Apr 03 2023

DS5 controllers – Next Gen Scandel

All there ever seems to be on the news each day is a new scandal or controversy caused by some big celeb, politician or organisation, which always goes unanswered for, as something else occurs immediately after to attract our frustration before something else takes the baton.

Well a scandal that I would like to bring to everybody’s attention, as far as I’m concerned, has had little if any media attention on it at all, and should in reality result in a public lawsuit of millions against Sony for all consumers of the PS5 console and it’s Dual Sense companion controller.

Seeing as Sony have us locked down to using their first party controller for PS5 titles, as the few 3rd party DS5 controllers on the market cost a fortune, and Sony don’t allow you to use the more than functional DS4 controller in PS5 titles, though you can still use it on a PS5 for controlling the XMB menu and PS4 games, we’re stuck in this anti-competitive market of using controllers that weren’t fit for purpose, with defunct analogue sticks, that Sony were fully aware of, having been manufacturing the Dual Sense controller with the same model of joysticks that plagued certain model of PS4 controllers with stick drift and physical faults.

It’s obvious that Sony have become aware of the issue and have done a quiet revision of the DS5 controller, replacing the analogue sticks with ones that are now fit for purpose, but what about the old controllers that are still plagued by the issue, that us early adopters are stuck with, which are essentially only fit for the bin, as games are completely unplayable on them.

Initially, my impressions of the DS5 controllers when they first came out was that they were a good upgrade over the DS4 design. Due to the new technologies incorporated with the dual sense triggers, HD haptic rumble, USB C charging port (though required firmware upgrades is a pain), and built-in voice comms outweighed the negatives of the controller being heavier and larger to fit this additional tech, but even at the time, I noticed I was experiencing issues with my right analogue stick playing up and not properly tracking movement, as though the carbon pads inside the stick were not making proper contact, alongside some spring mechanism causing the stick to subtly click when moving the sticks into the corner directions.

I have 3 controllers that were purchased around the time of release of the PS5, one black one that I bought before acquiring my PS5 to be used on my PC, and 2 white ones that came with the PS5, one of which I was forced to pay for extra in a bundle that was required to seal my deal in obtaining the PS5 due to the low stock/scalping issues at the time (as Sony clearly couldn’t just issue single purchases of PS5s to those users whose PS accounts hadn’t existed for at least over a year etc). All 3 of these controllers experienced the issue of the right controller stick clicking/getting stuck/not tracking properly pretty immediately. I didn’t notice the other controllers were having this issue at the time of purchase, as I was just using the black controller to the point that it was no longer playable before moving onto a new controller (a quick fix at the time was either using electrical contact spray on the joysticks or pressing hard onto the sticks and rolling them around a few turns). Well as soon as I cracked the white controllers out of their boxes, the issue was immediately noticeable on those controllers as well.

I had to question myself whether it was just me. Maybe I don’t know how to use a controller properly, maybe I’m too harsh with them or expect too much of them to track the finest movements with the sticks whilst tracking headshots onscreen. But to be honest, I was also curious why the rest of the Internet at the time wasn’t in uproar about this, surely it was just as noticeable to everyone else, unless they’re just not as good of a gamer as I am, and aren’t as sensitive to these issues. Basically, I gave up on controllers, hence giving up on trying to even use my PS5 for games, relegating it in it’s new, prime status to being a 4K streaming box. What a waste of a console when my PS4 Pro would have sufficed fine for that task and still perfectly played these cross-platform games that are still getting released today along with using a DS4 controller.

Well this past month, I’ve taken a new interest in the problem, as I had resorted to playing Far Cry Primal on the PS5 using a PS4 controller, but I knew at some point I would need to solve the controller issue if I want to play my PS5 copy of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla that I’ve been sat on for the past year. Again, PS4 controllers still haven’t been allowed to be used in PS5 titles, there’s no nicely priced DS5 3rd party controllers on the market, and nobody has yet to make some bluetooth adaptor that will allow you to use PS4/XBOX controller (and I don’t even like the xbox series controller, but it’s the lesser evil at this point) that will emulate DS5 inputs.

I have been doing research in the background for a personal project of relaying PS4 controller inputs directly into a DS5 controller using an ESP micro-controller, which should circumvent the firmware upgrades and licensing issues 3rd party controllers seem to have with PS5 titles, so watch this space on that project, but having done some research on the Internet in the last week, it appears that over the past year, a few other users have also noticed this issue, and not only that, they’ve noticed that Sony had quietly released a new revision of the controllers. The revised controllers can be told apart due to their different FCC ID numbers. I thought I’d test to see if the issue has been fixed in the revised controllers, by purchasing one, then purchasing another one by accident.

So according to the web, it seems to be a mixed bag if you’ll receive a newer version of the controller if you purchase a white or black controller, but if you buy any of the coloured controllers, it’s guaranteed you’ll receive a revised model. So going onto Amazon, the only colours that are still available are the teenage girl blue, purple and pink ones that were released awhile back. Going for the least worst out of the bunch, I opted for purple. Next day, I just happened to be on the Sony website, when I clocked they were selling a limited edition God of War Ragnarök one that came in blue/white with some decals on it, that looked pretty smart and came in even cheaper than Amazon, though being limited edition, so opted for one of those as well.

Well, they both arrived, and sure enough, have the newer FCC ID on them, ending in an ‘A’, rather than the ‘1’ that the older controllers end in. Testing them immediately on my PS5 at the time, they seemed perfectly fine. I could not discern any issues with the sticks, testing them for 10 minutes in a single spot in Far Cry, slowing pushing on the sticks, flicking from side to side, performing manoeuvres whilst activating L3/R3, all seemed fine. I reconnect my black one to compare, and instantly the camera is flying all around the screen as the 0-1.8v voltage running across the 2 linear pots in the stick are going absolutely haywire. There is a video attached below of the comparisons of a working ds4, ds5 and broken ds5 controller.

Now this isn’t the most conclusive test, using a controller for the space of 10 minutes and proclaiming that all the issues are now fixed, though it took about this amount of time to clock it was an issue on the old controllers. Games can last for hundreds of hours, and controllers are expected to last for thousands more. Plus there’s still the issue of being locked down to DS5 controllers on PS5, (accessibility comes to mind for a start) and the thing that I’m most infuriated about, is that I’m now sat on £180 of broken controllers, never mind the rest of the population that also have these paper weights. In truth, I’ve tried to self-repair one of my controllers, purchasing replacement analogue sticks, desoldering the old sticks and installing new ones, didn’t solve the issue though, whether I just bought even more faulty sticks or there is an issue with the shape of the controller putting pressure on the wrong part of the circuit board/analogue sticks, but I feel that something has been addressed by Sony with the DS5 design, as these two new ones seem perfectly fine.

I’ll will monitor this issue further, whilst in the meantime, will still work on my PS4 to PS5 relay project, now opting to use the 3 spare controllers as donor boards to test with and perhaps sell on if I can make some working solutions, whilst at that point releasing any circuit diagrams/research as open source on github. It would be nice if Sony came clean and offered to buy back their broken controllers, seeing as they know how much of an issue it is, as evident by their new ‘Edge’ controller, with replaceable thumbsticks, though at this point, for the price, the whole industry is surprised they haven’t yet gone with hall effect switches. Maybe another nice expensive upgrade they can bill us on down the road.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thelategamer.com/blog/ds5-controllers-next-gen-scandel/

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