Monday, February 22nd 2021

iFixit Teardown Reveals The Reasons Behind Joystick Drift on PS5 Controllers

We recently reported about the class action lawsuit being filed against Sony surrounding the alleged drift on their DualShock 5 controllers. We now have some new evidence from iFixit which points towards this physical issue being present on all DualShock 5 controllers. The DualShock 5 controllers use "off-the-shelf joystick hardware with a long history of predictable, preventable issues" according to iFixit. They also estimate that the life-time of these joysticks is just over 400 hours of game time which is significantly less than what would be expected on a 70 USD controller.

The controller drift will get worse as the controllers are used due to several design faults. The main issues identified by iFixit include the specific potentiometers used in the joysticks which will wear down from use quickly making the reading more unreliable. The springs used to bring the joystick to a neutral position will fatigue over time creating a new neutral point and shifting readings. The plastics used in the DualShock 5 controller will inevitably deteriorate with time. The controller will also accumulate grime and dust in the housing from use which increases the severity of drift. The best way to minimize controller drift is to clean your controller regularly; however, this will not solve the hardware faults.
Source: iFixit
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20 Comments on iFixit Teardown Reveals The Reasons Behind Joystick Drift on PS5 Controllers

#2
Caring1
Duh, tell us something we don't know.
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#3
Minus Infinity
I don't mind paying a premium for better quality, but to get this second rate crap foisted on you at top dollar is a bit of a joke and all too common.
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#4
watzupken
I feel this is an unfortunate side effect of cost cutting. Companies want cheap, so corners will be cut.
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#5
ZoneDymo
yikez.....I would think Sony would not want this kind of bad press.....and I mean the damn thing is already 60 euro, come on....
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#6
Kn0xxPT
And I still have and use DS3 in my PC and PS3.
For me, the quality (much more robust to usage) used in DS3 was far superior than DS4...and it seems DS5.
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#7
Vayra86
No, the new consoles aren't getting progressively more shit with every generation. They're really not. All is well in the world.

Meanwhile, what you get is a glorified PC without upgrade paths, overpriced peripherals that suck harder than ever, handicapped online capabilities, no mod/homebrew freedoms whatsoever, and a high price point for games altogether, of which the vast majority is stuff you've either played or seen before or get as a remaster.

Totally worth going for if you can't get your GPU now. Right? Did I mention almost every exclusive now also eventually gets a PC release? :D

o_O

And yet, younger generations know no better than this so they take it for granted. We're moving backwards.
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#8
BluesFanUK
Still not got a PS5 (out of choice rather than missing out), so i'm glad things like this are getting exposed already. Never quite understood the rush to be a first time buyer and run into all these issues, but it helps patient people like me. :)

Hopefully Sony release a second version ASAP.
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#9
Caring1
BluesFanUKStill not got a PS5 (out of choice rather than missing out), so i'm glad things like this are getting exposed already. Never quite understood the rush to be a first time buyer and run into all these issues, but it helps patient people like me. :)

Hopefully Sony release a second version ASAP.
No rush, this problem has existed widely since the ps2 controller, when mods were available for the thumbsticks
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#10
Vayra86
Caring1No rush, this problem has existed widely since the ps2 controller, when mods were available for the thumbsticks
Yes, but take note of how fast it happens now and how well the Sixaxis did perform in comparison ... and also the fact the controller housing is no longer made out of a single plastic but two different ones, apparently one is keen to get sticky (JUST LIKE the old analog sticks).

Sticky = the material is slowly degenerating = low quality plastics. You're probably getting some low dosage of carcinogen crap as well.
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#11
Gmr_Chick
I know it's a cliche but as someone who has pretty much been a gamer all her life, they simply don't build gaming stuff like they used to. And I think a big part of the reason is because both consoles and controllers are way more complex/have stupid gimmicks now, which equals more shit that can/will break. It's a lot like cars nowdays too, but that's for another discussion. My point is the consoles of the past - and the controllers -- were built like fucking tanks and short of a major failure (that required the system to be sent in for repair) they simply worked. And probably still work to this day, provided they were taken care of!

Sometimes it's good to be "simple".

On the subject of controllers, a good example I have of one being built like a tank is my trusty old Logitech F310. Bought it AGES ago, around 2007 I think...but today, the damn thing still works like a champ, with no stick drift to speak of!
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#12
BorisDG
So happy that not just Nintendo will get blamed for that.
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#13
Dristun
Read the article. All of them (sony, nintendo, microsoft with both standard and elite controller) use the exact same breaking part - made by Alps. Whether anything breaks or not is purely your luck and Alps' quality control over the years. There are other companies that make potentiometers for gamepad thumbsticks - guess what, they're all rated for more or less the same number of cycles, which is very low if you only play games on controller. The technology itself is crap which is why we get the same problem over and over.
Personally, I had drifting sticks on X360, Xb1, Dual Shock 3 and even on my PC-only Logitech Chillstream back in 2000s, so this is nothing new. Unless manufacturers invest into better tech than we have, this problem will continue to pop up again and again.
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#14
_JP_
:( Didn't expect to see "ALPS" being used for the analogs.
I got a "Wow!" moment followed by a "So there's no difference between this and the ol'cheap white brand controllers that you passed to younger siblings...besides price".
Guess I'm sold on using either PDP or other 20€-cheaper controllers that at least match price-point to quality.
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#15
Tartaros
I regularly use an almost 25 year old PSX Dualshock, the one that weights like a necklace made of melons and here it is. How the mighty have fallen.
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#16
skizzo
as someone who just spent the last couple weeks researching joystick replacements for a PowerA Enhanced Spectra Illuminated Wired Xbox One controller.....they ALL use the same damn things now-a-days!

A joystick is a joystick is a joystick, at least when it comes to modern game controllers. There isn't really any magical engineering differences between them. They all have two potentiometers for X and Y axis, and if needed, also have the push down click function. They all work exactly the same. The market seems completely dominated by two groups named ALPS and Polyshine/Favor Union.

They just make them in different sizes (so the units posts fit in different spacing/patterns on PCBs), or with metal or plastic posts for the thumb-stick cover, etc. The differences seem minor to the end user/consumer in my opinion.

Has always seemed to be a YMMV kind of thing. And also how sensitive and finicky you are. I never thought I had an issue with drifting....but after recently noticing it on a ~6 month old Xbox One controller I thought to check my ~15 yr old Xbox 360 controllers which I thought were fine and some of theirs were pretty loose too, with slight stick drift on at least one that I plugged in to try out again.
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#17
Mysteoa
On a side note is there a better Joystick accessibly that you can buy and replace the faulty one?
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#18
Gmr_Chick
skizzoas someone who just spent the last couple weeks researching joystick replacements for a PowerA Enhanced Spectra Illuminated Wired Xbox One controller.....they ALL use the same damn things now-a-days!
I use a Razor Wolverine Ultimate to play my PC games (mostly Battlefront II), and now you got me nervous about its sticks, lol. Granted, they're swappable, so it's mainly the mechanism inside that I'm worried about. With that controller though, I tend to see most complaints being about the ABXY buttons and how they get "stuck," especially the B button.

While I haven't experienced stick drift on it yet, the middle selection of the trigger locks no longer works on BOTH triggers, so I can only use the tightest setting or the loosest setting...so there's that. But since I broke the sticker on the back of the controller (in order to get to the screw, so I could take some of the controller apart to clean it) I'm pretty sure Razer would just tell me to get fucked when it comes to a repair/replacement.
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#19
skizzo
Gmr_ChickI use a Razor Wolverine Ultimate to play my PC games (mostly Battlefront II), and now you got me nervous about its sticks, lol. Granted, they're swappable, so it's mainly the mechanism inside that I'm worried about. With that controller though, I tend to see most complaints being about the ABXY buttons and how they get "stuck," especially the B button.

While I haven't experienced stick drift on it yet, the middle selection of the trigger locks no longer works on BOTH triggers, so I can only use the tightest setting or the loosest setting...so there's that. But since I broke the sticker on the back of the controller (in order to get to the screw, so I could take some of the controller apart to clean it) I'm pretty sure Razer would just tell me to get fucked when it comes to a repair/replacement.
They are not exactly consumer swappable, or at least, in a user friendly way. Soldering these things isn't a normal skill an avg consumer is going to have. I've done plenty of soldering when it comes to audio gear, so basically connecting wires to posts or pads. I've never done soldering on a PCB (printed circuit board) before and it showed lol! My technique was poor and I kept getting solder leftover inside the through-holes. Not until I watched some "desoldering tips" youtube video where they suggested if possible to use the solder sucker from the opposite side of the PCB that your heating up, and it worked great for cleaning out all the remaining solder I couldn't get from going at it from the same side with the sucker or a wick. I gave up prior to that and used a heat gun on too high of setting and just yanked it out that way, but I destroyed the joystick in the process (not a huge deal, its the drifting unit I am trying to replace), i think I melted some of the plastic on a potentiometer and it seeped into actual mechanical joystick part since it now is locked in say the X axis, but still moves in the Y axis. Bigger problem, is I cannot find a replacement online that looks exactly the same. I may try buying some that have the same numbers printed on the potentiometers but they are fitted with plastic thumstick posts for the thumbstick cover instead of metal ones, and they are shaped different. Also not sure if their posts are in the right position/spacing for the PCB. But if they do fit into the PCB I can get different thumbstick covers to fit the different thumstick post shape. This problem is only happening because of it being a 3rd party controller where no one has made specific tip videos on it, which usually point out the exact replacement model you need....so I am the guinea pig going by trial and error on this specific controller. There is a lot of info out there on Microsoft OEM controllers. So you could find yourself in a similar boat with a Razor branded controller if they didn't use the same exact model of ALPS branded joysticks. My controller has Polyshine/Favor Union branded joysticks for example, and don't seem to be as popular and therefore not as easily available.
I made a post here hoping someone could help me find a replacement unit
www.techpowerup.com/forums/threads/need-help-identifying-joystick-replacement.278768/

From what I can tell replacing buttons on the other hand is super simple! If you can open up the controller, you can replace those parts as they are literally drop in components. No soldering needed. Buttons work from having contact pads make a connection rather than wires or posts being soldering to each other. So you can easily replace the buttons themselves if they get worn like the paint rubbing off or they get cracked or damaged however. And you can also replace those rubber membrane pieces which are what have the contacts in them that "pop" back upwards when released. Those "clicks" you hear when pressing buttons down are these pieces in the controller that make this sound. They are what is inside the shoulder buttons and the backside mappable buttons on my PowerA controller I mentioned too.

The triggers themselves are a single axis potentiometer of the sorts. The triggers have some mechanical pieces connected to this potentiometer that will rotate based on how far depressed the trigger is. The trigger locks are a mechanical stopper that just prevent the trigger travel, as in, how far it can be depressed. If they work in the other positions, but not the center, that makes no sense to me, it would work in all or none I would believe because again it is just a physical prevention to the triggers travel. Literally plastic that gets pushed further to prevent more travel on the higher settings. So if it works there, no idea why it wouldn't work in the center position....maybe if it somehow got bent and in the middle position the triggers can travel past the stop point, but I bet you would feel that in their use. This really requires opening the controller to properly inspect and diagnose the issue.

I want to say there are laws in USA where those "warranty is void" stickers are not legally binding? Not sure though, but more likely, the company would claim a drifting joystick to be normal wear and tear unless it is within a very short period of time, like the return window lol

TLDR = don't get into joystick replacement unless you really want to go down the rabbit hole of soldering and possibly having to buy multiple parts because they are not universal fit/size and you might end up buying a part that doesn't fit properly (like me!). If you want to replace d-pad buttons, or A-B-X-Y buttons, that is easy if you are OK with opening the controller, there is no soldering needed for those parts. But keep in mind, those can come in different sizes too for fitting different controller models....for example, my PowerA controller uses the same rubber membrane with contact pads for the d-pad and for the ABXY buttons....but from what I can tell the Microsoft OEM controller use a VERY different looking shape rubber membrane for the ABXY buttons.


I know I'm writing a dissertation length post here lol but I like sharing my knowledge and I can only hope this situation can improve for consumers in the near future. I'm an avid guitar player and recently replaced all the electronics in one of my guitars....despite knowing how to solder wires fine I didn't want to deal with it after I found out that the pickups I have, created a "solderless system" where they opted to add easy male/female pin connections so any avg Joe and Sally could replace these parts. So bought all parts I needed which was an input jack and pickup selector switch and battery connection, and instead of soldering everything I tore out the old stuff and popped int he new stuff, and plugged them in together in the proper chain to work how I wanted them to. Way easier than soldering!!!! Literally plug and play! It's a genius idea that could be used in controller manufacturing too. Instead of having wear parts soldered directly to a PBC there should be connectors, much like for example any header on a motherboard which can accept a part from various manufacturers, which avg people can easily swap the component out as needed. Im sure costs of the controller manufacturing would increase, but think of all the $$$ those companies would make by officially selling replacement parts too.....it would be their way of eating their cake and having it too lmao! They can pretend like they give a crap about consumers and making a better product by offering replacements which will make customizations easier too, but instead just come up with a different marketing system to lock you into buying more parts from them in the long run. So of course the ultimate problem is for them to use parts that do not wear as quickly, but that is going to be up the joystick manufacturers to improve their designs, which are NOT the same groups as the ones making the controllers.
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#20
Chomiq
One f'up by ALPS get passed onto at least 3 different systems, amazing.
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