I think the PS5 DualSense controller is the best game controller Sony has ever made. Aside from the symmetrical placement of the analog stick, the PlayStation 5’s smart controller continues to thrill me with its innovative adaptive triggers and haptic feedback, even almost a year after launch.
However, one sticking point I have with the DualSense controller is its poor battery life. It has never been able to compete with the Xbox Series X controller, which can use AA batteries or a “play and charge” pack. But I’m afraid it has gotten worse.
During TechToSee’s PS5 review in November 2020, I performed an unscientific test to monitor the battery life of the DualSense controller. Using my phone’s stopwatch, I would start up when playing a game and stop the clock every time I turned off the PS5.
Using this admittedly pretty crass method, I recorded the impressive 12-hour PS5 DualSense controller going from Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales to the exceptional Astro’s Playroom, which was a welcome surprise after the pitiful DualShock controller battery life 4.
However, over the past few months, I’ve noticed that the prompt “Wireless controller battery is low” pops up much more frequently – so much so that the idea of reaching those dizzying heights of ten hours and more autonomy seems impossible. now.
Arkane Studios’ fabulous Deathloop – a game that uses adaptive triggers and haptic feedback from the DualSense controller quite generously – has only heightened this concern. My gaming sessions were abruptly interrupted by the now-too-familiar battery level prompt on numerous occasions, even though I only hit six hours of play time at most.
So, has the DualSense controller battery deteriorated over time? Well, the controller has received several updates since launch, but nothing significant to note.
The simplest explanation, then, is that the games I initially tested probably don’t drain battery life as much as newer PS5 titles could. But that still wouldn’t explain the huge disparity between the six hours of battery life and the previous two numbers I recorded.
Going back to the old stopwatch method, I decided to time the battery life of the DualSense again. I traveled back and forth between The Medium, Deathloop, and Sackboy: A Big Adventure over a weekend and also did other non-gaming tasks: watched YouTube, browsed the PlayStation Store and left the controller inactive.
It should be noted that my settings on the controller have remained unchanged since launch – the haptic feedback and light bar are all on “Standard” – and I typically alternate between using the PS5 Pulse 3D wireless headset plugged into the controller and wireless.
It took less than an hour for the first bar of the DualSense’s three-bar indicator to disappear – about 53 minutes, to be exact, which was worrying. By the time I hit the five hour mark, only one battery bar was showing, and after six hours, the prompt to charge my controller appeared.
The drums blues?
Now, as someone who usually tends to listen to advice from their devices (surely they know better after all?), I usually switch to a new gamepad whenever this prompt pops up.
However, the repercussions of this now mundane scenario led me to believe that my PS5 DualSense controllers have 50% less battery life than I had previously recorded, which is pretty dire. The reality, however, is quite different.
What I found in my second round of testing was that while some games drain the DualSense faster than others, it’s Sony’s low battery life prompt that makes things look worse than they are.
I found that the low battery life indicator will show up around the six hour mark, but you comfortably hit nine to 10 hours of playtime before the controller dies. In my book, that’s an incredibly early warning from Sony, especially since Microsoft’s controller tends to warn you when you have about 15 minutes of juice left.
Stay charged and carry on
So what is the solution ? The most obvious solution, it seems, is for Sony to change the low battery alerts to more reflect when the controller is about to discharge. And if you want to extend the battery life of the DualSense controller, you can always lower the intensity of the haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, and the controller’s light bar.
To make your life easier, I also recommend getting the PS5 DualSense charging station, which allows you to change pads at any time if you have a spare handy. It’s also a much more attractive solution than having a USB cable on the front of your console.
While the DualSense controller’s battery will inevitably slowly degrade over time – as all built-in lithium-ion batteries do – it seems my initial fears were overblown. At least for now.
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