Hands on: SteelSeries Stratus review

Don't call it dinky

What is a hands on review?
SteelSeries Stratus
Ready for iOS 7 gaming

Early Verdict


  • +

    Great buttons overall

  • +

    Lag free mobile gaming


  • -

    High price

  • -

    Small for larger hands

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Although SteelSeries already has an iOS controller out on the market called the SteelSeries Free it does not quite jive with iOS 7, so now the gaming peripheral company is out to improve and iterate on the design with a new controller called the Stratus.

Like its predecessor, the Stratus is an incredible small controller compared to the other mobile controllers like the Samsung GamePad. Labeled as the first wireless controller for iOS 7 (sorry Android users) the Sratus is roughly the size of an iPhone 4S.

Just right for Goldilocks

SteelSeries, SteelSeriest Stratus; Smartphone Accessories, Game Controllers; CES 2014

The SteelSeries Stratus is tight controller

Even with its diminutive size, the controller still feels beefy enough in our hands. The back is contoured with lines for our fingers to slip in and its overall shape is designed for grasping.

SteelSeries, SteelSeriest Stratus; Smartphone Accessories, Game Controllers; CES 2014

The Stratus' controured backside

Users with slightly larger hands will also be able to attach the plastic guard cover, normally on the front during travel, onto the back to make the controller feel more substantial. The version we played with was still preproduction and a SteelSeries representative told us the final model could have a textured pattern on the back to make the extra shell more grippy.

SteelSeries, SteelSeriest Stratus; Smartphone Accessories, Game Controllers; CES 2014

Pop on the cover onto the back for an extra bit of grip

At first glance the controller is pretty much a mash up of Xbox buttons with a Sony DualShock inspired stick layout and design. The D-Pad feels a bit flat for our tastes with virtually 1mm of space for it to depress. The analog sticks, however, have a nice bit of travel and enough resistance to automatically center on their own.

NES players will be glad to know the face buttons feel like the classic controller and are just as responsive. On the top of the Stratus, we also found a set of four bumpers in an overlapping arrangement that were easy to reach and differentiate during frenetic platforming games.

A platform controller

SteelSeries, SteelSeriest Stratus; Smartphone Accessories, Game Controllers; CES 2014

It's just like playing San Andreas on the PS2

After pairing the controller to an iPad Mini over Bluetooth, we started up a game of GTA III: San Andreas and it was a perfect trip back to the PlayStation 2 land. All the controls worked as expected and without any lag as we drove down to San Fierro.

A bit later we switched off to Limbo and found the controls were already mapped for us there and without any lag again - a crucial bit for catching giant spider legs in bear traps. Beyond these two games, SteelSeries boasted that the Stratus controller will support over 100 games all thanks to iOS 7's built-in controller support

SteelSeries, SteelSeriest Stratus; Smartphone Accessories, Game Controllers; CES 2014

The Stratus has some nicely placed top bumpers

What's more, the users will be able to connect up to four controller - as denoted by the strip of lights above the pause button - even if there are not many games which allow for that many concurrent tappers or controllers. The Stratus is rated for a 10-hour battery life that can be recharged via the mini-USB port located on the bottom, fully recharging in an hour and a half.

SteelSeries plans to have its Stratus shipping to customers and in Apple Stores by the end of the week. It will be available for $99.99 or £84.88 (about AUS $111.15).

Early Verdict

SteelSeries, SteelSeriest Stratus; Smartphone Accessories, Game Controllers; CES 2014

Throw on the cover onto the front before traveling

The SteelSeries Stratus feels like a controller that's just right. It's small and light enough to carry, yet it's still beefy for some more serious mobile gaming. We liked basically everything on the controller except for the D-Pad and were pleased to find the experience lag-free.

Those that pick up the Stratus controller next week probably won't be disappointed, but we'll still have a bit of extra testing to do to see which of over 100 games work with the controller and if the claimed 10 hour battery life is for real.

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.