Alongside the new PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro consoles, Sony announced the release of a brand new version of the Dualshock 4 controller.
It’s not uncommon for Sony to revise their controllers; there are 15 different versions of the PS3 controller, and 4 versions of the ‘v1’ Dualshock 4. Cosmetically however, the controllers are all very similar, and carry the same model number. The v2 Dualshock 4 is different in this regard, featuring USB communication with the PS4, a translucent strip across the touchpad, and a new model number to boot (CUH-ZCT2).
The strip across the touchpad allows the LED inside the controller to shine through the front of the controller towards the user, with the aim of providing the user a clearer view of the colour of the light. This is a divisive change; while some users will welcome the change, one of the main complaints of the v1 controller was the inability to turn the bar off – this change makes the bar even more visible.
A few other minor changes include a new matte surface around the face buttons, grey buttons and thumbsticks, and the removal of the divider between the shoulder buttons from the controller shell (it is now part of the button assembly, meaning it is now the same colour as the buttons rather than the shell).
To see what has happened inside the controller, I decided to open one up.
Opening the shell
The clips on the new controller are in the same place as the original. After removing the screws, gently squeeze the front section of the case in either of the bottom corners. I find it easiest to unclip one of the sides first. Insert a spudger into the gap created on the outside of the controller, and gently move it upwards. Once it becomes tight to push, wiggle it back and forth until the clip detaches.
Next, slide your tool into the gap just above the headphone/ext port. Aim for the middle of the port, as there are two small clips either side. Push down on the tool, and these clips should release easily. Repeat the first step on the other side (should be easier this time), and the controller will start to come apart.
Lift the back of the shell from the bottom, and slide the top part over the shoulder buttons. Like the v1 controller, the triggers are part of the main ‘skeleton’ of the controller, so you should not have to worry about pieces falling out.
It’s immediately clear that there are changes to the shell used on the v2, to accommodate the light bar on the touch pad. A section of clear plastic is sticking up from the back of the controller, extending the piece used to shine the light through the main light bar on the back of the shell. There are no extra LEDs for the second light strip, it is through this plastic that light from the original LEDs travels to reach the touchpad.
The touchpad itself is modified, with the bar across the controller lowered, creating a space for the light to shine through. This means the new touchpad can not be used in the older controllers, at least not without modification.
The new board, designated JDM-040, is smaller than previous boards. The previous board (JDM-030) introduced dual pressure connectors for the face buttons, one on either side of the controller. Earlier versions used one pressure pad towards the top of the controller, a design that has been revisited for the v2 (albeit in a slightly different position). The touchpad connector has also moved over slightly. The LED/charging cable in the rear part of the shell appears much longer than older designs, and its socket is now at an angle. The LED/charging board is smaller than other designs.
One final, and crucial, change has been made regarding the battery. Despite using the same battery as the earlier models, the plug/connector used has been changed. The controller uses a JST-ZH connector, which is smaller than the JST-PH connector used in the v1 controller.
The change in connector type means that batteries from older controllers cannot be used in the v2 controller, and vice-versa. It’s an interesting design choice by Sony; the PH connector had featured in every battery powered Dualshock controller prior to this controllers release, and there are no obvious issues with the connector design. Could Sony be releasing a ‘pro’ controller in the future with a higher capacity battery? Or is this designed to temporarily stall the market for Chinese aftermarket batteries? Maybe time will tell. (Note: Sony have since released two licensed pro controllers, but neither contains a battery).
By and large, the internal changes to the controller are pretty much what is expected of a controller revision – a redesigned board, with slight changes to the case as a result. A couple of new features make the controller stand out against the old design, but the experience when using the controller is largely the same. If you don’t need a new controller, I don’t think it is worth the cost of an upgrade as a result.