The best gamepad for your Gear VR


We eat, sleep, and breath VR, and we know that if you’re going to game on a Gear VR, you need a solid controller. We don’t make the rules, we just give you the best options to follow them.

You get a lot more out of your gaming experience on 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 built to connect to mobile devices. It also looks pretty great, which doesn’t hurt.

Our pick

SteelSeries Stratus XL

$40 from Amazon

If you want the best overall gamepad for your Gear VR, SteelSeries is where you want to be. Beefy, durable, and comfortable, this controller will give you the gaming experience you deserve.

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

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.

Everything you need in a gamepad you’ll be using without your eyes.

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.

The Stratus XL requires two AA batteries to operate and you can expect this controller to deliver 30 hours on a fresh set of batteries. You’ll know when your batteries are running low based on the LED lights when you first switch the controller on — four bright lights means your controller is good to go, and one LED means it’s time to swap out the batteries.

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 fact, 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.


Moga Hero Power

If you value portability above all.

$27 from Amazon

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.

Value pick

BEBONCOOL Wireless Game Controller

If you want a better Gear VR gameplay experience without spending a ton, Beboncool has you covered.

$26 from Amazon

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.

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January 5, 2019 at 11:05AM