|Frequency:||2.4GHz, DSM2 technology|
|Programming setups:||Aircraft and helicopter|
|Number of channels:||6|
|Model memories:||10 aircraft or helicopters (combined)|
|Data input and view:||Roller selector, grayscale LCD screen|
|Stick modes:||Mode 1 and Mode 2 available|
|Battery:||Four rechargeable AA batteries (included), along with an included wall charger|
|Weight:||1 pound, 9 3/4 ounces|
|Receiver:||Spektrum AR6200 included, but it can use any other Spektrum receiver as well.|
|Available From:||Horizon Hobby or any Horizon Hobby dealer|
Over the course of my R/C career I have received my fair share of advice for making it in this hobby. "Be nice to your LiPos and they'll be nice to you," "Measure twice, cut once," and the ever-so-true "Always pack up before taking one more flight." They're all words of wisdom, indeed.
But one of the most important pieces of advice I've ever received was "Get as much radio as you can afford." I didn't go out and buy a switch-ridden, 3,495-memory, 14-channel behemoth. I wish I could have, but I knew better; my choice of planes is small electrics, and there's only so much I need (and there's only so much my wallet can handle, too).
Instead, I went with a Spektrum DX6. It offered just about everything I needed at the time: Six channels, 10 memories (that seemed like a lot at the time, but I quickly gave in to the addiction) and enough features to keep me entertained for a little while. It was and still is a fantastic beginner-to-intermediate radio, but it did leave a few things to be desired: A couple of key features were MIA, and there was but one receiver that DX6 users could use.
Now Spektrum has given this pioneer of the 2.4GHz technology a bit of a makeover. It has more switches, more options scattered across its menus and a fancy new look. I've got my DX6 on one hand and the DX6i on the other. Let's see what's new with it, let's see how easy (or hard) it is to program and how it stacks up where it matters most: The flying field.
Horizon Hobby sent me a review copy of its new system, and it's most-definitely a plug-and-play system. Upon opening the box, here's what I stumbled upon:
What you'll need:
A transmitter is a transmitter is a transmitter. It converts the movements of your thumbs into a radio signal, which is sent to its receiver, which in turn tells the different electronics to get busy and do their thing or else they'll soon be dangling from a tree. Simple enough.
But beyond sending signals there are options that came make a radio a bit more effective and easier for the pilot, and the DX6i has a healthy amount of them enough to keep you scrolling, but not enough to drive you insane:
The DX6i is not just about function, for it also sports a new look. It's a little more svelte both in weight and size, and it does look quite different than its patriarch.
For a bit of JR/Spektrum trivia, you should know that the DX6 is simply a JR662 without the long metal stick poking out of one end and without the rest of 72mHz guts. Other than that, they're genetic twins. Coincidentally, I happen to be the owner of such a relic. Check out how eerily similar they are, and see how different they are compared to the new kid in the block.
I could rant on and on about where which button is and what it does. However, I'll just let the following infographic tell the story.
Most of the switches and buttons are in their usual locations, so getting used to the radio shouldn't be that hard. The only new trinkets are the rudder dual-rates switch (top right) and the trainer switch (top left) which replaces the trainer button on the DX6/JR662. For the most part, nothing else has moved.
One thing you'll soon notice (and you may hate it, for all I know) is that the ratcheting on the throttle stick has disappeared. Presumable this is partly because this radio made its debut as part of the new Blade CP 400 3D helicopter package, and we all know that ratchets and helis are not the best of buddies.
This is my first ratchetless radio, and I must admit that it feels weird. It takes some getting used to it, but feels natural after a while. I admit it may be better in the long run for 3D airplane flying; just like helicopters need precise throttle control for hovering, so do airplanes benefit from minute changes in throttle (especially with a high-end speed controller on the receiving end).
Here's the nitty-gritty of 2.4GHz technology: One transmitter, one receiver, one signal. It's that simple. The receiver will only process the information sent from your transmitter.
So, whereas someone could turn your channel-55-equipped, finely detailed plane into balsa confetti by simply turning on their channel-55-equipped transmitter while you're flying, that technically won't happen with a 2.4GHz system. If someone turns on their 2.4GHz transmitter, it won't send any sort of signal to your receiver.
SO MANY CHOICES....
There are plenty of options when it comes to receivers for the DX6i. Not as many with 72mHz, but still a good number of them. All of them of course have to be Spektrum receivers, and some of them are more than you need, but you can technically use any and all of the range of receivers that Spektrum has to offer. Here they are:
Now, how do you get to the "one transmitter, one receiver, one signal"? By binding the receiver to your transmitter. All you do is:
You're good to go. Since this is a ModelMatch-equipped radio, your receiver will only receive a signal from your transmitter when it has the right model selected.
But what if you're cheap like me? What if you can't afford a handful of receivers and you're playing musical airframes with them? The answer is simple: Yes, you can bind and rebind and swap receivers as much as you like. You can still keep your model settings on your transmitter, and all you have to do is rebind the receiver to the model memory you want to fly with that particular time. It defeats the purpose of ModelMatch, but it will keep you from having to answer difficult questions from your credit-card company.
Just like with any piece of electronics, there are essentially two kinds of screens: The ones that should come with a built-in magnifying glass and a acronym-to-English translator, and the ones that are easy to read and actually display the items in plain terms.
I'm pleased to report that the DX6i falls under the latter category. Other than in a few submenus where acronyms are used (INH for "inhibit," ACT for "activate" or perhaps "active," and a couple of other things here and there), the menus all use full words and no abbreviations who'd've thunken, eh?
Let's start slowly here, with a simple three-channel plane: The Stevens Aeromodel DiddleRod (three channels, endless fun). I'll be using an Spektrum AR6100 receiver (provided by Horizon Hobby for testing purposes).
Next up for an upgrade: The MSComposit Swift II flying wing (which I have reviewed here). I'll be using an Spektrum AR6000 receiver from my previous arsenal of DX6 radio gear. Here I'll be showing how to set up a delta-wing setup ailerons and elevons acting together in aerodynamic harmony.
A couple of things I noticed about this setup were pleasant surprises:
Here's a video of how I set up the included AR6200 receiver on my Cermark Edge 540 (coming soon to a Ezone Web page near you) showing from start to finish how a plane is set up and how dual-aileron servos are set up.
The DX6i has already made its way to an E-flite Extra 260 3D profile plane on which I also used a AR6100. I set it up with the dual-servo aileron mixing, and it was a similar process as with the Edge 540. The only problem which led to some confusion was that I needed to trim the left aileron. You will accomplish by trimming the flap channel, and you may have to do the same thing for the travel rates in such channel and so on and so forth.
The aileron setup has seen quite an improvement, but it's still not perfect I wish Icould trim the left and right ailerons as what they are and not have to go through another channel. But, all in all, it is light years better than the DX6 setup where I would often just give up and use a y-harness instead.
Let's face it: This chunk of radio goodness does not belong in the workbench nor in the studio, so let's go out to the field and see how it performs.
Frankly, there is not much of a difference in how the DX6i feels in your hands. Size-wise, it's almost identical. Weight-wise, it's only lighter by half an ounce or so. It does have a bit more or an ergonomic grip to it.
The area where you'll see a big change is in the balancing. The DX6, since it was a quick rehash of the JR662 (i.e., same radio, no long antenna), tended to fall back toward you because it was out of balance. And, from what I have read, the same thing happens with the DX7 to the point that Spektrum even released a balancing adaptor gadget for it. There are perils to an out-of-balance transmitter: Should it be hanging from your neck and fall back toward your chest, you could accidentally hit the throttle and you'd be waving your precious aircraft bye-bye (or yelling "fore!" at those behind the flight line).
It's nice to see that the new DX6i design is nicely balanced. I hung it from my trusty neck strap, and it lays perfectly parallel to the ground. A small adjustment, but one for which I am much obliged.
When it comes to wiggling the sticks, things are just as you'd expect, and there is no special experience to report. The sticks may be a tad too soft for your test, but you can easily tighten the springs by removing the back of the transmitter. And besides, who doesn't like looking at the innards of a cool piece of electronics?
The several other switches are easily accessible and function just like any other switch. Since I'm one for efficiency, I appreciate that there's a new dual-rates combination option so that you can assign one switch to turn on or off whatever combination of dual-rates settings you'd like. I'd rather do click than click-click-click, and a flip on the rudder switch is my favorite way to go about it.
Response time from transmitter to receiver seems to be quick. I've tried it with anything from slow-flyers to flying wings and acrobatic planes, and it's nice and responsive with all of them. Frankly, it's nothing different from the DX6 or even my 72mHz systems, but at least I can't tell a big difference for the worse.
I'll go ahead and say it out loud: Battery life on the DX6 is awful. Has battery life improved for this transmitter? A big-time yes. A "rock on!" yes, indeed.
At the Monasterio Electric Aerospace Institute and Crash Test Facility© (motto: "Electrons Rule, Yet Gravity Always Laughs Last"©), I put these four rechargeable AAs to my grueling test, and this is what I found:
By that time, the voltage had gone from 5.5V to between 5 and 5.1V not too bad for 2.5 to 3 hours of operation.
I decided I would see how much longer it could stay on. After all, at one point or another all of us have pleaded guilty to inadvertently leaving it on for long periods of time. So, I did only on purpose. And here are the results:
The verdict: Battery life is amazing. You could technically fly for some 6 to 7 hours on one charge without a problem, and that's something to smile about.
And, of course, if you happen to run out of batteries, you can always pop in some AAs from the gas station down the road.
I'll be honest: I was a bit skeptical about not having a "transmitter pack" for it (I guess I'm used to them, and upgrading to a LiPo pack is always an option), but this is a more than fair tradeoff, and it works better than what I expected.
If you ask me, I'd say yes. It's relatively inexpensive, it has plenty of features, you'll be able to grow with it as you get more planes, and it's easy to use. But it's also a beginner's radio because it still is limited in the number of features it has. For the most part they're plenty for me, but an experienced flyer (or a sailplane pilot) might want or need some more. For less than $200, you get a lot of bang for your buck, and it is a radio you can keep using for most any plane.
Slowly but surely, more and more planes for my growing fleet are making the transition to their new 2.4GHz boss. For the most part, they're either planes than require small receivers (AR6100 and the like) or fully acrobatic ones that need that extra setting here and there.
I have been pleased with how this Spektrum release performs. It may not have all the bells and whistles of a DX7 or a JR12X, but it does most of what I need it to do, and it does so without a glitch literally.
If I were a beginner and wanted to get in the hobby on a budget, I would likely look no further. I didn't look any further with my DX6 more than a year ago, and I found it to be the right thing to do. if I were in the same situation today, I'd pick the DX6i in a heartbeat.
And, while the DX6 felt a bit like a rushed-in rehash of the JR662, this radio has been upgraded from scratch to truly make it its own model. It feels good in my hands, the menus and big LCD screen have been much-improved, and it's a fine specimen all-around.
Summing it up: To use a bad pun in the world of R/C transmitters... Two thumbs up!
Neither cheer nor jeer:
Thanks for covering the various receiver options in the sidebar, as well as the functionality of the transmitter, and the changes from the DX6. Perfect.
I don't quite understand what you are talking about with regard to the "old" DX6 and dual aileron or delta trimming issues. I have one plane -- a Lynx XF -- with the ailerons plugged into two separate channels (instead of using a Y cable), which I implemented as per the DX6 instructions for "flaperons." I also have a plane -- a GWS-15 -- with tailerons and no ailerons that uses the delta configuration. I haven't had any trim issues with either of those planes...I have been operating under the assumption that the pitch trim control still operates as pitch trim, and the roll trim control still operates as roll trim, and that seems to have worked fine. Should it not have?
I agree wholeheartedly with the "jeer" re: still only 10 model memories. Horizon couldn't possibly have their head-in-the-sand so deeply as to not be aware of how much every RC'er wants more model memories than that!...I'm sure they know this only too well. And as cheap as memory is these days, and as simple as the programming code change would be to implement more memories, this has to be motivated by "planned obsolescence." Which is to say, in a year or so, I see them coming out with a "DX6-j" (or whatever) that has 20 model memories, and a few other tweaks, and they'll hope everybody will feel the need to upgrade their DX6i boxes.
It may even be built into the unit already. Years ago, I bought a scanner that had something like 200 memories (frequency presets). Then I found out in a magazine that by a simple modification -- clipping a diode -- I could implement 400 memories (which I did, following the instructions in the magazine!). Sure enough, the following year, I noticed that the successor to my particular model of scanner had 400 memories. They had pre-engineered the original circuit board of the unit with the "upgraded" model capability already implemented in advance with just a small change required on the assembly line (omit that diode).
But I'm sure no manufacturer in the RC hobby would do something like that...naaaah!
Thanks folks, I appreciate all the kind words!
Heligrom: Yes, this is a nice way to get started with the 2.4Ghz stuff. I recently saw that they're coming out with a five-channel one, but it doesn't have any memories and barely any features, and it's $100. This is a lot of bang for the buck, and it will last you a while.
SammyWI: Yeah, it frankly baffles me why the AR6200 is included. It's a great receiver, sure, but I like the versatility and performance of the AR6100. But hey, it's a full-range radio, so it might as well have a full-range receiver.
Richard: Glad you liked it! I enjoy writing them, and it's simply a pleasure to put them together. I hope it shows.
Glad you enjoyed it!
I don't know, I've had plenty of issues with the DX6 going crazy on me with dual ailerons and the like. I'd have to trim each one of them separately. I've had to adjust the flap channel in weird configurations. I've had to do a lot of weird stuff, and sometimes I've resigned myself to use a y-harness instead.
On my slope soarer, for example, if I trimmed the "aileron," it would only trim one elevon. Same thing for the "elevator." So, often, I'd just land it, trim both surfaces on the ground and toss it again.
That said, it's a lot better on this radio -- albeit not perfect. But much, much better.
The memory deal is just what it is, I guess. You pay exponentially more for it, and the higher-end models have more memories, or unlimited ones. And, frankly, it's not just Horizon/Spektrum who's doing it. All radio manufacturers do it. It's a high-priced commodity, that's for sure.
One of those orange buttons at the bottom of the DX6 died on me and so I went out and bought a DX6i as a replacement. Prior to that, I opened up the DX6 to see if I could do anything about it. Well, I could probably replace the button if I could find out where to buy one. Otherwise, I will send it in and see how much Horizon charges (I have the DX6 for 13 months). But the surprise that I had after opening the case was that the main 2.4G circut board says DX7! Perhaps that the reason nobody could see a difference in range between the DX6 and DX7.
Like others who had the AR6000, it took a while to bind the DX6i to the AR6000. A couple of times, it just lost the bind. From now on, I will bring a binding plug to the flying field with me. Also, I found that I had to keep the transmitter almost 10 feet away before the AR6000 would recognize a good signal from the DX6i at power on.
Since I had a bad "orange" button on the DX6 only after a year, I am now worried about the roller-button on the DX6i.
Napo, I thought this was posted somewhere, but maybe not.
Maybe the DX 7 ratchet can be used.
I'll call Horizon and ask, then post the outcome.
UPDATE: Horizon support advises there is a "spring" available to make this more airplane-like on the throttle side. You can send it in for replacement.
Last edited by Sisyphus; Sep 08, 2008 at 10:23 AM.
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