Hall Effect Game Controllers – The Next Level Up?

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New titles, new games, new(ish) consoles, and yet we still use the same technology in our game controllers. Sure, the PlayStation 5 controller has some advanced features such as adaptive triggers, but after many months of gaming, you may notice something odd about your Xbox, Switch, or PlayStation controller. Perhaps, your characters walk without input, or the camera moves around slowly. Maybe you wiggle the analog sticks and it’s fine … but only for a moment. One of the sticks has begun to drift on its own.

Enter the Hall Effect game controller. They promise to address the annoying issues that often plague traditional controllers, such as stick drift and similar wear over time. But what exactly are they, and how do they measure up against the standard Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo controllers?

Let’s delve into the magnetic world of Hall Effect game controllers to unravel their magic and see what they are, whether they’re worth preferring, and how some specific models compare.

 

Hall Effect: The Magnetic Marvel

 

GameCube Analog Stick

GameCube Analog Stick
(Photo by Wild Bill)

The gaming companions we’ve grown accustomed to, namely Xbox, Switch, and PlayStation controllers, rely on potentiometers for their analog sticks to help sense direction. Now, a potentiometer is like a tiny volume knob for each analog stick. As you move the analog stick, the potentiometer turns, changing how much electricity can flow through it (or is resisted). This change in electricity tells the computer or console how far (and in what direction) you moved the analog stick. However, it is a physical connection, and over time the parts touching inside the potentiometer can wear out. Such wear might lead to the dreaded stick drift, dwindling precision, and eventually the controller’s retirement.

The Hall Effect, a principle named after physicist Edwin Hall, comes into play when magnetic fields interact with electric currents. In the gaming sphere, this principle morphs into a sensor technology that bids adieu to the physical contact. The heart of this technology lies in the Hall Effect sensors nestled within the joysticks and other control interfaces. Think of this like a permanent magnet and an electrical conductor engaging in a sort of dance, where every move of the magnet alters the voltage in the conductor. This voltage change is then translated into in-game movements or commands. The best thing is, the magnet and conductor don’t touch, which means no wear and tear! At least, on those particular components.

 

What’s In It For You?

 

The proposition for Hall Effect controllers is pretty straightforward. No more stick drift, much more durability, no more disappointment as your controller’s sticks slowly stop working properly. They can theoretically endure marathon gaming sessions over years and years. In my opinion, Hall Effect controllers emerge as a worthy gaming partner, to help you achieve your best.

There’s one more thing to mention, though. Whilst we’ve been talking about Hall Effect sensors as a single monolithic thing—in reality there are different designs, and they’re not all made the same. In fact, a new sensor called the K-Silver JH16 was released this year (specifically, in April 2023) and adopted in new controllers. Why is this important? Well, the JH16 offers superior integrated hall effect sensors, better battery performance, and improved centering performance compared to the older modules. So, even though there are plenty of older Hall Effect controllers that are probably still good, I’m limiting the scope of this article to cover the newest controllers that ought to be great.

This unfortunately has the effect of narrowing down our options. Admittedly, there isn’t a huge amount of information on these Hall Effect controllers, so I had to do some searching. Based on what I found, the following is what I can recommend overall. I’d appreciate it if anyone who has had any of the below controllers could share their experiences, especially around longevity—though, to be fair, it’s probably a little too early to tell.

 

Recommended Hall Effect Controllers

GameSir T4 Kaleid ($42)

    • Pros:
      • Features well-placed back buttons and a comfortable grip
      • Face buttons have a satisfying tactile click, akin to high-end controllers
      • Lighweight (380g), making it easy to handle
      • LEDs add aesthetic appeal (though this might be a con for some)
      • Offers high-end features at a budget-friendly price
    • Cons:
      • Lacks wireless connectivity
      • Unlabelled function buttons can be challenging to use, requiring reference to the manual
      • Turbo Mode feature can be accidentally activated, potentially disrupting gameplay

GameSir G7 SE ($50)

    • Pros:
      • Provides precise control and prevents stick drift
      • Offers a comfortable grip and well-distributed weight
      • Includes customizable back buttons and software customization for button mapping and sensitivity adjustments
      • Durable construction with responsive buttons and secure joysticks
      • Incorporates additional functionalities like volume and chat mixer controls on the D-pad, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a mute button
      • Offers high-end features at a reasonable price
    • Cons:
      • Lacks wireless connectivity
      • Some buttons, like the select button, are awkwardly positioned
      • The controller can be noisy during vibration feedback due to its construction

Mobapad ChiTu HD ($56)

    • Pros:
      • Features original dual-axis ALPS linear motors for vivid vibration feedback
      • About 30 hours of battery life
      • Comfortable and versatile with interchangeable buttons and adjustable joystick caps
      • Near-identical alternative to the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
      • HD rumble, NFC, Switch BAYX layout, and digital triggers
      • Has two buttons on underside of controller for added functionality
    • Cons:
      • Back buttons can be a little awkwardly placed for small hands

Flydigi Vader 3 Pro ($90)

    • Pros:
      • C and Z buttons are well-placed, with membrane switches to prevent accidental button presses.
      • Triggers offer mechanical click emulation and can be changed on the go
      • An impressive 500 Hz polling rate in wireless mode for high responsiveness
      • Four underside buttons, with customizable macro functionality
      • The ABXY buttons provide a tactile ‘clicky’ response
    • Cons:
      • Battery only lasts about 8 hours before needing to charge
      • Trigger vibrations in comparison to other controllers are lackluster, with limited game support and reduced effectiveness in Bluetooth mode
      • Flydigi app is prone to crashing, and lacks essential features like vibration testing, specific game configurations, and reliable firmware updates
      • Should be calibrated before use

 

Conclusion:

 

The gaming ecosystem is in a perpetual state of evolution, and Hall Effect game controllers are a shining example of the innovative strides aimed at enhancing our experiences. When your current controller is on its last legs, or perhaps if you’re looking at getting a second one, I think it’d be a worthwhile investment to check these controllers out.

These Hall Effect gaming controllers promise more longevity, and to me that means many more hours gaming and focusing on the things that matter more. As we venture further into digital realms, perhaps it’s time to consider nestling the magnetic revolution in our hands.

 

Sources:

 

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