SteelSeries has made minor but welcome improvements to its Android gamepad

Mobile gaming has been a huge thing for a decade now, but it’s only recently that accessory makers like Razer and Logitech have taken it seriously, releasing gaming headsets specifically designed for phones. On the controller front, however, SteelSeries has been ahead of the curve for quite some time, selling the Stratus line of gamepads for Apple devices, and Stratus for Android and everything in between. Today, the latter gets a big upgrade with the addition of the $60 Stratus+.

Kris Naudus / Engadget

At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a big change for the gamepad; again, we’re looking at a matte black Xbox-style controller. But this time around, the Stratus comes with a phone jack in the box—no more buying a separate accessory. The clip is thin when folded, with two long metal prongs that you can push to plug them into the top of the gamepad. It’s pretty satisfying to slide the clip in and not difficult – which is good, because if you get it wrong, you risk scratching the finish of the gamepad, and the matte texture can only hide it.

In hand, the Stratus+ feels solid and doesn’t feel heavy, even with a phone strapped to the top. The clip holds the phone securely, although placement is an issue since I have a Pixel 3 which means the volume control is half way up the right side putting it just below the spot where the clip would grab the phone. So yeah, I ended up turning my volume down a lot if I wasn’t careful. This is probably the hardest part of using the Stratus+, as connecting via Bluetooth is now super easy.

SteelSeries Nimbus+ in Black

Kris Naudus / Engadget

I pulled brawlhalla on my device and started punching and kicking through the levels. The buttons had a satisfying bounce and were incredibly responsive; it’s always nice when the character is doing what they’re supposed to, especially in a fighting game where timing matters. Poor responsiveness is usually the reason I hesitate to play most action games on a touchscreen.

Which comes down to the big question of whether I really need something like the Stratus+. I play games on my phone, sure, but it’s usually the kind of thing I can play with one hand and doesn’t require a lot of nimble finger work. (I had to download brawlhalla for testing.) But at least for PC gaming, it’s a solid option if you prefer Xbox-style wireless controllers.

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