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Possible Explanation for PS5 Controller Drift Discovered in Teardown

The PS5's DualSense controller has reportedly fallen victim to joystick drift.
The PS5's DualSense controller has reportedly fallen victim to joystick drift. | Photo courtesy of Sony

A teardown of the PS5's DualSense controller may have found the cause for controller drift, one of the most frustrating defects the controller has yet exhibited.

In a video posted Friday, iFixit dug into the DualSense controller and found that it, along with the DualShock 4, Xbox One and Xbox One Elite controllers all use off-the-shelf joystick hardware that it says has a "long history of predictable, preventable issues."

"Everyone should have seen this coming," reads the description for the video.

According to iFixit, the drift problem is caused by wear on the potentiometers in the controller. The potentiometer in the DualSense uses a three-terminal resistor with a rotating contact to create an adjustable voltage divider that measures the position of the stick. That measurement is ultimately interpreted by whatever game is being played, and the appropriate action taken.

In addition to the potentiometer wear caused by regular use, drift can be caused by a failure of the spring-loaded, self-centering mechanism that returns the joystick to a neutral position when released. Over time, this spring system can stretch, creating a new neutral position that the potentiometer then reads as an input.

The third cause iFixit postulated for controller drift on the DualSense is the accumulation of plastic dust in the mechanism from the components being ground together over time.

"Sony isn't the only company to use off-the-shelf joystick modules, but, like Microsoft, they've made it difficult to repair this consumable component," iFixit's video description continues. "Joysticks have a known life expectancy — it's listed right in a product sheet from the manufacturer." Customers should be able to get these parts replaced, and their controllers repaired, iFixit argues.

Controller drift continues to plague modern gaming. A U.S. law firm filed a class action suit against Sony earlier this month over DualSense drift. That same firm is already embroiled in an ongoing class-action suit against Nintendo over Joy-Con drift.