You get a lot more out of your gaming experience in the Samsung Gear VR if you use a quality gamepad, and the best by far for this experience is the one made by SteelSeries. The Stratus XL is a console quality gamepad, but built to connect to mobile devices. It also looks pretty great, which doesn’t hurt.
Why you should buy this gamepad
Instead of focusing on portability and pocketability like the other controllers in this product line, SteelSeries focused on comfort and capability which makes it an incredible choice for the Samsung Gear VR. It has all the quality of a major console controller, with great battery life and a $40 price tag to match.
Why the SteelSeries Stratus XL is the best
Everything you need in a gamepad you’ll be using without your eyes.
While the Samsung Gear VR comes with its own Controller now, there are plenty of VR games you play on this headset which require or are enhanced by a good ol’ fashioned gamepad. It’s just not as enjoyable to play Minecraft with a motion controller, which is why Samsung continues to support games and gamers who prefer this gameplay mechanic.
Three things matter most when it comes to a VR-friendly gamepad — comfort, battery life, and durability. SteelSeries has checked all three boxes with the Stratus XL. This is an Xbox-esque gamepad that looks and feels familiar with a button layout you will quickly become comfortable with despite not being able to look down at it while in VR. This gamepad will easily survive the occasional drop when you are spooked in VR thanks to its rugged plastic design, and the use of standard thumbsticks means the chances of breaking them on a drop is unlikely. On average this controller will get you through 30 hours of constant use, which means the only way you’re charging this controller once a week is if you are really and truly invested in VR Minecraft. If you do run out of power in the middle of a game, the use of a microUSB port means just about everything can charge this controller quickly.
Is it a good time to buy the SteelSeries Stratus XL?
Absolutely. This controller is fantastic, and has already been available for quite a while. This means it has already seen a couple of price drops, but isn’t ready to be replaced anytime soon.
Reasons to buy
- Solid, durable design
- Quick pairing, easy to use
- Great battery life
Reasons not to buy
- Joysticks are in the Xbox configuration
- Not ideal for smaller hands
Why this is the gamepad for you
Samsung and Oculus designed the Gear VR to be played while sitting down, just like a console. In face, it’s kind of like a console you wear on your face, if you think about it. That means a lot of your games are going to be best played while seated comfortably. Sitting comfortably and holding your hand to your temple to tap the buttons on the side of the headset don’t exactly go together well, which is why you can use a gamepad with almost everything.
If you’re going to use a gamepad while seated comfortably, it might as well be a gamepad of the same quality as what you’d find attached to an Xbox or PlayStation. SteelSeries offers exactly this with the Stratus XL, making it the best overall experience for playing with your Samsung Gear VR.
Alternatives to the SteelSeries Stratus XL
Not everyone wants to carry a heavy controller with them while travelling, and not everyone likes the Xbox layout for gamepads. For you, we have a few alternatives to offer.
If you value portability above all, Moga Hero Power is what you want.
Having an Xbox-style gamepad is great for familiarity, but the Gear VR is a portable virtual reality platform and it makes sense that you’d want the gamepad to be equally as portable. Moga’s Hero Power gamepad offers this exact experience, with buttons and joysticks nearly flush with the casing and shorter palm grips that flow in line with the rest of the body.
If you want a better Gear VR gameplay experience without spending a ton, Beboncool has you covered.
It’s portable, it’s plasticky, and at $25 it’s way cheaper than most other Bluetooth gamepads that play nice with the Gear VR. The battery is rated for 12 hours of constant gameplay, but the auto-off feature ensures you’ll only be using power when you’re actually playing.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Russell Holly is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He lives for the shiniest new thing, and loves explaining its potential to improve your life. Whatever you do, don’t tell his spouse about the drawer full of tech under the bed.
Updated September 2018: The SteelSeries Stratus XL is still the best Bluetooth gamepad for the Samsung Gear VR.
This post may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure policy for more details.