Review: FrSky Taranis X-Lite Transmitter

The Taranis X-Lite is the new 2.4Ghz kid on the block from FrSky and brings something new and exciting to the transmitter offerings from FrSky. A new amazing form factor.

FrSky has been producing R/C products now for over 8 years. After releasing their first product in 2010, they quickly rose to the top of the 2.4Ghz radio transmitter list of products. The Taranis X9D has become the most popular transmitter on the market and, if you want the best that is the one to go with. However, the downfall of the X9D is it’s size.

For a long while, I have been trying to reduce the size of my transmitter. At first, I did this by purchasing the Devo 7E, which is about 2/3 the size of the Taranis. I still felt that it was a litle too large. So, when FrSky announced the Taranis X-Lite, I knew I had to get my hands on one.

Size matters

The X-Lite is going to be a very familiar form factor to you, if you are a gamer like I am. It greatly resembles many console controllers.

Comparing the FrSky Taranis X-Lite to a PS3 remote, we can see that it’s a little larger, but not by much.

With the 2 batteries, the FrSky X-Lite only weighs 393 grams, or 13.8 ounces, which is very light. Compare this to the X9D at 689 grams, without the batteries! Hence the name, X-Lite 😉

The shell of the X-Lite is mostly plastic. However, the bottom part, where you place the palms of your hands, has this rubbery coating to make it less slippery. None of it feels cheap and has a nice quality feeling to it.

Screen

The X-Lite has a 128×64 pixel outdoor readable LCD screen. It is definitely smaller than other transmitters, but that’s to be expected from the smaller form factor. I do not find myself having any trouble reading the display, but if you have poor eyesight, it may be a challenge. The screen is easy to read in sunlight and also has a back light for seeing in the dark. Although, I don’t really fly in the dark, so it’s just a nice extra feature.

Firmware

The Taranis X-Lite runs with OpenTX firmware. This was a small adjustment from the Deviation firmware, which is running on my Devo 7E. However, I must admit that I find OpenTX easier to use over Deviation. The screens are nicely laid out, changing between models is a breeze and so is creating new models.

I am not going to go into how OpenTX functions, as OpenTX has a very complete and thorough website that will teach you how to use it. Just go to http://open-txu.org/home/undergraduate-courses/introduction/

One thing to note is that most likely your new Taranis X-Lite will not come with the latest OpenTX firmware. I highly recommend that you upgrade the firmware to the latest version immediately, before binding any quads to your receiver. Currently, the latest version is 2.2.2, which supports the X-Lite. But, depending on when you are reading this, a newer version may already be available. Head on over to https://www.open-tx.org/downloads.html to download the latest version.

Sound Packs

Because the X-Lite runs OpenTX, you can also get cool sound packs for it. Meaning, you can have your radio read out loud your quads voltage or RSSI for example. In order for you to take advantage of this option, you will need to purchase a micro SD card. You won’t need a large one. This 16GB SanDisk one will be plenty. If you are a gamer like me, you may find this Portal sound pack amusing. In the video below, you’ll see the installation for a QX7, but since it runs OpenTX, the instructions are the same for the X-Lite.

FrSky Taranis COMPLETE Portal Sound Pack Overview and Setup (GLADoS, Wheatley, and More!)

Haptic Feedback

The FrSky Taranis X-Lite also has a built in  eccentric rotating mass (ERM) actuator. This means that the transmitter is able to provide haptic feedback when actions occur. For example, when you turn on or off your X-Lite, it will vibrate. Also, if you setup alarms for low voltage or low RSSI, the X-Lite can also buzz for you.

Gimbals

The FrSky X-Lite comes pre-installed with high precision M12 Lite hall sensor gimbals. These gimbals are a vast improvement over the gimbals that come in my Devo 7E. The sticks are butter smooth and the control is spot on. One complaint that some people have had with these gimbals is their stick length. From the base to the top of the stick, they are 21.5mm tall. This is at its tallest setting. For me, I find them to be at a perfect height.

The only part that I am looking to change eventually is the stick ends. I do wish that the stick ends would be a little wider. Currently, there are no good wider stick ends yet for the X-Lite, but I am sure it’s only a matter of time until more stick end options come out. The issue is that the actual sticks are thinner than those on the full size transmitters. They are M2 size, instead of M3. So, unless you do some modding, the aftermarket stick ends available for other FrSky transmitters will not work on the X-Lite.

When you first receive your X-Lite, you’ll notice that both of the sticks are centered and spring back to center even when held down. In the box will be a baggie of screws and rubber end caps. You will need to use some of these, in the bottom of your new X-Lite, to set the mode of your transmitters. I personally fly mode 2, so I will need the left stick for throttle. When the transmitter is flipped over, you will need to screw 2 screws into the 2 holes on the right side (opposite, since the transmitter is upside down).

Take the screw closest to the center and screw it all the way down. This will remove the springiness from the left stick. Screw the screw closest to the edge little at a time and continue to check the tension of the stick. The more you screw it in, the more tension the stick will get.

Switches

The FrSky Taranis X-Lite has plenty of switches for a quad pilot. On the front of the X-Lite, you will locate two 2 position switches and two 3 position switches. The two position switches are the ones on the bottom and the three position switches are the ones on the top. The switches are not as long as normal switches, like on the X9D or QX7, but are plenty long to be able to flip. Even in those emergencies where you need to quickly disarm.

On the front, you also have 2 potentiometers. For quad pilots, these aren’t very useful. However, I did turn one of them into a volume controller.

On the face of the X-Lite, you’ll locate the trim buttons (the D-pad) and also buttons to access the menus. The menus are controlled with a small joystick, an enter and a back button.

The joystick makes navigation of the OpenTX interface very easy. For example, when naming your quad, you can use the up and down to go between the letters and left and right to go to the next letter or back a letter.

If you need additional buttons, the X-Lite’s trim buttons can be converted to momentary buttons. This can be useful if you prefer a pre-arm button, which requires a momentary action.

Batteries

The Taranis X-Lite does NOT come with batteries, so you will need to either supply your own or purchase new ones. The batteries are 18500 size Li-on and you will need 2 of them. One into each end of the X-Lite. The 18500 are a tad smaller than the more popular 18650 batteries. Below, on the left, if the 18500 and on the right (red one) is the 18650. So, you will need the ones on the left.

I happened to already have some, so I didn’t need to buy any. But, if you do, Amazon has a great deal on 2 of these EBL batteries, along with a battery charger, currently for $14.00. Check them out here. If you already have a charger, you can get 4 of these batteries here. If you do not purchase these, ensure to purchase a pair that has a flat top on them. Nipple batteries are not going to fit.

The batteries are installed at the ends of the handles. To install the batteries, first twist the ends in a counter clockwise direction. This will remove the end caps and reveal the battery compartments.

Place the batteries into the holes with the positive end facing into the transmitter.

Once they are in, simply screw the ends back on, this time turning clockwise. Pay close attention to the lines of the transmitter and the caps, when putting them back on. There is only one position that the caps can be in order for them to go on properly.

I find that the 2 batteries last me multiple flying sessions. I would speculate about 3-4 hours of total flying time from these batteries. So, I don’t feel that I will need to purchase any more than the 2 I already have.

Case

The X-Lite comes with a nice black, zippered, hard cover case to protect your new transmitter. The outside of the case is durable fabric with a nice non-slip feel to it.

Inside the case, you will find a foam cover and also 2 gimbal protectors.

I recommend to not throw these away and use them, whenever you store your transmitter. The case does not have much unused space, but you may be able to fit 2 extra batteries and possibly an external antenna in there as well.

Where’s the Antenna?!?

One of the first things you will notice, after taking the X-Lite out of its case, is that there is no antenna like almost all transmitters have. FrSky was able to design the transmitter, so that the antenna is actually built inside. It runs horizontally across the front of the X-Lite, inside it’s plastic case.

My worry was that this would greatly reduce the transmitters range, but I was greatly impressed. I do not fly long range yet, but I will tell you that I had absolutely no issues in going 2 football fields with the X-Lite and even then the RSSI signal was well above anywhere to be worried over.

The nice part is that FrSky provides you with the ability to attach an external antenna to the front, where you will locate small cap cover that will reveal the external antenna connector.

If you are worried about range, you can opt to purchase the combo pack, which comes with the external antenna, a brace and also some different stick ends. The combo is available here.

Add-on Modules

The FrSky Taranis X-Lite does have the ability to use add-on modules. The module bay, however, is not a full size module bay. So, your normal R9M or Crossfire modules will not fit in.

The good news is that new modules have already been released for the X-Lite. They now make a R9M Lite module, which allows you to turn your X-Lite into a 900Mhz transmitter. The beauty of 900Mhz is that it is able to go further and also penetrate objects better than 2.4Ghz. There are people who have recorded 3.5 mile flights (5.5km) with their R9M lite module. I will be doing a separate review on the R9M Lite soon.

Another module, which was just released, is a multi-protocol module. These modules allow you to control many different protocols from your X-Lite. So, if you have toy grade quads, or quads with other brands of receivers than FrSky, you may be interested in the Vantac MPM Lite module. To use the multi-module in your new Taranis X-Lite, ensure to install the latest OpenTX firmware.

Black or Red?

The FrSky Taranis X-Lite currently comes in 2 colors. A black and a red model. I opted to purchase the red one, as it looks very sexy. This is objective, of course.

The red X-Lite comes with silver highlights on the gimbals, the buttons, the FrSky logo and grey on the bottom grips. The red color itself is more of a shiny metallic red and I find it absolutely gorgeous!

The black one comes with red highlights on the gimbals, the buttons, the FrSky logo and grey on the bottom grips.

Receiver Options

If this will be your first FrSky transmitter, you will also need to get a matching receiver for your X-Lite. There are many options, but for quads, I would recommend one of 2 options.

  • XM+ – The XM+ is a 16 channel receiver, which is 21.5*12*3.5mm (L x W x H) in size. It is very small, so it will fit into most quads without any issues. The XM+ is the less expensive option, as it does not offer telemetry. You can, however, install a separate firmware and get your RSSI back to the transmitter.
  • R-XSR – This is my choice for a receiver for the X-Lite. It is a few dollar more expensive, but well worth it. It is 16*11*5.4mm (L*W*H) in size and only weighs 1.5 grams. Not only is it smaller, but the R-XSR also provide telemetry. This means that you can get your quads battery voltage and the RSSI back to your transmitter. It also allows you to change your PIDs, rates and VTX settings (if your VTX has Tramp or Smart Audio). Read more about it here.

One other nice feature of the X-Lite is its ability to flash firmware onto receivers directly from the transmitter. On the bottom of the X-Lite is a servo connector. This servo connector allows you to connect your new receiver directly to your X-Lite and flash firmware onto it without the need to connect it to your computer.

Final Thoughts

I am 100% in love with my new X-Lite. The form factor was just what I have been waiting for and I truly now feel more connected to my transmitter than ever before. I feel that my flying has actually improved, since I started using the X-Lite. I love the red color and having the carrying case keeps it looking brand new. There is plenty of range for my current flying needs. Soon I will build a long range quad and will start using the R9M Lite module with 900Mhz. I really feel that for a quad pilot, this transmitter will give you everything you need.

Next, check out my articles on how to upgrade the firmware and setup the SD card contents.


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