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What Are Hall Effect Joysticks and How Can They Cure Controller Drift?
January 24, 2023

What Are Hall Effect Joysticks and How Can They Cure Controller Drift?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you’re struggling with controller drift or ‘stick drift’, then Hall Effect joysticks could be for you. Here’s why.

Drift is an issue that has plagued controllers since the dawn of gaming. Potentiometer joysticks, while reliable at first, simply have a rather short life span in the grand scheme of things. When the joysticks in our beloved controllers start to wear down, the gamer’s arch nemesis enters the scene, joystick drift.

Joystick drift occurs when the joysticks become worn or dirty in one way or another, which results in them registering incorrect input. But with the application of Hall effect joysticks, drift could become a thing of the past.

How Do Hall Effect Joysticks Work?

Gamers have come up with many quick fixes to try and repair joystick drift in their Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons, PS5 controllers, and any other controller that uses potentiometer joysticks. Some methods even list curing joystick drift as one of the ways to use DIY cleaning slime or putty.

Many of these methods can be quite successful, but it only keeps the joystick drift at bay. It will return at some point. Sadly, there is no cure for joystick drift other than a brand-new joystick or controller.

But there is hope for us yet. Some controllers have started utilizing new technology in their controllers. This technology comes in the form of Hall effect joysticks. Hall effect joysticks aren’t exactly new, however. They have already been successfully applied in specialty controllers such as flight simulators and drone controllers, but this technology is new in its application to video game controllers.

Hall effect joysticks use magnets in their design to detect movement. By using permanent magnets and electrical conductors, Hall effect joysticks measure the change in voltage that occurs when a magnetic field interferes with the electrical flow from the conductor. This change is then calculated and converted into movement data.

What’s the Difference Between Potentiometer and Hall Effect Joysticks?

The key difference between potentiometer and Hall effect joysticks is that the need for a physical connection is removed. Potentiometer joysticks can be problematic because they have a resistive strip that a component rubs against to measure movement.

Over time, this resistive strip can become worn down. If any pieces of dust or debris make their way between the components and the resistive strip, they will affect the result. This is how joystick drift occurs.

The Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons, for example, are affected by drift more than other controllers because they are constructed with a flat bed and are much smaller than the joysticks in larger controllers. This means that even a single piece of dust has nowhere to escape, so drift occurs much faster and is more pronounced.

Since Hall effect sensors don’t require a physical connection to work, there is no risk of them getting worn down and becoming less effective over time. This means that a controller with Hall effect joysticks will have a much longer life span than one that uses potentiometer joysticks.

How Hall Effect Joysticks Can Cure Controller Drift

The permanent magnets used inside Hall effect joysticks never rub against any other parts. Anything that makes physical contact with something else for an extended period will eventually degrade.

Think about break pads or statues that people touch for good luck. Eventually, these statues appear to have been polished, but it is just the surface slowly wearing down over centuries of physical touch. The same concept applies to your potentiometer joysticks.

Every controller is different, and the lifespan depends on how much use they receive. But drift can begin to occur anywhere within a few months to a few years of using a controller with potentiometer joysticks for a couple of hours per day.

Hall effect joysticks, however, can last over 10 million cycles, making their life expectancy exponentially longer. By removing the main reason why joysticks drift, Hall effect joysticks can drastically reduce the chances of drift developing in the first place.

Gamers Could Kiss Stick Drift Goodbye With Hall Effect Joysticks

Hall effect sensors could revolutionize gaming controllers by essentially eradicating the risk of drift. Hall effect joysticks have already been utilized by specialty controllers and have proven their worth in those fields. So hopefully, for gamers, it is just a matter of time before they are widely used to produce gaming controllers.


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