Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Hands on review: FrSky X9 Lite

The FrSky X9 Lite is a compact, lightweight transmitter running OpenTX. It's also FrSky's cheapest transmitter at around £70. 

The price may be tempting - but how good is the transmitter, and who is it for? In this review, we're going to find out! 

Look and feel

The X9 Lite has an unpretentious, Tonka-toy-meets-X9D look about it. I think it looks rather sweet. The shell comes in a choice of three colours: blue, white and silver. 

X9 Lite (left) next to author's X9D Plus

Despite its size, there's nothing junior about the build quality - it's well screwed together with generally good fit and finish. It's comfortable to hold, too, thanks to the rounded surfaces and rear grips. 


Hand-friendly mouldings 


Protocols

The X9 Lite's internal module supports the ACCST D16 and ACCESS protocols. The RF module comes in a choice of LBT or FCC, and cannot be changed. LBT is mandatory for the EU and UK.

There's no support for the older D8 protocol - for that you'll need to purchase an external 'lite' module which fits into a bay on the back of the unit. The sliding cover was very stiff and I had to open up the case to release it from the inside.

This was my first ACCESS radio and I was curious to see how the registration and binding process worked. In fact the process was not so different to binding with D16 except for a couple of extra steps. One point of difference is that the recommended RSSI alert levels are 35 and 32.


Controls

The sticks are ball raced. As may be expected at this price point, they use potentiometers rather than Hall sensors. Spring tension can be adjusted after removing the back of the case (attached by four cross-head screws). I like a loose feel, and even with maximum adjustment, I could have done with softer springs. 

Five switches are provided, along with a rotary knob. All switches are 3-position except for the rear left (2-position) and rear right (momentary). The cables are soldered directly to the terminals, so it should be a simple job to swap them round.


Internals

Rear moulding and battery connector


Screen and programming controls

The screen is based on a 128x64 mono panel, similar to those on the Q X7 and X-Lite. In order to fit the small screen, some of the OpenTX menus are split into sub-menus. This makes navigation a little cumbersome compared with the X9D, however all the features of OpenTX are present.

The programming controls are nice and simple - just three buttons on the left side of the screen and a scroll wheel to the right. The buttons on mine had little travel and a rather 'dead flesh' feel.


Cute cookie!

Ports

Various ports are accessible from the bottom of the case. These are (from left to right):
  • DSC trainer
  • Data port for Companion (micro USB-B cable not supplied)
  • Micro-SD card (not supplied)
  • Smartport (for flashing external devices)
  • Headphones
Rather annoyingly, there's no protective cover - beat not to leave the transmitter standing on wet grass.

Ports - see text

Batteries

A hinged cover provides access to two 18650 LiIon batteries (not included). These are arranged inline, so check carefully for good contact if you're using flat top (rather than button top) batteries.

External module bay and battery compartment


The X9 Lite lacks an internal charger, making charging somewhat inconvenient. Furthermore, the batteries are difficult to remove as they are a very tight fit. I worked around this by making 'grab tabs' from Kapton tape. 

Another gotcha is that the +ve and -ve terminals are identical, so there's no immediate visual cue as to which way round the batteries should be oriented. You have to look a the +ve and -ve markings in the holder, and these are only lightly embossed.

All in all, the battery arrangements leave some room for improvement. On a positive note, current consumption should be minimal thanks to the mono screen, so you won't be removing the batteries very often.

Flight tests

For the flight test, I paired it with my Mini Ellipse, a classic 1.5 m all-moulded slope soarer. I've recently modified it for 6 servos and crow brakes. I used my F3F template (lightly modified) and adaptive trim script

The receiver is a G-RX6 running ACCESS firmware. Binding using ACCESS involves a couple of extra steps, but is easy enough. 


Perfect partner for author's 6-servo Mini Ellipse 


The conditions at Ivinghoe were perfect, and I had great fun flying the Mini Ellipse. The X9 Lite felt nice in the hand and performed as it should - no glitches or RSSI warnings.

Conclusions

I've enjoyed using the X9 Lite. It works very well as a go-anywhere transmitter for slope soaring. It feels dependable, the programming is powerful and it's small enough to sling in a small backpack.

However, it's let down by the lack of a built in charger and awkward battery access. And in these days of MPM's, the protocol choices are a little narrow.

An extra £26 will get you the 'S' version with internal charger and Hall gimbals. At that price, though, it's up against some stiff competition in the form of the MPM equipped RadioMaster TX16SE and TX12, as well as FrSky's own Q X7.

To sum up: the X9 Lite is a decent option for committed FrSky fans, but it no longer stands out from the crowd.

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