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Mar 08, 2018, 11:48 AM
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Doug Simmons's Avatar
Yippee!

$622 or $1392, hmm...


Well with your help and Aloft's I finished revising my Frsky order and it arrives tomorrow. I'm extremely psyched, and before I even unbox the thing to decide if I love or hate it, I have to make a Yippie! post here about the money, one that my wife wouldn't exactly appreciate but maybe you would.

I learned how to make a spreadsheet just now to add a line to my resume and to figure out how much it would have cost me to satisfy my requirements to outfit my designated geek plane with Spektrum gear versus Frsky. The answer is 2.2x, more than double! And in multiple cases for inferior things, like only cumulative voltage instead of individual cells. The one thing, feature-wise, where Spektrum has the edge that I could find is that their airspeed sensor can clock my foamie parkflyer up to 350mph and Frsky tops out at 223mph. Oh well!

Breaking it down more specifically, I want a transmitter capable of 16 channels that's expandable to a bunch more should the mood strike. I want it to have a high-res super-bright screen I can see in the sun (to eyeball telemetry) with a community surrounding and developing firmware I can tweak extensively. I want to type the name of the firmware into github and get a ton of hits. On the receiver end, I want telemetry sensor support, data logging to an SD and to be able to pop in up to sixteen servos/controllers/etc, again with the option for even more. I hate having to do risky tricks to squeeze out a tenth channel functionality from my DX9/AR9350, I keep accidentally flipping into reverse mid-air, I don't always have enough luck to recover.

So for the radio equipment I ordered the X10S (which for my requirements is overkill, the but since I'm taking the dive, I want to go all-out beyond the point of diminishing returns). The X10S from my research is the Cadillac of transmitters. If there's a superior transmitter, my googling needs improvement. For the plane, two X8Rs. For a flight controller, maybe one day I'll try a Frsky option (eg the built-in stabilization with the S8R receiver), but for now I want to stick with something I know and like, either the Eagle Tree Guardian or the Eagle A3 Super 3, both of which require two channels. With Spektrum, I'd need the DX18G2 and the AR20310T. For sensors I want current greater than 60A, voltage, RPM, a few thermometers, airspeed, vario and GPS (this is all for my geek plane, I otherwise prefer to fly light and simple). I HAVE MY REASONS for theses sensors, don't bust my chops yet, let's focus on the cost:
  • Frsky: $622 (from Aloft)
  • Spektrum: $1392
That's $770 more, 2.2x the Frsky price to satisfy my requirements with Spektrum instead of Frsky.

I can understand that Spektrum has the brand power to be able to price things like this, it evidently makes business sense -- and hey, good for them that they and Horizon earned this high degree of general high regard and trust; whereas competitors with, by all accounts, roughly-equally-good products cannot charge even half. But why is it that in order to view important information from the ground like voltage of my individual cells rather than the cumulative voltage, it's Spektrum that doesn't have an option? I'm not the only one who thinks a big dip in one cell is helpful to know about.

I don't want to have to buy another transmitter anytime soon. So fastforwarding several years into the hobby, if I were flying large scale planes with throttle differential for twin motors, complex light system, smoke and sound system, three axis manual camera gimbal, retractable gear, independent spoilers, all control surfaces on independent channels (including dual elevators), two channels for a flight controller's modes and gain, one or more for Arduino, tow release, a channel to reverse the ESC for water taxiing, [if I switched to gas] at least one more channel for shutdown/standby/smoke, gear/gear door sequencing, leading edge flaps (are we up to 26 channels?), I can expand the DX18 to 26 channels for $90, or I can expand a 16ch $190 Taranis Plus to 32 channels for $38 and a couple more X8Rs. Maybe I'll want to build a robot with my boy, who knows. I've never yet regretted buying the ability to use too many channels.

Reputation-wise, all I've heard of Frsky's products and what you can do with it has been universally-positive. As for the vendor, I've been using Aloft Hobbies for a while, each time with positive experiences, including support making sure I'm buying the right gear for this purchase. As for servicing and returns, yes Horizon has earned a good reputation for that, but Aloft's policies look pretty damn good to me: https://alofthobbies.com/terms. A few times my Taranis-touting clubmates added a footnote that there is a learning curve to OpenTX. Well shoot, if I didn't like learning curves in this hobby, I'd just buy a quad with the transmitter included.

Man, I feel like a kid again on Christmas Eve.

Doug
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Mar 08, 2018, 12:21 PM
Fire Marshall Bill
Doug

Are you using Spektrum now? If so, are you anticipating any approach to continued use of those Rx's in planes where perhaps you do not have the need for the expanded telemetry? I have heard that there is a module or other work-around that will allow use of the FrSky/Taranis Tx's with Spektrum Rx's, but I note that Aloft (who have an inbred distaste for Spektrum) does not carry it.
Mar 08, 2018, 01:16 PM
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Doug Simmons's Avatar
Yes I am using Spektrum, and I heard about this module. When someone first aggressively pitched buying a Taranis, I wondered if such a module existed, given the utility.

But at my club (and also flying on my own) the thing we are by far the most paranoid about is radio failure, and adding on a module for compatibility between very different radios clashes with that. It would help me not need to switch transmitters when switching planes before finally outfitting the fleet with Frsky receivers, but in addition to sounding a tad risky with a point of failure introduced, I would like voltage beamed down to me.

My plan is to slowly displace Spektrum in my other planes one plane at a time with the $35 very lightweight G-RX8 5.8g receiver with a vario built-in, the $14 6g cell-specific voltage sensor and the $41 10g A3 Super 3 flight controller, which is, when you add shipping, a bit over a hundred bucks per plane, 22g give or take. I don't have that many planes.

Though maybe now's a good time to ditch the flight controller and enjoy gyro-free flight. It adds adrenaline.
Mar 09, 2018, 02:18 PM
What could possibly go wrong?
I'm interested in your POV on Spektrum and Frsky. I went with Hitec, and you might have heard they recently announced they're getting out of the radio market (Tx's, Rx's and accessories like telemetry). Their releases cite the crowded market and the issues that brings. I understand, but like many Hitec customers I was badly disappointed. I use the Aurora 9X, I really like it a lot and I've stuck with their servos too. I started out in the hobby about 2.5 years ago, took me about 6 months to buy my own set, and that Tx with an Optima 9 Rx and 4 economy digital servos and all the stuff I needed, for some reason was far and away the best value for what i needed. It was an amazing deal and since the announcement many accessories have really dropped in price so I got a great deal on some of those... but it's soon to be orphaned, unfortunately.

So in future when I need a new radio I've basically narrowed it down to either something up-market like some of the better Futaba sets, or even Multiplex, or basically do what almost everybody else does and go Spektrum! I wasn't a big fan of the cheaper Hitec units, if I'd wanted a basic entry level set I might have got a DX6 series or similar instead, but the A9X would last me for years without trading up and I doubt I'll get rid of it. I love the screen, the feel, the rock-solid RF link and ease of use... the only Spektrum I've seen I like that much are a lot more expensive. But, I'm interested in posts like yours as I spend the next year or so planning what direction I'll go in RC, and what radio I'll want to get there. I don't mean to hijack your blog, I'm reading with interest so I thought I'd chime in. Thanks for the info.
Mar 09, 2018, 03:20 PM
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Doug Simmons's Avatar
Hijack my blog? Why do you think I bang this stuff out -- in a bid to get the very insight you just posted. Thank you.

At my club I'd say it's about 90% Spektrum, 10% Frsky (Taranises) with the fixed wing crowd, haven't noticed anything else. The Taranis users tend to be on the younger, not-obvious-retired end, all quite skilled in flying, and they have and preach the OpenTX firmware which I intend to use. I was warned OpenTX was rough around the edges, a bit of a learning curve, but that piques my interest more. Just like flashing OpenWRT on a spare wifi router.

To characterize further the success Horizon's had in building their brand, at least for beginners at my club, Horizon for planes and Spektrum for radio gear is preferred, that's the direction they're steered, I presume to keep the risk of flyaways and such as low as possible -- makes sense to me. If you snap a switch or have any sort of problem with your transmitter, no matter how straightforward the fix, you're asked to send it to Horizon. Might sound excessive for a switch, but the club needs to be risk-averse, and that's one mean to that end.

Sure I'll offer my point of view on this transition, it's already proved interesting for me not even having the package yet, dealing with Aloft, getting help from them on a complicated order. They've been great. So far no deficit with Aloft versus Horizon that I've found. I was going to just flash OpenTX immediately, but you just made me curious in getting at least a glance at what Frsky programmed to make the interface more polished and simplified, more appealing to a larger crowd presumably. Oh hey now, text message on my phone says delivered! Showtime!

Doug
Mar 09, 2018, 03:58 PM
What could possibly go wrong?
I'm a big believer in open source software on my PC but I haven't got anywhere with it in RC, except I know it's out there. It seems to be really polarising, people I've spoken to are either all for it or outright hostile. Personally I think the concept is great, just sounds like you have to know what you're doing. Again it's such a shame Hitec are dropping out, they're mostly seen as a cheaper, "plastic" grade of equpment but honestly I think find the A9X to be very under rated. I've tried a Futaba set, I think it was 18 ch. and expensive, and I couldn't get anywhere with it without someone to show me around. With the A9x nobody reads the manual, not until you finally find something complicated enough to have multiple solutions, as it's all intuitive. The touch screen is a heavily promoted feature on some but they've been doing it for years. It's not quite like a smart phone interface, it's more basic, but it's appropriate, and very effective. Colour Futaba screens like a phone might be a great interface in the store but frankly in the Aussie sun, you just can't read them! No such problem with the old fashioned grey-green LCD monochrome. All I've seen of Frsky was a quick look at a Taranis screen and I couldn't draw any conclusions from that. But when the time comes I will definitely look into an open platform. For one thing, they seem like a great deal.

I don't know if it's really a valid comparison, but my general impression of open source in PC land is you get technically great stuff, free of distracting and distasteful commercial cross-promotions and the feeling that one product is only there to sell you another, but the interface and general polish always seems to be a work in progress. I suppose that's because when you're not all-out "marketing" something, you aren't thinking about how it grabs people but just getting the job done, and being willing to live with compromises in the polish, so you can focus on core functions. For example GIMP, I use it for all PDF model plans and I love it, but you wouldn't call the interface finely tuned... it works, it's all there, but it's simply functional. It doesn't have to win sales in a store front or web shop, it just needs to get a bunch of image functions to where you can get at them.... and you might have to ask someone how. But you can't beat the price! If OpenTX is anything like that, I would expect it to be supported by a core group of very competent people with an altruistic goal of getting good gear out to market, minus the negatives you get in profit-motive land. Of course, there are good sides to that too, because when you compete for sales that way, you DO care about the finer points and "polish". Says the great expert who's never even tried it or actually read a document about it! But I do like the idea.

Hey I have to get going but I'm keen to follow where you're going with this, maybe I should do some homework on OpenTX and learn what I'm talking about before I say it next time I guess you weren't really trying to, but you've opened my eyes to something I ought to look into some more. Thanks again
Mar 09, 2018, 04:17 PM
What could possibly go wrong?
Oh just quickly, one more thing... with an A9X and the "official" receivers, loss of signal just about never happens. I've never even thought I lost it for a moment, even once. That seems to be what people say about it around the traps, too, but it's (Hitec as a brand) not a major presence at my club either. It's about 80% Spektrum, 10% high end Futaba, and the rest is "other". Considering the deal you could get on my system I always expected to see more, but I've never seen another there. But all the other radios drop signal! So many people have crashed a model (I'm definitely fixed wing but this applies to heli's, quads etc too) due to RF loss, but this isn't something I've ever experienced. So I will definitely have to watch for that. It might be because both my Rx's have the dual antenna leads and I follow the instructions and arrange them to avoid dead spots, but if a new radio means I'm going to start having that problem then I'll have to think very carefully about my next radio. Thanks for the tip!! Sounds important

I just realised, you also implied it's about Rx battery life... that's another luxury I'm used to, all the Optima Rx's have telemetry in that you get a display and warning about Rx battery. Hmm.... some of the members use a digital voltage display on the model itself. For my next radio (and the Maxima Rx lacks this feature) I will have to be sure I know wha tthe charge is. The type of system I use lasts a very long time on a charge, I fly all day at least half a dozen times before I need to think about it (NiMH 6V, 5-6 servo plane, some extra telemetry, nothing fancy). Suddenly I'm starting to realise how much there is to think about for the next radio...
Mar 09, 2018, 05:42 PM
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Doug Simmons's Avatar
A work-in-progress indeed. I got my first taste with Slackware and NetBSD back in '92, just a lad. Recently I bailed out of Windows for Linux as my home link is quite fast, strong machine, so why not use it as my desktop and server instead of paying for an inferior VPS so long as there appears to be something I can use to edit videos with. Instead of Adobe Premiere for my little RC video operation I use kdenlive, and while I can make it do what I want it to do, it can get painful.

Wow you've taken quite the radio tour. Me I've just been glued to Spektrum assuming it's got to be pricey for a good reason. Your nomadic lifestyle sounds like a healthier habit than staying put as I'd been doing, especially staying put with the priciest brand. Flyaways scare me, but I've heard and seen enough not to worry I'm about to elevate that risk. I've heard the word bulletproof a lot.

This transmitter is quite stunning, look and feel. Nice case which I really ought to use. Not very sunny in my basement to stress test it but that screen looks sweet. To give Frsky a fair try I'm going to table OpenTX because once I flash OpenTX, it's going to turn into a hobby in itself. Instead of flying I'll go on github, obsessed; I'll search the main repo for "display watts" and if I find nothing that might multiply my amps and volts, I'll cobble together some bash or python. Seems the Spektrum engineers couldn't hack that arithmetic, so I'll put it on my resume and LinkedIn and try to get a gig in Champaign Illinois.

Thanks for reminding me about receivers having finite power, I'll keep an eye on that as I pile on the gadgets.
May 03, 2018, 03:22 PM
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ooOoo's Avatar
You mentioned the possibility of eventually using an S8R. I don't know how much you know about them yet, but a couple things I found to be cool about using one are that you can put both channels on only 1 switch (because of how flexible and powerful OpenTx is) for the flight modes if you intend to use only stabilization and autolevel and you can also use 2 different knobs to adjust the gain separately for stabilization and autolevel modes. This is a neat trick since the two different modes would rarely use the same gain setting.


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