SteelSeries Stratus Duo controller review: The next great Android controller

SteelSeries Stratus Duo
(Image: © Android Central)

For the past couple of years, the Stratus XL has been my go-to controller recommendation for Android. It offers a nice balance in comfort, utility, and affordability. SteelSeries' new controller for Android and PC gaming is the Stratus Duo, and it offers noticeable improvements straight across the board.

The Good

  • Rechargeable battery
  • Designed for comfort
  • Pairs reliably fast every time
  • Easily switch between Android and PC
  • Connects via Bluetooth or Wi-FI with a USB adapter

The Bad

  • No haptic feedback
  • Phone holder costs extra
  • Android TV support is wonky

SteelSeries Stratus Duo What I like

I've relied on SteelSeries Bluetooth controllers for as long as I've been covering Android gaming, and for the past couple years the Stratus XL has been the controller that I recommended to anyone who would listen — notably for its outstanding battery life and comfortable design. That's not to say that the Stratus XL was perfect, as the cost of replacing its AA batteries does creep up over time, and I dealt some issues pairing the controller with multiple Android devices.

With the Stratus Duo, SteelSeries has addressed those issues and more, delivering a controller that feels even better in hand while also including a Wi-Fi dongle for easily connecting the controller to your PC for gaming on Steam. Pairing to Android devices is lightning fast, although I curiously wasn't able to pair it to my NVIDIA Shield which runs Android TV. It was something I was able to do with relative ease with the Stratus XL, so I'm not sure what the issue is with the Stratus Duo.

Controller comfort is such a subjective thing, but the Stratus Duo feels right at home in my hands. I've always appreciated the SteelSeries design for shoulder buttons where the bumper and trigger buttons flow into one another. With the Stratus Duo, they've improved the shoulder buttons with a subtle texture for grip and grooves that your fingers naturally fall into when holding the controller correctly. Button and thumbstick placement are spot on and the switches and buttons for power, pairing, monitoring battery life, and switching between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are all located at the top of the controller — just where they ought to be.

The Stratus Duo trades in extended battery life for a more convenient rechargeable lithium-ion battery and better utility for PC gamers.

SteelSeries says you should expect to get over 20 hours of nonstop use out of a fully-charged Stratus Duo controller, which is less than the AA battery-powered Stratus XL, but the trade-off is worth it for the rechargeable lithium-ion battery. I wish SteelSeries had used USB-C instead of Micro-USB, but that's a minor grievance at worst.

Performance on both Android and Windows is outstanding with no input lag to report at all. I was able to plug the dongle into a PC and jump right into a match of Battlefield V, then flip the switch to Bluetooth and play a round of Fortnite on the Razer Phone 2 with no hassle. I'm not sure how common that situation will be for most PC gamers who typically adore the keyboard and mouse setup over anything else, but as a gamer who was raised on consoles with a controller in hand, I can report that this is a really great controller for either PC or Android gaming.

SteelSeries Stratus Duo What I don't like

One of the more noticeable shortcomings that's carried over to the SteelSeries Stratus controller is the lack of haptic feedback, otherwise known as "rumble" — basically the vibration feedback you get playing most games when an explosion occurs or you're hit by enemy fire.

This is a pretty standard feature on most gaming controllers these days, so I'm going to chalk it up to being a choice of design to keep the weight and price down (and also maybe attributed to a lack of compatibility or support from those few Android games that support Bluetooth controls). For me, I've never been bothered by its exclusion for Android gaming, but it's worth noting because it might be frustrating for those who just expect such features to be included in 2019.

The lack of a built-in phone grip seems like an oversight for a mobile controller, but then again, it's pulling double-duty as a PC controller, too.

SteelSeries also opted against including a phone grip — presumably because this controller is pulling double-duty as a controller for both mobile devices and a wireless controller for Steam and VR — but I would have liked to have seen one included even if it was removable and upped the price by $20. Then again, having read other reviews where the reviewer had a chance to test out the optional SteelSeries SmartGrip, maybe I dodged a bit of a bullet there anyways.

Either way, if you're planning to play some Fortnite on your phone with this controller, you're going to want to invest in a case with a kickstand function, or better yet, get a Spigen Style Ring or Style Ring Pop with the latter being more compact and stylish but less reliable in my experience.

SteelSeries Stratus Duo Bottom line

SteelSeries has done it again with the Stratus Duo. Not only do you get a refreshed design that feels more comfortable in hand, but you also get a fully capable controller for PC gaming on Steam as well. It's half the price of the Razer Raiju Mobile, which still outclasses the Stratus Duo in some ways, but Razer can't beat the value that SteelSeries has offered with this product.

4 out of 5

The only things holding this controller back from a perfect score are the lack of a proper phone grip and better support for Android TV, but beyond that, the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is an easy controller to recommend.

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Marc Lagace

Marc Lagace was an Apps and Games Editor at Android Central between 2016 and 2020. You can reach out to him on Twitter [@spacelagace.