SteelSeries Stratus Duo vs. SteelSeries Stratus XL: Which should you buy?

SteelSeries Stratus Duo vs SteelSeries Stratus XL
SteelSeries Stratus Duo vs SteelSeries Stratus XL (Image credit: Android Central)

SteelSeries Stratus Duo

Steelseries Stratus Duo cropped

The Stratus Duo is a refined and comfortable controller that also connects to PCs with the included USB dongle. It's the best of both worlds — a controller for both Android and PC.

SteelSeries Stratus Duo

Modern and sleek

Comfortable ergonomic design
Rechargeable battery
20 hours of battery life
Includes USB dongle for wireless PC gaming
Charges via Micro-USB
Recessed system buttons are harder to access

SteelSeries Stratus XL

SteelSeries Stratus XL

The SteelSeries Stratus XL is still a great pick for Android gamers — a well-designed controller at a great price. But it's really for Android gamers only. Plus, it doesn't have a rechargeable battery.

SteelSeries Stratus XL

Old school rules

40 hours of battery life
Smooth and curvy design better for smaller hands
Buttons are more clearly labeled
Batteries aren't cheap
Uses AA batteries
Only connects via Bluetooth

SteelSeries currently offers two great controllers designed for Android. Each offers near-identical button and thumbstick layouts, but radically different ways of keeping things charged. Overall, the Stratus Duo is the newer release and packed with more features, but the Stratus XL still has a lot going for it — as long as you've got a stockpile of AA batteries.

Which one is right for you?

The main differences between the Stratus Duo and the Stratus XL come down to their battery capabilities and the Duo's dual wireless / Bluetooth support.

The Duo includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can be recharged while you game via a Micro-USB cord, with a maximum battery life of about 20 hours. The Stratus XL requires AA batteries to run, but on average you'll get about 40 hours of gaming from batteries before you have to swap them out.

In terms of gaming on the go, it's undeniably better to have double the battery life, and if your Stratus does die on the go, it's easier to swap in spare batteries than to carry around a portable Micro-USB charger, or to wait for it to recharge once you get home. On the other hand, you'll certainly save money in the long run by not having to buy batteries.

While the Stratus XL only supports Bluetooth connectivity, the appropriately-named Duo supports Bluetooth and 2.4GHz wireless connectivity. It comes with a USB dongle that, when inserted into your PC or laptop, connects directly to the Duo.

Stratus XL makes you disconnect and re-pair every time you switch from Android to PC, while the Duo lets you toggle instantly with a simple switch on its back.

With the Stratus XL, you can connect it to most Android devices and PCs using its Bluetooth connectivity. However, once connected, you can't switch to another device without disabling the Bluetooth pair with the first device, power cycling the Stratus XL, and then pairing it to the new device.

By contrast, the Stratus Duo can simultaneously pair with two devices: one Android device via Bluetooth, and one PC via wireless. The Duo has a switch on the back to let you instantly swap connections, saving you time and the headache of removing and readding it as a connected controller over and over.

The only negative to the Stratus Duo's versatility is that you'll need to use one USB slot on your PC for the Duo's wireless dongle because it can't connect to a PC via Bluetooth. The Stratus XL does connect to PCs or laptops via Bluetooth — no dongle required — so if you'll primarily use it for PC gaming, that's something to consider. The Duo has no internal storage space for its wireless dongle, so laptop owners have to worry about losing it on the road.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 SteelSeries Stratus DuoSteelSeries Stratus XL
Dimensions150mm x 110mm x 63mm150mm x 110mm x 64mm
USB WirelessYesNo
Rechargeable batteryYesNo

In terms of the overall design, there aren't a lot of differences between the Stratus Duo and Stratus XL unless you start to nitpick — so let's get right down to nitpicking!

The SteelSeries Duo is more versatile for gaming on multiple devices, while the Stratus XL is still a more straightforward Bluetooth controller.

The shoulder and trigger buttons on the Stratus Duo are slightly contoured, which makes it easier for your fingers to find them. While both controllers lack any sort of hair-trigger switches, the Duo's triggers have significantly shorter travel distances, which is especially important for first-person shooters.

The Stratus XL is the heavier controller, but the palm grips are sleeker and probably better suited for smaller hands. The face buttons are clearly marked compared to the Duo's all-black look, which to me makes the Stratus XL the better pick for younger gamers.

I don't like that the power switch for the XL is below the battery compartment on the back. There have been way too many times where I've left the controller turned on for hours, which was typically okay because the controller supports great battery life, but I'm pretty sure that's not how SteelSeries intended gamers to make use of that extra battery life. The Duo has all the switches and pairing buttons right at the top of the controller, which is infinitely more convenient.

Overall, these are two well-designed controllers, with the Duo designed for the double-duty of connecting to your phone for mobile gaming and then switching over to 2.4GHz wireless mode with the included dongle for PC gaming. The Stratus XL works best for either Android or PC, but not both, and runs for longer on AA batteries, which could be a positive or negative based on your usage. With both controllers selling at around the same price, your choice should come down to your own gaming tendencies.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, Wearables & AR/VR

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on wearables and fitness. Before joining Android Central, he freelanced for years at Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, and Digital Trends. Channeling his love of running, he established himself as an expert on fitness watches, testing and reviewing models from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, Suunto, and more.