Here at Highpants I am the odd one out when it comes to gaming (tip of the iceberg), a game controller is my weapon of choice for gaming. This seems only natural to me as a long-time console gamer and a part time PC gamer.
With several awesome PC co-op games have taking over the office, especially Division2 and Vermintide 2, I thought it would be an opportune time to upgrade my old Logitech controller and join in the co-op mayhem.
Strangely enough once the journey for a new controller had started interest around the office quickly built. It turns out even the die-hard PC gamers know that a good game controller is an essential piece of equipment for your gaming arsenal. They kept grumbling something about only using it for driving games, but I know they too love the simplicity of a good controller.
When considering a new game controller it quickly became apparent that the PC world is spoilt for choice, leading to many heated discussions regarding the pros and cons for each. You may also notice that many of the available controllers are closely related to their console cousins, the Xbox and PlayStation controllers still lead the way.
After researching our options were narrowed down our choices to 2, the Steels Series Stratus Duo and the Xbox One Game Controller. You can also connect a PlayStation DualShock to a PC but the process is not as simple as plugging in a dongle.
SteelSeries – Stratus Duo Wireless Controller
When it comes to the button layout of controllers there are two camps, PlayStation DualShock with both analogues at the front. Then there is the Xbox layout where the left direction pad moves to the front pushing the left analogue to the back. The SteelSeries is unique in that it uses the PlayStation DualShock layout on a controller that is shaped like an Xbox One controller.
In use the high-quality switches are sensitive with a responsive feel, giving it very positive feedback. The layout of the buttons works well if you also game on the PlayStation as there is no adjustment time. Switching between the PlayStation and Xbox One controller on the PC takes a little adjustment time. The opposite is also true if you often game on the Xbox, switching to the SteelSeries will take a minute to adjust to. Its not too dramatic but the layouts are different enough to cause some adjustment.
Setup on the PC is as simple as plugging in the USB dongle and starting the game. There are no drivers to install or connection buttons required when in PC mode. Switches along the front of the controller allow it to be switched to Bluetooth mode and then using the connect button you can link to your Android device. There is also a power switch on the front, a rare treat these days.
The Stratos Duo works on multiple platforms letting you use the one controller for all your gaming needs. Android, Oculus Go, Samsung Gear VR connect (via Bluetooth) and Windows using the USB wireless adapter. There is even a phone cradle that lets you attach your phone to the controller for gaming on the go.
Upsides. The buttons and analogues are sensitive and responsive giving the controller great feedback and the shape is comfortable for long gaming sessions. As a PlayStation gamer the layout is familiar and feels instantly natural with the left analogue in the correct place.
Downsides. The A, B, X, Y button symbols are so lightly printed they are unreadable, not a big issue for experienced gamers but for newbies it can make learning a little frustrating. The controller isn’t as compatible on the PC as the Xbox controller, it is a close second, but you may have to manually map the buttons for some older games. Also, the in-game option buttons are very close to the analogues and they are a little awkward to access in a rush when you want to open the options menu.
Conclusion. The SteelSeries is a top-notch controller that’s comfortable and provides plenty of positive feedback for hours of stress-free gaming. The integrated battery is good for 20 hours at a time, longer than I can sit in the one spot. While your butt may take a beating sitting for that amount of time the controller will stay comfortable for the whole marathon. The flexibility to connect to other devices makes the Stratus Duo powerful and flexible option for modern gamers.
Xbox One Wireless Gamepad with Dongle
The Xbox controller is the current king of controllers for PC gaming. There are two variations available, with and without a dongle. If you already have an Xbox One controller you can purchase the dongle separately in order to connect it to you PC. The dongle allows up to 8 controllers to be connected to your PC for multi-player mayhem.
The controller has a nice rounded feel in your hands, is comfortable during hours of use and it just works. Made out of hard plastic the controller itself feels tough and well-constructed. It is heavier than the Stratus or a Dual Shock but that seems to add to the well-constructed feel.
While the button layout may not be everyone’s preference it is very clean and function. There are no extra buttons, just the essentials needed for gaming. All of the buttons are well spaced and easy to get to, giving it a very natural no fuss feel. The buttons themselves feel like they are made to take a beating, they aren’t as sensitive as the Stratus Duo but the solid feel gives the impression this controller will last.
Connecting the controller to the PC is simple with a button on the dongle triggering connection mode, pressing the connect button on the controller at the same time establishes the connection.
Downside. Buttons are firm, the analogue push down switches and shoulder triggers require more force than the Status Duo, making the Xbox controller feel a little slower to activate. However, in the real world this made very little difference to rates of fire or gameplay in general.
Upside. A rare treat was finding out the controller uses 2 AA batteries that can be easily changed at any time whereas integrated batteries generally means throwing away the device once the battery dies. The Xbox One is a controller that will be with you for years. We would recommend getting some rechargeables as it will chew through a set of cheap batteries in a week.
Conclusion. The Xbox One controller is a workhorse built to take the punishment gamers dish out in the heat of the moment and keep going. There are no real bells and whistles it just does exactly what it says on the box.
The Stratus Duo is the more expensive option with the price ranging from $109 AUD to $129AUD depending on where you purchase it. While the Xbox One controller with dongle is a little harder to find it is also cheaper at around the $85 AUD mark. This makes the Xbox controller better value, longer lasting and better for compatibility. It is the controller we recommend for PC gamers. However, the choice is complicated by one fact, the Status Duo does feel better to use. It is smoother, slicker and just a little more comfortable than the Xbox controller. Combine the comfort with its multi-platform gaming abilities and the Stratus becomes a very attractive controller.
Here at Highpants we are a little spoilt and have both. The Xbox One controller is our day to day gamer and the Stratus our backup controller that also does double duty as an Android controller on the Nvidia Shield TV.