Every so often, a brand will release a controller, claiming that it is the answer to gamers’ prayers with its various bells and whistles. One such feature that’s often marketed as ‘for the pros’ is the inclusion of Hall Effect sticks. But what are they? And do you really need them, considering that the majority of controllers don’t feature them? I'm going to try to answer that question, and give you some options if you want to step into the world of magnetic mechanisms in your controllers.
What are Hall Effect joysticks? How do they differ from analog?
Hall Effect joysticks are a type of joysticks that use magnets and electrical conductors to measure their position, distance, and movement when in use. Unlike standard analog sticks, which use electrical resistance to detect movement, Hall Effect joysticks have no physical contact between the moving parts. This means that they do not wear out easily, and they do not develop stick drift, which is a common pain point for gamers. Stick drift is when the stick starts to behave unpredictably and causes unwanted movement in your game.
The term Hall Effect itself comes from the physicist who first discovered this phenomenon, Edwin Herbert Hall. In 1879, he observed that a voltage difference was generated across a conductor when it was placed in a perpendicular magnetic field. This voltage difference, or Hall voltage, is caused by the force that the magnetic field exerts on the moving electric charges in the conductor. The Hall Effect can be used to measure the type, number, and properties of the charge carriers in different materials, as well as to detect the presence of a current or a magnetic field. The Hall Effect is an important concept in physics and engineering, and it has many applications in sensors, switches, transducers, and devices.
Analog sticks use potentiometers, which are devices that change their electrical resistance as you turn them. The stick has two potentiometers, one for the horizontal axis and one for the vertical axis. Generally, this is a much cheaper system and is why it's used in most controllers. You may be surprised to learn that Hall Effect controllers are not a new invention. In fact, Sega had it in its Dreamcast controller in 1998, it's just not widely used because it's not the cheapest option.
Why should I care about Hall Effect sticks on a controller?
With Hall Effect sticks, because of their lack of reliance on physical contact between components, you’re going to get a much longer lifespan for your controller.
Using the Nintendo Switch as an example here, the original Nintendo Switch was notorious for getting stick drift on their joycons within a year of using the device. I myself, as a casual Animal Crossing player, even experienced this. Perhaps the combination of being a controller with motion controls means they have to use analog sticks to keep the costs down, but for now they have acknowledged the issue and offer a free joycon repair program for customers even outside of the warranty period. Many people simply use a third-party controller when the Switch is docked, and there are many Hall Effect controllers on the market that work with the Switch.
In addition to a longer lifespan, Hall Effect sticks are more responsive and accurate. If you’ve ever suffered from deadzone when playing on a controller (Resident Evil 4, I’m looking at you), you may not know that this is because deadzone is built into standard analog sticks on controllers to account for the inevitable stick drift that will occur after long use. There isn’t really a requirement for this on a Hall Effect stick controller, so the dead zone is minimal.
What controllers have Hall Effect?
Herein lies the issue, depending on where you prefer to play your games, there may or may not be huge options for Hall Effect on your platform. There are a plethora of controllers out there for PC and Switch, but not so much for Xbox and PlayStation consoles. In fact GameSir has only just launched the G7 SE Wired Controller which is the first controller compatible with Xbox that has Hall Effect sticks. If this is something you are interested in, it's your only official option on the platform currently. Surprisingly given the technology, it's actually very reasonably priced at $44.99.
If it's a Switch or PC you are looking for Hall Effect on, then you have many more options, I won't list them all but here are our top picks.
Gulikit KingKong 2 Pro Controller | $69.70
Looking rather like an official Xbox controller, but only compatible with Windows PC, Steam Deck, Switch, Android and IOS, the KingKong 2 Pro is the best option for the wireless Hall Effect experience. It lasts up to 18 hours on one charge, and offers more precision and durability than your standard controller.
Buy from: Amazon
If wires aren't a dealbreaker for you, in fact some prefer them for lack of latency, then the T4 Kaleid is a joy to use. My favorite controller of 2023 hands down and my top controller for PC Gaming, this controller isn't just a pretty gadget, it's got the all-important Hall Effect sticks paired with micro-switch buttons and that cool millennium transparent vibe. It's also ridiculously good value at $41.99.
Buy from: Amazon
8Bitdo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller | $69.99
My top pick for Steam Deck, but can be used with Windows PC and Switch too, the compact 8BitDo controller comes with oHall Effect sticks, adjustable vibration and turbo functions. It lasts up to 20 hours on one charge and can also be used for mobile gaming. Oh and it comes with a cool charging dock.
Buy from: Amazon
Can I install Hall Effect sticks myself?
If you have the right tools, and more importantly skills, then yes you can just install Hall Effect sticks yourself. Many people do this with the Steam Deck to give their device more longevity, and Gulikit makes a kit for this that includes both left and right joysticks, a converter board and installation caps. Approach with caution though as taking your Steam Deck apart will void your warranty.
Gulikit Hall Effect Sensor Joystick for Steam Deck | $29.99
An affordable solution to prolong the life of your Steam Deck, these sticks won't drift and use electromagnetic induction, giving more accurate and reliable controls for your handheld PC.
Buy from: Amazon
Adapting your existing controllers
GuliKit has also made a clever adapter that will convert non-compatible controllers to work with Xbox or Playstation, so if you really want to use something other than the GameSir controller then you can just get one of these to open up your options and go wireless. Be warned though, there is a very small input lag, not enough that would be noticeable in the average game but not recommended for competitive shooters.
Do I really need a controller with Hall Effect sticks?
In short, no of course not. The average, casual player would probably never notice stick drift in a controller, or at least once they did wouldn't bat an eyelid at just replacing that controller after a reasonable amount of use.
Hall Effect controllers are not a necessity for most gamers, but they can offer some advantages over traditional analog sticks. If you play a lot of games that require precise and responsive movements, or if you want to avoid the frustration of stick drift and the hassle of replacing your controllers, Hall Effect technology might be worth considering. However, the options for Hall Effect controllers are still limited, especially for Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
It all comes down to preferences and needs, but I would like to see more console controllers starting to use Hall Effect so that we Xbox players have more of a range to choose from. If I'm spending money on an Elite controller for example, I'd like it to have this feature so I know I won't need to replace that controller in a year's time.
Do you use Hall Effect and does it have an impact on your purchase decisions? If so drop a comment!
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Jen is a News Writer for Windows Central, focused on all things gaming and Microsoft. Anything slaying monsters with magical weapons will get a thumbs up such as Dark Souls, Dragon Age, Diablo, and Monster Hunter. When not playing games, she'll be watching a horror or trash reality TV show, she hasn't decided which of those categories the Kardashians fit into. You can follow Jen on Twitter @Jenbox360 for more Diablo fangirling and general moaning about British weather.