Many new controllers are promising ‘no drift’ experiences with hall sensing joysticks. What are they and how does the technology work to prevent drift?
There’s nothing worse than realizing your $80 pair of Joy-Cons now have drift after you spent 250 hours trekking around Breath of the Wild. The design of the Joy-Cons results in physical wear and tear to them—meaning drift is an inevitability that will happen the more you use the same pair of Joy-Cons. The Switch Pro controller is built using the same potentiometer sensors found in the Joy-Cons with moderately better construction.
Why Joy-Cons Drift Over Time
The potentiometers used in Nintendo controllers use Ohm’s law of electrical resistance to measure the X and Y axis position of the joystick. Each potentiometer has a resistor shaped like a curved track. A contact on this curved track moves up and down or left and right. The exact amount of resistance between two potentiometers can determine the two axes points of a joystick with a high degree of accuracy.
However, because the contact arms must make contact with the track–over time these parts wear down and start sending false positives. Joystick drift happens in worn-out potentiometers when they detect input where there is none. Most common is the left joystick which is used for movement.
Why the Hall Effect Sensing Joysticks Don’t Drift
Hall sensing joysticks use the Hall Effect to measure changes in voltage caused by a magnetic field. That means the sensors in Hall Effect joysticks are made from magnets and don’t feature parts that will physical touch and wear out. As the joystick is moved about, magnets move relative to the conductor and the sensor measures changes in voltage to determine X and Y axis position.
It’s not entirely accurate to describe Hall Effect sensing joysticks as ‘no drift’ because there are physical impairments that can happen to these sensors. But the level of wear and tear it would have to receive compared to the cheaper potentiometer joysticks means years of use rather than months.
Controllers with Hall Effect Sensors in the Joysticks
All of the controllers available on the market that feature Hall Effect sensors are third-party controllers. Nintendo has not embraced the technology, which means you’ll have to rely on someone else to experience this technology. GuliKit’s King Kong 2 Pro Controller features Hall Effect sensors in the joysticks and are pictured above. Here’s a quick list of some of the other’s we’ve found:
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