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Futaba 8JA 8-Channel 2.4GHz S-FHSS Transmitter - REVIEW

Chris Mulcahy takes a look at one of the latest transmitter releases from Futaba, the 8J.

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Introduction

The newest addition to Futaba's S-FHSS range of transmitters is the 8J. An 8 channel radio, packed with many features you would only expect to see on a much more expensive radio, Futaba have combined some impressive programming into an inexpensive transmitter. Bundled with the transmitter is the R2008SB receiver, capable of running a high voltage setup that is also S.BUS compatible. The 8J also features the blisteringly fast frame rate of it's older sibling, the 6J, at 6.8ms.

Channels: 8
Frequency: 2.4ghz S-FHSS
Frame Rate: 6.8ms
Model Memory: 20
Manufactured by: Futaba
Receiver: R2008SB 2.4GHz S-FHSS
Available From: Hobby Retailers
Price: $279.99

Features

System features

•Futaba S-FHSS 2.4GHz security (also compatible with FHSS)

•Airplane and Helicopter modes

•20 model memory

•S.Bus-compatible S-FHSS receiver

•Wireless transfer of model data to and from other 8J transmitters

•10-character model and user naming

•Large (128 x 64 dot) backlit LCD display

•8 channels (one variable knob, five 2-position switches, two 3-position switches, one momentary switch, two digital levers)

•Quick and easy programming using a jog dial and three buttons

•End point adjustment

•Dual Rate/Expo (any switch selectable)

•Servo reversing

•Sub Trim on all 8 channels

•Digital Trims

•Trim Step adjustability

•ATL (Adjustable Travel Limit)

•Failsafe on all 8 channels

•Trainer mode

•Throttle cut

•Two Count-up/Count-down timers plus integrated timer

•Model timer

•Range check mode

•Servo Monitor/Test

•Auxiliary Channel switch/level assignability

Airplane Features

•Six programmable mixes (two with curves)

•Flaperons with differential rate

•Flap Trim

•Differential Ailerons

•V-tail mixing

•Elevon

•Ailevator

•Snap Roll

•Elevator/Flap mixing

•Airbrake/Landing

•Aileron/Rudder mixing

•Flap/Elevator mixing

•Gyro sensitivity

•Throttle curve (5 points)

•Pitch curve (5 points)

•Throttle delay

•Throttle/Needle mixing (5 points)

•Idle down (any switch selectable)

Helicopter Features

•Six programmable mixes (two with curves)

•8 Swash Plate types

•5 Flight Conditions (normal, idle up 1, idle up 2, idle up 3, hold)

•Throttle curve (five points/four curves)

•Pitch curve (five points/five curves)

•Throttle hold

•Hover pitch mixing

•Hover throttle mixing

•Gyro sensitivity/mixing

•Governor setting/mixing

•Hi/Lo Pitch mixing

•Offset mixing

•Condition delay

•Throttle mixing (swash>throttle)

•Throttle/Needle mixing (5 point curve)

•Swash AFR

•Swash mixing

•Electronic swash ring

•Throttle delay

•Revolution mixing

In The Box



The 8J comes in a smaller form factor box than most of Futaba's transmitters. The space for servos has been eliminated as the 8J does not come with any. Along with the transmitter, and the R2008SB receiver, you also get the usual accessories; a neck strap, switch harness, small plastic screwdriver, and instruction manual.



Transmitter



There's no denying the family resemblance between the 6J and 8J, but there are a number of differences and additions to the 8J. Starting at the top, the 8J features the same internal antenna as the 6J. Don't be fooled by its unassuming appearance, it is a full range antenna, and in fact there are actually two antennas in the transmitter. Starting at the top left is a momentary switch behind a two position toggle switch. On the front face underneath (still on the left) are two two-position toggle switches (one long, one short). On the right shoulder is a two position switch behind a three position switch. Underneath those (again, same side) is a short two position switch and the longer three position switch. In the center of the 8J is a rotary knob, and you get six digital trim tabs.



The 8J does come in two different flavors, Air and Heli. The 6J includes two throttle ratchets so that you can change out the feel of the throttle stick, where as the 8J comes with one or the other depending on which version you get. The version in this review is the Air version, which has a ratcheted throttle, defaults to acro on new models, and has all the three position switches on the right hand side of the transmitter. The heli version features a smooth throttle, defaults to heli on new models, and has the three position switches on the left hand side as per the norm with heli transmitters. Preferring a smooth throttle stick, one of the first things I did was remove the throttle ratchet, hammer it flat, and reinstall it. Unfortunately the shoulder switches cannot easily be switched around, so make sure you choose your transmitter version carefully! The differences between the two versions are physical, the programming features are the same regardless. While you have the back of the transmitter open, you can also change the stick tension.

The 8J runs off of four "AA" batteries (not included). While this provides plenty of power (I have yet to change out the batteries after hours of usage), you do have the option of removing the "AA" battery tray, and installing Futaba's FHT5F1700B NiMH 5-Cell 6V 1700mAh transmitter battery pack. There is an option in the 8J's parameter menu to change from a 4 cell pack to a 5 cell pack.



Let's face it, compared to other transmitters on the market, the 8J lights up like a Christmas tree! When powered up you are greeted with a large backlit LCD screen, a backlit navigation switch, and a status LED on the top of the transmitter. The brightness of the LCD screen is adjustable, and the timeout for both the screen and the navigation switch are adjustable. The status LED has several different colors to choose from. As far as I can tell, this feature is purely asthetics, and the status LED reverts back to the default blue (flashing) when certain flight conditions are selected. The only thing I can think of is that at a quick glance it should be apparent if you have a flight condition activated.



Several status colors to choose from:

Navigating the menus on the 8J is very easy, with the joystick style navigation switch using the jog dial. It's basically a four way switch with a fifth switch activated by pushing the joystick down. The bezel of the joystick is backlit with LEDs, and is very bright. There are also three additional push buttons for altering values and exiting out of menus. The navigation joystick is more akin to any number of popular video game controllers, and is very user friendly. To enter the menu you hold down the "+" button, navigate with the joystick, and use the "+" and "-" buttons to change values. To back out of menu trees and exit to the main screen you use the "end" button on the left side of the main screen.



The length of the sticks are also adjustable, like most transmitters. You simply unscrew the top half of the stick, and then tighten the lower half of the stick once you have the desired length. I fly "pinch" style with my thumb and finger, and prefer slightly longer sticks than most stock lengths, so I appreciate this feature.

Receiver


The 8J comes bundled with the R2008SB 2.4GHz S.Bus S-FHSS 8 Channel Receiver. This is a great receiver with a lot of features built in. It features the same "dual antenna diversity" as the transmitter, but probably the two biggest features are its high voltage and S.Bus capability. High voltage allows you to use up to 7.4v straight into the receiver, which translates into a two cell unregulated Lipo battery (assuming your servos are HV too). More power to your servos, less parts to fail (e.g. regulators). Its S.Bus capabaility allows you to chain up to 16 servos off of one cable (in theory). What this means practically, is that helicopter pilots can setup flybarless gyros with just one cable from the receiver to the gyro, and airplane pilots can gang up aileron, elevator, and rudder servos without having to use seperate channels. Click here for more info on S.Bus.
The R2008SB is also one of the quickest receivers available. With a frame rate of only 6.8ms, you get a locked in and connected feeling like no other. However, it is worth remembering that the 8J (and 6J) are not compatible with Futaba's FASST line of receivers.
The link procedure is very straight forward. You simply turn on your transmitter, and then the recevier. You then hold down the link button on the receiver for two seconds, and the receiver will link up with your transmitter (indicated by a solid green LED on the receiver). Futaba warns against doing this procedure with many S-FHSS/FHSS transmitters in close proximity, and to double check that you actually are linked with your own transmitter if you do.

Model Setup

To set the basic parameters of a new model, you use the parameter option in the main menu. Here you select type, acro or heli, along with swash type for heli. You can also adjust the settings for the various lights, including timeouts, tones, contrast etc. I found the menus to be easy to navigate and intuitive, most of the functions can be figured out without the use of the instruction manual.

The 8J also features the ability to wirelessly transfer models from one 8J transmitter to another. Under the model transfer menu, you can select to transmit or receive. This can be useful if you want to give your model settings to a friend, or transfer models to a backup transmitter.

The 8J can also change the number of trim steps for each individual channel. The number defaults to 4, but can be dialed down to 1. You can also crank it up to 40! The trim menu also conveniently shows where your current trim tabs are set to.

Helicopter Setup

Helicopter setup begins by selecting a new model, and choosing "helicopter" as your model type in the parameter menu. One of the neat features of the 8J is its compatibility with Futaba's flybarless gyro - the CGY750. Just like the 8FGS, you can tune each gyro straight from the transmitter. You also have the ability to set and adjust the CGY's governor function from the transmitter. Remember the S.Bus compatibility? Well that also comes into play with the CGY750. You need only run a single cable from the receiver to the CGY750, instead of the several cables required without S.Bus. Many flybarless gyros are also S.Bus compatible, again cutting down the number of cables used. There is an abundance of heli specific features, including 5 point throttle and pitch curves, up to 5 flight conditions, 8 swash types, 6 programmable mixes, as well as throttle and flight condition delay - to name just a few. It's a very impresive line up of features, and makes the 8J a more than capable heli transmitter.

Airplane Setup

Once you select "aerobatic" as your model type, you are presented with the airplane specific menus. You are also able to use the S.Bus system with airplanes, by utilizing S.Bus hubs, but if you want to stay traditional the 8 channels are more than enough to set up planes up to at least 35% in size. In addition to the 6 programmable mixes (four normal and two with curves), you have a number of preset mixes including flaperon, aileron differential, v-tail, elevon, ailvator, snap roll, ele/flap, air brake, ail/rud, and flap/ele. That's a lot of mixes, and you have the ability to assign any mix to any switch on the transmitter. You also get a throttle curve and a pitch curve (for variable pitch props).

Fail Safe

The 8J features a programmable failsafe. By default, all channels except the throttle are set to "normal", which instructs the servos to hold during loss of signal. The throttle by default is set to reduce to 20%. You can preset where you want the servos to go during failsafe, and personally I set the throttle to shut off. In the case of my larger gas airplanes, I use optical ignition kill switches which I set to "off" if the receiver loses connection.

Flying

I used the 8J with a Great Planes Dirty Birdy (reviewed recently here on RCG). I wrapped the receiver in foam, and ran the antenna wires 90 degrees to each other per the instruction manual. I use a small piece of fuel tubing glued in place to use as a holder for the antenna wires. In the photo below, you can clearly see the first antenna secured in place, while the second one was ran 90 degrees straight up into the fuse after the photo was taken.

Programming the model was very easy, without the need for consulting the manual. However, if you do find yourself referencing the manual, it is laid out in such a way that they give you an example of something you might want to do, and then show you how to accomplish it. The 8J also has a great range check feature. When holding the jog dial down when turning on the transmitter, you are presented with the range check menu. From here you can select range check, on, or off. "On" will power up the transmitter as normal, where as "off" will power up the transmitter without transmitting. Range check puts the 8J into a low power mode for checking your connection to your model at about 30 paces or more away. A cool feature added to range check mode is the ability to turn on a servo test, which will slowly cycle all of your servos throughout their set travel range, while you walking away from your model to range check it.

The Dirty Birdy range checked just fine with the engine running, so it was time to take off and give it a try. The first thing I noticed was that the 8J really did have a fast connection to the receiver. Even with standard servos, the Dirty Birdy responded quickly and was very precise. Rolling maneuvers stopped exactly where I wanted them to, and all of the switches had a good solid feeling click to them when used.

The 8J balances a little "nose" down with the stock battery setup, and I imagine with the slightly heavier rechargeable battery it will balance perfectly on the neck strap.

The video below shows the 8J in action with the Dirty Birdy, both on the maiden flight and then several flights later.

Youtube Link

Conclusion

The 8J is an impressive transmitter packed with features. It feels good in your hands, and all of the switches are in just the right places for easy access while flying. For this price point you would be hard pressed to find a transmitter with this sort of functionality. Its light up screen and navigation dial are ideal for night flyers, and its fast speed is great for anyone looking to get the best possible response time out of their models. I certainly have no reservations about using this transmitter with any plane or heli that I own!

Pros Cons
Extensive Features Rechargeable Battery Not Included
Solid Design No Telemetry
Backlit Display and Navigation No Software Update
Quick Response

Last edited by Angela H; Jun 28, 2012 at 04:48 PM..

Discussion

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Old Jun 28, 2012, 08:38 PM
DJO
Custom FPV Setups
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United States, CT, Stafford
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Great review! I was waiting for this one to show up on RCG! I love the look of the 8J... but right now for that price I'll stick with my DX4e...



Dan
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Old Jun 28, 2012, 10:22 PM
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Nice pictures, layout, and copy. You are raising the bar!!
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Old Jun 29, 2012, 03:49 AM
Registered User
Joined Sep 2002
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Great pics!

Btw,
Servo frame rate is 6.8ms (S-FHSS). Frame rate is not latency.

http://www.rcheliwiki.com/Frame_rate

Certain analog servo won't work.

FHSS is 1Ch-4Ch only. (Frame Rate 13.6ms)
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Old Jun 29, 2012, 07:32 AM
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nice review - how is this radio on sailplanes as there doesn't seem to be a Sailplane/Glider option in basic set-up ... or did I miss that?
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Old Jun 29, 2012, 07:44 AM
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The radio is designed for helicopter.
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Old Jun 29, 2012, 08:20 AM
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CSpaced's Avatar
Oak Ridge, NC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pippin View Post
Great pics!

Btw,
Servo frame rate is 6.8ms (S-FHSS). Frame rate is not latency.

http://www.rcheliwiki.com/Frame_rate

Certain analog servo won't work.

FHSS is 1Ch-4Ch only. (Frame Rate 13.6ms)
From the link you posted:

Frame rate is the frequency with which position updates are sent from the transmitter to the receiver, or from the receiver to the servos.

You are correct, frame rate is not latency. Frame rate is how quickly the receiver sends updates to the servos. The higher the frame rate, the quicker the servo responds. This reduces overall system latency, improving its response speed.

I can't speak for all analog servos, but the S3004s used in the Dirty Birdy worked great.
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Old Jun 29, 2012, 08:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by big bird View Post
nice review - how is this radio on sailplanes as there doesn't seem to be a Sailplane/Glider option in basic set-up ... or did I miss that?
There isn't a sailplane specific model, just airplane and heli. However there are 6 programmable mixes available in airplane mode in addition to the preprogrammed mixes, so I'll bet that you could mix in whichever feature you wanted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pippin View Post
The radio is designed for helicopter.
This is incorrect, the radio is designed for both airplane and helicopter. You can choose which switch layout you prefer based on which models you fly with it.
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Old Jun 29, 2012, 08:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by webdr View Post
Nice pictures, layout, and copy. You are raising the bar!!
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.
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Old Jun 29, 2012, 09:34 AM
Ron - AMA 1025
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8j

Great review, I bought one when they first came out about month after retiring my 15 year old Super 8. Had tried some of the other radios (DX8, A9, 9503) but liked the Futaba better. And you can't beat the price, $279 from Tower with a $50 off coupon ($229) - and the 6 channel rx's can be had at $39 each shipped off ebay. And I like the no antenna thing.
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Old Jun 29, 2012, 06:33 PM
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The Futaba 8J is a big dissapointment!

No FASTest transmission and NO TELEMETRY!

Not even compatible with FAST???

I am a 14mz owner who hopes that Futaba will have an upgrade for us to use FASTest and Telemetry!

..However I just purchased a Spektrum DX8 and it came with 2 extra receivers and the TM1000 telemetry module along with their new DSMx transmission. Can't beat this for the money.

Futaba you can keep coming out with your $$$ transmitters for the rich like the 18mz........but you have fallen way behind with only one transmitter which is telemetry capable!!! The Spektrum DX8 is a great transmitter for the price!!!

Thanks for the picture with the rear cover removed....nice to see the internal printed circuit boards!

Michael
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Old Jun 30, 2012, 02:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CSpaced View Post
There isn't a sailplane specific model, just airplane and heli. However there are 6 programmable mixes available in airplane mode in addition to the preprogrammed mixes, so I'll bet that you could mix in whichever feature you wanted.



This is incorrect, the radio is designed for both airplane and helicopter. You can choose which switch layout you prefer based on which models you fly with it.
You are right. I should have written that the radio is optimized for helicopter but features airplane mode as well.
But if you want to make full use of a glider like the Radian Pro, you might want to get a radio that has flight modes (conditions) in AIR as well (like the Futaba 8FG).

Would be nice Futaba could add this feature in AIR as well. But I am not sure if the 8J has sufficient range for full house glider like a large full composite model.
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Old Jun 30, 2012, 09:37 AM
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Though I don't have the time to read all the above, I wanted to thank this thread's/review's author for taking the time go into those details. For me, it's between the Spektrum DX8 and this more affordable radio. My lhs sells both of these radios, but most people still like the DX8 over this, but I will certainly come back later to give this the complete read/shot that this radio deserves.
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Old Jun 30, 2012, 09:46 AM
Park Stormer
United States, NJ, Brooklawn
Joined Jul 2008
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a few questions:

-What is the difference between the 2.4ghz spec this radio uses, and the the one used on the higher end models?

-Can a helicopter spec radio be programmed to default to Airplane models?

-Does the radio support Lipo batteries (ie Low Voltage notification)?

-Is the nav via a joystick and Jog dial, or just joystick? You use both terms in the review...

-Is model memory expandable via SD card?
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Old Jun 30, 2012, 10:06 AM
Ron - AMA 1025
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelT1960 View Post
No FASTest transmission and NO TELEMETRY!

Not even compatible with FAST???

I am a 14mz owner who hopes that Futaba will have an upgrade for us to use FASTest and Telemetry!

..However I just purchased a Spektrum DX8 and it came with 2 extra receivers and the TM1000 telemetry module along with their new DSMx transmission which is spread spectrum!!! Can't beat this for the money.

Futaba you can keep coming out with your $$$ transmitters for the rich like the 18mz........but you have fallen way behind with only one transmitter which is telemetry capable!!! The Spektrum DX8 is a great transmitter for the price!!!

Thanks for the picture with the rear cover removed....nice to see the internal printed circuit boards!

Michael
Personally I don't care at all about telemetry, I am watching my plane when I fly, not a screen telling me how my voltage is, I can either set a timer or when my plane slows down a little I land.

And didn't care about FAST compatablility, having 20 or so planes ready to fly, rx cost was a big deal to me - FAST $80, FHSS $39.

I just sold a DX8 and checked out the Aurora 9, 9503, 11X and 8FG. Didn't like the feel, tx cost and or rx cost. For the money ($229) the 8J was an easy choice, IMHO. FHSS is spread spectrum also.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pippin View Post
You are right. I should have written that the radio is optimized for helicopter but features airplane mode as well.
But if you want to make full use of a glider like the Radian Pro, you might want to get a radio that has flight modes (conditions) in AIR as well (like the Futaba 8FG).

Would be nice Futaba could add this feature in AIR as well. But I am not sure if the 8J has sufficient range for full house glider like a large full composite model.
The tx can be bought as a 8JA (aircraft) or 8JH (heli). Does not have specific sailplane funtions, but the aircraft settings will take care of 90% of those.

Quote:
Originally Posted by helinewbie617 View Post
Though I don't have the time to read all the above, I wanted to thank this thread's/review's author for taking the time go into those details. For me, it's between the Spektrum DX8 and this more affordable radio. My lhs sells both of these radios, but most people still like the DX8 over this, but I will certainly come back later to give this the complete read/shot that this radio deserves.
You can buy the 8J with 6 rx's ($229 + $39x5) for the cost of a DX8 with 1 rx ($429). That was a big deal in my book, I keep about 20 planes RTF.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AggressorBLUE View Post
a few questions:

-What is the difference between the 2.4ghz spec this radio uses, and the the one used on the higher end models?

-Can a helicopter spec radio be programmed to default to Airplane models?

-Does the radio support Lipo batteries (ie Low Voltage notification)?

-Is the nav via a joystick and Jog dial, or just joystick? You use both terms in the review...

-Is model memory expandable via SD card?
http://www.futaba-rc.com/systems/futk8100-8j/index.html

The joystick is not a dial.
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