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Report: The PS5’s DualSense Controller Drift Issues Will Only Get Worse

PlayStation 5 DualSense Controller Front View
(Image credit: Sony PlayStation)

PlayStation 5 owners might have to deal with a lot of drift in the future—and not the kind racing game enthusiasts might enjoy. An iFixIt teardown revealed Friday that the DualSense controller’s analog sticks might only work properly for a few months. After that, well, it’s going to be a whole lot harder to actually play games on a PS5.

Sony crammed a lot of interesting things into the DualSense controller. The standout features are improved haptic feedback courtesy of two separate actuators and adaptive triggers that offer dynamic resistance based on what’s happening in-game. It also has a built-in microphone, motion controls, and the DualShock 4’s touchpad.

All of those features made the DualSense a compelling part of the PS5’s launch; we lauded the controller in our console review. The problem is that some of the lucky few who actually managed to buy a PS5 reported issues with drift affecting the DualSense’s analog sticks, which is now the subject of a class-action lawsuit.

So what is drift? From a player experience perspective, it’s what happens when a controller doesn’t send the correct input. This can result in characters moving even if the player isn’t touching the analog stick, make it impossible to manage an in-game camera, and lead to feeling like the controller is actively sabotaging the player.

That’s a problem for any controller. It’s an even bigger problem for a controller that accompanies a perennially sold-out console for which people have paid thousands of dollars. According to iFixIt, however, the DualSense’s drift problems shouldn’t come as a surprise because Sony used hardware known to have durability issues.

iFixIt’s teardown revealed that the DualSense analog sticks rely on the same Alps-manufactured joystick mechanism used in the DualShock 4, Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, and numerous Xbox One gamepads. The mechanism’s potentiometers have an expected lifespan of 2 million cycles. That sounds like a lot, but it’s not.

iFixIt explained:

“One of our teardown engineers measured their own Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) controller interactions for back-of-the-envelope joystick life math. Averaging ten different 30-second intervals, they made roughly 100 full potentiometer rotations per minute. If you play a less stick-intensive game than a first-person shooter, rotating 80 times per minute, you’ll hit 2,000,000 rotations in 25,000 minutes, or 417 hours—that’s just 209 days, playing 2 hours per day. At a more kinetic 120 rotations per minute, that’s 139 days at 2 hours per day. So Alps’ own rating for accurate joystick measurements is, in one gamer’s hypothetical experience, 4-7 months—and that’s with a very non-pandemic 2-hour cap on your game time.”

The report noted that every potentiometer would be different, however, which means it can be hard to predict when it will lead to drift. Some folks will never encounter the problem. That’s great! It’s far more likely that most people will have at least some drift just a few months after buying a PS5, though, and that’s a lot less great.

  • velocityg4
    Heck, they’ve only had 23 years to get the design right. They just need a little more time.:rolleyes:
    Reply
  • dalek1234
    My PS4 controller developed this drift after about 6 months of use. I doubt I did 2 million cycles though, but I was playing a game that made me push the analog stick harder than it need to be. I got a replacement, and have been using it for over three years now with no problems. I did change my playing habit though: "don't push that joystick so hard, it won't make the character run any faster". So it would seem that you can get the joistick to fail much quicker than after 2 million uses if you push its limits harder.

    Quite disappointing, I must say, that Sony used the same type of fail-prone joystick in PS5 controller. You'd think they would have learned a lesson from the PS4 joistuck failures. Most likely they were trying to save a few pennies by sticking with the cheaper joystick. ...."Facepalm"
    Reply
  • Krotow
    It is all due to bean counters prevailing over engineers. In result we have flaky potentiometers with thin plastic around. And broken controllers due to dislodged sticks after few months in result.
    Reply
  • Mandark
    This is just another reason that I don’t like Sony hardware or peripherals

    Plus the PlayStation five looks god awful. The people responsible for the styling should be shot
    Reply
  • sizzling
    Mandark said:
    This is just another reason that I don’t like Sony hardware or peripherals

    Plus the PlayStation five looks god awful. The people responsible for the styling should be shot

    This articles title seems a bit of a witch-hunt. It does say in the body of the article that the mechanism is the same used for Nintendo and many Microsoft controllers so this isn’t a Sony problem so why only call out the PS5? Click bait?

    A question that should be asked is why don’t they use hall sensors instead of a design based on potentiometera. They are all effectively building controllers that by design will need replacing several times in the lifetime of the average console and gamer. It seems by design they are deliberately choosing a design that won’t last, obviously to make more money on accessories while creating more waste.
    Reply
  • mitch074
    Newsflash : console makers build joysticks that need replacement every few months.
    looks at bin of RMA'd PS3/4 and Xbox pads behind seatBusiness as usual.
    Reply
  • Heat_Fan89
    Mandark said:
    This is just another reason that I don’t like Sony hardware or peripherals

    Plus the PlayStation five looks god awful. The people responsible for the styling should be shot

    Really?!

    You do realize that the XBOX One had controller drift issues as well. I lost a controller to that. Nintendo was faced with a class action lawsuit over drifting analog sticks on the Nintendo Switch Joycons and also the Nintendo Pro controller. And according to some Reddit reports the Xbox series X controller looks to have similar drift issues.
    Reply
  • Mandark
    I have never had an Xbox controller go bad ever. Well I had one go bad because I kept dropping it on the hardwood floor
    Reply
  • Phaaze88
    Cheap garbage needs replacing more often, thus making people spend more, and increasing company profits.
    Who knew?

    Once again: In other news, the sky is not blue, but appears that way due to a combination of gases in the atmosphere. It is actually clear.
    Reply
  • Heat_Fan89
    Mandark said:
    I have never had an Xbox controller go bad ever. Well I had one go bad because I kept dropping it on the hardwood floor
    And I have never had a PS4 controller go bad with a drifting problem. I own 2 PS4's and 2 Xbox One's. I also have not had a controller issue with Nintendo Switch Joy Cons or their Switch Pro controller.

    Just because you or I haven't had these problems on the respective systems doesn't mean they don't exist. The bottom line is "ALL" last gen controllers and both next gen controllers appear to be having drifting problems again.
    Reply