PS5 Controller Teardown: The Truth Behind the Drift

PS5 Controller Teardown

The Sony PlayStation 5 debuted to great acclaim at the end of 2020. Sony included a sleek new controller that could push back and resist the player in some respects, in addition to gains in sheer power and the capacity to render and display more complicated games.

This innovation, known as Dual Sense, has the potential to open up a new method of interacting with video games.

However, consumers began to complain about the analog joysticks not long after its introduction. The components appeared to be deviating from their initial calibration, leaving them worthless in games requiring quick and precise motions.

If you have a new PS5 system, DualSense drift is something you should be aware of and, potentially, expect. The potential reasons for controller drift have been discovered by a PS5 controller teardown.

How to Disassemble a PS5 Controller

How to Disassemble a PS5 Controller

It is not difficult to open it and gain access to its contents. The PS5 controller teardown guide is provided below.

Keep in mind that disassembling the DualSense will void the warranty. So, before starting, you must consider whether you are comfortable with that danger.

  1. When you look at your controller, you will find a black cover section. That section must be removed.

You must pry it off with a flat instrument. The ends of the handles are the best location to begin prying.

You may work your way toward the center and then pull it up and off once you’ve made some space there.

  1. Carefully pry off L1 and R1 with the same flat tool. To remove the buttons, insert it between L1/L2 and R1/R2.
  2. Where L1 and R1 used to be, there will now be two screws accessible. Remove them by turning the controller upside down.

You want to do it with the controller in this position so that the screws don’t fall inside the controller.

Place them somewhere safe while you work, such as inside a little plastic bag.

  1. Examine the handles’ bottoms. There are two additional screws there. Take them out.
  2. Insert the flat tool along both sides of the controller to separate the seams.
  3. A pair of retaining tabs are located near the microphone. To go below them, use the flat tool.

You may now entirely remove the white cover. It is best to begin around the handles.

  1. Gently raise up on the battery to remove it (no tools necessary).

Tweezers will most likely be required to completely remove it. You risk tearing the wires if you try to remove it by hand.

When you remove the battery, a black piece of plastic is visible. To remove the piece, unscrew the screw.

Again, there is a wire to contend with, so tweezers may be required.

  1. Finally, you’ll find yourself looking at the PCB. Disconnect everything you see, then lift the PCB with your hands.

You now have direct access to the USB port and thumbsticks. You can also remove the top cover at this stage if you need to repair the touch panel, D-pad, or button panel.

PS5 Controller Teardown Shows Potential for Drifting

PS5 Controller Teardown Shows Potential for Drifting

The DualSense, DualShock 4, Xbox One, and Xbox One Elite controllers all feature off-the-shelf joystick hardware that has a lengthy history of known, avoidable problems.

But what is the source of the drift in the first place? It appears to be related to potentiometer wear. Potentiometers are three-terminal resistors with sliding or rotating contacts (spinning in the case of the DualSense) that form an adjustable voltage divider to measure your location. Under the hood of most modern game controllers are these.

Other probable sources of drift exist as well. As you move your joystick, the spring-loaded, self-centering mechanism might gently expand, resulting in a new neutral point. This twisted spring can trick the potentiometers into thinking your thumb is on the stick when it is not.

Finally, pollutants can contribute to drift. Plastic dust can collect in the mechanism over time as the components grind together.

To repair a drifting DualSense controller, you must open it up and get your hands dirty. You can also pay someone to have a look at it, mail it back if it’s still under warranty, or buy a new one.

Let’s get into a more specific view of this issue.

The PS5 controller is disassembled by peeling off a plastic trim cover that conceals four Phillips screws. By removing these, the top of the case may be removed.

The 5.7-Wh lithium-ion battery, haptics motors, and adaptive trigger mechanisms are visible beneath it. The battery is connected to the PCB by leads and a connection and can be removed.

The rear-facing microphone and the plastic well that holds the battery are linked through another Phillips screw behind the battery. The motherboard is shown after removing the plastic well.

A black plastic frame houses the motherboard, joysticks, and haptics/vibration motors. The joysticks are attached to the motherboard via soldering. According to observers, they are the identical joysticks that were used on previous PS controllers.

The issue here is that these joysticks might drift and wear out after only a few uses. Two potentiometers that sense X and Y position appear to be the major wear-out mechanism.

A metal wiper on the potentiometers contacts a resistive surface. The resistive material might wear away over time, forming debris that clogs the joystick sensing.

When the user releases off of the joystick, a spring returns it to its centered, neutral position. The spring-loaded self-centering mechanism has been commonly reported to extend somewhat, providing a new “neutral” position.

As an aside, Hall effect non-contact position sensors appear to have a longer life than wiper-based potentiometers.

With all of the innovation that went into the PS5 machine, it’s perplexing why the designers chose the joysticks they did.

Conclusion

We don’t see a solution to the controller drift issue until Sony adds more robust components to the DualSense.

The DualSense is a popular device, but it is not without flaws, and this is one that Sony could do without.

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