RC Radio buyer guide

RC Radios - Which One To Choose?

Remote control radios - the essential tool for any model pilot. You are no doubt aware of that a great radio can lead to great performance. If you are just starting out and are about to buy your first RC radio, you are probably also aware that you are spoiled for choice! With so many different radios from different brands, choosing the best one for you can be difficult. That's why we wrote this blog post - to help you find the transmitter that is right for you. We will be discussing several different radios from Spektrum, Futaba and JR, before making some key recommendations. To begin with, let's look at one fundamental question:

Why Buy An RC Radio?

Obvious answers aside, a good RC radio is a great investment if you are ready to take your flying to the next level. Perhaps you have been practicing with a trainer plane and are interested in stepping up to something more challenging? Alternatively, you may have bought a great RC helicopter and you need a great radio to match. Whatever your situation, it is worthwhile taking the time to finding a transmitter that is just right for you. One of the great things about having your own stand-alone RC radio is that it gives you more flexibility and freedom. While ready-to-fly (RTF) planes and helicopter packages come with a transmitter included, generally speaking these transmitters are only designed for that one model. On the other hand, independent transmitters can be used with a much wider variety of models. With the advent of Bind-N-Fly (BNF) models, pilots have been able to take their own transmitter and simply connect it to a large number of RC planes, helicopters and gliders. Having easy access to these models is a great opportunity and one of the primary reasons why buying your own transmitter is a great idea. Following on from this, being the owner of your own transmitter allows you to experience different styles of flying. For example, you could use your own radio to fly an RC jet, a sport plane, glider or even switch to a helicopter if you would prefer. As previously mentioned, having your own transmitter gives you great flexibility and freedom. So let's have a look at some of the best RC radios available right now. We will start by looking at radios with five channels or less.

RC Radios With 5 Channels or Less

If you are looking for something basic and easy-to-use, a transmitter with five channels or less will be very straightforward, but still offer great functionality. The first radio we wanted to look at is the Spektrum DX4e.

Spektrum DX4e - ResizedSpektrum DX4e The DX4e is  primarily designed for RTF aircraft. It utilises the DSM2/DSMX modulation which gives you a secure signal connection to your model.  This radio is available in Modes 1 and 2, depending on your flying preferences. If you are looking for an affordable radio that offers basic functionality, the DX4e is a great choice.

Spektrum DX5e - Small V2Spektrum DX5e The DX5e from Spektrum is similar to their DX4e in that it also uses the DSM2/DSMX modulation. The key difference is the range of additional features that are available, such as high and low rates, delta wing mixing and servo reversing. If you are looking at buying a BNF model, the DX5e would be an excellent choice.

RC Radios With 6 to 8 Channels

As your skills develop as a pilot, you will probably want to move up to larger and more sophisticated RC aircraft. As such, your transmitter will have to evolve with you. The next few radios we wanted to discuss are great choices when it is time to step up to this new level.

Spektrum DX6 - ResizedSpektrum DX6 The DX6 has long been a popular choice for RC planes. This six-channel transmitter has great versatility and wide application, making it ideal if you are progressing from a DX4 or 5e. The DX6 comes with built-in voice alerts that provide you with important data as you fly, allowing you to keep your eyes on your plane and off the screen! It also features a 250 model memory capacity; perfect if you have lots of aircraft with unique settings.

JR XG6 - ResizedJR XG6 The next radio we want to look at comes from a different brand. Japan Remote Control (otherwise abbreviated as JR) have been making quality RC products for many years. In the six-channel category, they have created the XG6, which utilises the DMSS protocol. You will find that DMSS gives you great performance speed and when coupled with the XG6's wide range of menus for model aircraft, this transmitter certainly punches above its weight.

Futaba T6JG - ResizedFutaba T6JG Another radio brand worth exploring is Futaba. Offering a wide range of air and surface transmitters, Futaba are certain to have something for everyone. In terms of six-channels, a great place to start is the T6JG. This transmitter comes with 15 model memory and offers both FHSS and S-FHSS modulation, making it compatible with a variety of Futaba receivers.

Spektrum DX7Spektrum DX7 Returning to Spektrum radios, let's now look at their seven-channel DX7. This radio comes with 250-model memory and built-in telemetry, allowing you to keep an eye on the key metrics as you fly. This data is displayed on a large LCD screen, making it clear to see how you are performing. Extensive programming is also available for planes and helicopters.

Spektrum DX8 - SmallSpektrum DX8 If you are moving up towards more intermediate-level models, investing in an 8-channel transmitter is a great choice. In this regard, the Spektrum DX8 excels. This transmitter features a large 128 x 64 backlit screen with a high speed 11ms frame rate and 2048 resolution. To make things even easier, Spektrum have equipped this radio with its SimpleScroll programming interface, allowing you to easily navigate through the menus.

Futaba 8J - SmallFutaba 8J An 8-channel radio is also available from Futaba. The 8J uses the FHSS modulation, similar to that seen in the T6JG. It comes with a huge range of features for RC planes and helicopters, including programmable mixes, throttle hold and snap roll. If you have used Futaba radios previously and/or you have a Futaba receiver, stepping up to the 8J would be a very wise move.

RC Radios With 9 Channels or More

As you progress to more advanced models, you are going to need transmitters that offer a whole new level of capabilities. In this section, we want to look at our higher-end radios that were built for the finest performance.

Spektrum DX9 - Small Spektrum DX9 The DX9 was a game-changer when it was released; offering voice alerts for telemetry data. It remains a popular choice for RC pilots. The DX9's 250-model memory and direct system access menu makes it a worthwhile investment if you are stepping-up from an intermediate-level model. With extensive options available for planes, helicopters and sailplanes, the DX9 is one of Spektrum's most innovative transmitters.

Futaba 10J - Small Futaba 10J If you would prefer a ten-channel radio, you cannot go past the 10J from Futaba. It offers voice alerts just like the DX9 and is compatible with Futaba's T-FHSS and S-FHSS 2.4GHz technology. The 10J comes with a three button and jog dial setup, allowing for easy programming and operation. Irrespective of the model you are flying, the Futaba 10J offers the versatility and functionality you are seeking.

JR XG11 - Small JR XG11 Let's return to JR's radio range and look at their XG11. This transmitter really does encapsulate what JR is all about - innovation and functionality. This radio comes with frequency-hopping technology that minimises radio interference when you are flying, making performance much smoother. The in-built programming wizards make setting functions very straightforward. For seamless performance with a complex model, the XG11 is a great choice.

JR XG14E - Small JR XG14E Here's something a little different! The XG14E is the first tray transmitter that we have reviewed so far. This may be a transmitter style you would like to try. Rest assured, JR have made it as easy as possible to work with this platform. It comes with a 14-channel DMSS/computer mixing system and an SD card slot for sharing data and running updates. Complete with an RG731BX receiver, the XG14E is definitely one for the professionals.

Spektrum DX18 - Small Spektrum DX18 We are now pleased to introduce Spektrum's finest. The DX18 has long been the go-to transmitter for the most advanced RC aircraft and this latest version of the standard bearer takes performance to a whole new level. Just like the DX9, the new DX18 comes with integrated voice alerts. When combined with its 250 model memory, extensive programming options and large LCD screen, this radio earns our high praises.

Weatronic BAT - Small Weatronic BAT The latest additions to the Modelflight radio range, the BAT transmitters from Weatronic are fantastic. Coming in handheld and tray forms, these radios offer innovative sticks that feature nine individual ball bearings and 3D hall sensors. Coupled with a model memory over 1000, voice alerts and built-in GPS receiver, these Weatronic transmitters are true leaders.

JR 28X - Small JR 28X We saved the best for last! JR's new 28X is unrivalled. It has an Android operating system, which is accessible through the radio's 480 x 273 pixel screen. This transmitter comes with 28 channels (16 proportional and 12 binary) and an RG712BX receiver. This is the piece de resistance.

RC Radio Comparison

Having discussed a wide range of transmitters, we wanted to summarise all these radios in the comparison table below:

Radio   Price (AU$)   Model Memory   SAFE Compatible?   Channels   Receiver
Spektrum DX4E 89.99 1 Yes 4 None
Spektrum DX5E 149.99 1 Yes 5 Spektrum AR600
Spektrum DX6 329.99 250 Yes 6 Spektrum AR610
JR XG6 229.99 20 No 6 JR RG631B
Futaba T6JG 219.99 15 No 6 Futaba R20006GS
Spektrum DX7 539.99 250 Yes 7 Spektrum AR8000
Spektrum DX8 399.99 30 Yes 8 None
Futaba 8J 309.99 20 No 8 Futaba R2008SB
Spektrum DX9 519.99 250 Yes 9 None
Futaba 10J 369.99 30 No 10 Futaba R3008SB
JR XG11 799.99 30 No 11 Futaba RG831B
JR XG14E 629.99 30 No 14 JR RG731BX
Spektrum DX18 949.99 250 Yes 18 Spektrum AR9020
Weatronic BAT 60 2299.00 1000+ No 22 None
Weatronic BAT 64 2499.00 1000+ No 22 None
JR 28X 2999.99 1000+ No 28 JR RG712BX


Our Recommendations

We have covered a lot of ground in this blog post, so let's conclude with our recommended transmitter. If you are buying your first RC radio, Modelflight would highly recommend the Spektrum DX6. This is a solid all-round transmitter that will suit a large number of models. It really is the ideal entry-level transmitter. While we are on the topic of levels, if you have gained plenty of experience with the DX6 (and associated models) and feel you are ready for something more, the Spektrum DX9 would be a great step-up. The DX9 serves a good bridge between an entry-level transmitter and a higher-end radio with 10 or more channels. What's more, if you have grown accustomed to the voice alerts with the DX6, the DX9 will feel very familiar! In conclusion, we hope this blog post has given you a good understanding of the wide range of transmitters available. Regardless of your skill level, you should be able to find a suitable transmitter at Modelflight. Should you have any questions about the radios we have covered (or about transmitters in general), please do not hesitate to contact us or leave us a comment below and we will be glad to assist. Until then, best wishes for your next flying adventure!