One of the most daunting issues in gaming controllers, is “stick drift” – an annoyingly common mechanical failure occurring in game controller analog sticks. Infamously linked with the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons, this frustrating issue is also a known, albeit infrequent, occurrence for the Steam Deck. Stick drift manifests itself as phantom “movement” transmitted to the game, even when the analog stick is left untouched.
Does Steam Deck get stick drift?
Yes, Steam Deck handheld with it’s analog joysticks tend to develop slight stick drift over time. However, Valve’s savvy design approach for the Steam Deck, with its user-modification-friendly structure, offers a workaround. GuliKit, a third-party parts provider, is marketing affordable hall effect analog sticks for the Steam Deck, promising a solution to the vexing problem. This hall effect design substitutes the parts that physically interact with each other with an innovative combination of magnets and sensors. The outcome is a robust, durable stick that, to the gamers’ delight, is impervious to the stick drift problem.
With a small financial investment, the right toolkit, and a dash of bravery, you can quite easily replace the stock analog sticks of the Steam Deck with these upgraded hall effect ones. Here’s an in-depth official instructions from Gulikit: https://www.gulikit.com/productinfo/854122.html If you need more visuals then there’s also a well done from PCWorld video by Keith May, who provides a step-by-step guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YlDCzdsNy0
How to replace Steam Deck joysticks with Gulikit’s hall effect sensors?
Gulikit replacement kit is available on Amazon. Make sure to check if you have Type A or Type B thumbsticks first.
- [Universal model] GuliKit New Model Joystick Module: This Stick model is designed for Steam Deck Type A and B.There is a switch on the back of the module that switches between A and B models, allowing you to quickly select the type you need. Navigate to ‘Settings → System → Steam Deck Controller ID’, ‘MEDA’ is Type A, ‘MHDA’ is Type B.
- [No Drift] This Hall Effect Electromagnetic Stick fixes issues like joystick drift, blind spots, dead zones, no click, no centering, broken and loose sticks.
- [Easy to install] This joystick module does not require welding and is equipped with a joystick cap, which can retain the original touch function of the Steam Deck.
- [Calibration] After GuliKit joysticks are installed, turn on Steam Deck, press the tiny switch on the board of joystick module to get joysticks calibrated. Do not touch joystick during the process.Enter joystick calibration interface on Steam Deck, calibration is well finished if you see the spot return to center position（0,0）.If the spot is off-center, please follow the detail steps in our picture.
- [Save your money] GuliKit Electromagnetic Joystick Module is designed to replace the joystick of a Steam Deck controller. This is an economical way to repair worn, out-of-control, insensitive and drifting joysticks.
- [Perfect Compatibility] GuliKit Electromagnetic Module joystick (New model: SD02), designed to perfectly fit Steam Deck Type A and Type B. The included converter allows you to easily select the TYPE you want. (‘Settings → System → Steam Deck Controller ID’, ‘MEDA’ is Type A, ‘MHDA’ is Type B)
- [No More Drifting] Bid farewell to stick drift, creeping, stuttering, blind spots, non-centered, broken, and loose joysticks with GuliKit’s patented 3D Hall Effect Sensor joystick.
- [Easy Installation] No need to worry about soldering, the joystick comes with installation caps that preserve Steam Deck’s original touch functionality. If you experience stuck joystick issues, it is due to the cap that comes pre-installed and came loose during shipping. You only need to press the cap vertically down in the center position to use it normally.
- [Seamless Calibration] Select the Type A or Type B mode on the joystick board, enter the joystick calibration interface on Steam Deck and press the tiny switch on the joystick board if the spot is off the center position. (Follow the installation and calibration steps in our product description picture).
- [Satisfaction Service] With AKNES, you can confidently enjoy our top customers’ support. If you encounter any issues, please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to assist you.(Read the AKNES store page introduction, you can contact us.)
To begin the modification, you’ll need some essential tools. A spudger, a collection of guitar picks, or other equipment suitable for delicately prying apart the case will be necessary. In a bind, a pocket knife could serve the purpose, albeit sub-optimally. A cross-headed screwdriver and a pair of tweezers should also be at hand. A soldering iron is an optional but very useful addition. Once you’ve removed the eight screws securing the rear of the case, you can then use your spudger to carefully detach the back shell.
Once the back interior of the Steam Deck is visible, you should promptly identify the right and left stick modules, secured in place by three screws each. Utilize your tweezers to raise the protective cover on the ribbon cable, then unscrew. Removing these four points of connection should allow you to extract the analog stick by applying slight pressure from the front side of the Steam Deck. Repeat this process for the other stick.
After the modules are out, you need to transfer the analog sticks from the old to the new modules. These sticks are tethered to the modules with a minuscule red cable that is soldered, which serves to detect when your thumbs are resting on the stick.
If you don’t find this feature necessary, you can sever or remove the cable, and the sticks will function perfectly well without it. However, if you wish to retain this functionality, you’ll need to use your soldering iron to heat the solder on the old module and carefully extract the bare copper wire. This wire then needs to be re-soldered into the corresponding location on the GuliKit replacement module.
Once you’ve successfully mounted the old plastic analog sticks onto the new module’s circuit board, the Steam Deck is ready to be reassembled. Properly position the newly assembled sticks back into their respective places on the housing, then screw them back in and reconnect the ribbon cable, lowering the black protective cover carefully. Repeat this process for the other side.
With the final step of reattaching the rear body panel of the Steam Deck and reinserting the eight body screws, you’re all set! Your Steam Deck is now equipped with upgraded, professional-grade hall effect joysticks that are entirely immune to stick drift.
Guide to Calibrating the Steam Deck’s Thumbsticks in SteamOS
Follow this guide closely after replacing the thumbsticks, as per Valve’s recommendation.
(Note: Be aware that, as of version 3.3 of SteamOS, thumbstick and trigger calibrations may not function. However, a future release is expected to restore this functionality.)
Step 1: Initiating the Konsole Application
For calibration, we’ll be using SteamOS’s console application, named Konsole. To get started, you might need to switch to desktop mode first, if you haven’t done so already. To do this, go to the Steam Menu, select ‘Power’, and then choose ‘Switch to Desktop’.
If you’re operating your Steam Deck without an external keyboard, you’ll need to enable the on-screen one. By pressing the Steam Button + X, the on-screen keyboard is activated.
Once you’re in desktop mode with your keyboard ready, open the Search menu and look for ‘Konsole’. Launch the application, and make sure the on-screen keyboard doesn’t block the Konsole window.
Step 2: Kick-off the Thumbstick Calibration Process
With the Konsole application open, the calibration process is initiated by typing in ‘thumbstick_cal’. If you prefer, you can simply type ‘thum’ and press Tab for auto-complete. After entering the command, press Enter.
Step 3: Undertaking the Thumbstick Calibration
The calibration software will start by setting the thumbsticks’ neutral position. Make sure not to touch the thumbsticks, ensuring they remain centered, then press Enter.
Next, the software will calibrate the thumbsticks’ full range of motion. To do this correctly, click on any empty area of the desktop to move the cursor away from the Konsole window, ensuring it’s not in focus.
Proceed to rotate each thumbstick in a full 360-degree motion twice. Once you’ve completed this, click back on the Konsole window to regain focus and hit Enter.
And voila! Your thumbsticks should now be successfully calibrated, with the terminal displaying a “Thumbstick calibration successful” message. This completes your guide to thumbstick calibration on the Steam Deck within the SteamOS.