I shared news about the Nirvana TX back in February, and it’s finally here! I will try to cover as much information I have in this review.
Learn more about choosing radio for mini quad.
Where to Buy
The Nirvana is nicely packaged and protected by a removable hard plastic cover from knocking the sticks buttons and switches.
Accessories included are:
- Two Flysky radio receivers
- 3.5mm trainer port cable (1.5m)
- Micro USB cable (1m)
- Instructions Manual
- External JR module mount
Note that battery is not included.
Two Different Versions
The Nirvana TX (previously known as the Dark Knight) is designed by UndergroundFPV and manufactured by Flysky. There will be two different versions: the UndergroundFPV version, and the Flysky version.
As far as I know, the main differences will be the software that runs on these radios. The one we are reviewing is the UndergroundFPV version.
The UndergroundFPV version is better. Not only you can support the brains behind this product, you will also get the best OpenTX firmware.
A Closer Look at the Nirvana
The build quality of the Nirvana radio exceeded my expectation! I thought it was going to be tiny, but it’s actually a full size transmitter! Almost as big as the Taranis X9D as shown in the following picture, it feels really solid in the hands. The Nirvana weighs around 650g with batteries which is lighter than the X9D, but about the same as the Taranis QX7.
I am also impressed by the many thoughtful and practical design details, which I will cover throughout the review.
The metal hardware pieces are alloy 6061 (switch nuts, stickends, grips etc). They were originally blue in the rendered images, but changed to “rainbow color” in the production version.
According to UndergroundFPV, the color effect is achieved using electroplating anodising process. They did it in a way so that every piece of metal looks different, and every radio would be unique!
The NIrvana radio is equipped with digital hall sensor gimbals. The throw/travel of these gimbals is similar to the the Taranis. The springs are pretty loose and they don’t have much tension out of the box. Some people like it, some don’t. Anyway I will show you how to adjust it shortly.
It came pre-configured as Mode 2 (Throttle and Yaw on the left stick), you can also change it to Mode 1 quite easily. I’ve been told the easiest way is to unscrew the hall sensors and just swap the gimbals from left to right.
You can probably guess by the gaming console design, that it’s intended for “thumbers” – pilots who hold the sticks with only their thumbs.
Being a “pinchers” myself – who hold the sticks with index fingers and thumbs, it was pretty awkward at first. I’ve been using “box” style transmitters like the X9D for years and I am very used to the bigger body. After using it for a few days now, I think I am slowly getting used to it. I find it much easier to hold by putting my middle and ring fingers on the grips and rest the radio on the pinkies.
I really like the stickends, they are very grippy. The height of the sticks can be adjusted slightly, the longest stick is about 27mm, the shortest is about 20mm.
Switches and Pots
You have 4 switches on the front: top left is a 3-position, bottom left is a 2-position, top right is a momentary switch, bottom right is another 2-position. And there are also two rotary controls (potentiometers).
On the other side of the TX (underneath), we have another 4 switches: top left is a 3-position, bottom left is a momentary switch, and the switches are the same on the right.
The trim buttons are located under the potentiometers, right above the gimbals. You can tell the guys at UndergroundFPV didn’t design this radio just for the mini quad community, they also care about those who fly planes and wings!
The USB port is located on the top side of the TX, covered by a rubber cap. You can use it to charge the 18650 batteries inside the radio, as well as connecting to your computer to play with FPV simulators.
Next to the USB port we have the trainer port (3.5mm connector). You can hook it up to another transmitter for instruction/training purposes.
Many other radios have the connectors facing toward the user which can be inconvenient at times.
The antenna is foldable in the back of the TX, I think this is a fantastic idea. It prevents the antenna from damage during transportation. You can even use it as a stand! :)
There is a secondary PCB-style antenna inside the plastic case for diversity and some other cool features in the future.
External TX module
One selling point of the Nirvana is the support for external JR module including the Crossfire, Frsky XJT as well as other multi-protocol modules. Whatever that works with the Taranis X9D-Plus should be compatible with the Nirvana.
Before using external modules, you have to install the mount first. This design minimizes the size of the TX when you are not using an external module.
Here is how it looks like with the Crossfire Micro TX module installed.
The two “grips” on the back are great addition in my opinion. They make holding the radio more comfortable and secure.
If you don’t like the stock grips, you can easily remove them. I have been told there will be many more 3D print grip options released on thingiverse soon.
Micro SD card
I am pleasantly surprised that the Nirvana actually comes with a 2GB SD card, well done UndergroundFPV!
To access the micro SD card slot you first have to remove the Neck Strap holder.
The Nirvana takes two 18650 Li-ion batteries. The two batteries are connected in parallel, which means it can be powered by just 1 battery. Adding another increases the total capacity and run time. It even allows for battery hot-swap during flight! (when the TX is powered on)
You can charge battery through the USB port (connecting to PC or power bank). No need to take them out of the TX!
The color touch screen is another reason why I like this TX so much. The graphics and sound effect are so bloody awesome!
There is no need to use any physical buttons to operate the menu. You can point directly at the thing you want instead of going through all the options.
The Nirvana is using OpenTX firmware, a custom version that is designed specifically for this radio. It’s still being actively worked on, new updates are coming out constantly for bug fixes and new features such as “crashed drone locator”, “quad mode”, etc…
I will get into more detail when they release the stable version. At the moment it’s still quite buggy that’s why it’s delaying the shipping of the Dark Knight radio. Hopefully most of the major issues can be addressed in the coming days.
Adjusting Gimbals Tension
Here is how you can adjust the spring tension in the gimbals. You can also easily change transmitter modes.
Taking the Nirvana Apart!
What do I do when I get a new product? To take it apart of course :) Here are some closeup shots of the PCB’s.
Comparing to the X-Lite
Being another gaming console style TX, I am sure a lot of people will compare the Nirvana to the X-Lite. Luckily I recently reviewed the Frsky X-Lite so I can tell you what I think.
To be totally honest here, I think the Nirvana is a better radio than the X-Lite in nearly every way. Some people might prefer the smaller form factor and less radical design of the X-Lite, but that’s mostly a personal choice so let’s just focus on the performance and specs.
First of all, the Nirvana has full size gimbals, they feel just as good as the ones on the Taranis X9D, if not better. The X-Lite has much smaller gimbals and shorter stick travel. I would use the X-Lite if I need something tiny, but I wouldn’t use it for my everyday flying due to the lack of precision in control. The Nirvana feels more “pincher-friendly” than the X-Lite too.
Secondly, you can’t use standard JR module on the X-Lite without modifications. The X-Lite is designed for the smaller modules such as the R9M-Lite. Despite being pin-compatible with the Crossfire, you have to do some DIY mods for installation.
Lastly, the Nirvana uses 18650 batteries and they are rechargeable inside the radio. The X-Lite uses the less popular 18500, and you need a dedicated charger to charge them. In my opinion this is not user friendly at all.
Can I Use Frsky Receivers with the Nirvana?
I have been using the Taranis for years, and all my quads have Frsky receivers already. It’s going to cost a lot to replace them all with Flysky RX. If you are in the same situation, you can just get a Frsky XJT module for the Nirvana and carry on using those Frsky RX.
Two Stock Receivers
The Nirvana TX comes with two receivers to help you transfer over to the Flysky RC system, the Micro IA8X and IA8S.
The Micro IA8X is tiny – it’s about the size of an R-XSR and meant to be used on micro quads. The IA8S receiver has two antennas for diversity with IPEX connectors. However it’s a little bigger than the R-XSR or even XSR. Both are capable of iBus, SBUS and PPM.
The Micro IA8X has 600-800 meters of range, while the IA8S RX has 1Km to 1.5Km range.
I hope Flysky can provide smaller diversity receivers in the future, the iA8S is still a bit too big for mini quad IMO. We covered some other Flysky receiver options in this article.
A lot of people are going to use Crossfire or even the Frsky XJT so this might not an issue at all. Not to mention most TX these days don’t even come with any receivers, I shouldn’t complain really :)
Custom 3D Printed Grips (Dec 2018)
UndergroupFPV designed these grips for pinchers. They do feel slightly better, but the slots are a bit too tighter it feels a bit “complicated” to lock the fingers in. I’ve seen photos of different grip designs on Facebook, but not yet shared publicly hopefully we get to try more of these in the future.
Updating Nirvana Firmware (Dec 2018)
I wrote a guide on how to update the firmware on the Nirvana radio.
Update Sep 2019: Other Radio Options
The Nirvana still seems to suffer from bugs and slow OpenTX development after about a year. Support is also not very responsive based on feedback from customers in their Facebook group.
Maybe check out the Jumper T16 if you are a fan of OpenTX system and doesn’t want to get the Frsky radios and potential customer support issue from the Nirvana. The T16 is a more promising option IMO.