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Nov 14, 2010, 12:47 PM
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erazz's Avatar
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9x Add-on Board with built-in Programmer and EL Backlight

Some of you might have noticed that there's a thread here on the "Radios" forum that you can always find in the first page. I'm talking about the thread that deals with the custom FW for the Turnigy/Imax/Eurgle/FlySky 9x:

This review is not about the custom FW available but about a product that makes using that FW much simpler.

This would be the "9x Add-on Board with built-in Programmer and EL Backlight" made by Steven (s_mack) and sold here:

First I'd like to state up front that I did not pay for this board. Steven graciously sent me it free of charge for my part in writing one of the custom FW's that are available. I know, I'm biased. I like my FW and I like this product. I'll try to review it here and tell you exactly why.

Okay, so what's this Add-on board and what does it do?
The board in question contains 2 circuits: a dedicated programmer and an EL driver.

The EL driver is used to light a backlight EL sheet (included). The programmer is used to communicate with the on-board controller, to write new FW and to read/write model memories.

This approach has several benefits:
1) The EL driver is a bona-fida low power driver. One that has less hum, less rf noise and is better for the EL than EL inverters that are usualy given with sheets you buy online.
2) The EL sheet comes pre-cut and with a suitable connector for the board.
3) The board itself connects to the main board with "pogo pins". These are gold-plated, spring loaded connectors that allow you to install the add-on board without soldering.
4) The programmer is built on a model that has proven to work. No guessing or chancing in here. It will work.
5) The programmer sits inside the case. You can connect it to any computer with a simple USB to mini-USB cable.
6) Also, since the connections are set you cannot get them wrong. This prevents a lot of problems like "bricking" and slow connections.

At $40 it's priced the same as an EL sheet+inverter+programmer. Good deal IMHO.

You can also have your choice of backlight colors:

Enough selling. You bought one. What da ya get?

Going right to left:
1) Precut EL sheet with installed connector.
2) Add-on board.
3) USB mini socket.
4) Screws and spacers.

Flipping the board around you see the "pogo pins"

You need to supply the following tools:

Yup, all you need is a philips head screw driver.

Installing is pretty straightforward. You remove the 6 screws from the back of the case and carefully open it. There's a connector that needs to be unplugged. Once done you can set aside the back for later. Notice that mine is not exactly stock. Yours might look different

Once open you need to remove the 4 silver screws and 5 bronze screws holding the main board in place. Lift it carefully to reveal the LCD screen. To install the EL sheet just place it over the screen. Make sure that the colored side is facing down (for the blue EL this is actually the white side) and that the wires go to your left. Once installed the wires will go between the screw and the lower button and exit to the left of the main board.

While we have the board up I suggest switching between the '+' and '-' buttons as the custom FW reverses their functionality.
You need to unscrew the 2 screws holding the frame for the 4 buttons and remove them. Once outside cut the plastic bridges holding the buttons in place, switch between the '+' and '-' buttons and glue them back with a drop of thick CA. Again, this step is optional.

Next step is remounting the board and add-on. Replace the main board and make sure it sits well. Also make sure the buttons are placed properly and that the EL wires do not interfere.
Screw back the 4 silver screws in the corners of the main board. Next up we mount the add-on board. Place the 4 spacers over the screw holes and carefully place the add-on board on them. Place the 4 screws an gently screw them in place. They will compress the pogo pins and create an electrical connection. Once done replace the remaining bronze screw and connect the EL connector in place.

Nearly there.
Now all that's left is to place the mini-USB connector. One possible location is via the charging-jack hole. Another would be to cut a hole for it. Yet another possible location is in the battery bay like here:

All that's left is to download and install the proper driver:

The communication software. I suggest eePe, not just because I wrote it but also because it's designed to work with this board.

Lastly you need to decide what FW you want to use. Here's a short summery:

Is custom FW for you? Only you can answer that question. If the answer is yes this add-on board is a very easy way to go that route.

Addendum - EL vs LED
I finally got off (or rather ON) my bottom and installed my second 9x with the Led BL from HK,
Electronically there isn't much difference to speak of. I think that the EL BL being thinner is easier to install but that's not the big difference.
The big or rather huge difference is the quality of the display while the BL is on. The LED light causes the display to somehow be "slow" don't know why yet but while the LCD is refreshed at a regular pace the BL causes each pixel to first go bright and only then go to dark. The upshot of this is an inherent "slowness" of the display.

I guess if you haven't seen the EL in action then you might not mind but for me it's incredibly distracting and annoying. YMMV
Last edited by erazz; Feb 26, 2012 at 10:35 PM.
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Nov 14, 2010, 02:47 PM
7000 Ft up in NM mountains !
uphiearl's Avatar
Great write up erazz !
Nov 14, 2010, 03:44 PM
EDF rules... :)
AirX's Avatar
Nice write up and excellent work on the firmware. I have the board from Smack and will install it in another radio.

Eric B.
Nov 14, 2010, 03:57 PM
Registered User
Great review !
Unfortunately the first batch ist sold out and the next can take up to 12 weeks .....
Nov 14, 2010, 04:08 PM
R.I.P, Aardvark.
F-111 John's Avatar
Nice write-up, Erazz. Only one minor criticism, however. Pins. It's Pogo-pins.
Nov 14, 2010, 04:17 PM
Registered User
erazz's Avatar
Thread OP
Right! Fixed that
Nov 14, 2010, 05:54 PM
R.I.P, Aardvark.
F-111 John's Avatar
Nov 14, 2010, 06:21 PM
Registered User
wheelspinner20's Avatar
Erazz, what kind of battery do you use.? It looks like a 2s by the balance wires, but how many mah and does it matter?

did you just solder the xt-60 connector onto the power wires that go to the module board?

And finally is it true that with your FW, the hardware resistor mod is not necessary?


Nov 14, 2010, 08:21 PM
Registered Loser
That photo is of my tx. Yes, it is a 2s lipo. 800mah. its really small but I've gone days with loads of flying in between charges and never had an issue. I soldered the xt-60 connector to a couple of new wires and soldered those to the pads where the charge port goes.

Yes, its true that you don't need any sort of mod with his FW (or any of the custom FW I think).

- Steven
Nov 14, 2010, 11:02 PM
40$ cost of the programmer+El+inverter seems very high if you look at tHe total cost of the 9x Transmitter is 54$ only !

What I feel it should be close to 20$ and not more than 25US$
Nov 15, 2010, 12:34 AM
Registered Loser
You are, of course, entitled to your opinion... but there's a few things wrong with your logic:

#1 - it isn't a $54 radio. Unless you happen to live in China across the street from Hobby King, its a $90 to $100 radio because of their inflated shipping costs.

#2 - the cost of the radio is (mostly) irrelevant. Its like saying a $20000 car is too expensive because you can buy just the body (no engine) for $15000. You need the engine. And in my opinion, the 9x is an incomplete product without improved firmware. Or its like saying your $50 shoes are too expensive because you can get a shirt for $9. (and if you said, "huh?"... that's my point)

#3 - really one should be comparing it to similar products. If its a given that you need a programmer and EL backlight, then what will it cost you do achieve that? If you don't need a programmer and/or EL backlight... then it doesn't matter what the cost is, you don't need it. But if you do, a programmer plus EL kit is going to cost you nearly $40 anyway, plus this saves all the headaches and guesswork involved.

#4 - in the end, it doesn't really matter what you feel it should cost. Like with anything else, it costs what it costs. Some will say its too expensive, some will say its a bargain... hopefully most will think its just right. Someone said there was someone selling EL kits by themselves for $60 or $80 or something like that, so I don't think I'm out of the ballpark.

- Steven
Nov 15, 2010, 07:02 AM
EDF rules... :)
AirX's Avatar

For me, who is not an electronics designer/technichian and can barely solder up a decent looking set of Deans plugs, it is a bargain. Thanks for making it available to us.

Eric B.
Nov 15, 2010, 07:42 AM
65 years of RC flying
Daedalus66's Avatar
Originally Posted by narpat007
40$ cost of the programmer+El+inverter seems very high if you look at the total cost of the 9x Transmitter is 54$ only !

What I feel it should be close to 20$ and not more than 25US$
The cost of the transmitter doesn't determine the cost of the programming unit.

For what you get in parts alone it seems to me a pretty reasonable price (I've spent much more than that on back lighting alone for another transmitter), but the big thing is that it saves me the trouble of pulling together all the various elements and ensuring that they are compatible. The convenience is well worth it. I've ordered one.

If the price is too high for you, then obviously you should do your own kit.
Nov 15, 2010, 12:04 PM
blimppilot@ph's Avatar
Originally Posted by Daedalus66
The cost of the transmitter doesn't determine the cost of the programming unit.

If the price is too high for you, then obviously you should do your own kit.
+1 on both each his own as they say... i bet no one here will be able to single handedly build his own kit for $25...

im not a hater but asking for $25 for a kit with the quality as good as this is just BS... i'll give 30 bucks to anyone who could build a kit in par with stevens.

Steve... dont mind what other people say, your doing a great job and for the time and effort you put on this project $40 is a money well spent...

just my 2 cents...
Nov 15, 2010, 02:20 PM
Registered User
wallaguest1's Avatar
the power to the board arrive thru a pogo pin too?

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