The PS5’s DualSense is the latest controller to suffer from drifting issues, but an iFixit (opens in new tab) teardown has revealed what's likely causing the irritating problem.
iFixit noticed that there are a lot of factors that can contribute to DualSense drift. The main one seems to be that the potentiometer joystick modules only have an operating life of two million cycles and means they will eventually fail, especially if you're into long gaming sessions.
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The potentiometers are made by Japanese company Alps Alpine, which notes their operating lifespan in its spec sheets. Two million cycles might seem like a lot at first glance, but iFixit did the math and discovered that’s far from the case.
In fact, someone gaming for two hours a day could begin to experience potentiometer failure within four to seven months, depending on the games you’re playing. Obviously, that’s just an estimation, and the potentiometers can fail before or after that window.
iFixit was quick to point out that these modules are not exclusive to the DualSense either. They’re the exact same ones that are used in the PS4’s DualShock 4, Xbox One controllers (including the $180 Xbox One Elite controller) and the Nintendo Switch's Pro controller.
Other factors affecting the oncoming drift include plastic stretching and stress on the spring mechanism that helps center the joystick, as well as general grime and dirt that builds up over time. According to iFixit, the amount of solder used to connect these components to the motherboard means you’d need some serious soldering gear to replace them.
There has been an increasing number of complaints relating to DualSense drift in the months since launch. One Reddit user (opens in new tab) even claimed that their controller started drifting within 10 days of purchase.
While Sony has promised to fix all malfunctioning controllers still under warranty, it’s not been enough for some people and the company is facing a class-action lawsuit (opens in new tab) from disgruntled players.
iFixit insists that this isn’t the way it has to be. The problem stems from the fact gaming companies are using cheaper components that are hard to replace, making controllers expensive to repair when those components fail.
The site notes that older controllers, like those on the Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo 64 don’t have similar problems. The former uses magnets that can be easily replaced, and the latter uses an optical sensor that still seems to function accurately even after the analog stick itself started to fail.
Everything fails eventually, but it’s clear more can be done to delay the inevitable.
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