A hot potato: Sony’s PS5 DualSense drift problems could become more widespread than first feared. A new teardown on the controller examines what’s causing the issue, which can appear after just “417 hours” of use.
iFixit, best known for its teardowns of the latest smartphones, took apart a PS5 DualSense to discover what’s been causing the drift problems that have led to a class-action lawsuit against Sony. It says the controller uses “off-the-shelf joystick hardware with a long history of predictable, preventable issues.”
A company called Alps manufactures the DualSense’s joystick modules, which are also found in controllers such as the PS4’s DualShock 4, the Xbox One and Xbox Elite controller, and the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. It’s worth noting that iFixit says Alps “probably aren’t the villain of this story.”
Alps’ website states that the potentiometer—a three-terminal resistor with a sliding or rotating contact that forms an adjustable voltage divider—used in the PS5 DualSense has an operative life of two million cycles, while its clicking mechanism lasts 500,000 cycles. This is due to it wearing out from repeated use and the spring that centers the joystick stretching into a different shape.
Two million cycles may sound like plenty, but that means controllers using these components “could easily exceed their operating life in just over 400 hours of game time.” Analyzing a typical Call of Duty: Warzone game, iFixit estimates that you’ll get around 417 hours of gameplay; that’s around four to seven months if you cap your playtime at 2 hours per day.
In addition to the sensors wearing away and springs deforming, drift can also be the result of the materials in the joystick stretching. Contaminants working their way inside the casing is another cause.
iFixit says that these components are used because of a “wilful cost-saving calculation on the consoles makers’ part.”
“After this research, 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 rated for a finite number of actions, especially one that lives next to so much contamination and takes so much abuse, can maintain perfect performance forever,” said iFixit
iFixit has offered some potential solutions for those experiencing drift, including removing the potentiometers’ housing and cleaning or replacing the wipers. More technical users can even attempt soldiering. Whether longer-lasting components end up being used in controllers might depend on the outcome of the numerous class actions console makers are facing.