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.
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.
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
1865018500 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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 :)