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Horizon Hobby Spektrum DX8 Review

Spektrum starts off the year with a bang by introducing the new DX8 transmitter, featring realtime telemetry and DSMX technology.

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Channels: 8
Frequency: 2.4ghz
Integrated telemetry
Resolution: 2048
Frame rate: 11ms
Distributed by: Horizon Hobby
Manufactured by: Spektrum
MSRP: $429.99
 
Spektrum continues to offer us consumers even more options to stay connected to our models with their new DX8 transmitter. As one would assume, the DX8 is an 8-channel 2.4ghz transmitter, but under the hood, the DX8 features some pretty advanced technology including real time telemetry, LiPO or NiMH power source, SD card support, timer start with throttle up and an alert system feature that can be configured in what seems like an endless array of options to alert you of just about every situation that might creep up while your behind the sticks. Let's take a closer look at some of the DX8's features and what makes it different from the rest of the Spektrum lineup.

In the Box

Sliding off the cover and opening up the box reveals each component nicely packaged and stored within a nice formed chunk of foam. The DX8 ships with a full range 8-channel AR8000 receiver, the TM1000 telemetry receiver, 3 telemetry sensors (external voltage, temp, and data lead), a y-cable for the telemetry sensors, a neckstrap, wall charger, NiMH battery (already installed in TX), a getting started guide, and some decals.




Getting to know the DX8

Getting started guide/manual

For those of you, like me, who are just dying to get started playing with your new toy, the factory has put together a Getting Started guide to get you up and running fast. As you would expect, most of the items that you need to get up and running in quick order can be found inside the guide, but it lacks the more detailed explanations behind some programming features and detailed specs of the unit. Thats where the full instruction manual comes in. The instruction manual is very well put together and provides many insightful tips on the transmitter's capabilities. I suggest you give it a read over once or twice; you'd be surprised how much you can pick up in just a few minutes of reading the manual. For those of you who either misplaced your copy of the manual, or need an electronic version you can simply downloaded it from the Spektrum site.


DX8 Feature Set

Telemetry

While certainly not the only feature the DX8 has to offer, telemetry is the one that stands out the most to me personally. The DX8 features an integrated telemetry system that allows you to view things like RPM (electric or standard), temperature, voltage (receiver and external) and the quality of your signal in real time on your transmitter's display. The voltage and temperature sensors ship stock with the DX8, and the two RPM sensors are available as optional accessories. For those of you who are looking to save weight or have a small amount of space available, Spektrum has a smaller version of the telemetry unit, the TM1100, that features the same capabilities as the included TM1000 but has a smaller footprint and a reduced range respectively. In order to utilize the telemetry features, you'll need to have one of the receivers listed below, but to summarize, any Spektrum or JR/DSM receiver that has the Flight Log port can be used with the TM1000 or TM1100.

Partial list of compatible receivers
AR6255 AR7000 AR7100 AR7100R
AR7600 AR8000 AR9000 AR9100
AR9200 AR9300 AR12000 AR12100
R921 (DSM) R922 (DSM) R1221 (DSM) R1222 (DSM)
* All 2.4ghz Spektrum and JR/DSM receivers with the Flight Log feature (data port) can be utilized

Installation

The installation of the TM1000 (or TM1100) is pretty straightforward and took me about 10 minutes (not including the amount of time to prep my external voltage leads). First, I plugged the TM1000 into the data port on my receiver (in my case the AR8000). Then, using the provided "stylus", I depressed the bind button on the side of the telemetry receiver and powered up the receiver (I used a RX battery pack I had lying around). Once the receiver was flashing indicating it had entered bind mode, I set the sticks on my transmitter for my "fail safe settings", depressed the bind button and powered up the TX. I was greeted with a bind screen, displaying some resolution and framerate info. Once this initial handshake was completed, the transmitter returned itself to the main screen and allowed me to continue operation as normal. To view the telemetry stats and verify everything is in operational order, simply rotate the scroll wheel until the "Telemetry screen" is displayed.

In action

I've gotta admit, I like the idea of having telemetry available on the plane, but I questioned how usable it would be during flight when one has to take their eye off the plane to view it. To be honest, it's proven to be much less of an issue than I expected, and quite often either someone else reads it for me, or I simply lift the transmitter up to eye level where I can see both the plane and transmitter without being too distracted. Mind you, I wouldn't try and look at the telemetry of a pylon racer or quick EDF (I'd leave that to your spotter), but I think any issues with visibility are outweighed by the outright usefulness of this feature. Combined with the custom alarms the DX8 is capable of, you really wouldn't even have to glance at the real time display to take advantage of its features. For instance, say you had a flight pack voltage issue or a temperature issue that tripped an alarm trigger. The transmitter will alert you in the pre-selected fashion based on the telemetry's sensor readings, so you don't even need to proactively monitor the display for the telemetry to really become a useful tool.

Another cool feature which Spektrum just announced is the capability to view your real time telemetry info on your iPad/iPhone. They are calling this application 'STi', and I can see it being super useful for your spotter during flights. All in all, having the ability to see your models 'vitals' in real time is an awesome benefit and is useful from the time you plug your model in on the ground to the time you bring it back to the pits and power things down, in my opinion. I hope to see more models come to market with the same feature and would love to see further refinement of the technology to include things like altitude and speed indicators.


 


DSMX

Just recently Spektrum announced the release of the new DSMX technology. DSMX is a further refinement of their DSM2 product, and its necessity was fueled by crowded events (think SEFF, and Joe Nall), which left the 2.4ghz band saturated and pushing the limits of what the DSM2 technology was originaly designed for. DSM2 technology scans a wide range of frequencies when it's first powered up looking for channels with the least resistance (ie least interference) and selects its favorite two of them. During your flight it utilizes both of those frequencies to keep you connected with the cleanest possible signal it can while being fairly resilient to things that weren't intended for it. Now let me introduce DSMX.

According to Spektrum experts, the DSMX technology pseudo randomly selects 23 channels for frequency hopping and utilizes a redundant frequency agile wideband signal. The channels and order they are used in get selected each time you power on your transmitter are are determined in part by the individual ID of your transmitter. This even further increases the odds your transmitter won't experience any "collisions" and ensures you stay connected to your model in even the most demanding of 2.4ghz environments. In the video below, Horizon experts light up 100 transmitters (60 DSMX, 40 DSM2) and showcase the signal quality by showing off some 3D skills in close proximity to all the transmitters (if not right over them). Not only is the video a testimony to the signal quality, it also serves as a good explanation as to how DSMX works and what it has to offer.

The DX8 is capable of utilizing the DSMX functionality with its included 8 channel receiver by simply 'flashing' your transmitter via the SD card. Once you have done this, don't worry - you won't be limited to just using AR8000 receivers or other DSMX based equipment. Thankfully, Spektrum has decided that DSMX will be both backwards and forwards compatible with DSM2 equipment. That means that you can use your upgraded DSMX DX8 with a DSM2 AR500 in DSM2 mode, or you could use your DSM2 DX7 with an DSMX AR8000 in DSM2 mode. Most other DSM2 transmitters will be upgradeable to DSMX via a firmware update at the factory for a one time fee. All you want to know about DSMX can be found here on the Horizon Hobby site.

Model Types

The DX8 is capable of handling both airplanes and helicopters of up to 8 channels. For aircraft, you can select from 8 different wing types, and 5 different tail configurations. Helicopters have the option of selecting from 4 separate swashplate configurations as well.

Electronic E-Ring

When setting up your helicopters mixes, it's possible to exceed the mechanical travel limits of your servo. The DX8 features an electronic E-ring that prevents this from happening by limiting servo movements when it detects the servo is about to exceed its travel limits.

Vibrating Timer

Another one of the cool features that's new to the DX8 is its vibrating alert function. As your timer counts down (or if you power up the RX with the stick in an undesirable position), the transmitter will vibrate quite noticeably. This can be quite handy for those who fly at fields where there is a lot of noise, folks who listen to music while they fly, or those like me who are just simply too preoccupied and always end up just not hearing the timer. I was quite impressed with the amount of force the box shook with when I first experienced it. It can also be disabled f you so desire, and you can run with no alert or the standard beeps. Overall it's a very nice touch, and I have left it enabled and enjoy using it.

Timer on throttle

One of those things that is bound to become a "standard" function in future transmitters is the ability to easily enable your airplane's timer when you throttle up. The DX8 is part of a growing group of transmitters that enable this, and I find myself utilizing it on every model I fly with nowadays. Simply select it as the start method in the timer menu to enable this feature. You can also setup the percentage throw you want it to stop/start the timer. For those of you who fly electrics, this is extra handy as it allows you to more accurately track time you are actually drawing juice from you flight pack.

Gimbals/Sticks

Other then how the transmitter feels in your hand, the sticks and how they 'feel' to you are just about the most important thing on the box. The DX8 features dual ball bearings on each axis, so each stick has a total of four ball bearings. Out of the box, the DX8s stick movement has an ultra smooth feel to it, and when compared side by side to a DX5, DX7, and an 11X, the DX8 was ranked second in terms of 'stick feel' by a group of my friends and me. Another thing to keep in mind is that the gimbals are adjustable so should you desire a softer or stiffer feel, you can easily dial that in as well.

128MB SD Card

Another more "modern" feature that I just can't see myself living without is the support for some type of media card. The DX8 supports the use of an SD card, which allows you to easily share and backup your models settings while at the same time it essentially allows for an unlimited amount of model storage as well. No more doing the 10 model memory shuffle in this new world, either grab a bigger SD card and transfer your files to it or buy another and start storing models on it. It also makes updating the firmware easy as well, as you can simply load the firmware onto the card from your computer and upload it to the transmitter via its onscreen controls.



NiMH or LiPO

Nowadays it's pretty common for folks to run LiPO batteries in their transmitters. There are lots of benefits including lighter overall transmitter weight and extended intervals between recharges. That said, some prefer to stick with the older style batteries as they might not have the capabilities to charge a LiPO or don't like its fire danger. The folks at Spektrum have decided to ship the DX8 with the tried and true NiMH technology, but have made a 2s LiPO available as an optional accessory. In either case, the charger provided with the DX8 will charge the unit. If you decide to take advantage of the optional LiPO battery, be sure to set your cutoff voltage appropriately.

Large backlit display

When viewing the DX8 side by side with the DX7, its very apparent the display on the DX8 is much larger. The screen has been easy for me to view in all lighting conditions from the dimly lit garage, to the afternoon sun.

Ergonomics

The DX8 looks like a blend of the DX7 and DX5, but in your hand feels much more like the higher end 11X model in my opinion. Overall its very well balanced and when hung from its neck strap it lays perfectly flat. My hands are on the smaller size of average, and my hands fit the DX8 well. The rear of the transmitter is contoured to the shape of your hands, and its rubberized texture has a nice feel to it. The switches are nicely laid out on the box, and I don't find myself reaching or thinking that anything is placed in an odd location.

Flap delay and Elevator Compensation

The DX8 allows the option of 'smoothing' your flap deployment by allowing you to select a range of time over which the flaps are deployed. If you've ever had issues with dramatic pitch changes with the application of flaps, this can help make that much more manageable by gracefully easing you into a desired flap setting. Not long ago this type of functionality was reserved for much higher end models, or required the use of fairly expensive external hardware to accomplish. It's nice to see this feature built into the DX8, and I will continue to utilize it on all planes of mine that have flaps.

Custom Alerts

Allows you to setup audible/shake alerts for almost endless combinations. Want an alert when you exceed an RPM? Got that covered. Want your box to shake when RX voltage drops below a certain point?? Got that covered. Want to alert if the throttle is at greater then 8% when you start up?? Yup, they got that covered too. Just about everything I could think of that I would want to be situationally aware of can be bound to some type of alert (either audible, or sensory). I'm loving the fact that the types and situations when alerts occur are controllable by the end user. Another nice feature that once you get to learn the DX8 a bit you'll have fun tailoring it just that much more to your needs.

Other Features

The DX8 offers so many features it would hard for me to cover them all in the space of this review. Here's a brief summary of the DX8s other features:

  • 30-model internal memory
  • Active gain and governor trim allows for in-flight adjustment of the gyro gain and RPM
  • User-assigned switch function
  • Programmable Throttle Cut Function
  • Expo, Dual rates, differential, etc.
  • AirWare™ Software offers advanced features that are easy to use

Conclusion

To be honest I kind of chuckle when I hear someone call a product groundbreaking anymore. I guess it's just one of those terms that we get desensitized to over time as we see product after product that uses that marketing pitch to get our attention. For me, the DX8 really is a groundbreaking product in the sense that it combines many fresh technological capabilities with our most basic (and advanced) transmitter needs. Many transmitters have a lot of the functionality the DX8 features, and a few have a limited set of what the DX8 has to offer, but I don't think any currently offer the features of the DX8 wrapped up into one unit. In my opinion, that's what the DX8 does so well. It's managed to blend together all of the things we expect from our transmitters with things most didn't even think we're possible until recently in a fairly affordable and easy to use package. Spektrum certainly has raised the bar with the release of the DX8, and I can't wait to see what they have in store for the future.

While I hope this review serves as a great platform to help you gather an opinion of what the DX8 performs like, with something as personal of a choice as a transmitter, I strongly suggest you visit your nearest local hobby shop or flying field and put your hands on one before making a purchase. Everyone's tastes are a bit different ergonomicaly, but I've yet to find someone who wasn't impressed with the DX8's capabilities after showing them what it's all about.

Likes:

  • Easy to use interface
  • Hangs flat on my neck strap
  • Upgradable to DSMX out of the box
  • Telemetry

Dislikes:

  • Overall thickness of the unit could be a bit smaller for my hands (i.e. similar to the DX7 which fit my hand a bit better).

Last edited by gp125racer; Mar 21, 2011 at 12:09 PM..

Discussion

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Old Mar 21, 2011, 03:27 PM
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Joined Mar 2011
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Very nice review, was the DX8 barrowed for the purpose of the review or did you buy it? What do you think about all the bad publicity its getting from owners having issues with it?
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Old Mar 21, 2011, 03:44 PM
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Nice job on the review gp125racer.
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Old Mar 21, 2011, 06:56 PM
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Wow I want one now!! Great review!!
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Old Mar 21, 2011, 10:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RCing View Post
Very nice review, was the DX8 barrowed for the purpose of the review or did you buy it? What do you think about all the bad publicity its getting from owners having issues with it?
sticky wicket!
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Old Mar 21, 2011, 11:41 PM
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I've had no issues with mine after four months of use. I love it !!!! Very good review.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 12:13 AM
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Joined Jul 2002
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Great review (as always) Don! I will tell you that I just got my DX8 in a couple of weeks ago because I needed more channels than my DX6i had. If I had know how much more of a professional feel and look the 8 has over the 6, I would have made the purchase a lot earlier. The 6 reminded me a lot of my 5, whereas the DX8 is just a lot higher quality radio all the way around. The only minor complaint is that some times while trying to use the roller on the DX8, I have to press on it hard enough while trying to get it to roll that it accepts a click, or enter press (if this makes sense?) Super great radio though. And I know I have Horizon support should there ever be a real problem with it. Nice work again Horizon!
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 01:22 AM
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only thing I would like more to this radio is channels... would like it to become like the Futaba 8FG...
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Paul5910 View Post
.... The only minor complaint is that some times while trying to use the roller on the DX8, I have to press on it hard enough while trying to get it to roll that it accepts a click, or enter press (if this makes sense?) ....
Since the actual push button is located at one end of the roller you mite want to try to roll it from the other end. You can easily determine where its located by pressing at both ends and you will quickly find which one requires more or less force to actuate.

Then all you need to do when rolling is doing so near that end.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 05:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Switch_639 View Post
only thing I would like more to this radio is channels......
No arguments here. Would be cool even if I have yet the use for them.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 06:13 AM
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Originally Posted by freechip View Post
No arguments here. Would be cool even if I have yet the use for them.
lets start a poll!
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 06:16 AM
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Why? its kinda no brainer, who would not want more for free with a simple AirWare update go from 8ch to 10-12-14. The other brand radio was 8ch and now is 12+2 14ch all with free updates.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 06:19 AM
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who says spektrum would do so? we need them to! I want 11CH min...
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 06:31 AM
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As much as I agree with you and luv the idea I also know that the other brand did so because they needed to fill that gap. Where HH mite just tell you to get the Jr11X.
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Old Mar 22, 2011, 08:48 AM
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i wont as I need to pay then whenever dsmx gets released for it to upgrade... it would make lots of sense doing so, why would I want the big bulky 11Ch if I could stick with my cool DX8
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