SteelSeries console + case is not the best mobile experience

Photo courtesy of SteelSeries Stratus +

The SteelSeries Stratus+ looks like a console console.
picture: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

and not even The best smartphone It is a complete console replacement, but can become a capable gaming machine with the right accessory. Now that there is a way to play big AAA first-person shooters and story-based RPGs with the help of cloud services like Amazon Luna and Microsoft Game Pass, it’s time to think about whether you want to get a gaming console on the go. The SteelSeries Stratus + One of these options, and while it’s quite versatile, it doesn’t always feel as natural as the more focused competition that’s already on the market.

take razer kishiA device I already own that is specifically designed for phones. It fits snugly on the sides of my phone, allowing me to operate it like a Nintendo Switch. One of the disadvantages of kishi is that it Just It works with smartphones, a problem that Stratus+ avoids thanks to a traditional design and the ability to work on a PC. You might look for something like this if you live a multi-device life, but you’ll have to live with some confusing design choices when you’re on your phone, like a wonky phone holder. And when you’re not on mobile, it’s not like Stratus+ doesn’t have much competition between The best game controllers already in place and designed specifically for consoles and computers.

All of this leaves the tiny Bluetooth-compatible console that works with smartphones, tablets, and computers of all kinds (Chromebooks included) in an awkward position. It’s not the first controller with a phone clip, some companies even sell phone clips separately, and expect you to use them with standard controllers you probably already have. But the format’s popularity doesn’t make it any less challenging, and just underscores just how painfully generic Stratus+ needs some specialized features to help it stand out.

After spending some time with the Stratus+, I was really impressed with the versatility of the device, but I still wouldn’t be sold on buying a multifunction controller rather than a more specialized device specifically suited to the job I want it to do.

strange little phone mount

Photo of a person holding a SteelSeries Stratus +

The SteelSeries Stratus+ comes with a portable stand that works if you can figure out how to insert it properly.
picture: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

SteelSeries Stratus+ looks and feels like a player console. It’s black with angled edges and puffed buttons. It also has a row of white LEDs on the front that flash in specific ways to show the console connection status and battery gauge.

Stratus+ contains controls standard on the current console, including an 8-way directional pad, back and select buttons, an analog joystick, and the required A, B, X, and Y buttons. There are four shoulder buttons on the top of the console, as well as the wireless pairing button and battery level button.

The Razer Kishi has the same button layout, except that it’s split across the device. When expanded, the Kishi has a similar configuration to the Nintendo Switch, a console I appreciate so much and I have one centered in the living room and the Switch Lite upstairs in my bedroom. Part of what drew me to Kishi in the first place is that when it’s set up, it’s like jumping to another switch. It’s an ideal format for mobile gaming, something that Stratus+ doesn’t have.

kishi scanner photo

A look at the Razer Kishi device paired with an iPhone.
picture: Hudson/Gizmodo mushroom

At the top of the SteelSeries Stratus+, there are a few silicone inserts where the retractable metal prongs of the smartphone holder go. This is where things start to get suspicious. You should carefully take out the metal prongs and then push the phone holder into the two slots until you think it can no longer be inserted. I was a little frustrated when I figured out how to use this part of the console, and it made me want to give up and go back to the simplicity razer kishi, which expands around my phone and connects via USB-C. However, I insisted.

Once I installed the phone in the corresponding slots (or so I thought), I took the OnePlus 9 out of its case and inserted it into the expandable stand. Then he fell to the floor with my phone in the clouds. It took several times to understand how to install the holder inside the silicone gaskets. But even after I made it through, it just didn’t make sense. All I’ve picked up so far is not making sudden movements when the phone, stand, and console are assembled together.

The smartphone holder comes from Stratus+, so it's not there when you don't need it.

The smartphone holder comes from Stratus+, so it’s not there when you don’t need it.
picture: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I don’t have this problem with quiche. In fact, the most difficult part of the console is putting it back together – the Kishi has a small latch where you can thread the console together to carry in your bag or stow away. To that end, because it’s a smaller console, it takes up less space in my nightstand drawer than the Stratus+. Another benefit for gamers on the go.

The other embarrassing part of the SteelSeries Stratus+ is that my particular phone model is off center when in the expandable stand because my volume and power buttons are on either side of the device. It’s the same problem with the giant Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, which has a power button about halfway on the chassis. If the phone is a bit thick, the console also tends to vibrate toward the heavier part of the device, making hand-play time unbalanced. Quiche does not have this problem.

Once the phone stays in place, the Stratus+ connects via Bluetooth. It’s simple and easy — press and hold the middle button to pair a device. If you need to pair with another device, press and hold the pairing button and wait for the LED status lights to appear to indicate that they are looking for new devices. For this test, I paired the Stratus+ with my Android phone as well as my Windows PC.

Dual function game console

Photo courtesy of SteelSeries Stratus +

Once you put the phone in there, SteelSeries Stratus+ can help you play everything from puzzle games to first-person shooters.
picture: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Like I mentioned, what attracted me to razer kishi is that it becomes part of the device as soon as you turn it on, essentially turning your phone into a handheld device. The SteelSeries Stratus + Not this kind of smartphone accessory. It’s a console first and a mobile dashboard second. But it also means that for $60, about the same price as Kishi, you can buy a dual-action controller for various compatible devices.

I tried Stratus+ with my OnePlus 9. I played the demo of Resident Evil Village On Google Stadia and the full version of Lumens On Amazon Luna. I played too Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Android. As a side note, finding apps in the Google Play Store that allow console input isn’t easy.

But once I got started, I found the Stratus+ to be a bit harsh, especially when pressing the joystick controllers. It was hard to squeeze with my thumb without gripping the sides of the console with my other fingers and getting myself ready to push. This made crouching in Resident Evil Village tedious. On the other hand, Kishi has softer joysticks, and I didn’t feel like I had to slide down to move my characters.

I played too Lumens, One of my favorite puzzle games ever, with Stratus+ using Amazon Luna. I ran it for about half an hour using Stratus+ on my Android device, then another half hour on my PC. The console felt less solid with the puzzle game, and so did it when I was racing against an endless barrage of blocks that I needed to line up. However, the Stratus+ requires me to hold it a little to the sides, and because it’s a bit big for my hands, it’s hard to do the kind of quick maneuvers needed to help clear out the rows.

Finally, I played through the Green Hill Zone Sonic 2, which only requires a D-pad and any of the four-character buttons. I didn’t mind playing the simpler old games with Stratus+, although I still prefer Kishi.

I enjoyed playing through the Luna and Stadia libraries even more once I paired the Stratus+ to my PC because I was able to express my hand more freely during game time. I also appreciate being able to physically connect the console to my computer via USB-C instead of relying solely on Bluetooth. But I don’t play computer games for some reason, and that’s because at the end of the day I want to be horizontal and nothing more. The Razer Kishi is more compatible with this kind of gameplay, like the Nintendo Switch it emulates, while I’ve had a hard time with the Stratus+ because I’m still not sure about this install.

look at the model

Picture of Stratus+, surrounded by other consoles and some books

After some time with Stratus+, I realized that this is not the console for me.
picture: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The main thing to consider when shopping for a smartphone controller is whether it is something that will tempt you to prepare your device for a gaming session. I love the SteelSeries Stratus+ because it’s cross-platform, but its form factor is too big for me, enough that I’m exhausted by the idea of ​​picking it up at the end of the day. I much prefer the simplicity of the Razer Kishi, which is designed in such a way that it centralizes the phone and the overall mobile experience, even if it’s not something I can use with other devices.