I remember well the leap I took from a simple four-channel sport aircraft radio to my first six-channel computer radio. The radio, an adaptation of a previous 72MHz unit, is terrific and I use it often, but the smallish segmented LCD display and largish manual make for an often frustrating experience when it comes to even the simplest of programming changes.
My next computer radio was somewhat better in that regard with its larger and more detailed dot matrix screen, but some of the programming steps and menus remain less than intuitive coupled with an even larger manual.
If you've been reluctant to make the leap from a sport radio into a computer radio because of programming issues or maybe price, have I got news for you.
Airtronics/Sanwa and Global Hobby Distributors are proud to present the Airtronics SD-6G, a powerful yet affordable spread-spectrum six-channel computerized aircraft radio that's actually fun and easy to program. What's more, this is a full-range unit capable of flying any three- to six-channel aircraft imaginable. Adding to the fun and flexibility are helicopter programming with pre-programmed templates and a vast choice of useable receivers suitable for anything from micro indoor to giant scale.
Thanks to Mike Greenshields, vice president of product development and marketing for Airtronics and Global Hobby Distributors and the man who had direct development input, I now have the privilege of sharing this radio with you.
Please join me for part one of this two-part review as I go over the fixed-wing functions of the SD-6G. We'll see how well it works with a large, flat-foam aerobatic/3D sport plane, a balsa/ply electric semi-scale warbird and a balsa/ply nitro-powered sport plane.
Part two will showcase the array of helicopter functions with the aid of an electric T-Rex 450 Pro clone.
Grab a cup of joe or the refreshment of your choice and let's get started!
|Operating Voltage:||6.7 - 9.6v|
|Current Drain:||130 - 200mA|
|Temperature Range:||32 - 122 degrees F (0 - 50 degrees C)|
|Pulse Width:||0.9 - 2.1msec|
|Weight with Batteries:||26.45 oz. (750g)|
|Operating System:||Airtronics/Sanwa FHSS-1 frequency-hopping spread-spectrum|
|Supplied Receiver:||Airtronics RX-600 six-channel full-range with dual coaxial aerials|
|Second Receiver As Tested:||Airtronics RX-40V four-channel limited-range with single coaxial aerial|
|Batteries:||Four Ni-Cd AA-cell and multi-plug charger included|
|Distributor:||Global Hobby Distributors, 18480 Bandilier Circle, Fountain Valley, California 92708 USA|
|Available From:||Any hobby shop which stocks Airtronics products|
|Retail Price/Sale Price (USD):||$199.99/$179.99|
This is one feature-packed system. Just a very few of those features include:
The transmitter is compatible with no fewer than seven different FHSS receivers. In the lightweight park flyer receiver department, you may choose from the following:
Full range receiver choices include:
Pretty much everything you need to get started is included:
Since this is a review and not an operating guide, I'll keep this simple.
You'll first need to install and charge the six supplied nickel metal hydride AA batteries, preferably overnight. According to Mike Greenshields, the decision to use AA-cells as opposed to a dedicated transmitter battery pack was one of world economics. Some packs might not be available in certain parts of the world, but AA-cells are universal.
Mike knows his stuff and if you ever have the opportunity to attend the annual AMA Expo in Ontario, California, make it a point to look him up at the Global Hobby booth. You'll be glad you did.
While the juice is cooking, take some time to read the well-written and illustrated manual in order to become acquainted with all this radio is capable of. You might also take a few well-spent moments to read the .pdf of Mike Greenshields' in-depth interview with Model Airplane News below:
There are protective clear plastic shipping films atop the programming screen and the brand strip. The cover on the screen came off fine, but the one atop the brand didn't and it left an adhesive residue. Worse, my attempt to remove the adhesive with Goo Gone didn't work and WD-40 removed some of the black coloring. At least I'd photographed everything before I tried to remove that upper film.
Moral: Leave the covering over the brand name in place.
I'll begin this section with a quick tour of the switches.
To a sport radio user stepping into the SD-6G, the myriad of toggle switches might be somewhat intimidating, but there's really nothing to it.
The small switches atop the unit select the programmable flight modes. In other words, you can select more or less aggressive control with either of the two switches, all of which is programmable through the menu. The large switch on the left is the "dead man's switch" for the trainer and the one on the right controls retractable landing gear on models so equipped. That switch is one of the greatest ergonomic features of the SD-6G; I've flown planes with retracts using both of my other computer radios and I never fail to fumble for the landing gear switch. On the Airtronics, it's in a natural place that won't require one to take his or her eyes off a plane in flight just to find the retract switch.
The secondary switches on the front panel include "C-MIX" or "compensation mix" which allows toggling of differential mixing of flaperons. The larger switch to its right controls either flaps or gyro while the switch at the far right is a simple dual-rate switch. Rounding out the lineup is a throttle cut button for an engine-powered model.
There's a quick-start guide on page eleven of the manual which explains in plain language what's needed to bind the receiver to the transmitter. I was somewhat surprised to discover that the enclosed RX-600 full-range receiver was already bound, but of course, the four-channel Airtronics RX-40V park flyer receiver Mike sent along for use in my review of the MyRCDesigns.com flat Depron foam P-51 was not.
All one needs to do after turning on the transmitter is to hold the bind button on the receiver while turning it on. The button on the receiver is released and the transmitter's bind button pressed. Once the LED in the receiver glows solid blue, the system is ready. There are no binding plugs to lose, a real plus.
Once one gets the hang of programming the SD-6G, it becomes almost second nature. One or two models is all it will take to get a feel for it.
Everything starts with the "ENTER" button within the navigational keypad in the lower right corner. A click connects to the menu screen with its utterly enormous menu selections as seen in the photos. I for one have no trouble seeing an average menu screen, but this is a tremendous help to anyone trying to set up the radio outdoors at the field. Equally as large and useful are the stopwatch and battery voltmeter on the screen as displayed in regular operating mode. Four multi-use buttons are above the keypad; for the sake of simplicity, suffice to say these are primarily used in programming mode to enter a menu choice and to exit the programming mode.
Once a model memory is selected, a model name may be entered. Each model memory choice defaults to the "ACRO" fixed-wing setting, but a simple highlight and click of "ACRO" allows it to be switched to "HELI" mode if desired.
Using the navpad to scroll to "MODEL NAME," the name programming menu is accessed with a click of the "ENTER" button. Up to eight characters in standard upper and lower case Latin alphabet and Arabic numerals may be entered; Japanese script and other symbols may be entered as well. There's no space key, but each column of characters has an erase icon immediately to the left. The navpad can be used to highlight an unwanted character and with a click of the erase icon, bingo. One space or deleted character coming up. The use of multiple erase icons might not be particularly intuitive, at least at first, but it's a fast and easy way to delete characters without having to constantly scroll to a space bar.
A click of the "END" button returns the SD-6G to the menu screen. From there, it's a simple matter of scrolling down to any one of various settings including end-point adjustment, throttle cut, servo reversing, trainer function, etc. All of the choices are on a single menu screen; my other radios have multiple menu functions which almost invariably means the manual will have to come out in order to adjust the setting, let alone find it.
There's one other oddity I should point out: Unlike the common setup of channel one as the ailerons and channel two as the elevator, Airtronics swapped the two. The throttle and rudder remain on channels three and four respectively; channels five and six are the usual assignments for retracts/external receiver battery and flaps/flaperons.
The supplied and very compact Airtronics RX-600 six-channel will fit in pretty much any airframe in which you choose to install it. However, note that the coaxial aerials are somewhat longer than those you may have seen on other brands, so fitting them in a narrow fuselage while maintaining the recommended 90-degree offset my prove to be difficult. If space is a problem, the aerials can be run parallel to each other.
Mike was kind enough to supply an Airtronics RX-40V four-channel park flyer receiver for use on a MyRCDesigns.com flat Depron foam P-51 sport plane/3D flyer. This is an incredibly small and compact receiver scarcely larger than a US dime; it's excellent for indoor flyers. Mike assured me that the factory's claim of a 100-meter range wouldn't be a problem.
As it turned out, he was absolutely correct.
Like the full-range RX-600, the RX-40V has a coaxial aerial longer than those found on other brands. This was no problem; I simply taped the aerial along the bottom of the fuselage, set up the radio with the model's recommended throws and no exponential and I got the P-51 in the air.
At no time did the small receiver exhibit even the slightest hint of a loss of signal. The high frame rate of the SD-6G manifested itself in buttery-smooth, accurate control. Simply put, anyone stepping into this radio from a 72MHz sport radio is going to notice an immediate difference. I still use my old four-channel on occasion and it simply doesn't compare to any 2.4GHz radio with a high frame rate in terms of smoothness, let alone a premium brand like Airtronics.
If you'd like to see the P-51 in action as controlled by the SD-6G, simply click here.
I admit to being somewhat of a bargain hunter when it comes to our great hobby. When this bargain presented itself at the Coachella Valley Radio Control Club's annual swap meet, I grabbed it.
Sixty bucks got me a nearly new and complete balsa/ply P-51 electric in Bob Hooper/Rockwell International pylon racing livery less receiver. It had been converted from the original brushed, geared 400 motor to a Turnigy outrunner and ESC with four HobbyKing nine-gram servos. The first thing that went through my mind is how well the SD-6G would work with this potentially hot little number which needed little more than a minor repair to the motor mount and, of course, a receiver.
You may recall my earlier statement as to how positioning the full-range receiver's aerials in a ninety-degree offset might prove to be tricky in a narrow fuselage. There was simply no way to offset the aerials at ninety degrees, so I ran one of the aerials directly into the rear of the fuselage, brought the other around toward the front and taped it down as close to 90 degrees as possible.
Once more, setting the control directions, control throws and exponential was simplicity itself and the radio was ready with just a few minutes' work. Even with the inexpensive mail-order servos used in the model, the response was a smooth and as linear as the similarly sized Hitec HS-65 servos in the first example.
I became comfortable with the P-51 mere moments after takeoff. This small, fast model responded to the commands from the SD-6G as smoothly as a simulator. The small ailerons made rolls a bit slow and clumsy, but beyond that, the P-51 flew as effortlessly as if I'd been flying it for years.
I was more than convinced that the high frame rate of the SD-6G had a lot to do with how well this baby flew.
I chose this particular one-time review subject because I've flown it on both my 72MHz four-channel sport radio as well as with the six-channel 2.4GHz spread-spectrum radio I used to review it in the first place.
The difference between the two was dramatic with locked-down control on the 2.4GHz system. The comparative lack of smoothness as flown with the 72MHz sport system was, if anything, even more pronounced.
It's a fairly generic sport plane that had a couple of rough landings post-review due to a dead stick on takeoff and a failed elevator servo on final approach. It's been rebuilt with a new fuselage, new wing and an upgrade in power from the original new/old Thunder Tiger GP40 to a more modern Thunder Tiger PRO 40. It's also sporting a new GWS servo working the ailerons and which I'm reviewing as well.
Swapping the RX-600 receiver from the wood P-51 to the Wingman II was easy, but once more, the long aerials and relatively narrow fuselage dictated that I tape down the coaxial aerials parallel to one another on either side of the fuselage.
Reprogramming the transmitter was equally easy; it only took a couple of minutes to rename the model assignment and reset the servo throws and directions. The only problem I faced was in getting the throttle cut function to work properly. Even with the SD-6G's extensive servo setting functions, I simply couldn't get that throttle cut to work properly. I'll be switching over to a longer servo arm which should do the trick.
Once in the air, the results were immediately apparent.
Performance seemed to be at least as good as the other 2.4GHz system and incomparably better than the 72MHz system. Even with a bit of wind, the Wingman II tracked straight and true despite the lack of additional exponential. The new GWS servo with its additional aileron throw and operating speed certainly made the model more responsive, but never was it twitchy nor did I ever feel as if control was compromised.
What's more, the outstanding stick feel of the Airtronics only added to the stability and certainly to the fun; between the addition of the Airtronics radio and the new aileron servo, the US$99 Wingman II took on the feel of a sport model costing twice as much.
Once I get the throttle cut working right, the installation will be perfect.
Absolutely. Any beginner who is serious about growing with the hobby and who is looking to buy their first good radio would be wise to consider the SD-6G. For a few dollars more than a simple sport radio, a beginner would get a radio that's easy to program and will fly almost any three- to six-channel model around. When one considers an industry-leading choice of receivers and Global Hobby Distributor's fantastic customer service, those few extra dollars spent on a radio such as this becomes a worthwhile investment.
The Airtronics SD-6G may well be the finest system in its class and price range. It's easy to program, affordably priced, able to work with a broad range of Airtronics and Sanwa FHSS receivers and imparts a definite and very tangible feel of increased control. Add to that outstanding documentation and the aforementioned quality of Global Hobby's customer service and the result is the most enthusiastic thumbs up I can muster. This is a radio I'll be looking forward to using for a long time to come.
Helicopter fans, part two of this two-part review is coming soon. Look for it here on RCGroups.com and on Crackroll.com.
Many thanks go to Mike Greenshields of Global Hobby Distributors, one of the finest, friendliest and most knowledgeable individuals in the hobby industry today. His direct input with the engineers at Airtronics/Sanwa resulted in an ergonomic and technological winner. Tim May of MyRCDesigns.com in Henderson, Nevada was a pleasure to work with during the review of his Depron P-51; the SD-6G was going to be part of that review from the start.
None of these reviews are possible without the unending behind-the-scenes help of RCGroups.com administrator Angela Haglund.
You, our constant and faithful readers, are why we do what we do and all of us here at the RCGroups.com family of R/C websites thank you for your time and comments. As always, enjoy your stay at the internet's largest R/C website and we'll see you here for part two of this review!
There's so much to like about this system that it's hard to find a place to start, but here goes:
The only minus I could think of isn't much of one at all:
|Jul 23, 2011, 05:49 AM|
Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia
Joined Mar 2008
Nice ... but:
1. Spring tab contacts for the loose Tx cells? Why not the safety of a welded pack? Is it able to take installation of a welded 6 cell pack, with the usual "Z" connector power lead?
2. Mode 1 capable?
I own an SD-10G and was looking at one of these for training / sports models.
|Jul 23, 2011, 10:25 AM|
According to Mike Greenshields, the decision to use AA-cells instead of a square pack was made due to the ease of obtaining them all over the world. I double-checked the manual and AAs are the only option. They're individually cradled and a firm fit. I thought it best to mention it early in the review since the decision might have struck some folks as unusual.
Mike also mentioned via a thread on RC Universe that a user conversion to Mode 1 wasn't possible; both the sticks as well as the computer would have to be changed. You'd have to specifically order a Mode 1 unit. Here's the thread:
Hope this helps.
|Jul 23, 2011, 11:23 AM|
Also, something not mentioned in the manual - Those tiny holes on the face of the transmitter are to tension the stick springs... Handy and no one seems to notice them! I surely didn't for a week.
And yes the AA's are SNUG...
|Jul 23, 2011, 12:22 PM|
I too fly an SD-10G and was looking at getting the SD-6 but was put off by the sloppy feel of the gimbals. I think they could have done just a little better than that....
|Jul 23, 2011, 05:28 PM|
|Jul 24, 2011, 04:24 PM|
Joined Sep 2002
Thanks for the well written review!
About the AA batteries, I use my RDS8000 with the stock battery holder without any problems. Technically, it's as safe as soldered battery packs. Only in the plane, were you get all the vibrations from the engine, I prefer soldered packs.
|Jul 24, 2011, 06:29 PM|
United States, NJ, Brooklawn
Joined Jul 2008
regarding the use of AA cells,
IMHO, it was a positive selling point for me when I bought my DX6i. At this price point, the SD-6G and DX6i will be the first "big boy" radios most people enter the hobby with. This means they're green, and are already loaded down trying to keep things strait with charging lipos and/or RX packs. Heck, Many of them won't even have advanced multi-chem chargers yet!
That said, it was nice to be able to charge the AA cells through the DX6i, and carry a pack of AA's as my backup in case I forgot to charge before going to the field. The SD-6G offers this same level of simplicity, which is exactly what a beginner needs.
|Aug 08, 2011, 09:51 PM|
I've been using the SD-5 as a buddy box for my sd-10. It works, but I think the SD-6 would offer better features for a buddy box. Thanks for the review, Ive been eying the SD-6s
|Sep 10, 2011, 02:15 AM|
The sloppy gimble issue around center is the main problem I have heard with this transmitter.... Tightening the springs fixes this... Is this correct?
This is the main reason I have not invested in this particular option yet...
Is the latency speed comparable to their 10G?
|Sep 10, 2011, 12:50 PM|
|Dec 29, 2011, 10:48 PM|
Joined Dec 2011
How would I program a little bit of flaperons into f mode 2? I have a sailplane and want to have a thermal mode which requires some camber. Any ideas?
|Aug 06, 2012, 08:56 AM|
If You Fly Dynam/Airfield Retracts, You Better Get A Specktrum
I've really enjoyed my SD-6G, and have a lot of airplanes with 5 and 7-channel FHSS-1 receivers in them. I finally bought an airplane with retracts, so that I could use my long-dormant 6th channel. It was a Dynam Grand Cruiser Cessna 310. I got the ARF, put it together, and checked everything out with my servo tester. Everything worked great until I bundled it up, hooked up my receiver and battery, and powered up. I couldn't get the landing gear to function at all. I tried everything, including playing with the EPA, DR/Expo, and even switching the gear to the flap switch, and just to experement, to the ailerons. Nothing.
I called Nitroplanes tech support, and it only took them five minutes to figure out the problem. They said that the Dynam and Airfield retracts just flat don't work with the SD-6G. They suggested I call Airtronics tech support to see if there is a software or firmware update that would fix it.
I called Airtronics tech support, and sure enough, got a very sympathetic support guy that confirmed the problem. He said he has an Airfield warbird with the same problem. He said that he had complained up the chain at Airtronics, but couldn't get anyone to do anything about it. The only suggestion he had,other than sending an complaint email to the head Airtronics U.S. guy, was to upgrade to an SD-10G, which doesn't have that problem since it uses FHSS-2 frequency hopping. That really blows! I could buy E-Flite retracts, and double the cost of my airplane, spend $500 for an SD-10G (and receiver) that has WAY more capability than I will ever need, or just sell all my Airtronics stuff on eBay and buy a Specktrum. I shoulda gone with the Specktrum from the beginning. It was a close call when I made the decision to go with Airtronics, and now I've got a radio that Airtronics targets for the type of user that flys Nitroplanes airplanes as the main part of his fleet, and can't use the retracts!
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