As FPV drone pilots, choosing the right radio control link is essential for a smooth and enjoyable flight experience. Two most popular options in the market are TBS Crossfire and ExpressLRS. Gaining popularity as an open-source project, ExpressLRS offers long range, low latency, and cost-effective features, quickly capturing market share. In this article, we’ll explore the features, advantages, and disadvantages of both systems, helping you determine which one is the better choice for your needs.
For a step-by-step guide on setting up ExpressLRS, check out our tutorial: https://oscarliang.com/setup-expresslrs-2-4ghz/
Table of Contents
TBS Crossfire Pros and Cons
TBS Crossfire is a well-established, highly regarded radio control system in the FPV community. With its robust performance, it has become a go-to choice for many long-range pilots.
- Proven performance: Crossfire has been around for years and has proven itself to be reliable and efficient in long-range flights.
- Wide compatibility: Crossfire is compatible with many popular radio transmitters, including FrSky, Radiomaster, and Jumper.
- Ease of use: The setup process is straightforward, and the integration with Betaflight and other flight controller software is seamless.
- Telemetry: Crossfire offers extensive telemetry features, providing pilots with real-time information about their drone’s status and radio link health.
- Comprehensive ecosystem: TBS boasts a wide range of products, such as analog VTX and receiver modules, which work well together, offering users a seamless experience.
- Cost: Crossfire is more expensive than ExpressLRS, both in terms of transmitters and receivers.
- Higher latency: While Crossfire has a maximum update rate of 150Hz, ExpressLRS can go up to 1000Hz.
ExpressLRS Pros and Cons
ExpressLRS, a relatively new open-source radio control system, has gained considerable traction due to its impressive features and affordability.
- Feature-rich: ExpressLRS is a modern RC system offering most, if not all, features FPV pilots need.
- Lower cost: ExpressLRS is more affordable than Crossfire, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious pilots.
- Higher update rate: With a maximum update rate of 1000 Hz for the 2.4 GHz version (transmitter sends messages to the receiver 1000 times per second), and 200 Hz for the 900 MHz version, ExpressLRS offers lower latency than Crossfire’s 150 Hz while providing comparable range.
- Long range: ExpressLRS outperforms other 2.4 GHz radio systems in terms of range, thanks to its use of SX127x hardware combined with ESP8285, ESP32, and STM32 MCU for RX and TX, and LoRa modulation in all packet rates, which is also used in ImmersionRC Ghost and TBS Crossfire, outperforming systems thatt aren’t using LoRa such as TBS Tracer. Note that Crossfire only uses LoRa in 50 Hz mode, switching to FSK at 150 Hz, which doesn’t provide the same range performance.
- Community-driven development: As an open-source project, ExpressLRS benefits from a large, active community of developers and users who continuously improve and expand the system.
- Firmware updates: ExpressLRS’s firmware is consistently updated with new features and optimizations.
- Abundance of hardware options: The open-source nature of the project attracts manufacturers to develop and produce compatible hardware, offering more options and availability of receiver and transmitter modules.
- Less streamlined user experience: ExpressLRS is somewhat more technically complex than other RC systems, making setup and firmware updates more challenging for some pilots. However, guides are available to assist with the process.
- Lack of encryption: ELRS communication isn’t secured and isn’t jam resistant. Data over the air isn’t encrypted, and there are no special security measures. While not a problem for hobby flying, a dedicated attacker could potentially gain control over your aircraft or disrupt communication. Note that most other hobby protocols like FrSky, Flysky and Spektrum also lack security, Crossfire is the only hobby RC link that has data encryption.
- Limited channels: ELRS supports up to 12 channels due to limited bandwidth. While sufficient for most users, pilots requiring more channels may need to consider alternative systems.
2.4GHz vs 900MHz
ExpressLRS offers two frequency options: 900MHz (915/868) and 2.4GHz. Understanding the differences between them is crucial when choosing the right system for your needs.
Tests reveal that ELRS in 2.4GHz can achieve over 30km range with only 100mW, so ELRS in 900MHz’s advantage in range isn’t significant unless you’re pushing beyond 30km, which most people won’t be. Moreover, your 5.8GHz video link will likely run out before your radio link. Nonetheless, the lower frequency 900MHz offers better signal penetration, because of physics.
Other key differences include:
- Update rate: ELRS in 900MHz has a maximum update rate of 200Hz, while the 2.4GHz can reach up to 1000Hz. The lower latency makes your quad feel more responsive.
- Bandwidth: The 2.4GHz system offers wider bandwidth, allowing more pilots in the air simultaneously.
- Antenna size: 2.4GHz antennas are smaller (2.5 times), with some 2.4GHz receivers even featuring tiny SMD ceramic antennas, perfect for micros and tiny whoops.
- Frequency compatibility: With 2.4GHz, you don’t need to worry about regional frequency restrictions. For 900MHz, you must choose between 868MHz or 915MHz based on your location and use antennas optimized for that frequency. This can be complicated for pilots who frequently travel and fly in different countries.
Bottom line: Choose 2.4GHz if you want the full ExpressLRS experience, it’s perfect for racing, freestyle, or just cruising around in your local park. It provides lower latency, smaller antennas, and ultra long range (tens of miles). Opt for 900MHz if long-range flight or signal penetration is a priority, but be prepared for larger antennas and frequency restrictions.
Telemetry in ExpressLRS is continuously being enhanced, currently supporting at least 14 types of data, including VBAT, current, downlink/uplink LQ, and RSSI.
ExpressLRS offers both 2.4GHz and 900MHz options, with some tests conducted on different frequencies. These promising test results showcase ExpressLRS’s potential:
|Link to DVR
These tests demonstrate the impressive range capabilities of ExpressLRS across different frequencies, packet rates, and transmission power levels.
Choosing between TBS Crossfire and ExpressLRS ultimately comes down to your preferences and needs. If you value a tried-and-tested system with a straightforward setup process and are willing to pay more, TBS Crossfire is an excellent choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking for an affordable, high-performance, low-latency option with a strong community backing, ExpressLRS is a fantastic alternative. Regardless of your choice, both systems offer impressive performance and will serve you well in the world of FPV drone flying.
Looking for the best ExpressLRS gear? Check here: https://oscarliang.com/setup-expresslrs-2-4ghz/#ExpressLRS-24GHz-Hardware-Selection
- Feb 2021 – Article created
- Apr 2021 – 2.4GHz version by Happymodel announced, added info regarding its TX and RX options
- Jun 2021 – Added setup tutorial link, and info about how 2.4GHz compares to 900MHz
- Apr 2023 – Article revised