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Teardown Tuesday: PlayStation Move Controller

In this week’s Teardown Tuesday, we tear down a PlayStation Move controller to see what ICs and parts make up current gaming technology.
The PlayStation Move is Sony's answer to the Nintendo Wiimote. The Move functions as a usual PlayStation controller with all the familiar buttons, but it's also loaded with sensors which allow users to translate physical motions into digital controls. Let's see what's inside!

Key Parts

There are several recognizable parts in the Sony Move. Here's a list before we get going.

The Outside

The unit is made using plastic and held together with four screws. The top of the unit has a rubber-like sphere that is easily compressible. The bottom has various IO ports. The unit, itself, is shaped in such a way that makes it easy to hold. Because these units are designed to be moved and swung around, it's fairly sturdy.

The PlayStation Move controller

The controller has multiple buttons including the PlayStation staples: X, circle, triangle, and square. The bottom of the unit contains a trigger and the sides contain the start/select buttons.
The controller also has two additional buttons: one is located in the center of the four main buttons on the top and the other is a smaller PlayStation-logo button below.


The trigger
 
Label found on the backside of the controller
 

I/O ports found on the back of the controller

Opening the Controller

The controller was very easy to open. It's only held together with four screws located on the back of the controller in the corners. Opening it revealed all the major parts in the controller, including a vibration motor, lithium-ion battery, circuits, modules, and even ribbon cables.
Strangely, the sphere is mounted onto one-half of the casing while the rest of the components are mounted on the other side and the two are electrically connected via a flat ribbon cable. Such a move makes putting the unit together not only more difficult (as the cables are very short). It also makes repair more expensive as it can only be accomplished by hand and usually with through-hole connectors.


The controller opened

The battery found in the unit is a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of 1380mAh at 3.7V. The battery, itself, is incredibly well-built with rubber padding placed on the outside to prevent jostling.
Considering how small electronic components have become, the design decision to use a large high-capacity battery makes sense (as there's a large amount of empty space in the controller). On top of that, a controller may be easier to use if it has some weight behind it and so the battery may also act as ballast.

The battery removed from the controller
 
Closeup of the battery

Removing the battery and battery housing allows for the backend that houses the I/O ports to be removed. This reveals a pair of PCBs holding different USB ports whose functions are primarily for charging.
It also reveals the vibration motor. Many games call for haptic feedback whereby a player action results in the player feeling palpable feedback from the controller. One classic example is firing a gun in a game—most modern shooter games activate the vibration motors in controllers when the player fires their weapon. This gives a realism effect and helps players know when their gun is firing. Vibration motors can also be used for situations such as explosions and even heartbeats.


The battery removed
 

The vibration motor and I/O USB ports

Topside PCB

The topside of the main PCB is entirely visible without the need to remove additional parts or housings.
The first feature that stands out is the large microcontroller that was revealed upon removing the battery. This IC is a standard STM32F103 microcontroller that contains an ARM-based CPU, 128KB flash, USB, CAN, timers, ADCs, and plenty of peripherals. The package shown on the PCB is a 100-pin LQFP and commonly sells for $6 - $10 each.


The STM32 microcontroller – The heart of the PlayStation Move

Next to the microcontroller are many gold pads with identifications of TPxx. These are test points that are used to test and program the controller before it is sent out to ensure that it functions correctly. Such test points add complexity to the PCB design and incur many costs when producing the item, so they are usually found on more expensive products. It would not make economic sense to vigorously test cheap items that are easily replaced when damaged or faulty.


The many test points found on the topside of the PCB

Further down the PCB (near the sphere) there is the ribbon connector, a small IC with the identification AKM8974, and a module with a metal shield with the ident 701A12B ALPS. The metal shield is easily removed with a small flathead screwdriver which reveals a few parts, including a serial EEPROM (24C32) and a BC4REA16 Cambridge Silicon Radio Bluetooth RF IC. The serial EEPROM will most likely store information such as network names and passwords.
One reason for using enclosed modules as seen here is to help with EMC control since the metal case helps to absorb emitted EM signals for circuitry such as clock and data lines. The AKM8974 is a 3-axis magnetic axis absolute compass that uses I2C to communicate with the main controller.


The Bluetooth module
 
The metal shield removed

Backside of the PCB

The backside of the PCB reveals many surface-mount parts including a range of ICs, resistors, capacitors, and pads. The buttons on the controller press into a rubber membrane mold that then presses onto small switches on the surface of the PCB.


The backside of the PCB

The top section of the PCB (near the sphere) contains the switches and contact pads for the buttons.
Further down the PCB, several ICs can be found, as well as a module that contains a metal shield. The first IC, the KXSC4, is a 3-axis accelerometer which is useful for gesture detection. Accelerometers cannot be used for absolute position or even current velocity as they only detect a change in speed (remember, acceleration is dv/dt).


The 3-axis accelerometer KXSC4

A really interesting module sits nearby which is enclosed in a metal shield that appears to be plated with gold. The identification on this module is unhelpful (11648) but thanks to some online resources, I identified the integrated circuit mounted inside as the STM LPR425AL 2-Axis gyroscope. Removing the shield was done in the hope of seeing the internal circuitry, but it turns out that the internals are made on a ceramic base which resulted in some damage.


Metal shield covering the gyroscope
 
The ceramic device revealed

The second IC below the module is the Y5250H which is a Z-axis gyroscope. While no datasheet can be found for this part, it is frequently associated with the PlayStation Move controller which suggests that this part number could be specific to the production line. Some online resources identify this part as being the STM LY5250 (an accelerometer).


The one-axis gyroscope

Below these ICs is a large collection of parts and other ICs including the BRQ11J (BQ24080) and the CEE TI J (TPS63030). The BRQ11J is a lithium-ion IC charge controller manufactured by Texas Instruments and the CEE TI J is a single inductor buck-boost converter.


The rest of the PCBs components

The Sphere

The sphere that sits on the top of the controller is mostly space which contains a single multi-color LED.

Interestingly, a thick metal wall can be seen which provides the space needed for the ribbon cable to access the LED. The reason for this metal shield may be due to EMC control and here's why. To improve efficiency and to create interesting color patterns, the RGB lines will be switching and changing voltage levels rapidly. Such rapid changing (even if the frequency is in the low kHz) creates EM emissions which can easily violate FCC and CE specifications.

Since the RGB lines also cross RF modules and antenna, there is a good chance that the RGB lines will pick up interference and then re-emit the signals further down the line. Therefore, the metal shield around the ribbon cable helps to absorb emitted radiation by the ribbon cable and therefore help to meet FCC and CE specifications on EM emissions.


The sphere


The sphere removed
 

The metal shield

Summary

In AAC teardowns, we generally concern ourselves with discovering what components are used in devices and commenting on design choices. But I feel compelled to say that this PlayStation Move controller has to be the most beautifully built board I have even seen.

It shows common ICs that anyone can purchase and use (with surprisingly few unidentifiable parts). All parts are incredibly clean. Many PCB design features are demonstrated, such as test points, stitching via, and EMC control. Overall, the unit as a whole is very well put together.

Looking at this complex device, it's strange to how game controllers in the past have evolved from just a few buttons to gyroscopes, accelerometers, magnetic sensors, pressure buttons, and complex trigger actions.

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