SteelSeries Stratus Duo & Smartgrip review – The Android and PC controller in one…ish package

Do you hate touch screen versions of physical buttons like I do in mobile games?  They are horrible, annoying, and not remotely comfortable when playing a game for a long stretch.  So SteelSeries has brought out the Stratus Duo to make playing games on your Android phone more comfortable, with some sweet PC functionality to justify the cost of a premium controller.

Off the bat, if you want to do some Android gaming with a controller you absolutely need the Smartgrip. It’s an attachment that clips on the back of your controller and holds the phone above it. Fortunately I was sent both so I didn’t have to juggle my phone on my knees while I controlled it on a controller.

The Smartgrip felt super clunky the first time I put it together which took a good 10 minutes, but fortunately that is the only time it felt that way. The second time it took seconds and I haven’t struggled since.  The way in which the clips and tabs work allows it to mount tightly on the controller which combined with a great phone grip removes fear of dropping your expensive phone. 

My only problem with the clip is that it didn’t fit my XB1 or PS4 controller as it is purpose built for SteelSeries controllers.  This only became an issue when I tried using PlayStation remote play on my phone, and that app only accepts PlayStation controllers. It’s a very specific use case, but I was hoping an Android would accept any controller, or the Smartgrip would work on my PS4 controller. Alas, I will have to keep using a Switch for mobile console gaming.

Annoyingly even using the Smartgrip on the Stratus Duo you can’t position it so it doesn’t cover a couple of the buttons on the back of the controller for power and/or connection options.  If you have turned on the controller, and remembered to put it on bluetooth before you mount it then there is no issue, though I forgot to hit the switch before mounting it more than once.  Given it takes seconds to put on and take off it isn’t a deal breaker, but it is a design oversight.  

On to the controller. The Stratus Duo is a super comfortable controller that uses the general shape of an Xbox/Switch controller, with the joysticks at the bottom.  The controller feels sturdy in the hands and not at all light like a cheapie.  The D-pad isn’t perfect and doesn’t have a satisfying click to it, but given we live on joysticks these days that is minor.  The triggers also don’t pull as far in as I would have expected, but again, not that much of a major issue.

Stratus Duo

What I adored was how easy it is to put the titular ‘duo’ to use.  Once you pair the controller to your phone, and plug the USB dongle into your PC, switching between the uses takes all of the flick of a button.  This simple transition between Android phone gaming, and a wireless easy to use PC controller is where the value of the Straus Duo is.

One other annoyance is the power cable. It is fine that it uses micro-USB, but it should be a USB-C charger which in a couple years will have been a little more future proofed.  Unfortunately this is another thing hidden when the smart grip is attached so it has to be removed for charging.  Fortunately, it touts a 20 hour battery life and I didn’t come close to using it up in a week.  Another minor thing, but a thing.

Given one of the pushes in the marketing is how you can use it for Fortnite I figured I would give it a crack. The controller worked perfectly in the game, and I had no issues with the tech. I didn’t survive one Deathwatch as all I heard from some kid was “f**k you” before we even landed on the ground until I realised I am too old for this and bailed.

But the controller was good.

At the end of the day if you are looking for a controller for your Android phone, I doubt you could do better than the Stratus Duo and the Smartgrip.  If you are looking for a dedicated PC controller there are better ones out there, but for dual use the SteelSeries Stratus Duo is pretty damn awesome.

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