Friday, 14 July 2017

Horus X10 - an upgrade for your X9D?

FrSky have just announced a new mid-market transmitter, the Horus X10. The new radio will bridge the gap between the X9D and premium X12S. 

The X10 will be shipped with FrSky's proprietary FrTX operating system, however the OpenTx devs are working on a port of OpenTx 2.2. Will the X10 be good enough to persuade X9D users to upgrade? Let's do a bit of informed speculation!

Background

First, a quick summary of the X10's sibling transmitters. The Taranis X9D is FrSky's original and still popular workhorse. It's has been in production for four years. I've used mine for sport flying as well as F3F competition, and bar a couple of faulty trims (easily replaced), it's been a reliable companion for four years.

The Horus X12S is a rather different beast. Released in 2016, it was FrSkys first entry into the high end of the market. Build quality is much improved over the X9D, however it's a heavy piece of kit, and while okay for the flat field, it's not particularly suited to being lugged up a hill in a packpack. I also find it less comfortable to hold than the X9D. Consequently I use mine only rarely.

In short, what I and many X9D users are looking for is something with the quality feel of the X12S but in a smaller, lighter and rounded package. Will the X10 tick the boxes?

Styling and ergonomics

First a disclaimer: I haven't handled an X10 because it's not available yet. However some useful insight can be gained from FrSky's announcements plus examination of the publicity photos.

First off: the X10 is certainly smaller than the X12S, and FrSky claim that it's lighter too - a good start. However it has the similar 'edgy' styling, and the critical stick-to-edge distance seems similar to the X12S. While the X10 will undoubtedly have a quality feel, it remains to be seen if it's as comfortable as the X9D, especially for those with smaller hands.


FrSky X10

Switches and controls

The gimbals will have Hall sensors, and it's likely that these are identical to the well received units on the X12S. The layout of the switches is the same as the X12S and X9D, and one can assume that the switches will be of the same high quality as X12S. The rear thumb-pots of the X12S have moved to the side shoulders - I prefer this layout, and it's better suited for tray use.

Compared with the X12S, the X10 loses two auxiliary trimmers, and two sliders. Compared with the X9D, it gains two trimmers and the 6-position switch.

Screen

The LCD panel appears to be similar in size to that of the X12S. Opinion is always divided over the value of colour. I'll just say that legibility and low current drain are higher on my wish list than eye candy. If it's the same panel as the X12S, then visibility will be just about okay in sunlight but nothing more.

Some pilots have expressed disappointment with the bottom placement of the LCD panel. However it's enabled a more compact design. In any case, there's telemetry and voice available so it's much less necessary to look down at the LCD whilst flying. I think the designers have struck a good compromise with this aspect of the design.

Antenna and battery

[edit 27 July - FrSky have added on the their Facebook page: "More features: External Antenna and two Internal Antennas, Built-in upgraded iXJT Module. Li-Ion battery". The text has been updated to reflect this.]

The default antenna configuration is not known at the time of writing. If it's like the Horus, then the external antenna will be disabled by default and it will be possible to remove it entirely, making it more backpack friendly than the X9D. However the photos show the external antenna attached.

Rear view, with module bay


The new transmitter will use a LiIon battery instead of NiMH cells as used in the X9D and X12S. A battery cover is conspicuous by its absence, so it will be necessary to remove the rear moulding in order to swap packs. The same complaint was levelled at the X12S, so it's a shame that the designers couldn't accommodate a hatch this time around.

On the positive side, it looks like all the switches are attached to the front moulding (as with the Q-X7), so access to the internals should be easy once the back is removed.


Programming controls

The programming controls are modified from the X12S: the menu shortcuts have been moved to the left side, where they join the PageUp/Dn controls. The rotary encoder and OK button remain on the right. This means that all menu navigation is performed with the left hand, with selection and confirmation on the right.


Left hand menu navigation


Compared with X9D

Here's a list of changes over the X9D. It's by no means exhaustive, just a few points which struck me as interesting from a sailplaner's perspective:
  • Rotary encoder for +/- adjustments
  • 'Soft' on/off switch
  • Two extra trim controls (useful as mix/expo adjusters)
  • Screw-in antenna 
  • Li-Ion battery instead of NiMH (always a source of discussion!)
  • Hall sensor sticks as standard
  • To be shipped with FrTX (OpenTx available sometime after launch).
A personal thing, but I hope the OpenTx model management menu is derived from the X9D rather than the X12S.

Final thoughts for now

The X10 clearly represents a step up from the X9D and will no doubt be priced as such. The extra controls and Horus-level build quality will be welcome, however as someone with medium sized hands I remain a little uneasy about the ergonomics and apparently poor battery access. Whether these concerns are justified will have to wait until we have some actual units to try. I'm certainly looking forward to checking it out, once it becomes available.

Links: RC Groups

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