Mobile gaming continues to take off as technology rapidly evolves. Once upon a time, you could only consider playing the likes of Call of Duty and Apex Legends on dedicated gaming hardware or a beefy PC rig. Now, they're mobile heavy-hitters dominating the download charts.
The SteelSeries Stratus+ is the latest entry from the renowned peripheral company – we're noted fans of the gear from SteelSeries – to give you another option in the increasingly popular mobile controller space. Built primarily for Android devices, it's also a decent PC gamepad, albeit with one potentially divisive design quirk.
SteelSeries Stratus+ does plenty of good stuff…
Some controllers have what I like to call a 'good pickup feel'. As in, you grab the thing out of the box and it immediately feels satisfying to hold. The SteelSeries Stratus+ absolutely nails the good pickup feel test.
It has a strong, hefty build quality without being uncomfortably heavy. Think of it as a Goldilocks controller: not too light, flimsy, and overly plasticky, but not obscenely weighty to the point where dropping it on your toe will result in a visit to the emergency department.
This satisfying balance extends to the Stratus+'s control sticks. They have a good amount of tension, so every movement feels precise. However, clicking in the sticks for the R3 and L3 inputs (or whatever you call them) makes an unpleasant crunch sound, far louder than any controller I recall using.
Imagine my relief when first realising the Stratus+ has analogue triggers. It's a standard feature among premium controllers like the DualSense and Xbox gamepads, but the otherwise brilliant Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is marred by its binary input digital triggers. This means the Stratus+ is an excellent option for racing games like Forza Horizon 5, which I streamed on PC and the Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook via Xbox Game Pass.
Speaking of which, pairing the controller with a Chromebook via Bluetooth was utterly effortless. After holding the Stratus+ home button to activate pairing mode, it immediately appeared as a discoverable device. No arcane rituals are needed to sync a controller here.
Another winning factor for the Stratus+ is its ridiculously long battery life, rivalling the legendary endurance of the aforementioned Switch Pro Controller. SteelSeries quotes 90+ hours of mobile gameplay on a single battery charge, which is pretty damn good. I didn't measure my usage but had no battery issues whatsoever. You can even press a button to check how much juice remains via the controller's four-light indicator, which is a nifty feature other manufacturers should emulate.
Although the Stratus+ only supports a wired connection to PC, using an included USB-C to USB-A cable, it's a great gamepad to leave on your desk to save you from continually pairing and unpairing your dedicated console controllers.
Also, a quick mention for Android phone users: it comes with a dedicated mount so you don't have to prop your phone up. Although I used the Stratus+ with an Android-compatible tablet, I didn't have a phone to test the mount on.
…and some not-so-good stuff
At this point, it probably seems like the Stratus+ is the ultimate controller for Android and PC players, right? Let's just say it's not without some faults that warrant mentioning.
Aside from the unpleasantly crunchy control stick presses, I also took umbrage with some of the button inputs. While the main face buttons are perfectly responsive, trying to access some of the middle buttons is trickier than it should be.
There are two buttons – one on either side of the home input – designed to function as the 'start' and 'select' inputs. At least, that's what they were called back in the early Nintendo days – each console calls them something different, so I've bloody lost track of what people call them now. Regardless of title, these two buttons are too small and sit too deeply in their respective cavities to be accessed easily.
It's particularly annoying when you need to quickly pause a game because it's excessively fiddly to press down on the button in question. That, and I found the sticks got in the way due to the angle I needed to adjust my thumbs to reach the start button. I would've preferred the start/select buttons to protrude slightly further out from the controller or be closer to the four-light indicator for easier access.
Another design quirk I clashed with was the way the grips on the Stratus+ connected with the controller body. As the grips meet the rest of the controller, there's a well-defined groove that dips down towards the controller's face.
I found this highly noticeable and occasionally annoying due to how I use a controller. When pressing buttons, I alternate between the tip of my thumb and the part close to the first joint. This allows me to quickly press different buttons or easily press two buttons simultaneously when required.
However, the Stratus+'s pronounced groove runs too close to the 'B' button and the left D-pad for comfort. There were plenty of times when I'd go to press one of those inputs, only for this groove to get in the way, causing me to mistime a button press, or not press it at all. This happened semi-frequently when I played Card Shark on PC – a clever minigame caper reliant on timing. After a while, I adjusted my grip and encountered this specific issue fewer times, although it felt like I was wearing my pants backwards.
What I would like to stress is that this may be an issue hyper-localised to my specific method of using controllers. Everyone holds gamepads differently, so what might be a hangup for me could be totally null and void for you. In any case, it's worth holding a Stratus+ in your hands to see if it suits your style.
In all other facets, the Stratus+ is a strong controller for Android and PC use, backed by its good build quality and extraordinary battery life. Just check how you hold a controller first to ensure its quirky design doesn't generate any unintended barriers along the way.
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