SteelSeries Stratus Duo Review: The Perfect Controller For Gaming On The Go

Third-party controllers get a bad rap. We can blame Mad Catz for instilling a fear of the "little brother" controller in us from a young age. Controllers have actually come a long way from the off-brand selection that haunted our early days of gaming. Case in point: the SteelSeries Stratus Duo controller for PC and Mobile is a fantastic device for gaming on the go.

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In our review of SteelSeries selection of gaming accessories, we noted the degree of craftsmanship that gets put into the design and style of their products and the Stratus Duo is no exception. While PS4 players will probably be the most immediately familiar with the controller, the Stratus Duo is a comfortable and responsive controller with a solid build that's perfect for any mobile and PC gamer.

Two Controllers In One

As far as inputs go, the Stratus Duo has a pretty standard layout. You'll find center sticks like the Dualshock 4, smooth analog triggers, and single-button rocking D-pad that fighting game players will surely appreciate. The face buttons all take a soft press with minimum travel and the sticks have a nice rubberized concave surface for good friction as well as a fairly short throw. It's steam enabled, meaning it works automatically with thousands of games using an Xbox controller layout, and also works with any mobile game that supports a controller. For all intents and purposes, this is a standard, comfortable controller, with one important distinction: the Stratus Duo supports both Bluetooth and 2.4 GHz wireless.

With the flick of a switch, the controller connects to either the included wireless adapter or a mobile device through Bluetooth. The adapter is USB and about as low profile as it could possibly be, making it safe to keep attached to a laptop during travel. The Bluetooth synced flawlessly on three different devices I tried, making this the ultimate travel controller because of its versatility and ease of use.

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Though the adapter can be safely kept attached, I wish there was a way to mount it on the controller for travel. There's a small port on the bottom of the controller with a rubber cover on it, but it's too narrow for the USB adapter. If there was somewhere on the back or bottom just to be sure you aren't going to lose that tiny adapter, it'd be perfect.

Ease Of Use Is The Stratus Duo's Secret Weapon

I tried out the Stratus Duo during a flight this past weekend. At the airport, I played Fortnite on my phone using the controller and it connected right away and was perfectly responsive in-game. The mount that connects your phone to the controller is sold separately, but is an absolute necessity if you want to enjoy playing Fortnite or PubG with a controller.

Once I got to my hotel, I pulled out my laptop, flipped the switch to wireless, and got right into Destiny with zero setup. It was an incredibly fluid and worry-free experience that was a blessing amidst the stress of traveling. All I needed to keep track of was the controller itself and I was good to go.

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I've been pretty rough on this guy: I've crammed it in a suitcase, dropped it repeatedly (for science), and accidentally sat on it. I've played with it pretty hardcore running the Leviathan Raid and Shattered Throne in Destiny with it and it isn't showing any signs of wear or damage whatsoever. On top of that, SteelSeries advertises a 20-hour charge that checks out. I can confidently say that I haven't charged it once since taking it out of the box last week and it's still at half-battery. The Dualshock 4, on the other hand, needs to be charged after 5-6 hours and requires an $80 wireless adapter if your PC doesn't have Bluetooth. Needless to say, it looks like I'll be sticking with the Stratus Duo for the foreseeable future.

It's The Perfect Controller On The Go, But It isn't The Ultimate Controller

The Stratus Duo doesn't have rumble. That sentence may not phase you at all or it may be a total deal-breaker. Personally, I like the feedback from rumble and I've been really impressed with the rumble tuning in recent games like Borderlands 3 so I'll actually go out of my way to make sure I'm using a controller with good rumble. If that isn't a priority for you, the Stratus Duo can easily replace whatever controller you use on PC and become your one device for PC, Mobile, and VR.

It also isn't going to work on PS4 or Xbox One, understandably, so don't think of the Stratus Duo as the one controller to rule them all. Rather, this is the controller that will live in my backpack while my Dualshock 4 stays in it's charging cradle because it's always dead. This is the controller that will be coming with me on every trip from now on. I'm already looking for excuses to play more games on my phone now that I have this controller, and if that isn't the hallmark of a great peripheral, I don't know what is.

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