Hey, my dudes. Ken here. Today I’m reviewing the Frsky Taranis X-Lite TX, a recent addition to the latest generation of drone/quadcopter radio controllers. Let’s take a look, shall we?
First of all, the Taranis X-LITE TX is pretty slick. My first impression of it was that I liked the look of it, straight out of the box. It’s nicely designed and looks sufficiently cool, but more importantly, it looks like a self-contained “finished” product. A lot of the bigger controls still have that old-school Radio Shack look and feel, based as they are on modified build kits that were developed back when RC was still in its infancy. That bulky black control box look has long been standardized in the industry, and has essentially become its own style.
The Taranis X-Lite TX is pretty much the opposite, totally bucking that trend. It looks more like a game controller than anything else, which should appeal to the highly-video-game savvy drone flyer demographic.
Frsky Taranis X-Lite Specifications
It’s crazy light. It weighs in at less than half the weight of my lightest full-size controller. You can hang onto this thing all day long and your arms will never feel it. Which is good, because the one handy feature it’s noticeably missing is a lanyard or strap attachment.
When testing this unit I kept having to fight the habit of dropping the controller and letting it hang by the lanyard. That would be an expensive mistake to make with the Taranis X-Lite, because the unit itself seems pretty fragile, especially the controllers.
The size and weight make this thing seriously portable. Normally when flying my full-size drones with full-size controllers I need to bring a backpack and sometimes a secondary bag to carry all my extra batteries and gear.
But the Taranis X-Lite TX is so small it’s practically pocket sized. If you want to do a short flight with a mini-drone in a park somewhere, or some discreet flying in a parking lot, this little guy would be perfect. And ideal for controlling a Micro or Mini-drone.
Frsky Taranis X-Lite Controlle Review
The radio itself comes in a fancy soft shell storage case, which really adds to its curbside appeal. It looks great straight out of the box. Of course, you can get the Taranis X-Lite TX in the two most gamer-friendly colors, red or black.
The hand grips are no-slip, which helps. Without a lanyard, you don’t want to drop this bad boy, as I’ve previously mentioned. If you are a “thumber” (meaning you prefer to operate the controls with your thumbs, gamer style), then the handset style controller will be a natural fit. If you’re more of an old-school RC control “pincher” who likes to grip the joysticks between thumb and forefinger, you may find the Taranis X-Lite TX controller a bit less user-friendly.
The unit is roughly the same thickness as a full-size radio controller unit.
Good news: the Taranis X-Lite TX comes preinstalled with M12 Lite hall sensor gimbals with PWM output, (reputedly better than similar analog gimbals), saving you the trouble of upgrading to them if those are your preference.
Normally I find myself having to install those myself. The sticks still feel a bit thinner and flimsier than the full size versions common to larger RC controllers. Plus they seem softer and looser, with a bit more play. Not that big a problem for an experienced drone pilot, but definitely different from the more robust, more precise feel of the larger units.
Plus, the shorter sticks might be easier to move quickly (shorter control shafts mean a shorter, potentially quicker, movement radius). But they are different and may take some getting used to. Also in their defense, the sticks are somewhat adjustable -- you can alter the stick height by around a quarter of an inch by adjusting the bolt on the stick end. So that’s something.
Plus, the unit comes with cute little heat-shrink covers, with which you can adorn your sticks if so inclined.
Both sticks come spring loaded, so be advised: you’ll have to release the spring on one of the gimbals. But here’s a nice design feature on the Taranis X-Lite TX: the adjustment screws are right on the back of the radio. You can use these to release the gimbal spring or to adjusting the tension level of the sticks. On other models, you have to take the whole radio controller apart to access this functionality. So this feature makes life a teeny bit easier. You also get a set of rubber screw-hole plugs to seal them up, once you’re happy with the adjustment. Clever.
Controls are decent: the Taranis X-Lite TX comes equipped with a pair of 3-position long switches, a pair of 2-position short switches, and a pair of sliders. The positioning is good on them, making them easy to use. And that’s a decent amount of control options for multirotors. You can assign functions as necessary.
On the underside of the radio itself are the ports and connectors. These consist of a Micro SD card slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack for audio output, a Micro USB port and a SmartPort (S.Port). The last port is what you’d use to input receiver software (or upgraded firmware) as necessary or connect it to an FPV simulator to use as a controller. You’ll also need to supply your own micro SD card, to access sound files and the like, since one isn’t included..
The radio has a built-in antenna inside the transmitter, which is a nice feature. It also has an RP-SMA input on the top of the unity, which you can use to attach an external antenna if you want longer range than the built-in version.
The X-Lite also supports external modules… except the module bay is way too smaller to fit standard JR modules. It’s pin-compatible with most JR modules, but without the bay you’d need to find an adapter to take advantage of that option.
Batteries are a bit of a hassle, since the radio uses slightly non-standard 8500 Li-Ion cells. You’ll need two batteries to run the unit, one on either side. And changing them is definitely a pain. No onboard re-charging option, so you’ll have to pull the batteries to recharge them. And the 8500 Li-Ion cells don’t fit in most chargers.
The screen looks pretty good, and works well enough with decent backlight.
The unit is pretty easy to link and calibrate. Just be sure to set the proper radio mode, and use the onboard set up controls to get linked to the compatible drone of your choice. Calibrating the sticks is also fairly easy, if you have any experience with RC controllers in general. You may need to update the OpenTX Firmware by flashing the unit.
It flies pretty well. The lightness of the unit is a definite plus, but the lack of a lanyard kind of cancels that benefit out. Also, a smaller controller means more compact controls, which may take some getting used to, especially if you are a pincher or have big hands. But with a bit of practice that should clear right up.
Final Review: FrSky Taranis X-Lite 2.4GHz Radio Controller
Overall the new Taranis X-Lite is much lighter and more portable than the other full size options on the market.
It is a great companion to micro and mini drones (the tiny whoops and smaller drones under 3 inches).
It works very much the same as the other larger devices and even has room for a long range module, but it does suffer from being potentially more fragile. Since the control gimbals are shorter and smaller, you potentially have less precision control than you would in a full size transmitter.
Bottom line: if this device were $20 less, it would be the perfect companion to micro drones. But since it costs the same as the full size transmitter, you may want to go full size unless overall weight and mobility are extremely important to you.