PlayStation 5 DualSense controller’s drift issues are no secret, even sparking a class-action lawsuit filed by the same law firm who did the same against Nintendo and their Switch’s Joy-Con. iFixit recently posted a video taking apart the DualSense and explaining why the controller has been plagued by this pervasive issue.
According to the details in the iFixit video, the DualSense and many other recent controllers use “off-the-shelf joystick hardware with a long history of predictable, preventable issues.” These joysticks all have one underlying problem: unavoidable wear and tear to the potentiometers built within them.
A potentiometer is a three-terminal resistor with a sliding or rotating contact that forms an adjustable voltage divider. These dividers measure a position with DualSense joysticks, typically possessing two, one that measures up and down movement while the second measures left and right movement.
By breaking down the components that make up the potentiometers, it has been estimated that these joysticks “could easily exceed their operating life in just over 400 hours of game time.” This is the reason why many gamers have been seeing the drift occur in their controllers relatively quickly.
Another cause of drift involves the movement of the springs in the self-centering mechanism creating a new neutral point, which can trick the potentiometers into thinking the joystick is being moved around when it’s not. Plastic dust can also accumulate due to the parts grinding together over time, leading to drift.
iFixit believes that the solution lies in joysticks being made much easier to replace by players themselves. They stated that: “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.”