Review: TBS Tracer RC System (Module and Receiver)

by Oscar
Published: Last Updated on

TBS Tracer is a new 2.4GHz radio control system that offers ultra low latency and decent range for FPV Racing. Let me explain what is special about Tracer, and how it compares to Crossfire and ImmersionRC Ghost.

Tracer is based on a new 2.4GHz RF transceiver chipset that just came out a couple of years ago. It allows for some exciting new technology which is different from the old 2.4GHz that has been around for almost a decade.

Where to Buy

TX module is available in JR and Lite form factors, for the different types of module bay your radio might have. The bundle also comes with 3 nano receivers.

JR Module (Micro)

Lite Module (Nano)

"TBS

TBS Tracer Selling Points

  • User experience just like Crossfire
  • Ultra low 3ms end to end latency
  • 250Hz refresh rate
  • Two TX Module sizes, compatible with most radios out there
  • Receiver is tiny, with diversity antennas
  • Claimed 25km (15 miles) range on 100mW
  • One single operation mode – simple and straightforward

According to TBS, Tracer is built on “Crossfire Engine”, therefore the user experience is very much like Crossfire. Things like wireless firmware update for receivers, changing settings through LUA script, auto-bind, multi-bind and cloud connectivity, are all the same.

In fact, the Tracer TX module look very similar to the Crossfire module from the outside.

There are two versions of the TX module for the different module bays, JR and Lite. Radios like the T16, Radiomaster TX16S and Taranis X9D all have JR module bay, while the X-Lite, X9-Lite and Tango 2 have Lite module bay. Both modules have the exact same specs apart from the interface, including output power.

250Hz refresh rate and 3ms latency make it one of the fastest radio control systems with telemetry on the market (along with ImmersionRC Ghost). Despite being a 2.4GHz system, TBS claims that Tracer has up to 25Km range on 100mW thanks to the new magical RF technology. This is hard to imagine, back in the days, with Frsky’s 2.4GHz, we would be lucky to fly out 2Km without a failsafe.

TBS TRACER MICRO TX Specifications

  • Latency & Refresh Rate: 3ms, 250Hz
  • Output power: 25mW / 100mW
  • Frequency Bands: 2.4GHz ISM
  • Input Voltage: 3.5V – 13V
  • USB-C Connector for firmware update
  • Power consumption: 1.1W (@10mW) – 2W (@100mW)
  • Dimensions: 65 x 48 x 22 mm (JR module size)
  • Radio Compatibility: JR module bay (e.g. TBS Tango 1, TX16S, Taranis X9D, Jumper T16, Jumper T18)
  • Requires OpenTX V2.1 or later

NANO TX Specifications

  • Latency & Refresh Rate: 3ms, 250Hz
  • Output power: 25mW / 100mW
  • Frequency Bands: 2.4GHz ISM
  • Input Voltage: 3.5V – 13V
  • USB-C Connector for firmware update
  • Power consumption: 1.1W (@10mW) – 2W (@100mW)
  • Dimensions: TBC
  • Radio Compatibility: LITE module bay (e.g. TBS Tango 2, Taranis X-Lite, X9 Lite), the TBS Tracer Nano TX is suggested for use in Futaba and Spektrum remotes that do not have a JR-module bay
  • Requires OpenTX V2.1 or later

Crossfire or TBS Tracer

You are probably wondering, is Tracer to replace Crossfire? The short answer is no.

There are 4 main differences between Crossfire and Tracer: Refresh rate, latency, range and antenna sizes.

TBS Tracer TBS Crossfire
Maximum Range 25Km (source: product page) 100Km (source: TBS’s own test)
Update Rate 250Hz 50Hz to 150Hz
End to End Latency 3ms (source: product page) 13.9ms (source: this test)
How Many Pilots Same Time up to 20 4 to 8

Tracer claims to have only 3ms latency while that of the Crossfire has been tested to be almost 14ms. Also it has a constant 250Hz refresh rate (regardless signal strength) while Crossfire is up to 150Hz, but it can drop to 50Hz with weaker signal.

Crossfire is a 900MHz system while Tracer is 2.4GHz, lower frequency has better penetration, so theoretically Crossfire will have more reliable signal and range than Tracer. Not to mention Crossfire also uses LoRa technology which enhances its long range capability further. With that said, Tracer’s range is not bad at all. In an interview, TBS mentioned the range of Tracer can reach up to 10 miles (15Km) on 100mW output power, which is still significantly more than traditional 2.4GHz we know (like Frsky ACCST for example).

I think most people pick up Crossfire because of its excellent reliability against failsafe, and it’s a very versatile RC system as it can be used in many different types of flying such as long range and freestyle. However it’s not the most competitive when it comes to racing, where latency is crucial. And that’s where Tracer come in.

Antennas on Tracer receiver are also smaller, 2.6 times smaller to be exact. This makes it much easier to mount, especially on a small drone.

The other not so obvious advantage of Tracer is the wider bandwidth. It allows more pilots to be able to fly simultaneously. Again, great for racing events.

So as you can see, both Crossfire and Tracer have their own markets.

Tracer or ImmersionRC Ghost

Both TBS Tracer and ImmersionRC Ghost RC systems are geared towards racing, as both has similar outstanding refresh rate and latency. Check out my review of the ImmersionRC Ghost here.

However, Ghost uses LoRa technology which offers insane signal robustness just like Crossfire, while the Tracer does not, that means Ghost would perform better in terms of range.

TBS could have used LoRa on Tracer as well, all it takes is just some software updates, but I guess they don’t want to have Tracer and Crossfire competing with each other. This puts Ghost in a better spot when comparing to Tracer, as it theoretically provides better range, and be a little more flexible.

TBS Tracer transmitter module and receiver

However the currently available receiver of Tracer allows diversity (as in Feb 2021) – two antennas that you can mount at different angle for more optimal polarity. Ghost’s receiver, the Atto, only has one antenna.

With that said, the Tracer TX module has only one antenna while the Ghost’s has two, but it’s still unclear at this point what kind of difference this makes.

Compatible Receiver

At the moment there is only one compatible receiver available for the Tracer, and that is the Tracer Nano RX.

The Nano RX is just as small as the Crossfire Nano RX (size of a fingernail), with two antennas for diversity. The Nano RX is intended for FPV drones, it connects to the flight controller over a serial port (UART).

There is a PWM adapter you can get for getting PWM output to connect to servos or ESC directly. This can be used for models like wings and airplanes where flight controller is not used.

TRACER NANO RX Specifications

  • Antenna connectors: u.FL / IPEX
  • Protocols: 2x CRSF, SBUS, PPM, 6x PWM, SmartAudio 2.0 / 2.1 (VTx Control)
  • Weight: 0.5g excluding antennas
  • Size: 11mm x 18mm

What do you think? Let me know in the comment.

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1 comment

Sean Crissman 30th March 2021 - 5:35 pm

Thanks Sir for all your scholarly efforts! You are a true legend for all hobbyist’s!

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