHz adapter
Photo from the SteelSeries website

There are three ways you can use to connect your SteelSeries Stratus Duo controller to your PC. Using Bluetooth is the easiest since it is similar to how you’d pair it on Android smartphones.

Using the 2.4 GHz USB adapter is simple as well since all you’d need to do is switch the controller to that setting, plug the adapter in, and turn your controller on. Your PC will then automatically install the required drivers for you. A pop-up will usually appear on your notification bar when it’s fully installed.

The third way is a little more complicated since you’ll have to connect your micro-USB cable to the SteelSeries Stratus Duo and then to your PC. You’ll have to wait for a similar installation prompt on your notification bar saying it’s fully installed.

 

Pros and Cons of the SteelSeries Stratus Duo

Pros

  •  A good mid-tier controller
  • Dual-frequency wireless connectivity using Bluetooth or 2.4 GHz connections
  • Battery life of over 20 hours for one charge
  • Pair-and-play for almost all controller compatible Android games
  • Plug-and-play compatibility with Windows and Steam games

Cons

  • No rumble/vibration
  • Lacks haptic feedback mechanism
  • No console and iOS support

 

Verdict

In the end, using a controller for Android smartphones depends on how comfortable you are with your chosen device. While it does lack rumble and haptic feedback, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is a solid investment for gamers who want to take a step up from cheaper and less reliable Android controllers.

If you do have the pockets for nothing but the best of the best, we do have a list of the best Razer controllers, featuring the likes of Razer Kishi that make your phone feel like a Nintendo Switch instead! Since you’re upgrading your gaming accessories,  take a look at our list for the best gaming headsets as well to complete your gaming experience.

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