If you’ve been shopping around for a new gamepad, be it one of the best PS5 controllers, best Xbox controllers or the best Nintendo Switch controllers, you might have seen manufacturers tout ‘Hall effect’ technology as a selling point. But what exactly does that mean?
Hall effect sticks are extremely popular right now and they may be built into a controller you’re already using. Some third party controllers that make use of Hall effect technology include the 8BitDo Ultimate controller for Nintendo Switch, the Nacon Revolution 5 Pro and the GameSir T4 Kaleid to name just a handful.
If you’ve seen the term before and not really paid it much mind, we don’t blame you. But if you’re curious as to what Hall effect sticks and triggers achieve for you and your gaming experience, read on to learn all about the technology that’s becoming the new standard for controllers on all platforms.
What is Hall effect?
The Hall effect refers to a wider scientific phenomenon in relation to electrical conduction. More specifically, when a device’s conductor (or semiconductor) carrying an electrical current is introduced to a perpendicular magnetic field, this then allows the voltage of said current to be accurately measured. That measurement in turn is known as the Hall effect.
So how does that apply to Hall effect-ready thumbsticks? Well, traditional analog sticks, which are still used to this day for many first-party controllers including the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, Joy-Con controllers and even Sony’s DualSense, all rely on electrical resistance to register inputs.
This requires physical contact between the stick’s components, causing them to wear down over time. If you’ve ever had issues with your analog sticks registering movement even when no input is being made, then you’ve dealt with stick drift. This has been a common problem especially among Nintendo’s Joy-Con controllers, and can often render using your console infuriating, with several games unplayable.
Hall-effect joysticks sidestep this issue by requiring no physical contact between components. Instead, they leverage that aforementioned measurement of voltage to determine the input as well as the direction of it. As a result, this lack of contact means the sticks last much longer and avoid issues with drift entirely.
Hall effect thumbsticks have actually been around for quite a while. Back in the day, the Sega Dreamcast famously used the Hall effect for its singular thumbstick. This is partly why Sega’s swansong console has stood the test of time; its controller remains an excellent companion for the numerous close-to-arcade-perfect fighting game ports that appeared on the system, such as Street Fighter 3: Third Strike, Soul Calibur and Marvel VS Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes.
Today, we highly recommend Hall effect-ready controllers for the best fighting games and console-based best FPS games. Their resilience makes them the ideal choice for competitive multiplayer, especially for multiplayer-focused genres that often demand precise inputs and quick reflexes.
Which Hall effect-ready controller should I buy?
Controllers with Hall effect sticks and triggers are becoming increasingly popular and affordable. In fact, many are even cheaper than first-party gamepads offered by the big three console manufacturers. Here’s a quick list of our favorites to help you make a decision on which is right for you.
GameSir T4 Kaleid
This is my go-to controller for PC gaming and I regularly use it for multiplayer games including Final Fantasy 14 Online and Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising. The T4 Kaleid has an exceptional translucent aesthetic and sublime, clicky face buttons that feel so satisfying to press. Better still, it’s available at the compellingly affordable price of just $41.99 / £41.99.
The 8BitDo Ultimate ranks among our favorite Nintendo Switch controllers. This gamepad’s build and modules are all of a superbly high quality, and features an impressive 20 hours of battery life, as well as options for both Bluetooth and 2.4GHz connectivity.
What’s more, the Ultimate comes packed with a charging dock, allowing you to top up without plugging the controller into the console. It’s a bit pricier than the GameSir at $69.99 / £59.99, but it’s certainly worth the extra cash. The Ultimate has versions for both Nintendo Switch and Xbox Series consoles, and is also compatible with your PC.
Revolution 5 Pro
Nacon’s latest PlayStation 5 and PC controller doesn’t come cheap at $199.99 / £199.99, costing roughly the same as Sony’s DualSense Edge. However, the Revolution 5 Pro’s usage of Hall effect sticks and much better battery life has me preferring it over the first-party gamepad. There’s plenty of customization on offer with the Revolution 5 Pro, too, as it includes swappable grip weights, alternate stick and D-pad modules, and fully customizable profiles via its dedicated app.
Overall, Hall effect thumbsticks are a huge improvement over traditional analog sticks and are being increasingly embraced by third-party manufacturers like 8BitDo, GameSir and Turtle Beach. As they’re quickly becoming the new standard, it won’t be a surprise to see Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo embrace the tech for their next consoles or hardware revisions. Microsoft’s already part ways there with the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 - which features Hall effect triggers - but both it and the DualSense Edge lack the tech in their thumbsticks.
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.