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.
If you are new to ExpressLRS, check out why it’s now my favourite RC link.
Where to Buy?
Ranger 2.4GHz ExpressLRS Module:
- Radiomaster: https://oscarliang.com/product-nrqa
- GetFPV: https://oscarliang.com/product-6xqn
- RDQ: https://oscarliang.com/product-quvb
- AliExpress: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DF2PGiR
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: https://oscarliang.com/product-gvtq
- GetFPV: https://oscarliang.com/product-my4m
- RDQ: https://oscarliang.com/product-y4th
- AliExpress: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DlsFFwj
Ranger Nano Module:
- Radiomaster: https://oscarliang.com/product-sas9
- GetFPV: https://oscarliang.com/product-jyn4
- RDQ: https://oscarliang.com/product-qire
- AliExpress: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DdCxrND
Both the Ranger Micro and Nano modules come with a T Antenna, no other accessories are included.
Specs and Features
- 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
Radiomaster Ranger Micro and 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
- XT30 for External Power, takes DC 6V – 16.8V (2S to 4S)
- Ranger Nano: 48g (with antenna) / 39g (without antenna)
- Ranger Nano: 136*42*26mm (with T antenna) / 74*42*26mm (without antenna)
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.
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.
Comes with two replaceable module bay adapters for JR and Lite module bays, e.g. for the TX16S and Zorro. This 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.
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.
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.
It 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.
There 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.
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
They both have RP-SMA antenna connectors.
It’s similar size and weight to most other 1W ExpressLRS TX modules out there.
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.
Here’s the back of the PCB. It 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:
|Ranger||26 (0.13A)||63 (0.16A)||115 (0.30A)||242 (0.36A)||466 (0.46A)||1020 (0.6A)|
|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.
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.
|Ranger Micro||35 (0.23A)||58 (0.25A)||106 (0.27A)||300 (0.31A)||617 (0.37A)||974 (0.44A)|
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.
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.