Sony’s PlayStation 4 is a great game console.
Let’s be clear about that right up front: the PlayStation 4 is an excellent game console, and tens of millions of people spending $US400 or more apiece to get their own attests to that.
What’s not so excellent about the PlayStation 4 is its gamepad, the DualShock 4. In terms of how it’s used in games, it’s great — the feel of the controller is spot-on. What’s not so great is the technical stuff: the battery is atrocious, and the build quality is similarly lacklustre. In those respects, the Xbox One controller has Sony’s completely beaten.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present exhibit one:
The thumbstick you see above is not an aberration. I have two DualShock 4 gamepads. Both of them have this issue in varying levels of seriousness.
Speak to the average PlayStation 4 owner and ask them about their controllers — in my experience, about 50 per cent will tell you that, yes, they also have rubber on their thumbstick ripping off. And this applies to all manners of game players. I don’t use my PlayStation 4 every day, and I rarely spend more than a few hours using it in a sitting. This is from regular, normal use.
(And no, I don’t play fighting games with it or anything else that would potentially add extra wear and tear.)
When I asked my (approximately) 6,500 Twitter followers, I got loads of replies confirming this was not an isolated issue:
Some folks even had third-party solutions at the ready:
This is a really common problem. And that really stinks!
It was enough of a problem at the launch of the PlayStation 4 that, a few short months after the it came out in November 2013, Sony issued a response to PlayStation-focused website The Sixth Axis in January 2014:
A very small number of users have reported to us that the rubber surface of their Wireless Controller DualShock 4’s analogue sticks have torn. Although the rubber material of the analogue sticks fulfils our quality assurance standard, we will inspect individual DualShock 4 controllers experiencing this symptom, and will replace them with new ones for free as long as they are within the warranty.
That warranty period is one year from date of purchase, per Sony’s website, and only includes the United States and Canada (check your regional Sony website for details, which may differ from region to region).
Sony also tells Tech Insider that newer, post-launch PlayStation 4 gamepads have been improved to cut down on analogue stick rubber tearing off, though it’s unclear if that includes all currently sold DualShock 4 gamepads or not (we’ve asked Sony and are waiting on more information).
Battery Life is a Hot Mess
There’s one more elephant in the room when it comes to the DualShock 4 gamepad: that awful battery life. Mine regularly dies while I’m using it just to control Netflix. And when it dies during a rousing game of “Rocket League,” I’m inclined to swear loudly and profusely.
And honestly, it wouldn’t be such a big deal if charging the DualShock 4 battery were easier. In the case of Nintendo’s Wii U gamepad, for instance — another notorious battery hog — the device comes with a charging cradle. It’s easy to drop the Wii U gamepad into its cradle after each use, making it always ready to go.
With the DualShock 4, we’re forced to return to the PlayStation 2 era of gaming, where wire-filled living rooms made everyone’s life less convenient. That there is always a microUSB cable sticking out of the front of my PlayStation 4 is anachronistic at best (and a poor design choice in reality).
There are third-party solutions, of course.
Tech Insider news editor Matt Johnston just got a PlayStation 4 last Friday. One of his first purchases, however, wasn’t a game — it was a DualShock 4 charging cradle created by a third-party manufacturer. I bet he’d have preferred to spend the money on a game instead!
And yes, Sony has implemented ways to stem the constant flow of power out of your DualShock 4: You can dim the light on it, and turn the speaker volume off, and have it turn itself off more quickly than it would by default when not in use.
All of these are stopgap measures: the battery life, even with all this stuff implemented, is still incredibly weak. And while the Xbox One gamepad has issues (those shoulder buttons! woof!), it’s — in general — a much better controller. If nothing else, it doesn’t break apart in your hands and die after a few hours of use.
Here’s the Xbox One gamepad, in case you’ve forgotten:
It’s far from perfect, but the Xbox One gamepad handily succeeds where the PlayStation 4 equivalent fails.
First and foremost, the battery life is incredible. One set of AA batteries will last you weeks. Sure, it’s a bit unfortunate that it doesn’t come with a built-in battery like the DualShock 4, but it’s a compromise we’ll accept if it means not having to constantly charge the gamepad (and, by extension, keeps wires out of our wireless living rooms).
Second, after many months of similarly regular use, neither of my Xbox One gamepads shows any signs of wear (other than dust and the occaisional scratch — otherwise known as “normal wear and tear”). It’s not a perfect controller, but it’s a dramatic improvement over the issues with the DualShock 4 spelled out above.
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