Ra­dio Roundup



Top picks for programmable RC sys­tems

Whether you’re a rel­a­tively new RC mod­eler look­ing to step up to a ra­dio with more fea­tures, or an ex­pe­ri­enced pilot want­ing to see what else is out there for programmable trans­mit­ters, this ra­dio roundup highlights some of our edi­tors’ top picks for mi­dlevel sys­tems. We se­lected these six radios be­cause they’re ideal for the sport flier and have lots of fea­tures for the price, mak­ing them ex­cel­lent val­ues. Each is a good in­vest­ment that will pay you div­i­dends in sav­ings, per­for­mance, and ease of use.


Spek­trum DX6e $179.99

For the price, the Spek­trum DX6e programmable ra­dio of­fers value. Us­ing the same DSMX tech­nol­ogy and easy-to-use AirWare pro­gram­ming found in the higher-priced pro-level Spek­trum trans­mit­ters, the DX6e is loaded with fea­tures nor­mally not found in this price range. For new­com­ers to the hobby as well as ex­pe­ri­enced RC pilots, this well-equipped 6-chan­nel ra­dio sys­tem is a great in­vest­ment. Be­gin­ners can grow into it as their air­planes be­come more ad­vanced, and sport pilots will ap­pre­ci­ate all the bells and whis­tles.

The well-laid-out trans­mit­ter has all the standard two- and three­p­o­si­tion switches for mixes, aux­il­iary chan­nels, and dual rate se­lec­tion, and a Bind push but­ton at the up­per left. The on/off power switch is re­cessed. When switch­ing off the trans­mit­ter, you de­press the switch for about three sec­onds so that there are no ac­ci­den­tal power in­ter­rup­tions. A stylish neck-strap hook is in­te­grated into the case de­sign, but a lan­yard is not in­cluded. With its 250-model mem­ory, we like the way the pro­gram­ming makes the mem­ory menu easy to nav­i­gate. Only the mem­ory slots that ap­pear are the ones that have model set­tings saved to it. This means that you don’t have to scroll through a bunch of empty slots or move mod­els around should you delete any.

With an at­trac­tive price of only $179.99 (with re­ceiver), the DX6e is far from be­ing just a bud­get ra­dio. It is a fea­ture-rich 6-chan­nel ra­dio, and it has all the fea­tures you’d ex­pect from a more ex­pen­sive sys­tem.

Hitec Aurora 9X $339.99

The Aurora 9X has four times the res­o­lu­tion (4096) of the orig­i­nal Aurora 9, and fea­tures Hitec’s triple pro­to­col, al­low­ing se­lec­tion from the G1 and G2 Adap­tive Fre­quency Hop­ping Spread Spec­trum (AFHSS), fea­tur­ing bidi­rec­tion and sin­gle di­rec­tion, and Se­cure Link (SLT) 2.4GHz tech­nol­ogy. The 9X can be used with any trans­mit­ter­ready (Tx-R) model us­ing the SLT pro­to­col as well as Hitec’s Op­tima, Min­ima, and Max­ima re­ceivers.

The Aurora 9X has a dual pro­ces­sor, for im­proved (low-la­tency) in­ter­face re­sponse speeds of 7ms, as well as an ex­ten­sive teleme­try mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem and more than 30 ad­di­tional pro­gram­ming en­hance­ments. Like the pre­vi­ous ver­sion, the 9X re­tains the same easy-to-read, 5.1-inch-wide back­lit touch­screen. All the switches are dy­nam­i­cally as­sign­a­ble for the ul­ti­mate in easy setup and func­tion place­ment. Avail­able with a va­ri­ety of re­ceivers and as a “trans­mit­ter-only” pack­age, you can or­der the 9X ex­actly the way you want it. An­other neat fea­ture is an in­ter­nal vi­bra­tion de­vice, so you can choose the feel of the trans­mit­ter’s pro­gram­ming cues and warn­ings. Most of the mixes have an op­tional 7-point curve ad­just­ment. There are four 3-po­si­tion switches and three 2-po­si­tion switches, all as­sign­a­ble.

Ev­ery­thing about nav­i­gat­ing its program menus and ad­just­ing the ra­dio’s fea­tures is easy and in­tu­itive. From the cus­tom sub­menu to col­lect your fa­vorite func­tions and mixes to as­sign­ing switch func­tions and adding teleme­try func­tion for in­creased in-flight aware­ness, the Aurora 9X pro­vides com­plete con­trol.

FrSky Tara­nis X9D Plus $230.48

If you like flex­i­bil­ity and the abil­ity to con­fig­ure your hard­ware to your par­tic­u­lar tastes, then the FrSky Tara­nis X9D Plus is for you. Con­trol as­sign­ments, trans­mit­ting for­mat, and even the in­ter­nal firmware can be tai­lored to fit your in­di­vid­ual tastes. Dis­trib­uted by Hob­byKing, the Tara­nis is a com­fort­able-to-hold 2.4GHz trans­mit­ter ca­pa­ble of up to 16 chan­nels. The trans­mis­sion for­mat is the ACCST fre­quen­cy­hop­ping spread spec­trum, and it’s com­pat­i­ble with FrSky’s X se­ries, D se­ries, and V8-II se­ries re­ceivers. With X and D se­ries re­ceivers, the Tara­nis can re­ceive real-time teleme­try and will warn you of sig­nal de­grades. The X9D also in­cludes a mo­d­ule port that will ac­cept Spek­trum or OrangeRX modules.

Dom­i­nated by a large back­lit LCD dis­play, the X9D has a va­ri­ety of two- and three­p­o­si­tion switches, slid­ers, and knobs, all of which can be con­fig­ured to con­trol any func­tion. The ra­dio of­fers both voice and vi­brat­ing prompts to keep you informed about flight time, low-volt­age alarms, and se­lected flight modes.

Pro­gram­ming is straight­for­ward; you can use the setup wiz­ards or en­ter set­tings man­u­ally. The X9D’s mixer ca­pa­bil­ity is truly amaz­ing. With 64 programmable mix­ers, you’re un­likely to ever run out. Teleme­try-ca­pa­ble re­ceivers, like the X8R, in­clude a jumper so that you can se­lect the bind­ing mode. Once bound, the re­ceiver is as­signed to that model mem­ory, mak­ing it nearly im­pos­si­ble to se­lect the wrong model. In­clud­ing a com­pletely open pro­gram­ming struc­ture, the Tara­nis X9D Plus re­quires a lit­tle more study and ini­tial setup than some other com­puter radios, but once you mas­ter the pro­gram­ming and op­er­a­tion, there’s al­most noth­ing it can’t do.

Futaba 10J $319.99

The Futaba 10J boasts an ar­ray of fea­tures usu­ally found only on high-end, pro-level trans­mit­ters. It has a mod­ern case de­sign with no vis­i­ble an­tenna and a back­lit, easyto-read main dis­play. The 2.4GHz FHSS sys­tem in­cludes mul­ti­ro­tor, air­plane, he­li­copter, and glider pro­gram­ming with user-up­dat­able soft­ware and a 30-model mem­ory as well as mul­ti­ro­tor pro­gram­ming. The 10J is eas­ily within the bud­get of the av­er­age pilot and even for first-time pilots.

The 10J is avail­able in two ver­sions: Air­plane (10JA) and He­li­copter (10JH), both of which have the same pro­gram­ming. The dif­fer­ence is in the switch lay­out and the throt­tle—the heli ver­sion hav­ing a smooth throt­tle ver­sus the air­plane ver­sion’s ratch­et­ing throt­tle. No ser­vos are in­cluded, al­low­ing the pilot to choose the ap­pro­pri­ate ones for the air­craft. In ad­di­tion to the 10J trans­mit­ter, a R3008SB re­ceiver, switch har­ness, neck strap, and in­struc­tion man­ual are in­cluded. The sys­tem is com­pat­i­ble with all Futaba FHSS re­ceivers. To take ad­van­tage of the teleme­try fea­tures, a T-FHSS Air re­ceiver, such as the in­cluded R3008SB, is re­quired. The de­fault com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem is T-FHSS but can be switched to S-FHSS for other re­ceivers with­out teleme­try. A va­ri­ety of sen­sors are avail­able to help you re­motely mon­i­tor the air­craft’s con­di­tion. No sen­sor is needed for the re­ceiver volt­age data. For air­craft with many ser­vos, you can use the S.Bus/S.Bus2 sys­tem to sim­plify servo wiring and clean up their in­stal­la­tions.

Graup­ner MZ-12 $149.00

The MZ-12 is packed with many ameni­ties. The switches are placed for ease of ac­cess, and pol­ished hex-head fas­ten­ers lock on the silver gim­bal sur­round plate. Dig­i­tal trim tabs and eight di­rec­tional/se­lec­tion but­tons han­dle all ad­just­ments and program set­ups. The short hinged an­tenna can be pointed straight out or folded out of the way at 90 de­grees to the case. The silver power switch has raised tabs for pos­i­tive touch ac­ti­va­tion. When pow­ered up, the main logo il­lu­mi­nates in red and the 128x64 back­lit screen lights up in blue. Six­teen bits of info are listed on the main screen, dis­play­ing trans­mit­ter/re­ceiver sig­nal strength, ra­dio/re­ceiver volt­ages, timers, trim set­tings, trainer sta­tus, model type, and more. Two op­er­at­ing in­struc­tion man­u­als are mostly filled with screen shots and info about nav­i­gat­ing through them. An 8-chan­nel, light­weight re­ceiver (GR-16L) is in­cluded, along with a neck strap.

Built-in teleme­try in­cludes an in­te­grated screen in the menu list for easy ac­cess. You can see the re­ceiver’s (in-flight) op­er­at­ing volt­age and sig­nal power among other im­por­tant flight data, with op­tional modules/ sen­sors. The MZ-12 has two ex­tra dig­i­tal chan­nels when this combo is used, so more re­ceivers can be con­nected to the pri­mary re­ceiver, al­low­ing you to have up to 32 chan­nels. The unique Graup­ner HoTT trans­mis­sion sys­tem fea­tures built-in teleme­try right out of the box. Pro­gram­ming is in­tu­itive.

FlySky i10 $169.99

Dis­trib­uted by Di­a­mond Hobby, the FlySky FS-i10 10-chan­nel ra­dio in­cludes a 10-chan­nel teleme­try-ca­pa­ble re­ceiver and four teleme­try sen­sors—one each for tem­per­a­ture and volt­age and two for rpm. Other good­ies in­clude an I-Bus re­ceiver, ex­ten­sions for the sen­sors, a bind plug, and re­flec­tive foil/mag­nets for the rpm sen­sors. A 55-page in­struc­tion man­ual is on the in­cluded CD.

The first thing you no­tice while han­dling the trans­mit­ter is how in­cred­i­bly thin it is. It’s prob­a­bly half the thick­ness of a nor­mal trans­mit­ter, which also makes it very light. The in­ter­face screen is front and cen­ter, and presents a lot of in­for­ma­tion with­out be­ing too busy.

Un­der the trans­mit­ter bat­tery is a port for an SD card. If de­sired, an ex­ter­nal USB charger and ex­tra trans­mit­ter bat­tery pack are avail­able. Us­ing a 2.4GHz AFHDS 2A (Au­to­matic Fre­quency Hop­ping Dig­i­tal Sys­tem 2), the ra­dio is de­signed for fixed-wing planes, he­li­copters, and glid­ers. Loaded with fea­tures that you nor­mally wouldn’t see in a bud­get ra­dio sys­tem, it has a 20-model mem­ory, which is vir­tu­ally un­lim­ited with the use of an SD card. The high-res­o­lu­tion color home screen has a touch­screen in­ter­face, and a sty­lus (stored in the trans­mit­ter’s bot­tom back right cor­ner) is in­cluded to nav­i­gate the menus. Us­ing the in­ter­face quickly be­comes fa­mil­iar as it’s much like a smart­phone. Eight switches (two three-po­si­tion and six two-po­si­tion) and three ro­tat­ing knobs and slider switches are all as­sign­a­ble.

SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS Model: Spek­trum DX6e Man­u­fac­turer: Spek­trum (spek­trumrc.com) Dis­trib­u­tor: Hori­zon Hobby (hori­zon hobby.com) Band: 2.4GHz Model mem­ory: 250 Sys­tem: DSMX, DSM2 Teleme­try: Yes Re­ceiver: AR610 (in­cluded) Price: $179.98 WE LIKE ›› 250-mem­ory ca­pac­ity ›› Easy pro­gram­ming ›› Bud­get price

SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS Model: Aurora 9X Man­u­fac­turer: Hitec RCD (hite­crcd.com) Dis­trib­u­tor: Tower Hob­bies (tow­er­hob­bies.com) Band: 2.4GHz Model mem­ory: 30 Sys­tem: AFHSS (sin­gle- and bidi­rec­tion) and SLT Teleme­try: Yes Re­ceiver: Not in­cluded Price: $339.99 WE LIKE ›› Touch­screen in­ter­face ›› Easy setup and pro­gram­ming ›› Cus­tom screens

SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS Model: Tara­nis X9D Plus Man­u­fac­turer: FrSky (frsky-rc.com) Dis­trib­u­tor: Hob­byKing (hob­byking.com) Band: 2.4GHz Model mem­ory: 60 (ex­pand­able with SD card) Sys­tem: ACCST Teleme­try: Yes Re­ceiver: X8R (in­cluded) Price: $230.48 WE LIKE ›› Clean, er­gonomic de­sign ›› Fully programmable switches and func­tions ›› Un­lim­ited pro­gram­ming

SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS Model: 10J Man­u­fac­turer: Futaba (futabarc.com) Dis­trib­u­tor: Hob­bico (hob­bico.com) Band: 2.4GHz Model mem­ory: 30 Sys­tem: T-FHSS Air, S-FHSS (switch­able) Teleme­try: Yes Re­ceiver: R3008SB (in­cluded) Price: $319.99 WE LIKE ›› Easy to program ›› High-end func­tions ›› Mul­ti­ro­tor program menu

SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS Model: HoTT MZ-12 Man­u­fac­turer: Graup­ner (graup­ner.de) Dis­trib­u­tor: Open Hobby (open­hobby.com) Band: 2.4GHz Model mem­ory: 20 Sys­tem: FHSS Teleme­try: Yes Re­ceiver: GR-16L (in­cluded) Price: $149.00 WE LIKE ›› Bud­get price ›› In­te­grated teleme­try screen ›› Easy pro­gram­ming

SPECIFICATIONSModel: FlySky i10 Man­u­fac­turer:(fly­skyrc.com) FlySky Dis­trib­u­tor: FlySky (fly­skyrc.com) Band: 2.4GHz Model mem­ory: 20 Sys­tem: AFHDS 2A Teleme­try: Yes Re­ceiver: 10-chan­nel (in­cluded) Price: $169.99 WE LIKE ›› Good value ›› Slim, easy-to-hold case ›› Unique dis­play screen

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