Updated: Aug 20, 2021
For all its futuristic look and feel, the PlayStation 5’s (PS5) DualSense controller is anything but that. IGN has reported that Sony is facing a lawsuit in America over joystick drift on the controllers. If you’re wondering, here’s why the controllers drift.
Kevin Purdy of iFixit wrote that Sony used off-the-shelf parts to manufacture the PS5’s controller which resulted in users experiencing drift, where the controller registers joystick movement even when the player is not interacting with it.
The DualSense’s potentiometers (the part of the controller that measure how much you’re pushing or pulling the joystick) only has an operating lifetime of 2,000,000 cycles. After having one of their teardown engineers play a game, the iFixit team found out that the DualSense’s joysticks can only last for 209 days when playing two hours per day while going easy on it.
Under more intense use, the potentiometer lasts 139 days for the same two hours. That’s four and a half months at least and seven months at most.
A torn-down PS5 DualSense controller Credit: iFixit
With this in mind, David listed four probable reasons why the joysticks in the DualSense’s controller drift. The first one is the sensor wear tot he potentiometers, resulting in altered voltage readings causing drift. This is the hardest to avoid, according to David.
The second is spring fatigue, wherein the problem lies with the spring-loaded, self-centring mechanism in the joystick. This mechanism can be stretched slightly, which results in a new “neutral” point that isn’t at the joystick’s centre. The third reason is material stretching when the wear and tear on the joystick cause it to become loose over time.
Finally, there is contamination. This problem arises when the controller accumulates grime, dust, moisture or other contaminants inside it. David noted that most modern controllers make use of self-lubricating plastics for smoother action to counter the accumulated contaminants. However, this means the joysticks are sacrificing small amounts of their own material to keep themselves lubricated.
A fully assembled potentiometer along with its wiper (middle) and carbon track (right) Credit: iFixit
David then suggested some fixes that users can do by themselves such as removing the potentiometers to clean or replace the faulty parts, which can be difficult due to the soldering involved and the difficulty involved when removing the potentiometers. Users can also calibrate the controller in-game to match its new centre.
However, David stated that the best fix would be better choices by console makers. He advised console makers to at least make repairing controllers easier if they could not use quality materials. Otherwise, they should choose reliable joysticks like those used in the Nintendo 64 or the Sega Dreamcast.
Written by John Paul Joaquin