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PS5 DualSense teardown reveals potential causes of controller drift

A new PlayStation 5 DualSense teardown has revealed the potential causes of controller drift.

The YouTube video, below, from iFixit looks inside the DualSense to find out what is causing the drift that some users have reported.

According to iFixit, the DualSense as well as the DualShock 4, the Xbox One and Xbox One Elite controllers all use off the shelf joystick hardware “with a long history of predictable, preventable issues”.

iFixit’s investigation found the components in these sticks “could easily exceed their operating life in just over 400 hours of game time”.

But what’s causing drift in the first place? It appears to relate to wear to the potentiometers. A potentiometers is a three-terminal resistor with a sliding or rotating contact (rotating, in the DualSense’s case) that forms an adjustable voltage divider to measure your position. Most modern game controllers have these under the hood.

There are other potential causes of drift, too. As you move your joystick around, the spring-loaded, self-centering mechanism can stretch slightly, creating a new neutral point. This stretched spring can trick the potentiometers into thinking your thumb is on the stick even when it’s not.

And finally, contaminants can cause drift. Over time, plastic dust can accumulate in the mechanism from the components grinding together.

iFixit offers advice on how to fix a drifting DualSense controller, but it involves opening it up and getting stuck into its innards. Alternatively, you can pay someone to have a stab at it, send it back if it’s under warranty, or buy a new one.

iFixit ends by calling for console controller makers to make it easier to replace joysticks.

“It’s bizarre to us that console makers don’t consider joysticks to be consumable parts, and design them to be easily replaced. No device created for a finite number of actions, especially one that lives near so much contamination and takes so much abuse, can maintain perfect performance forever.”

Eurogamer News Cast – Nintendo Direct special

This week, Eurogamer reported on a US law firm that has filed a class action against Sony over alleged DualSense drift.

Chimicles Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith (CSK&D), the firm behind the ongoing class action against Nintendo over Joy-Con drift, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of a plaintiff called Lmarc Turner, of Virginia, and other affected customers in the US against Sony Corporation of America and Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Sony has yet to comment.

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