The video from IFixIt, which you can watch here, explains how the DualSense uses “off-the-shelf joystick hardware with a long history of predictable, preventable issues.”
These joystick modules are manufactured by a company called ALPS and have been used by such other controllers as PS4’s DualShock 4, the Xbox One and Xbox Elite controller, and the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.
The particular model number used in the DualSense controller, RKJXV, has an operating life of two million cycles, while the life span of the center push function is around 500,000 cycles.
IFixIt mentions that, while this number can vary greatly depending on how often you play games and what types of games you play, these parts can exceed their lifespan with just over 400 hours of game time. This “back of the napkin math” is based on IFixIt employees’ Call of Duty gameplay.
However, that is assuming there are no drifting issues experienced before then. Much like the Nintendo Switch, there have already been cases of DualSense drifting issues, and a lawsuit has been filed against Sony for these problems.
However, IFixIt mentions that ALPS is most likely not to blame for these drift issues and “probably aren’t the villain of this story.”
The main cause of drifting actually appears to be related to the potentiometers, which help sense what type of movement a player is trying to accomplish.
Each joystick has two potentiometers in them that are perpendicular to each other, and they measure both up and down and left and right.
Potentiometers are a three-terminal system that uses voltage to measure the position of the joystick. The third terminal, known as the wiper, slides around a semi-circular track. When you move the joystick, the position of the wiper – relative to a neutral, central position – allows the controller to know where and how you are trying to move.
There are two other parts that can potentially cause issues, a spring that returns the joystick to a centered, neutral position, and one that allows the thumbsticks to be pushed in.
Over time, the spring can stretch and create a new neutral position off-center. This would make it so the potentiometers think your thumb is moving the joystick even if you aren’t, causing drift.
Contaminants and imperfections can cause also drift, as they can alter the voltage and can cause erroneous readings across terminals. These range from plastic dust from components grinding together to outside elements like food or drink.
IFixIt offers some solutions for fixes, including taking off the potentiometers housing and cleaning or replacing wipers. Some of the more advanced options include soldering and there are plenty of YouTube videos on how to do that if you wish to try it.
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If not, it is recommended to try to get a warranty replacement or, unfortunately, purchase a new DualSense. It’s also important to note that drift can occur to a brand new controller, as advanced calibrations are needed to ensure the potentiometers are functioning properly, and sometimes this does not happen.
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