If you’re a heavy controller user for your games, be it on PC or console; you’re likely familiar with stick drift.
Stick drift has been a persistent issue as long as controllers have existed. Gradual wear and tear will eventually cause your gamepad’s joysticks to behave abnormally, right up until they fail altogether.
Drift is when your controller’s analog joysticks start picking up phantom inputs. This is obviously not ideal and can make playing games very annoying.
What if there was a new type of joystick that simply did not develop drift no matter how long you use them? That’s where Hall Effect comes in.
What are Hall Effect Sensing Joysticks?
Hall Effect joysticks get their name from The Hall Effect, which is in turn named after its founder Edwin Hall.
The Hall Effect represents a change in voltage that is caused when a magnetic field interferes with an electrical flow from a conductor.
Hall Effect joysticks use this principle by having permanent magnets in them that move in relative to an electrical conductor. The voltage change that then occurs is converted to positional data to track the joystick’s movements.
Since the components in a Hall Effect joystick never physically touch, the sensors do not wear out like they do on analog joysticks. This means that in theory, Hall Effect joysticks never develop drift in their lifetime. In other words, magnets, how do they work.
Hall Effect vs Analog Joysticks
Analog joysticks are based on Ohm’s Law of electrical resistance. The components within an analog, or ‘potentiometer’ joystick move along each other; this either increases or decreases the resistance of the electric circuit.
Analog joysticks can be very precise in their tracking since it deals with a measurable change in electrical resistance by components that physically touch one another.
Hall sending joysticks, use a magnet that moves in relation to an electrical conductor. The positional tracking data for the joysticks is obtained by the change in voltage observed when the magnetic field crosses the electric field.
While Hall Effect joysticks do not experience the traditional drift observed in analog joysticks, they do have some other issues. The magnets used in Hall Effect sensors can lose or change their magnetism. This will cause the joysticks to become less accurate in their tracking. However, the chances of this occurring are much lower than an analog stick developing drift since the Hall Effect joysticks must be exposed to a lot of electromagnetic interference to induce a change in magnetism.
Tiny dead zone on Hall Effect
Because Hall Effect sticks are much less likely to wear down, their controllers don’t need nearly any dead zone to accommodate for the eventual drift that analog sticks produce. The result of this smaller dead zone is that Hall Effect sticks are much more responsive, a small movement on the stick will be represented on the screen, it could be a huge competitive advantage, especially for shooters.
Downsides of Analog Joysticks
The main problem with analog joysticks is the constant touching of the components in them will cause them to wear down. The available range of resistances will change, which can cause the analog joysticks to become wildly less accurate.
Hall Effect sensors being entirely drift-free is not factual. Especially since exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures as well as electromagnetic interferences will cause the magnets to wear out, making the sensors less and less accurate.
But the key difference here is that Hall Effect joysticks will take decades of vigorous use to even show signs of drift, while analog joysticks start drifting after only few months of use.
Hall Effect joysticks are superior by all means over analog joysticks for this exact reason.
Controllers and Portables with Hall Effect Joysticks
While Hall Effect sensors only cost slightly more than analog ones, they haven’t been used by big-name manufacturers on game controllers. Sony’s DualShock and DualSense controllers all use analog joysticks. Even Xbox controllers all come with regular analog sensors in them. The same goes for the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck.
The lack of mainstream Hall Effect sensors is likely due to these companies not willing (yet) to pay licensing fees to use patented tech.
There are rumors that the Switch 2 will feature joy-cons with Hall Effect sensors.
Controllers with Hall Effect
Here are the controllers that already use Hall Effect joysticks
- GuliKit KingKong 2 Pro (PC, Switch, Mac, Mobile)
- GuliKit KingKong (PC, Switch, Mac, Mobile)
- GuliKit Zen Pro Wireless (PC, Switch, Mac, Mobile)
- 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth with Dock (PC, Switch, Mac, Mobile) – Read our review!
- NYXI Switch Controller (Switch)
- Retroflag Switch Handheld Controller (Switch)
Handhelds with Hall Effect
Hall Effect replacement sticks for PS5, Xbox, and Switch controllers
GuliKit looks like they have the DualSense Edge in their sights, so hopefully replacement joysticks are coming for all systems.
Will do first for Dual Sense Edge because that is easier for its modular design. https://t.co/OTYoD25yAI— GuliKit (@GuliKitDesign) January 23, 2023
Stick drift in game controllers and joysticks was a glaring issue for decades and it took the longest time for the industry to start addressing it. This is even more confusing since Hall Effect sensors have been around for ages without them being properly implemented in gamepads.
However, now that manufacturers are slowly but surely wisening up to the benefits of Hall Effect sensors, hopefully the age of drift-free controllers is just around the corner.