Review: Frsky Taranis X-Lite Radio Transmitter

The Frsky Taranis X-Lite TX has the shape of a gaming controller. It’s much smaller than traditional radio transmitters, the compact size means you can take it virtually anywhere. In this review we will check out the build quality, features, and how to set up the X-Lite for the first time.

You can buy the Frsky X-Lite from HorusRC: http://bit.ly/2MWlI53 ($119.99). Further Reading: How to choose a radio transmitter?

The radio and accessories come in a really nice soft shell case.

There are two colours you can choose from, red and black.

The grippy, rubberized handles provide for a solid hold. There is no neck strap hook on Frsky X-Lite transmitter, which makes sense given the small size, and the targeted “thumber” audience.

X-Lite Specification

Here is the basic spec of the X-Lite:

  • 128×64 LCD Screen (same resolution but smaller than the one in the Taranis Q X7)
  • Powered by 2x 18650 18500 Li-ion batteries
  • Mini USB connection for simulators
  • Micro SD card slot
  • Headphone Jack
  • Smartport Output
  • Internal iXJT RF module, with Internal antennas as well as RP-SMA connector for external antenna
  • Haptic vibration feedback

Ergonomics

Compared to the Taranis QX7S, you can see the X-Lite is considerably smaller, but not as small as I originally thought. It’s very comfortable and natural to hold, just like holding an XBox controller if you are a gamer.

The thickness is about the same as a full size radio.

The stick throw feels much shorter than the full size radios, and a little bit less precise, something that will certainly take time to get used to. As a result, it almost feels like the mini quad is having a higher rate.

But some can argue that shorter throw can also mean better agility as you can move the sticks much faster, which might be desirable for racing. It’s definitely not a bad thing for certain applications and people.

Gimbals

Gamers and thumbers (people who hold the sticks only with their thumbs) are going to love this radio. But the stick end (tip) feels a bit too small and not grippy enough, maybe I will change out the stickends to something better in the future when they become available.

It might work for some pinchers (people who hold the sticks with both their thumbs and index fingers). But if you have big hands, it can feel a little awkward to hold due to the small body.

The Taranis X-Lite has pre-installed “M12 Lite hall sensor gimbals”. Generally, Hall sensor gimbals are said to be more precise and durable than traditional gimbals using potentiometers. The gimbals on the X-Lite feel similar to the hall gimbals on the QX7S and X9D, though the output signal is different.

X-Lite’s gimbals have PWM output, which means on paper, they can be more accurate than the hall effect gimbals used in the Taranis X9D and QX7 (which have analogue outputs, 3.3V voltage level).

We tested these gimbals, the refresh rate is measured at about 260Hz, the latency is only 3.85ms.

Stick Height Adjustment

You can adjust the height of the stick slightly (about 5mm) by screwing the little bolt in or out in the stickend. Pretty clever design there, but I wish we could adjust more!

The following image shows the highest and lowest stick height after adjustment.

Switches

The Taranis X-Lite TX features two 3-position switches (longer ones), two 2-position switches (shorter ones) and two sliders (but they have no centering notches). The number of switches are more than enough for multirotors, you can assign flight modes, and activating other functions.

The switches are actually in very good positions. You can easily flip them while holding the sticks. They are quite stiff, it’s pretty unlikely to flip them by accident.

Ports and Connectors

The connections are all underneath the radio:

  • Micro SD card slot, which stores all the OpenTX files and models data
  • 3.5mm headphone jack for audio output
  • Micro USB port
  • SmartPort (S.Port), for flashing receiver firmware

The Frsky X-Lite doesn’t come with a micro SD card, as a result you won’t get any speech warning as the sound files are missing. A 2GB SD card should do nicely.

The X-Lite is using Micro USB rather than the bigger Mini USB, which is good news! Micro USB cable are widely available for smartphones and easy to come by. Through the USB port you can flash OpenTX and iXJT firmware, as well as using it as a joystick to play FPV simulators.

RF Module and Antenna

You don’t see any antenna hanging out, because it’s located inside the transmitter! This makes the radio extremely compact and you won’t have to worry about damaging your antenna during transportation.

If you want longer range, you can install an external antenna on the RP-SMA connector, located on the top of the radio. Any 2.4GHz antenna should work just fine.

Frsky released a dedicated external antenna for the X-lite for only $3.5, if you are looking for something tiny: http://bit.ly/2KAZN6K

I have yet to do a proper range test comparing the internal and external antennas. But so far the internal antenna has been working perfectly fine for me within 500m with the R-XSR. I have not pushed the limit yet.

The X-Lite also supports external modules, but the module bay is way smaller to fit standard JR modules. At the moment the only size-compatible module is the Frsky R9M-Lite as far as I know, which is a 900MHz long range module.

The X-Lite is actually pin-compatible with most JR modules out there, including the TBS Crossfire. The only challenge is finding the adapter to install it.

Battery – Errrrr!

If I have to complain one thing about the X-Lite, it will have to be the power option.

At first I thought they would use 18650 cells. But no, Frsky decided to go with 18500 Li-Ion cell battery, which is a really odd choice. Yes, 18500 are smaller than 18650, but they are also a lot harder to find.

The radio doesn’t come with the batteries, you have to buy them somewhere else. I guess this might have made it easier and cheaper to ship.

You need two batteries, one on each side.

Charging them is another problem.

The X-Lite doesn’t have a built-in charger, so you have to take the batteries out to charge them. You will probably need a dedicated charger for them because most Li-Ion chargers don’t support 18500’s “odd size”. Or maybe you can build a case and charge them using your LiPo charger, like I did for the 18650. (using 18500 holder)

But the good thing is, you can bring spare batteries with you and swap them out whenever you want.

Battery Choice

The best 18500 battery I could find was the EBL 1600mAh. The Panasonic NCR18500A 2040mAh are even better but they are hard to come by (update 04 Aug 2018: Banggood started selling these, but i have no way of knowing if they are genuine). None of these are available here in the UK, so I just went with some random 1100mAh.

Make sure you get the flat top, not the button top. The button top doesn’t fit well in the battery compartment because of the extruded bit. Battery size should be 18mm x 50mm.

Menu, Operation and OpenTX

The screen has the same resolution as the one in the QX7, but it’s nicer to look at because it’s smaller and feels less pixelated. The backlight is bright enough to see clearly under sunlight.

If you are coming from the Taranis X9D or QX7 like me, it will take you sometime to get used to the X-Lite. The buttons are different, and menu has been slightly modified. But OpenTX is more or less the same in terms of features and where things are.

For completely new people, this makes no difference in terms of learning curve :)

Initial Setup and How to Use

What do the buttons do?

You can do pretty much everything with the 5-way joystick.

  • Center press for enter and confirm. Press up, down, left and right to navigate the menu
  • Hold left to access Radio Setup
  • Hold right to access Model Setup
  • Hold up for statistics
  • Hold down for telemetry page

The cancel button is right below the joystick.

Setup Sticks (Radio Mode)

When you get the X-Lite, the first thing you want to do is to decide which stick to use as throttle (which TX mode). Most people use mode 2 including myself, where the throttle/yaw stick would be on the left, and pitch/roll stick on the right.

Both sticks come spring loaded, so you have to release the spring on one of the gimbals. Here is the clever design from Frsky.

By putting on the provided screws in the back of the radio, you can release the gimbal spring, as well as adjusting the tension of the sticks. Check manual for more detail how to do this.

Normally you would have to take apart the radio to do this, this is so handy!

Once you have finished adjusting the sticks, you can cover up the holes with the plastic cups provided. Pretty neat!

Make sure you are setup the correct radio mode in Radio Setup page.

Stick Calibration

Next, calibrate the sticks to ensure you are using full stick range and correct mid points. Simply hold the joystick to the left to enter “Radio Setup”, and scroll to the page which says Calibration.

Setup Failsafe

If you are getting warning saying “Failsafe Not Set” when you turn on the radio, then you need to set it up.

Hold the joystick to the right to enter “Model Setup”, and scroll down to the Failsafe settings. I usually just set it to No Pulse. See this article why, and how to setup failsafe.

Trim Button

As you can see there is no trim buttons next to the gimbals. Well, the 4-way cross key acts like the trim button. Use it to trim the gimbal on the right. By holding down the button right to the joystick, you can now trim the gimbal on the left. When you are in trim center, the radio beeps and vibrates.

Put on Stick Sleeves

Optionally you can put on some heatshrink on the switches, which comes with the radio.

Update OpenTX Firmware

The process is nearly identical to flashing other Frsky transmitters.

Conclusion

Pro’s

  • Stylish, compact and portable
  • One of the highest quality radios from Frsky for the low price
  • Clever way of adjusting stick tension and removing throttle spring
  • Great for thumbers
  • Supports long range systems: R9M-Lite and Crossfire (if you don’t mind DIY mods)
  • Internal antenna and allows external antenna

Con’s

  • You can’t adjust stick tension for the horizontal sticks (yaw and roll on mode 2)
  • There is no built-in charger
  • Not as ergonomic for pinchers, or people with big hands
  • There is no trainer option; I don’t personally use this feature but I’ve seen quite a few people complaining about it
  • Headphone has a little electrical noise

With all the good and bad things mentioned throughout this review, there is certainly room for improvement. But overall I think the X-Lite is still a great product that is worth considering.

I can see how great it is to use with micro quads like Tiny Whoop where requires a higher level of agility over precision. The compact size makes a convenient TX for a backpacker’s everyday flying. The range is actually similar to that of the Taranis X9D which I am very impressed about.

I wish they can implement a built-in charger for this model, that would make it close to perfect :)

26 thoughts on “Review: Frsky Taranis X-Lite Radio Transmitter

  1. Larry

    I’ve been trying to track down a spec that seems to be missing from all reviews I’ve seen.
    What is the angle of throw on the sticks and how does it compare to stock Taranis Qx7/Qx7s and X9D?

    I understand the throw is less, and the gimbals appear smaller, but that could be due to stick length (from rotation center) and panel height.

    If the sticks were longer would the effective throw be the same?

    Reply
  2. Haloweenhamster

    I had no issue with buying batteries in the UK, here is one shop from a quick google
    ecoluxshopdirect.co.uk/panasonic-ncr18500a-2000mah-battery
    I wouldn’t buy batteries off eBay or Amazon due to the amount of fake products

    I get on well with the xlite, I have both modules the R9M lite & MPM

    Using the MPM with a eachine 010 the pitch is reversed but everything else is ok

    Mainly using R9 now with the R9 mini for quads, most using f.port which works well

    Reply
  3. Tim

    Just wanted to give a tip regarding the “best” batteries for this transmitter since it took me a while to find them myself.
    Oscar also mentions them in the review, the Panasonic NCR18500A can be bought at nkon.nl.
    eu.nkon.nl/panasonic-ncr18500a.html?___SID=U
    I just ordered 4 to Sweden, total cost including shipping is €41.98.

    Reply
  4. Ryan Cheesman

    Was wondering about the lack of trims. I asked FRSky and got the following: The four-way navigation is the trim1 ~trim2, and it will act as trim3~trim4 with pressing on ‘SHIFT’ button. It’s $119 on pre-order, $150 full price.

    Reply
  5. Jesse Gyger

    Just read this on rotorgeeks website: “The latest word is that the radios will be released in April (early, late???). The radio will have 4 switches and the price is expected to be between $100 – $150 USD This is great news as there was some mention of a price point above the X9D+. It will ship without batteries and take common 18650 cells. This simplifies shipping and reduces cost as lithium batteries are considered ‘dangerous goods’ and require extra paperwork, certification and cost. “

    Reply
  6. jessegyger

    Just take my money… I just pre-ordered this from rotorgeeks. As soon as I heard 2x 18650 removable batteries I was in. More switches would be nice but I could do with just two 3 position. One for arming and one for beeper and turtle mode. I really hope there’s a momentary switch somewhere on it, maybe a trigger?

    Reply
    1. Mr Andersson

      It’s not 18650. On product page it says:
      “Here is the instruction for the suitable battery of X-LITE:
      18500 flat top Li-ion Battery
      Diameter: 18mm
      Height: 500mm”

      This is a huge design flaw to me since those batteries are very uncommon and hard-to-get compared to 18650.

      Reply
    1. Brandon Knogler

      openTX… you could make tell it to make aileron input turn on your beeper when disarmed or something. You no longer need 16 switches for 16 channels.

      Reply
  7. Mr.d

    If it had four switches I would buy it but two is not enough for me even three switches I would probably buy it. Sucks I really wanted something like this but two switches won’t cut it for me. Oh well. Other than that it looks great.

    Reply
  8. Jono

    Can we please have TBS crossfire support or at least for the micro?! This is perfect travelling form factor just needs a mid range robust RF link

    Reply
  9. Nor Azhar

    Frsky has confirmed in their Instagram that they are using a MICRO Usb port instead of a Mini USB. This is despite the face that 99% of site advertising this product describe it as having a Mini USB port.

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      We will update that once Frsky release their final product spec :) at the moment the “info” is all over the places.

      Reply
      1. Gullo

        Radio Came out!. I’m waiting for your review Oscar :D there are a few things I’m troubled about the radio so I need assistance to decide :P
        Cheers mat!

      2. Oscar Post author

        I become a bit skeptical after being told by TBS that the Crossfire isn’t supported.
        I think I will wait for the Dark Knight to come out and see how they stack up first :)

  10. Andrew Blanche

    Wish they would consider a top mounted Fpv screen if dimensions are same as say PS4 controller easily a 10hx12w screen could be part of transmitter not a tiny useless screen like on Tango

    Reply
    1. Wild Bill

      I am waiting to see a back to back comparison of the Dark Knight and the X-Lite. Whichever wins I am planning on buying one from the second manufacturing round (without the bugs :) )

      or, all these new TXs might push the price of the X9D Plus down and I can get that :)

      Either way it’s good news all round

      Reply
  11. Chris FPV

    I was about to buy a Q X7, but now I’m going to hold off. It probably isn’t as versatile as the Q X7, but I’m a thumber and I’m sure it’ll feel much more natural in my hands.

    Reply

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