CNET First Look
SteelSeries Stratus, the tiny little wireless iOS game controllerTurn your iPad into a tabletop game system: the SteelSeries Stratus, the first iOS MFi game controller with Bluetooth, is tiny but packs a big gaming punch.
Hi, I'm Scott Stein, and do you ever want to play games on your iPad with a controller just like a Nintendo or a Sega or a Sony system? Well, at long last, there is a controller, the SteelSeries Stratus, that you can play with wirelessly and play Sonic the Hedgehog, like I'm playing right now, right here on this iPad. You can also use an iPhone. How is that possible? Well, they may have heard of MFi-compatible game controllers. But Android has had the ability to use game controllers with their tablets and phones for a while, and Apple has finally allowed this on iPads and iPhones. There are a couple of controllers out there: the Moga Ace Power, and the Logitech PowerSheller 2 that plug in your iPhone and act as a battery pack and a controller all in one. The SteelSeries Stratus is the first that I've seen that is a stand-alone Bluetooth controller that works not only with iPhone or iPod Touch, but also with an iPad, and it's particularly great if you stand it up on a table right here and use it like a little game console. And this thing is tiny, it fits in your pocket; really small. In fact, maybe you find it a little bit too small. It's kind of a micro-controller, and it's based on the SteelSeries Free design that Android users already know about that's out there. How many buttons does this have? The full package. This has everything that you'd expect in a game console controller. You've got shoulder buttons, you've got trigger buttons. You've got dual analogue pads right here. You have got 4 buttons here. You've got a D-Pad, and a pause button. That' a lot of buttons on one little controller. They feel pretty good. There's no rumble or anything like that. Let's not go crazy. But-- and the trigger buttons here are a little cramped. But the-- it all feels pretty nice for this size, and it gets about 10 hours on a charge, with all the micro USB attachment on the bottom. So how much does this cost? $20? $30? No. $100. Yes. A hundred dollars. That's a lot of money. That's a lot of money. Most people wouldn't expect that this costs $100, and that's the downside to this type of iOS gaming accessory, unfortunately. But that's par for the course right now. In fact, every iOS gaming controller accessory, for some reason, costs $100 right now: the Logitech PowerShell, the Moga Ace Power, take your pick. The advantage here is that while you don't have the hard lightning connection, it does have the universal compatibility with any iOS 7 device. You don't have to deal with lightning connections, and it has all of the buttons. So, that's a big plus. But if you're hoping to play like a-- like a Game Boy or a PlayStation Vita on the go, this is not just gonna be as convenient 'cause you're gonna have to prop up your device somewhere and play like this. Now, the SteelSeries Stratus does support multiplayer games, so you could actually have 2 of these paired at once. I haven't seen any games that support that yet. In fact, finding games to support MFi game controllers is a pretty big challenge right now. There are supposedly hundreds out there already that use it, but it's a trial-and-error process. We found some that advertise it pretty prominently, like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which does a fantastic job, and there are other games that are working it in almost in a stealth fashion, like Sonic 2 in its new remastered version, which plays great. And as for the others, you know, there are websites. We list some of them, other places list them. There's an app I found on the App Store. It's pretty haphazard. And that's a bit of the early adaptor process here. You're gonna have to get onboard and explore which of these games will use it. There are bound to be a lot more, and in the coming year, you'll probably see a lot of games. Started it out really-- virtual console or retro style appeal by having controller compatibility. At the moment, if you want the best, most universal game controller that we've seen that works on iOS, the SteelSeries Stratus is it, but you are paying a premium for it. It is pretty cute though. I'm Scott Stein, and that's the SteelSeries Stratus game controller for iOS.