Review: Radiomaster ExpressLRS TX Modules: Ranger, Ranger Micro, Ranger Nano

by Oscar
Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Micro Nano Size Compare

Radiomaster just released some quality ExpressLRS TX modules, the Ranger, Ranger Micro and Ranger Nano. They have different features, price points and fit different module bay. In this review we will take a close look and test their output power to see how well they perform.

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If you are new to ExpressLRS, check out why it’s now my favourite RC link.

Here’s a complete guide to setting up ExpressLRS.

Where to Buy?

Ranger 2.4GHz ExpressLRS Module:

It comes with the following accessories:

  • 1x Futaba CRSF socket cable
  • 1x JR Adapter
  • 1x Nano Adapter
  • 1 * T Antenna
  • 1 * Moxon Antenna
  • 1 * Hexagon socket screwdriver
  • 3 * M2*5 Screws
  • 1 * Assembly Manual

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Unbox AccessoriesRanger Micro Module:

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Micro

Ranger Nano Module:

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Nano

Both the Ranger Micro and Nano modules come with a T Antenna, no other accessories are included.

Specs and Features

Radiomaster Ranger

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger

  • Designed for 2.4GHz ExpressLRS
  • OLED screen:  128*64px
  • Strong CNC aluminium housing
  • Menu joystick and 2 customizable shortcut buttons
  • Up to 30dBm (1W) 33dBm (2W) Output Power
  • MCU: ESP32(main), ESP8285(aux, as ESP backpack)
  • Supports packet rates up to 1000Hz
  • RF chip: SX1281IMLTRT
  • Swappable Module bay adapters included for JR module 5pin socket & Lite module 8pin socket
  • Futaba CRSF socket cable: Included
  • WiFi and bluetooth supported
  • Built in 3-Axis Accelerometer: STK8BA58 MEMS Accelerometer
  • Built-in RGB light strip
  • XT30 for External Power, takes DC 6V – 16.8V (2S to 4S)
  • Weight including JR module adapter:
    • 157g (with Moxon antenna)
    • 154g (with T antenna)
    • 145g (without antenna)
  • Dimensions: 95*51*25mm (without antenna)

Radiomaster Ranger Micro and Nano

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Micro Nano

The Ranger Nano and Micro modules have identical specs except size and weight:

  • Designed for 2.4GHz ExpressLRS
  • Injection moulded plastic housing
  • Up to 30dBm (1W) Output Power
  • Supports packet rates up to 1000Hz
  • MCU: ESP32(main), ESP8285(aux, as ESP backpack)
  • RF chip: SX1281IMLTRT
  • WiFi and bluetooth supported
  • XT30 for External Power, takes DC 6V – 16.8V (2S to 4S)
  • Weight:
    • Ranger Micro: 50g 53g (with antenna) / 40.5g 43.6g (without antenna)
    • Ranger Nano: 48g (with antenna) / 39g (without antenna)
  • Dimension:
    • Ranger Micro: 136*49*33mm (with T antenna) / 74*49*33mm (without antenna)
    • Ranger Nano: 136*42*26mm (with T antenna) / 74*42*26mm (without antenna)

Closer Look

Radiomaster Ranger (Full Size)

At $99.99, the Radiomaster Ranger is definitely one of the most premium and feature-packed ExpressLRS TX modules you can find on the market today.

It’s considerably bigger than other budget 1W modules on the market, mainly because the whole casing is solid CNC aluminium which doubles as a massive heatsink to keep the module cool and maximum output power consistent. It has one of the largest cooling fans I’ve seen in all the TX modules I reviewed.

The Ranger module weighs in at 157g compared to the BetaFPV 1W Micro module‘s 64g, nearly 100g heavier. I can really feel the difference in weight when holding the radio with the Ranger module installed, I think using a neckstrap would be desirable. Most of that weight comes from the metal casing / heatsink.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Compare Betafpv 1w Micro

On the bottom we have access to the USB port (for firmware update), connector for Futaba support (CRSF socket), and XT30 for external power (2S-4S) if your radio cannot provide enough power from the module bay when running 500mW or higher output power. You don’t necessary need to plug in an external battery to use 1W, for example the latest TX16S is capable of supplying enough current in the module bay. Check the specs of your radio, if in doubt just use an external battery. I will list the current draw of different power levels in the testing section.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Bottom Xt30 ConnectorsUnlike some other brands, the Ranger has an RP-SMA antenna connector, and there is a vent on top that blows out hot air.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Antenna Rp Sma ConnectorComes with two replaceable module bay adapters for JR and Lite module bays, e.g. for the TX16S and Zorro. Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Jr Lite Module AdapterThis is how it looks with the JR module bay adapter installed. You are provided with two antennas as well, the T style antenna is a lower gain antenna that is good for general use. The Moxon antenna (shown below) is higher gain and better for long range. Here’s an article explaining how antenna gain affects range and radiation pattern.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Antenna Jr Module AdapterI am using the Ranger module on the TX16S.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Tx16s Bay Size Back

Normally you can change ExpressLRS settings in the LUA script, but the Radiomaster Ranger TX module also offers an additional way to do that using the OLED screen and joystick button. It’s bright and visible even under bright sunlight.

There are two customisable shortcut buttons under the screen, you can change their colours and functions in the WiFi configurator, for example a press of the button to enable WiFi, or increase output power, or enter VTX menu… It just makes it more user friendly and efficient to use.

Radiomaster Ranger Full Expresslrs Tx Module Shortcut Button Customize Function Color

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Tx16s Jr Bay Led Light Screen

There are two RGB LED strip next to the front vent, at the moment they just keep changing color like waves, can’t be customized yet hopefully we can in the future with firmware updates.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Tx16s Bay Screen Output Power 1wHere’s what the PCB looks like.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Close Up PcbIt has both WiFi and Bluetooth built-in, meaning you can update the firmware via WiFi as well, and connect the radio to your computer wirelessly through Bluetooth as a joystick and play simulators.

It also has a built-in acceleronmeter. When you flip the radio over to look at the OLED screen on the module, the display turns on. When you are done and flip the radio over, it turns of the display, which is pretty cool. It also has a motion detect feature (which you can enable in the screen menu) – when your quad is not powered on and you put the radio down for more than 30 seconds, it automatically switches to the lowest 25mW to save power which is pretty smart.

Radiomaster Ranger Micro and Nano

If the Ranger module is too big, too heavy or simply too expensive, Radiomaster also offers other alternatives: the Radiomaster Micro and Nano TX modules. It might be missing a few features from the full size Ranger module, but at only $39.99, the Ranger Micro and Rnager Nano still offer decent build quality and are capable of 1000mW output power.

The Micro and Nano modules share the same features and specs, but they are designed for different module bays. If you have a radio like the TX16S that has a JR module bay, then you should get the Micro. If you have a radio like the Zorro or Tango2, then you should get the Nano.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Micro Nano Size CompareThere are USB-C port for firmware update and XT30 for external power if your radio cannot provide enough power from the module bay when running 500mW or higher output power. You don’t necessary need to plug in an external battery to use 1W, for example the latest TX16S is capable of supplying enough current in the module bay. Check the specs of your radio, if in doubt just use an external battery. I will list the current draw of different power levels in the testing section.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Micro Nano Bottom Xt30

Comes with a T antenna which is good for general flying. For long range flying, the higher gain Moxon antenna is preferred: https://oscarliang.com/product-ahtr

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Micro Nano Antenna Jr Lite Bay

They both have RP-SMA antenna connectors.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Micro Nano Top Rp Sma Antenna Connector

It’s similar size and weight to most other 1W ExpressLRS TX modules out there.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Micro Tx16s Jr Install

Here is a tear down of Ranger Micro and Ranger Nano modules, both have heatsink and cooling fan properly installed to keep them cool. The Micro and Nano have different PCB designs, not simply in a different plastic case.

Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Micro Nano Close Up Pcb TopHere’s the back of the PCB. Radiomaster Expresslrs Tx Modules Ranger Micro Nano Close Up Pcb BottomIt has both WiFi and Bluetooth built-in, meaning you can update the firmware via WiFi as well, and connect the radio to your computer wirelessly through Bluetooth as a joystick and play simulators.

Output Power Testing

Output powers and current draw at 7.4V (just the module) at different power levels:

Power Levels 25mW 50mW 100mW 250mW 500mW 1000mW
Ranger 26 (0.13A) 63 (0.16A) 115 (0.30A) 242 (0.36A) 466 (0.46A) 1020 (0.6A)
Ranger Micro 18 (0.11A) 41 (0.13A) 77 (0.15A) 223 (0.23A) 469 (0.27A) 646 (0.32A)
Ranger Nano 26 (0.22A) 59 (0.25A) 112 (0.29A) 259 (0.44A) 556 (0.53A) 937 (0.6A)

Note that the measured output powers do not mean the quality of the hardware, it just shows how accurate the factory calibration is, and if the maximum output power meets expectation. Measurements were taken with the ImmersionRC Power meter V2.

The Ranger draws about the same amount of current as the Ranger Nano at 1W level, but puts out nearly 100mW more shows how effective the cooling system is. But for some reason the Ranger Micro didn’t perform as well as expected, just fell short in all power levels, current draw confirms it’s not giving the proper output power. I re-tested it multiple times, same result. Maybe I just have a bad unit without proper calibration, will have to check with Radiomaster about it. Update (11/11/2022): Radiomaster gave me the latest firmware (still experimental) for the Micro module, after updating, still the same output power. They speculate that the micro module I have could be one of the early prototypes that have lower output powers, and it somehow got mixed in to the pre-production samples. They will send me a production unit when it’s ready and I will test it again.

I also put these modules on 1W for 20 minutes and see how the output powers hold up. As you can see the Ranger is the most consistent through out, settled around 970mW. The Nano settled around 870mW, same as the BetaFPV Micro 1W.

Radiomaster Ranger Micro Nano Betafpv 1w Expresslrs Module Output Power Testing

Impressively the Ranger module stayed stone cold after 20 mins at 1W. The Ranger Nano and Micro got slightly warm but not hot at all.

Update (12 Jan 2023): I tested a second Ranger Micro

Radiomaster kindly sent me another production Ranger Micro module for testing, and this time the output power does live up to expectation. Here’s the result.

Power Levels 25mW 50mW 100mW 250mW 500mW 1000mW
Ranger Micro 35 (0.23A) 58 (0.25A) 106 (0.27A) 300 (0.31A) 617 (0.37A) 974 (0.44A)

Radiomaster Ranger Micro Nano Betafpv 1w Expresslrs Module Output Power Testing 2

Basically, the Ranger Nano, Ranger Micro and BetaFPV Micro 1W all have similar performance at 1000mW output power, and they are all priced at US$39.99, but you get a better deal with the Ranger Combo (that includes receivers). So there you go!

Which One Should I Get?

If you are on the fence about ExpressLRS, I strongly recommend giving it a try. You can get the Ranger Micro/Nano Combo (module + 2 receivers) for only $59.99, so you are getting two RX for only $10 each which is really good value. I previous ran TBS Crossfire, although it was more user friendly, and the range was just as good as ExpressLRS if not better, I am still really happy about the switch. ExpressLRS is cheaper, offers higher packet rates and also the receiver antennas are so much smaller making it easier to mount on drones.

Do you need to upgrade if your radio has already got ExpressLRS built-in, but limited to 250mW or lower? Well, for most people I don’t think it’s necessary as 250mW has proven to be capable of going as far as tens of kilometers, most of us simply don’t fly that far out. Unless you are already pushing the range limit of the built-in ExpressLRS module (or you need extra penetration), then it’s worth it getting the Ranger module so you can run up to 1W output power. If you are running 250mW now, 1W will double your range in theory.

If you are serious about long range and getting proper cooling and the most consistent 1W output power, or you are a professional pilot who just want the most reliable performance in your ExpressLRS radio link, you may consider the full size Ranger module, it’s a beast and one of the most feature packed modules right now. For most people, the $40 Ranger Micro and Nano would be sufficient.

2W Output Power Hack

You can “hack” the full size Ranger module to output 2W! That really shows the top notch quality and design of the Ranger module and how much more you can push its limit.

Note that this is an unofficial modification, therefore follow the instructions at your own risk.

Firmware Update

I think the official firmware release for the Ranger series is coming in ExpressLRS 3.1.1, so wait for that. If you cannot wait to flash it there’s a maintenance version but it’s beta so probably not as stable. To flash it, just connect the USB-C cable follow my tutorial here.

When you get your ranger module you can still set the binding phrase by connecting to WiFi and on the browser page, without the need to flash it.

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11 comments

Bill 3rd February 2023 - 1:47 pm

Can I power up the module or turn on my radio with the module in it without the antenna attached or will that damage it?

Reply
John 26th January 2023 - 5:36 pm

Which module, micro or nano, would be appropriate for th Taranis X9D+?

Reply
Oscar 26th January 2023 - 8:06 pm

The Micro would be plug and play. The Nano won’t fit without an adapter.

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Jim 19th January 2023 - 10:47 pm

What firmware does it come with. As I’m reading 3.XX doesn’t work on anything yet

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Oscar 19th January 2023 - 11:17 pm

They come with ELRS V3, but a maintanence build, official firmware is not yet released (coming in 3.1.1).
What do you mean by “anything”? V3 firmware has been out for months, and you can flash your receivers to V3.

Reply
Deivis Sajermann Sergio 19th January 2023 - 8:24 pm

Hi Oscar, thanks for the very detailed review :) I received my Ranger Nano to use with my RadioMaster Zorro… and I configured it to use 1000mW and to turn on the fan above 250mW… Well, it is never turning on, and I guess the direct power supply from radio is not enough to supply the current necessary for that. And I do not find the specs about the max current delivered in the module bay from RadioMaster Zorro. (I will test with an external battery later…) In your tests (long time ago) from this radio, was it written somewhere ? Or didi you test the max current output in the module bay ? Thanks a lot :)

Reply
Gonzalo 25th November 2022 - 8:13 pm

Hi Oscar, i’d like to know if the nano module is compatible with the jumper T-lite V1. The radio works with 1s battery, but i don’t know if i plug an external 2s battery to the module in order to make it works, will i fire up something or similar? Will it works? Thanks.

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Mariusz 17th November 2022 - 5:38 pm

Hi Oscar, do you know if Ranger module is capable to share telemtry via wifi or BT ? I would like to use it to share data with my MFD Crossbow Mini
Thanks for help :)

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Lie Erland 14th November 2022 - 1:24 am

So, when this ranger arrive, its time to left behind my crossfire tx and rx?

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Oscar 14th November 2022 - 8:37 am

I’ve left behind crossfire for ELRS for more than a year now :)

Reply
Tehllama 14th November 2022 - 1:35 pm

I actually run only CRSF and ELRS at this point – I wouldn’t say it has completely replaced CRSF for mid-range and long range applications, especially with bigger birds beyond a mile where the size/weight of the crossfire setup doesn’t negatively affect the build in anyway… but anymore those are the only things I bother with crossfire on.

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