What is the Stratus?
The Steelseries Stratus is a wireless gaming controller that works with the newest generation of iPads, iPhones and iPods. With the introduction of iOS7, Apple added the MFi (made for iPhone/iPod/iPad). This development has allowed for tech companies to create game controllers for use with current and upcoming iOS devices. The Stratus is the first such product from Steelseries to utilize the MFi capabilities built into iOS 7.
The Stratus looks and feels exactly like a console controller, only in a miniature version. If you were to take an Xbox One controller and shrink it about two, maybe three times, that is about the size of the Stratus. The controller is available in two different colors, black or white. The button layout is also very familiar. There is a pressure sensitive D-pad, four-button configuration, two analog sticks and a pause button. All the buttons feel great, but I must say that the pause button is exceptionally pleasing; it has a very solid “click” when pressed. In the center of the controller, there is a group of red LED lights that indicate when the controller is synced, and on the right-hand side, there is the typical on/off switch. The top of the controller has two bumpers located in the middle and two triggers directly underneath that. Both feel very similar to the triggers found on full-size console controllers. The opposite side has a micro-USB charging port for the cable provided. Steelseries provides a plastic cover to slide over the controller for portable protection. This can also be put on the underside allowing for more grip. I was pretty much won over by these configurations alone.
Connecting to a Device
The simplicity in connecting the device to my iPhone 5 was much appreciated. While in settings, I turned on both the Bluetooth and the controller. Following that, the phone quickly found the Stratus and connected quite easily. Once connected, I never experienced any lag or any confusion as to whether or not I was still tethered. In fact, I was actually surprised in how reliably it performed. Should the need arise to pair the Stratus with a different device, the connection is severed by simply going back into settings and choosing forget device. This allows for a different device to then be easily reconnected instead. The Stratus can connect to iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5, iPad mini, iPad mini with Retina Display, iPad Air, iPad 4th Gen and iPod Touch (5th Generation).
The first game I played was Minigore 2. Minigore 2 is a survival horror action/shooter that is a barrage of wave after wave of zombies. Without the controller, it is sometimes very difficult to maneuver quickly to avoid getting killed. However, the analog sticks on the Stratus immediately eliminated this issue and allowed for a much more fluid game experience. Next I wanted to try a game that required a great deal of mobility, so I loaded up Galaxy on Fire. This is a fantastic space game, but was always a bit limited because of its difficult controls with a touchscreen. I can’t say enough how much of a difference the controller made. Maneuvering the spacecraft was much easier with analog sticks and quite honestly made the game much more enjoyable. In order to get a complete feel for the controller, I had to play a FPS. Enter Dead Trigger 2. Although the touchscreen works well for this game, using a controller just made it that much better. Aiming was easier, looking around rooms was quicker and without strain, but most importantly, it freed up the entire screen for viewing. It is easy to take for granted the ability to see a game without your fingers on the screen. I’m not sure I will be able to go back.
How much does it cost?
Originally, the Stratus was sold for $99, but recently the price was reduced to $79.99. The price has been a point of contention since the release, and even at the newly adjusted amount, it still seems a little high. When comparing the Stratus to other console controllers that sell for $59.99, it is hard to understand why this is quite so expensive.
I do have to admit that when the controller first arrived and I saw how small it was, I wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy it. As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not long after connecting my iPhone to an Apple TV, it felt like I was playing a traditional game console, but with the Stratus. The size of the controller quickly became the very least of my concerns. I was so immersed in GTA: San Andreas that I just quit noticing. In fact, it began to seem like the longer I played, the more I actually began to enjoy the smaller size of this controller. It’s light, easy to manipulate, and wasn’t weighty even after hours of gameplay.
I know some reviewers have expressed that their biggest concerns are based on size, but considering that it is for mobile devices, it makes good sense to design a controller with portability and compactness at the forefront of development. The value in having two analog sticks can’t be overlooked, especially when considering the size of the Stratus. I did a quick comparison with my PS Vita to check out the differences in the analogs. What I noticed was the range of motion felt better on the Stratus. Now before I go too far, I must say that the craftsmanship was still superior on the Vita, but I was very pleased with the how the Stratus performed. It was also a bit concerning that the protective cover was difficult to secure on the controller. It’s not that big of an issue, but it bothered me enough that I felt it was worth mentioning. I was also curious as to the reason or reasons the Stratus could not connect to older iPhones, iPads or iPods, as long as they had iOS 7. Seems a bit peculiar.
Steelseries has also done its best to compile a lengthy list of compatible games. The only issue I take with the current list is that there’s still a fair amount of work to be done between what Steelseries has completed and what the game developers still need to do. This, of course, is not entirely a Steelseries problem. Perhaps they are already doing this, but working closer with other developers seems like it would help to maximize the full capability of the software already provided in iOS 7. If Apple would take things a step further by providing a controller layout that developers could all use, the integration of the controller could be perfect. The more developers that have the opportunity to utilize the Stratus and other MFi controllers, the more opportunity there is for more “console-like” iOS games.
Ultimately, I look forward to using the Stratus to play an array of upcoming iOS titles with the hope that developers will continue to explore all available resources. You can check out more from the Steelseries website.
- Familiar design
- Ease of connectivity
- Endless potential
- Dual analog sticks
- Difficult to know which buttons function for which actions
- The protective cover was difficult to firmly secure