Friday, 14 July 2017

Horus X10 preview - an upgrade for your X9D?

The Horus X10 is the second 'quality' radio to be released by FrSky. The new radio bridges the gap between the venerable Taranis X9D and the premium Horus X12S. Will it be good enough to persuade X9D users to upgrade? Will X12 users all suddenly want to downgrade? Let's indulge in a bit of informed speculation! [16 October 2017: section on charging updated following clarification from FrSky and user feedback].

Mechanics and ergonomics

The X10 is slightly smaller and considerably lighter than the X12S at just under 1kg. To my eyes it looks lovely, however it inherits some of the 'edgy' styling of its bigger brother, and remains to be seen if it's as comfortable as the X9D, especially for those with smaller hands.

The gimbals are ball-raced and fitted with Hall sensors. The electronics are attached to the front moulding, so access to the internals should be easy with the back removed.

Switch layout is similar to the X12S and X9D. One can assume that the switches will be of the same high quality as X12S.


FrSky X10

Screen

The LCD panel looks similar to that in the X12S. If it's the same panel as the X12S, then legibility will be just about okay in sunlight. Opinion is divided over the value of colour, personally I would prioritise legibility and low current drain.

Some pilots have expressed disappointment with the bottom placement of the LCD panel. However it's enabled a slightly more compact design. Also, with telemetry and voice capability there should be little need to look at the screen whilst flying.

Battery and charging

The new transmitter employs a 2600 mAh LiIon battery. It should be good for around 7 hours operation depending on screen brightness.

Rear view, with module bay

A proprietary charger is provided (FCX-10), along with a separate mains adapter. The FCX-10's input voltage is 10V - 18V so it can also be powered by a car battery.

Rather unusually, the charger plugs into the side of the transmitter, via an embedded USB-C connector. There is no other form of mechanical keying, so reasonable care will be needed to avoid knocking or twisting the unit. The connection itself is not USB-C compliant, and there's a sticker warning against connecting it to other equipment.

The charger provides over-voltage and temperature protection (one of the USB pins connects to a temperature sensor under the battery pack).

In order to access the battery, it's necessary to remove the back of the case by undoing four screws. The screws are retained via plastic posts rather than more durable metal bushes.

Antennae

The X10 can operate either with an external antenna or via dual internal antennae. As I understand it, the external antenna does not provide any significant range advantage and can be removed, thus making the X10 more backpack-friendly.

However, the external antenna provides a more directional radiation pattern. This can very useful as it enables you to use RSSI to locate a lost model (I've found RSSI to be a great model saver). 

Programming controls

Programming controls have been modified from the X12S. All menu navigation is performed with the left hand, with selection and confirmation on the right. There is no separate Page Up button, instead you long-press the Page button.


Left hand menu navigation


Compared with Taranis X9D

I've prepared a list of changes for those thinking of upgrading from the X9D. It's not exhaustive, just things which struck me as interesting for sailplane (thermal/slope) flying.
  • Rotary encoder for +/- adjustments
  • 'Soft' on/off switch
  • Two extra trim controls (useful as mix adjusters)
  • Removable antenna 
  • 2-cell Li-Ion battery
  • Proprietary external charger (FCX-10)
  • Hall sensor sticks as standard
  • Dual internal antennae with optional external antenna

Operating system

The X10 will be shipped with FrSky's proprietary FrTX operating system, however the OpenTx devs are working on a port of OpenTx 2.2.

Final thoughts for now

The extra controls and Horus-level quality will surely be welcomed by those thinking of upgrading from an X9D.

The only obvious weak point appears to be the battery charging system. The user is entirely dependent on the proprietary FCX-10 charger - if it fails or your forget to take it on your trip, then charging suddenly becomes a major hassle. The FCX-10's connection method is also less than ideal.

Incorporating the FCX-10 inside the transmitter would effectively deal with the issue, in fact one might surmise that this is what FrSky originally intended. Having said that, if you only ever charge your radio in your workshop, then this is not going to be a deal breaker. In other respects the X10 looks a most appealing transmitter.

[Aside: The FrSky engineers could well look to the Jeti DC and DS transmitters: charger is internal, with separate USB and 12V input ports on the tx. A mains adapter is included, and charge progress is shown on the transmitter screen.]

And very finally

Remember that this is just a preview. Other factors - like how the X10 feels in the hand, how the gimbals feel, stick travel, switch layout etc - will have to await a hands-on test. I'm certainly looking forward to checking it out as soon as the opportunity arises.

Links: RC Groups

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