Inside the Dualshock 3 controller

I’m building one of those PS3-controller-in-a-360-shell things again for a customer and this time we’re using the upcoming Dualshock 3.


Now if only they’d fix those lame sloped L2 and R2 buttons…

Since some of you may be interested I took the liberty of photographing the guts and documenting the differences between this and the older Sixaxis. Check it out below…

They're bringing rumble back... Other consoles won't know how to act...

Controller with the back off. It comes apart the same as the Sixaxis, complete with the lock tab between the analog sticks. Of course immediately we see the rumble motors. Pretty standard, though for some reason they look a bit cheaper than motors in the Dualshock 2/Xbox 360/etc. The Dualshock 3 itself is not much heavier than the Sixaxis and still lighter than a wireless 360 pad.

Sony & Toshiba - secret bedfellows

After removing the battery (same as the Sixaxis) I received a shock. The main IC in this thing… built by Toshiba! Yes, Toshiba, Sony’s arch-nemesis rival during the HD Wars of 2006-2008. I haven’t been this shocked since I found a Microsoft logo inside an Apple IIgs!

The front of the PCB. Like the Sixaxis and most Dualshock 2’s the buttons are all on a membrane pad that connects to the PCB via a small slot.

Again, the same. Main difference is that the accelerometer, which used to be separate from the PCB and connected via a few wires, is now surface-mounted to the front of the board (small black thing, upper left corner). Interestingly, there’s an empty spot on the back of the board behind it with traces and pads where apparently it could also have gone.

Weirdness!

Unlike every other analog stick I’ve come across (save for the Dreamcast and its Hall-effect analogs) the Dualshock 3 does not use simple potentiometers. Instead there’s 4 pins and some sort of glop-top sensor, shown above.

Could this be the end of potentiometers?

Here’s the analog stick part with the sensor removed. I suppose these are better because no moving parts are used. Interesting to come across.

Well that’s about it for this. I’m hoping to have the Dualshock 360 controller done in time for the Midwest Gaming Classic 2008, at which I will be speaking on Saturday at 3 PM.

22 thoughts on “Inside the Dualshock 3 controller”

  1. Same crappy triggers.

    It’s still kind of a worthless “upgrade” considering the pitiful game support for rumble. I have two Sixaxis controllers and find that I don’t miss rumble enough to warrant the import and actually it’s nice not to have during FPS.

    The weight difference is probably nominal as well.

    At least you get the extra spiffy blue letters.

    So far the best upgrade for these controllers is those $10 rubber glove thingies that give the controller more girth and grip making it slightly more comfortable to hold for people with hands bigger than a two year old.

  2. That’s what they should have included with the PS3 in the first place. Sony was probably still shaken from that “we thought of putting a weight on one side of a motor first” lawsuit at the time.

    “I haven’t been this shocked since I found a Microsoft logo inside an Apple IIgs”

    Why is that shocking? They wrote the version of BASIC the Apple II series uses…

  3. You really don’t understand why its surprising/ironic to see a Microsoft logo inside an Apple product? Really?

  4. “After removing the battery … I received a shock.”

    I read that and immediately thought of the times I’ve been zapped by a (charged) capacitor in a device I just removed power from. Not what you meant at all, but still made me spill my coffee. Thanks for the dissection!

  5. if you hate the R2/L2 buttons why not just stuff all the crap from
    an Sixaxis/Dualshock 3 controller inside a Dualshock 2 controller?

  6. I said good riddance to rumble. I still cant believe they brought it back. plus it makes the controller more light…

  7. Time context is central to understanding why a Microsoft chip is in an Apple system. In 1986, MS and Apple were not even remotely the rivals they are now. Which isn’t to say there was no rivalry between them, it’s just that their competition was more of an Electronic Arts vs. Activision sort than a Nintendo vs. Sega sort. That is to say, they were software rivals, not hardware rivals.

    Back when the Apple IIGS was being manufactured, it was IBM and Apple that were fighting it out, while Microsoft mostly just provided the operating system for IBM’s computers. People didn’t call them Windows PCs or even DOS PCs, they called them IBM PCs.

  8. I am surprised by the amount of people saying rumble is worth losing. I don’t think it would take much for those who dislike it to simply remove it from a controller (they even had the forsite to include special clips for them and everything) so if you dont want it you can take it out. I always thought it was a major breakthru in gaming, and the first major revision in a peripheral since Sega launched a million of them for the Master System and Genesis… I think it was a major loss and embaressment for Sony to have lost the rumble in the first place. The only way they could recover from that is by having Toshiba build these controllers. They should have called the chip the HD chip just to rub it in a little more.

  9. I love this discussion of Apple vs Microsoft. If you cast your mind back, before the heady days of Windows 2, you might recall a product called the Apple Mac with the MacOS… Looked remarkably like the Windows GUI.

  10. “Dualshock 3 itself is not much heavier than the Sixaxis and still lighter than a wireless 360 pad.”

    Thank god. After playing some 360 games I found that my biggest annoyance with their controller is the retarded d-pad, then the weight, then the stick placement not being symmetrical, then the uncomfortable triggers.

    Also I don’t see why it’s surprising to see Toshiba parts mingling with Sony parts. They’ve always been pretty chummy. Yeah, they’re competitors, but that’s just business. It’s like being surprised that you carpool with your co-workers. How could you be friendly with someone who does the same job as you? (in effect competes for wages against you) Companies that work with each other are stronger for it.

  11. If you want to make a Dualshock controller for the 360, why not make a bluetooth dongle for the Xbox instead?

  12. If you think finding a Microsoft logo in an Apple is weird I have an Intel 486 CPU that has an AMD logo on it.

    I worked in a division of IBM for a while whose main competitor was Sun. Our product used Java.

  13. I agree with you… those damn L2/R2 are the worst trigger ever made. I hope the will correct that, because the pad feels really uncomfortable in driving game (in which you have to push them togheter).

  14. “I love this discussion of Apple vs Microsoft. If you cast your mind back, before the heady days of Windows 2, you might recall a product called the Apple Mac with the MacOS… Looked remarkably like the Windows GUI.”

    Apple had GUI first, on the Lisa. Microsoft had a contract to use the technology in Windows 1, though they later found a loophole and managed to keep producing it.

    “If you think finding a Microsoft logo in an Apple is weird I have an Intel 486 CPU that has an AMD logo on it.”

    I wanna see a picture of that 😛

  15. Can anyone tell me a little more about the pots on the dualshock stick? a pinout would be great or even just where I can find a pinout or something. Any help would be appreciated.

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