I would like to thank SteelSeries for providing the Stratus controller which was used in my testing for this review.
When Apple launched iOS 7, it also made some changes to its Made for iPod (MFi) licensing program – the biggest addition was that the program would now let hardware manufacturers release gamepad controllers that would be officially compatible with the iDevice family. Enter SteelSeries.
Although SteelSeries has been around for a while now, creating a number of peripherals for a number of platforms, they came into the forefront when they announced a new gaming controller that would work with the iPhone/iPad under Apple’s new guidelines for the MFi program. The result is the Stratus gamepad – a compact controller which enables users to play games on their iPhones using physical controls, rather than the cumbersome touch controls that have been the bane of mobile gaming since, well, since mobile gaming really became a thing. Now there are a number of other devices on the market vying for your attention and money, so is the Stratus – priced at £44.74 on Amazon as of writing – worth your money? read on to find out!
The SteelSeries Stratus is a very well designed controller fit into a pleasingly compact and portable design. the button layout is one you will be immediately familiar with if you have spent any amount of time with some of the more recent game consoles. The controller has an Xbox 360 like D-Pad (but it actually works) and a pair of analogue sticks down in the bottom centre of the controller, a la Playstation. The face buttons resemble the Xbox controller, with X, Y, A & B buttons, although the colours do not match Microsoft’s controller design. There’s also a pause button in the middle of the controller and L and R shoulder buttons, 4 in total.
Setting up the controller is a breeze, simply go to the Bluetooth settings of your iDevice and enable it, turn the controller on and the 4 lights will go from a slow pulse to a more erratic flashing once the controller is connected. I appreciate how simple the whole process is, meaning that when you are playing on the go, you can be up and running in a matter of seconds. While small, the controller was surprisingly comfortable to use – I will note that I don’t have very large hands and therefore can’t make assumptions for how comfortable every player will be using this device. Playing games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas or Radiation Island was an intuitive as picking up the controller of a home console and playing – it just worked and the buttons were pretty much mapped out as I’d expected. I couldn’t see any option in most games to change the button layout which was disappointing, but this is something the developers must include so I cannot fault the controller for this.
While I was able to play for the most part without any issues, there were frantic moments in GTA, for example, where I found that my thumbs bumped into each other on the analogue sticks. This came down to the fact that the sticks are so close together, while it was never enough to cause any real frustration, and it certainly didn’t make me fail any mission objectives, it did happen enough during my testing that it’s worth pointing out. Another design choice which seems puzzling is the placement of the L and R shoulder buttons; they are placed more towards the centre of the controller as opposed to the outer edges. This made pressing them a little awkward on occasion, especially in GTA where the shoulder buttons are used to accelerate in vehicles. I was able to adjust my hand position while playing to make it a bit more comfortable.
Overall the SteelSeries Stratus is a fantastic device, the build quality is superb and the ease of use from connection to game play is excellent. there are a few minor flaws in the design, which come at a cost for the controller being so small and portable, but to be honest, I would rather have a small controller for my daily commute. In fact, the Stratus has become a mainstay in my bag so that whenever I’m out and about with some downtime, I can sit and enjoy gaming on my iPad with a controller as opposed to struggling with tacked on touch controls. Anyone looking for a iOS game controller should look no further than the Stratus from SteelSeries.
The Stratus iOS controller from SteelSeries boasts an excellent, compact design with slick functionality. Despite a few minor gripes, anyone looking for a way to enjoy greater control when gaming on their iPhone or iPad need look no further than the Stratus.
Value for money8