Review: FrSky Taranis X-Lite Pro

If you have read some of my articles, you know that I am a big fan of the FrSky Tararnis X-Lite - and now it got even better, with a new, upgraded version: the Taranis X-Lite Pro.

In this article I will be looking at what makes the Taranis X-Lite a great transmitter, what the cons are and how it compares to the new Pro version.

At the end of the article you will know if the Taranis X-Lite Pro is transmitter you should consider buying.

  1. Hardware
  2. Software
  3. Conclusion

Hardware

The Taranis X-Lite is a light weight, game-pad shaped RC transmitter. If you ever used a game-pad you will get used to the X-Lite very quickly. Lets have a look what the X-Lite is made of:

Gimbals

The gimbals are hall sensor gimbals. In comparison to regular gimbals, which use potentiometers for measuring the position of each axis, hall effect gimbals use a magnetic field to detect the gimbals position. Regular gimbals tend to get imprecise over time, especially in the center position, where the brushes of the potentiometer burn in, not so with hall sensor gimbals.

Most of the time, hall effect gimbals feel much smoother than regular gimbals, but that really comes down to the bearings used, so there might be regular gimbals that feel equally smooth.

However, there is way less wear with hall effect gimbals, so those will last you a long time - way longer than regular, elektro-mechanical gimbals.

The Taranis X-Lite Pro has even better gimbals than its predecessor, they are completely made from metal and should show no wear even after decades of use - but only time will tell.

I use my X-Lite now for over a year (I basically got it as soon as it was released) and the gimbals still feel like they felt when I took the transmitter out of the box.

Mode 1 or mode 2?

No matter if you prefer mode 1 or mode 2, you can easily set this with a screw on the back of the X-Lite, you do not even have to take the controller apart.

If you are just starting out, go with mode 2 - your life in the FPV hobby will be way easier.

Transmitter modes refer to where each axis is: With mode two you have throttle and yaw on the left stick and pitch and roll on the right one. With mode one it is the other way around. Most people tend to fly mode two.

Switches

The Taranis X-Lite has two 2 position switches, two 3 position switches and two sliders. They are positioned very well and you can easily reach them, even when your thumbs are on the sticks.

With the Taranis X-Lite Pro two momentary buttons have been added into the mix.

All of those switches can easily be configured via OpenTX. You can change their default positions, meaning that OpenTX will warn you when you power on you transmitter and the switches are not in their designated default position. This prevents fatal errors from happening, for example it ensures that your arm switch is in the off position when you initially power up the transmitter.

Peripherals

The Taranis X-Lite provides some interesting peripherals. It has a speaker and headphone jack, so you can easily hear your alarms and voice output in the way you prefer. When there are a couple of pilots in the same spot it can easily get confusing when all of their transmitters start talking or making sound - simply plug in your headphones and you can concentrate on your own.

The Taranis X-Lite provides an easily accessible S.Port which is used for upgrading your receivers. The S.Port can be used via a simple servo cable - no need to fiddle around with the pins like for example with the Taranis X9D.

Further you have haptic feedback. If you mute your audio the transmitter will start to vibrate instead. Most of the times I prefer to fly on haptic feedback - when RSSI gets low, my transmitter will vibrate - the rest of the info I usually prefer to get directly from the OSD.

The SD card slot allows to store firmware files for your receivers and voice packs. The SD does not have to be huge, technically 4GB should be more than enough - if you can find such a small one at all.

The SMA connector allows to install a custom transmitter antenna without the need to mod anything. A 2dbi, T shaped antenna has been releases by the same time the X-Lite was released, but you can basically use any antenna that is made to be used with the 2.4GHz band.

An external module bay is also available. You can use it to run your long range R9M Lite module or a multi protocol module.

Batteries

The Taranis X-Lite is powered by two 18500 batteries that you need to buy separately. Although the transmitter has a USB port, you can not use it for charging, you need a dedicated charger.

This is one of my biggest complaints of the original Taranis X-Lite - why they would not allow for charging via USB is beyond me.

Luckily this has changed with the X-Lite Pro, the USB port can now be used for charging.

18500 is also a very odd choice for batteries - the 18650 cell is much more wide spread, it is used in most laptop batteries and vapers will also most likely have loads of them.

The Taranis X-Lite Pro comes with battery caps that can accomodate 18650 cells. Unfortunately those caps are not a perfect fit - many still prefer to use the 18500 cells since they have a perfect fit with the caps.

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Software

The Taranis X-Lite is powered by OpenTX - an open source operating system for RC transmitters. It is highly configurable and allows you to basically adjust anything you can imagine on your transmitter.

My first transmitter when starting out with FPV was a Turnigy evolution, also a game pad shaped controller. One of the main reasons I upgraded to the Taranis X-Lite was simply because it was using OpenTX.

It allows you to store hundreds of different models, each and every one with their own set of settings.

You can set alarms that for example go off after a certain amount of time. You can also set alarms on your telemetry data and make the Taranis talk to you and for example tell you the voltage of your flight battery.

The possibilities are endless - I would recommend to get an OpenTX powered transmitter to anyone - even if the X-Lite or X-Lite Pro are not the right one for you, make sure you get something that is powered by OpenTX.

ACCESS

The Taranis X-Lite Pro already comes with the RF module flashed with the ACCESS firmware, if you want to learn more, check out my article about the ACCESS protocol.

It is basically FrSky’s newest transmitter protocol, providing really great features like over the air updates for your receivers and power meters.

The RF power meter and band scanner are only available on the Taranis X-Lite Pro.

FrSky is currently back-porting the firmware for their old transmitters and an ACCESS enabled firmware should soon be available for your old, non Pro Taranis X-Lite.

NO D8

As of today, July 2019 the Pro version does not support the D8 protocol anymore (rather the ACCESS firmware does not support it). There are rumors that FrSky might fix this, but if you have - or are planning on buying - D8 enabled hardware, be aware that you will have to use an external multi protocol module to use those D8 models.

Conclusion

If you are just getting into the hobby, I can not highly enough recommend the Taranis X-Lite Pro. Especially if you have some gaming background you will quickly adapt to it.

Some people say that this radio is not good for pinchers, but this seems to depend on the person using it - there are some pinchers that absolutely love this controller. Still, it definitely is made with thumbers in mind.

The form factor is just great, it does not take up too much space in your backpack and you do not need to use a neck-strap, it is light enough to hold it, even for longer amounts of time.

Now that the Pro version supports battery charging via USB, this is basically the perfect transmitter for me - I would honestly not know which feature I would add to make it better.

Also price wise it is rather on the lower end of the spectrum. Sure there are cheaper options, but in my opinion it is well worth the price. You can currently pick up the Pro version for less than $200 on banggood. It is a $70 difference in comparison to the original X-Lite, but if you factor in the costs for an 18500 battery charger and the added features of the Pro version, it is still well worth to get the Pro over the original version.

Should I upgrade?

If you already have the Taranis X-Lite and you wonder if you should upgrade to the Pro, I have to say: It depends. How much is it worth to you to be able to charge the transmitter without taking the batteries out? In my opinion this is really the only feature that makes it worth while upgrading.

You can use ACCESS on your old Taranis X-Lite, you will only miss out on the spectrum analyzer and power meter.

The momentary switches might also be a reason, but if you are crazy for switches, maybe the X-Lite is not the best choice for you. Personally I only use four switches on my Taranis X-Lite and I am absolutely happy with that. If you want to learn more about how I use the switches, check out my article about setting the modes in Betaflight.

Chris is a Vienna based software developer. In his spare time he enjoys reviewing tech gear, ripping quads of all sizes and making stuff.

Learn more about Chris, the gear he uses and follom him on social media:

Also check out

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FrSky R9

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X-Lite modules

ACCESS protocol

ACCESS protocol
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