SteelSeries Stratus review: A tiny wireless game controller to turn your iPad into a mini-console

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The Good The SteelSeries Stratus packs a lot of controls into a small form and connects via Bluetooth to recent iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches.

The Bad It's too expensive, and the growing world of controller-compatible iOS games is still a patchwork affair.

The Bottom Line The SteelSeries Stratus is the best-feeling and most versatile iOS game controller, but it's a lot to pay for an accessory.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

You can now play games on an iPhone using an MFi controller case like the Moga Ace Power or Logitech PowerShell, but poor iPad users haven’t had a solution to play games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas without using touch. That’s finally changed with the SteelSeries Stratus, the first Bluetooth iOS 7 MFi game controller. But would you pay $100 for it? That's what it costs: a third of the price of an entry-level iPad Mini.

There’s nothing all that new about a wireless game controller for tablets. In fact, the Stratus is basically the same product as the SteelSeries Free for Android, which has been around since last year.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The difference is that iOS has never had a wireless game controller like this. The very first Apple-approved iOS 7 game controllers came out last year, and both of those -- the Logitech Powershell and Moga Ace Power -- were specifically iPhone cases with built-in battery packs. You can use the Stratus with an iPad, or even with an iPhone or iPod Touch (specifically an iPad Mini, iPad Mini Retina, fourth-gen iPad, iPad Air, fifth-gen iPod Touch, iPhone 5, 5C and 5S).

Of course, it’s really meant for iPad, because finding a way to practically prop up your iPhone and use this controller feels like a mission of absurdity. But, having controls like this means that games in the future could really work on iOS just like they do on consoles and game handhelds, which in the long run might be revolutionary. In the short run, these controllers amount to clever but expensive gaming novelties.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Stratus is cute, it’s plastic, and despite being a little too small and cramped, it feels good for its size. With a full Micro-USB plug-and-charge, it lasts 10 hours. But, personally, I wouldn't want to pay more than $40, maybe $50, for a controller like this. The Android-compatible SteelSeries Free costs $40 less than this iOS-specific version. At least the Logitech and Moga cases, at the same price, have battery packs that could charge your phone a bit.

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