I have a feeling it’s going to be a lot of fun reviewing the many iPhone and iPad game controllers that will be heading our way very soon. I’ve long been envious of our Android cousins and their ability to use third-party gamepads to play tablet games, which is why I was thrilled to see Apple finally roll that ability into iOS 7. I’m equally thrilled to report that the first controller I’ve tried, the SteelSeries Stratus, is pretty much everything you’d want in a wireless game controller…except for maybe girth.
The SteelSeries Stratus has all of the buttons you’d want and expect from a gamepad: two analog sticks, A/B/X/Y buttons on the upper right, D-pad on the upper left, and shoulder buttons. They feel great. SteelSeries knows a thing or two about gaming devices; and that shows here. The controls are smooth and solid. However, they’re also very small. This is great for portability, and the fact that your Stratus doesn’t dwarf your iPhone makes aesthetic sense. But I’ve got fairly large hands, and using the Stratus felt almost as cramped as using the iPhone’s touchscreen controls. On the other hand, my 8-year-old son took right to it, and immediately got back into games he gave up on because he hated the touchscreen controls.
I’ll get to those games in a minute. I want to first mention the included cover, which can be attached to the back during gaming for a more comfortable grip. I also want to mention the battery life, which—at up to 10 hours—will likely outlast the battery of the system to which you’re connected. The battery is charged via USB, and LED indicators across the front will let you know how much battery is left. These also indicate the Bluetooth connection number, as multiple devices can be paired for multiplayer games.
Bluetooth connectivity is simple enough, but this brings us to the games. Just having the SteelSeries Stratus and iOS 7 doesn’t mean your game will work with it. The developers have to program support, and at this point, a small percentage of games are ready to go. The list is growing (and that one is by no means complete), but it’s something you’ll want to watch out for when selecting your downloads. Thankfully, there are already some fantastic games available in pretty much any genre.
Being able to get your fingers off the gaming screen is one thing, but where the Stratus really shows its worth is when you’re using AirPlay to connect the game to your Apple TV. Many of the games look amazing on the larger screen (although lag is still an issue), and using the Stratus means you don’t need to constantly be looking down to make sure your fingers and thumbs are properly placed.
However, some of the compatible apps are better at integrating the MFi controls. Some compatible games saw the device right away and allowed me to configure it appropriately, while others wouldn’t look at it all even though the Bluetooth connection had been made. In other words, making the game compatible with MFi controllers doesn’t mean getting to the set-up is easy to figure out. As support becomes more common, I imagine this will become less of an issue.
If you consider yourself an iPhone or iPad gamer (and that’s a perfectly respectable thing to be these days), you’re going to want a wireless game controller. Your options for that are increasing, but when you begin your search, the SteelSeries Stratus is a perfect place to start.
Provides: iPad and iPhone game input
Minimum Requirements: USB port (for charging), iOS 7, iPhone 5/5s/5c, iPad mini, iPad Air, iPad 4th gen, iPod touch (5th gen)