Picking Radio Transmitter: Frsky Taranis vs Spektrum DX6i

We talked about what makes a good radio transmitter for multirotors and quadcopters, however it’s still a difficult decision for many new to the hobby. Some are more expensive but rich in features, some are cheaper and comes with potential for lots of upgrades. When Artur started he bought the Spektrum DX6i as his first radio transmitter controller, and recently he purchased the FrSky Taranis X9D Plus.

This article is written by Artur. In this article he reviews both TX, explains the reason why he changed his mind, and how to choose a suitable transmitter for beginners. Edited by Oscar.

During my ZMR250 mini quad build I left radio purchase till the very end to focus more on other aspects of the build. I built the quadcopter quicker than I planned and I was left in a situation where quad was ready to fly but had nothing to control it. I wanted a reliable transmitter, so I went to a local RC shop in search for a radio, amongst the models available there was Spektrum DX6i. The price was right and it was bundled with a receiver. I bought it and it became my first transmitter.

Spektrum DX6i Transmitter Review

Taranis_01--radio-transmitter-Spektrum-dx6i
Spektrum DX6i with AR610

Main features of Spektrum DX6i:

To control a multicopter or quadcopter we need 4 channels minimum (throttle, yaw, pitch and roll). DX6i has extra 2 channels that allows me to configure additional switches: e.g. one for arming the flight controller board and another for switching between rate mode and horizon flight mode on Naze32.

DX6i has only two-way switches and they are not very practical because we can only have low position and hight position – only two values through one channel. Three-way switch has additional middle position, so we can have additional value on the same channel.

Taranis_05-radio-transmitter-Spektrum-dx6i Taranis_02-radio-transmitter-Spektrum-dx6i

Configuring DX6i is straight forward. It has a roller/selector user interface which is super handy, that makes navigating through the menu very quick and easy. LCD screen is one of the smallest amongst other Spektrum transmitters, but does the job just fine. The only downside of this display is the lack of LED back-light. It is a common feature now for many radio controller, for some strange reason it wasn’t included.

Despite the fact that DX6i is at the low end of Spektrum transmitters series, it is very well made and feels very good in hands. Switches work smoothly and grip is all right. Antenna could have been shorter though. It was difficult to fit it in my backpack (which wasn’t small).

From my own perspective DX6i is a good radio for beginners apart from a few missing key features (that are usually only seen on more expensive models). For example:

  • Telemetry (personally I think it is very important, and only available in expensive Spektrum models)
  • three-way switches (handy)
  • bigger LCD screen with backlight (very handy)
  • audio speech outputs (yes, radio suppose to talk by design isn’t it?)
  • more channels (it’s never too many)

To get all these features I wanted, I went for FrSky Taranis.

FrSky Taranis

What is it that makes Taranis a special transmitter?

This is a really impressive radio transmitter, packed with many great features, available only on much more expensive models.

Taranis_06--radio-transmitter

It was created in collaboradion with RC hobbyists so in short: designed by actual FPV pilots, with pilots’ needs in mind. It runs OpenTX operating system that is 100% Open Source and constantly getting updated and better thanks to great community around the world. Open source means that the possibilities are pretty much endless in terms of functionality. A little example: you can put mp3 music and sound tracks on the radios Micro-SD card, and play them by pressing one of the user-configured switches. What other radio at this price range can do that? I can’t think of any.

Taranis can store 60 models in the internal memory. This can be expanded via MicroSD but I don’t think any one would ever need that.

Taranis_08--radio-transmitter-switches
3-way switches and good quality sticks

This radio supports 16 channels, and also external radio transmitter modules as well. That means you can run this transmitter on a different frequency, with different brands of receivers, or a different radio technology. This is very impressive considering the price.

The most popular receiver option for this transmitter is the Frsky D4R-II, due to the small form factor and telemetry capability. It is a 4 channel receiver in PWM mode, but in PPM mode it can be expanded to 8 channels.

Taranis_09--radio-transmitter-lcd-screen
Large and clear LCD display with navigation buttons

Because of the crazy amount of things you can do with the Taranis, the learning curve is pretty steep. Not being exaggerating, someone can write a book on Taranis programming and configuration.

There are two ways of configuring the Taranis, either on the actual unit (using LCD screen and the buttons), or through a computer software called CompanionTX (TX connects to computer using USB cable). All radio settings, including models can be modified on the radio or exported to a computer for backup. CompanionTX allows radio menu simulation on the software GUI, we can go though the TX menus on the computer as if it was on the radio .

Taranis_04-radio-transmitter-lcd-screen
Companion TX with the default screen

Audio speech outputs feature makes Taranis a very desirable transmitter. Basically, it is possible to program the radio so when the alarm is set, specific sound file can be played. This comes in very handy during a FPV session. Let’s say we have the FPV goggles on, but suddenly the OSD fails and we have no flight information from our quadcopter. When the voltage is low, the Taranis can warn us, not just beeping, but tells us what the actual voltage reading is in human voice, thanks to telemetry. Sounds files and additional sound tracks can be downloaded from Here.

Build quality of this transmitter is pretty amazing as well. Good quality plastics and gimbals. In comparison to Spektrum DX6i, sticks are much smoother and I liked the Taranis better.

Conclusion

I personally come from the open source Linux community where sharing the knowledge, code and ideas is everyday bread, a very unique environment. FrSky Taranis transmitter has the same feel to it when it comes to software. It just feels right. Despite the fact that it may be quite difficult to configure this radio at first, I am sure the more you use it the more you will like it. Not too mention the fact that the best FPV racing pilots like Charpu and Boris B. are using it as well.

14 thoughts on “Picking Radio Transmitter: Frsky Taranis vs Spektrum DX6i

  1. Rodolfo Torres

    Hi oscar,
    Do you know if a 7dBi Omni 2.4 GHz RP-SMA rubber duck Antenna works with the Taranis x9d? Or is better 5dBi ?

    Thank you !
    Rodo

    Reply
  2. Elvin

    I see Taranis in almost every the quad video I watched. However when I asked a friend who’s been into the hobby for years (he plays all sorts of aircrafts not only racing drones) but he recommended Futaba for it’s old, trusted brand.
    Not sure if Futaba is a better choice? Can it do everything Taranis can do?

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      people tend to recommend things they use :) your friend has probably only used Futaba but not Taranis :)
      If he’s familiar with Taranis as well, ask him why is Futaba better than Taranis :)
      I don’t use Futaba myself, but one thing i notice is Futaba receivers are normally bigger.
      If you fly mini quad mainly, Taranis is probably one of the best options right now IMO. A lot more people in mini quad community use Taranis and you will be more likely to get help if you are in trouble.

      Reply
  3. Idunno

    Hi Oscar
    You’re comparing the dx6i with the taranis…. You should compare it to the dx6… completely different from the dx6i.

    Reply
  4. James

    Hi, I have a newbie radio question. I have a Spectrum DX6, and I was recently playing with it and a 6 channel receiver and obviously I found that the 4 axis on the sticks and 2 switches were transmitted , but does that mean that the remainder of the switches are purely for functions local to the transmitter? I would have expected that the binary states of these could call be carried in one channel… Could someone please comment.

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      no… you can only choose 6 sticks/switch to be used with the receiver… all channels carries full resolution pwm signals, and cannot carry binary… even just simple 2 way switches… The switches not in use simply do nothing…

      Reply
      1. Thomas H

        i had the same issue, but with my tactic ttx650. initially i attempted to come up with sone kind of custom mix on channel 5 and 6 but soon realized that wasn’t going to work since the receiver will still interpret each channel on its own.

        perhaps a custom mixer function that is applied locally on the tx could possibly allow for a wider range of values out of two simple 3-position switches if cleanflight/betaflight/etc can be set up in a way that it will take the value of two induvidual channels and handle that as one combined state? like a mux (multiplexer) basically. or better said; in that regard the mix on the tx would in way be a multiplexer, and the FC would function as a demultiplexer..

        hmm im not entirely sure if im not overlooking a major flaw in that plan but hey its just a wild idea bubbling up. i guess its not an 3-bit mux when you have 2 channels with 3 positions each. it would be if you have three individual 2-position switches though. im sure someone around here will have paid a lot more attention in class than me and might be able to see if this idea has any solid basis.

        regardless, in the case of a spektrum dx6 having only 2-position switches, i don’t think you would gain much from it since a 2-bit mux will only yield 4 positions just like having two 2-position switches. however, its the thought of using ALL (6?) of the switches available to multiplex yourself a 6(?)-bit value locally on the tx, which you would then have to output over one of the two “extra” channels (ch5 or ch6). and CF is already capable of assigning multiple commands to different values of just one channel. (same way it handles a 6-position switch for example) but if im not mistaken, instead of 6 you would now get ..err ..64(?) possible positions for those combinations?

        food for thought maybe?

        Kind Regards,
        Thomas

  5. Philip Cook

    ”Hi Oscar”

    As a pensioner I have been RC flying since the mid sixties until this year always Futaba mostly Challenger 35mag

    With everyone saying we should use 2.4. I feel I have made a big mistake in purchasing a spektum DX6i I consider it is the biggest piece of over priced JUNK I have ever flown with. The only reason I purchased it was I was told you could set it up for ten models. I find it is quicker to change the the 35mag Crystals than find the model on the screen each time

    Reply
  6. osmalil

    hello

    please i will know ,how you make DIY Wireless RC Remote Controller for Robots, Quadcopter step by step and how to programme this command
    How do I know which sends the signal from the command wireless
    Here are the parts I used:

    Toggle Switch x 4
    2-Axis Joystick x 2
    Potentio Meter x 4
    Push Button x 6
    LED x 3
    LCD x 1
    Arduino Mega x 1
    Cables x many
    Small Breadboard x 2
    Ciesco XRF Wireless Modules x 2
    thank you

    Reply

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