Razer and SteelSeries are two of the biggest names in mobile Android controllers. Both the Razer Kishi and SteelSeries Stratus Duo improve on their predecessors, the Razer Junglecat and the SteelSeries Stratus XL, with several feature improvements. Both also create an excellent mobile gaming experience in very different ways. Specifically, the Stratus Duo does double duty as an Android and PC controller, while the Kishi focuses on mobile and directly connects with your smartphone.
What's different between the Kishi and Stratus Duo?
The first and obvious difference between both controllers is the design. On its own, the Kishi doesn't work as a controller. It runs directly on power from your smartphone and must plug into its USB-C port. It surrounds and attaches directly to the phone, turning it into a mini console.
The Kishi is mobile-only, and connects directly to your phone via a USB-C connector. Its design accommodates the vast majority of new Android phones, but it can't fit phones that are too large to slot inside or have off-center USB-C ports. Its direct wired connection eliminates any controller input lag, which makes it a better option than most Bluetooth controllers. While we found no input lag when playing games on the Stratus Duo either, we suspect the Kishi may still beat the Stratus Duo in low latency, but not by much.
Compared to this unique design, the Stratus Duo is a fairly standard Bluetooth controller that connects to your Android phones and tablets. You can buy a SmartGrip accessory that attaches to the Stratus Duo so you can mount your phone directly to the controller, but it's an arduous process to attach it all together. Once attached it also covers up some buttons on the Stratus Duo, including its power button, so you must remove the SmartGrip to turn the controller off. By comparison, attaching the Kishi is a breeze.
The Stratus Duo connects to more devices, while the Kishi makes connecting to your phone more straightforward.
The Stratus Duo comes with a rechargable battery, 20-hour battery life, and visible battery indicator to show how much battery is left. The Kishi has no battery, but it does pull from your phone battery, which will already be getting a workout from high-graphics games.
Fortunately, editor Russell Holly found the Kishi didn't have a major battery impact, and you can always use pass-through USB-C charging while you play if need be. With the Stratus Duo, you must recharge it with a micro-USB cable (generally a slower charge than USB-C), and you'll need to keep track of both your controller and phone batteries while gaming.
|Razer Kishi||SteelSeries Stratus Duo|
|Supported devices||Most Android 8.0 phones||All Android 3.1+ phones and tablets|
|Phone holder||Yes||Sold separately|
|Battery life||N/A (no battery)||20 hours|
Gamers who feel passionate about button/joystick layout will have an easy choice between the two. The Stratus Duo has parallel analog sticks just above the grips—similar to the Playstation 4—while the Kishi places the left analog above the D-pad, with a Switch-style configuration. Gamers used to a more traditional grip will find the Stratus Duo comforting. On the other hand, the Kishi sans phone is much more compact and easy to transport around.
The Kishi's wired connection eliminates input lag, but the Stratus Duo's excellent connectivity keeps its latency low as well.
One cool Stratus Duo perk is the back toggle to swap between Bluetooth and 2.4-Ghz Wi-Fi. The wireless option connects it to PC devices via a SteelSeries dongle that plugs into your PC, while Bluetooth connects it to Android devices. Bluetooth controllers usually need to be re-paired every time you connect to a new device, but the Stratus Duo is true to its name and juggles two connections at once. Plus, our SteelSeries reviewer said pairing it to Android devices was "lightning fast."
Neither device supports haptic feedback, which is understandable for the battery-less Kishi but is a bit more disappointing in the Stratus Duo.
Is the Razer Kishi or SteelSeries Stratus Duo right for you?
The Razer Kishi costs more than the average controller and only works with phones. Meanwhile, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo works with PC, Android phones, and Android tablets. If you're looking for a jack-of-all-trades, the choice is obvious.
However, if you already have a PC controller you use, the Stratus Duo doesn't have enough features to justify replacing whatever you have already. It lacks haptic feedback, you'll have to save a USB slot on your PC for the wireless dongle, and the PS4 button configuration won't be for everyone.
Assuming you're looking for a mobile controller for home gaming, you can keep the Stratus Duo and its monstrous SmartGrip sitting on an end table, waiting for your phone to slot inside. However, for gaming on the go, the Kishi is easier to carry around, looks less ridiculous to pull out on a train or in a park, and won't ever run out of batteries. The Stratus Duo is larger, the SmartGrip doesn't flatten down to travel size, and it lacks a compartment to carry the wireless dongle around.
Just keep in mind that the Kishi does have some minor drawbacks. The Kishi will be more wobbly when pressing buttons with smaller phones inside due to the empty space meant to accommodate larger phones. We also found that we got hand cramps after longer gaming sessions due to the lack of traditional grips. It's possible that the Kishi is better for short bursts of gaming, while the Stratus Duo will stay comfortable for longer play sessions.
Either way your choice will come down to what you need the controller for. If you need both a PC and Android controller, you should go for the Stratus Duo. However, for Android gaming, the Kishi is the simplest and best option.
Razer Kishi controller
No-fuss mobile gaming
Ditch phone grips and attach an excellent controller directly to most Android phones with the Razer Kishi.
Switch things up
SteelSeries Stratus Duo
PC to tablet to mobile gaming
Toggle almost immediately between a huge range of Android and PC devices with the Stratus Duo.
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