All of the products reviewed here have been bought with my own money and nobody pays me for the time I spend writing these articles.
If you find any of this stuff useful and/or would like to see RCModelReviews continue to publish material like this then please consider making a small donation towards the operation of the site.
So who's doing this reviewing then?
Well I've been building and flying or driving radio controlled models for over 40 years and during that time I like to think I've built up a reasonable amount of knowledge.
I'm also a qualified electronics engineer who has worked in radio frequency, analog, digital systems and software for more than three decades. In fact I designed and built my first RC set back in 1969.
For the past nine years I've also been involved in the design and manufacture of some rather sophisticated engine technology and UAV flight control systems.
So, chances are I've been there, done that and have a huge pile of tee shirts to prove it.
Right now I'm heavily into 3D flying and enjoy all aspects of the RC hobby. I may be old but I don't feel it.
In the Pipeline
Here's just a little bit of what's to come on this site...
RC explained: Demystifying terms such as PCM, PPM dual conversion, single conversion, full-range etc., this feature will explain it all.
Cheap Chinese Engines: Just how good are those cheap Chinese glow and gas engines that sell for half the price of their "brand-name" equivalent? I put several to the test.
Build your own radio gear?: Back in the old days, building your own RC gear was not uncommon and now the arrival of 2.4GHz has made it practical again.
UPDATED: Horizon Hobby's fake Spektrum/Futaba video
HORIZON RESPOND TO RCMODELREVIEWS CRITICISMSUpdate: 18 June 2010
Since I published this original article, it has created quite a bit of discussion around the internet and (as you can see below) resulted in Spektrum pulling the video concerned.
Horizon have opted to respond to the points I raised here not by directly engaging in a dialog with RCModelReviews, but instead through their regular podcast. This tactic, and their deliberate avoidance of any mention of RCModelReviews.com (although quoting directly from this page) appears to be an attempt to avoid conceding that this website and its no-nonsense content, has gained significant credibility in the RC marketplace.
Horizon's discussion of the video begins at about 6:30 into the podcast and they directly refer to my original article at about 29:00 into the podcast.
I'll be posting a video response to Horizon's comments in this podcast fairly shortly but it strikes me they are not used to websites challenging their "marketing material" in such a direct manner (nobody has any advertising leverage at RCModelReviews).
In short I'll say good on them for pulling the video, good on them for attempting to clarify what they were trying to achieve with that video, but not all the spin they've put on the situation really rings true.
For example, at around 28:20 the presenters say "we were actually saying that their [Futaba's] recovery was very good". No, I'm sorry guys, you can't say that because the Futaba receiver never actually stopped working in your tests -- only the Spektrum receiver and Spektrum digital servos stopped working. So, you're still either confused or engaged in damage control here.
N'uff for now, watch the video when it's done.
Original article, Dated: 30 May 2010
One of the biggest issues that has plagued the Spektrum DSM/2 RC systems since they were launched has been the poor low-voltage performance of the receivers used.
Although the newer versions are far superior to the earlier ones and, when used with an adequate battery or BEC are perfectly adequate, in my tests they still fall short of most of their competitors in this area.
I recently stumbled upon a video from Horizon in which they have attempted to convince people that their receivers are actually just as good as the Futaba FASST units, when it comes to low voltage performance.
This video is plain deceptive and either indicates that Horizon don't have a clue when it comes to performing tests on their equipment, or that they have chosen to deliberately deceive people in to thinking the product is better than it really is.
Here is the video (I suggest you click on it when it's running to get a full-screen version that makes it easier to see what's happening).
Note: Horizon have since removed the video from YouTube (an admission that this video truly was deceptive and unethical)
At approximately 2:20 into the video, the presenter sets about showing that the Spektrum and Futaba receivers both stop working at 3 volts.
This is clearly incorrect.
When the power supply is wound down to 3V the servos stop and the presenter proudly proclaims "what do you know? They both stopped at exactly the same point".
Proof that the low-voltage performance of a Spektrum receiver is every bit as good as that of the FASST receiver?
Well no. This is BS.
If you look carefully you can see that the red bind light goes out on the Spektrum receiver, indicating that it is no longer functioning -- but the green bind light on the FASST receiver continues shining brightly, indicating that the Futaba receiver is still working just fine. In fact, that Futaba receiver would have kept on working at an even lower voltage if they'd bothered to keep going.
So why do both servos stop working at 3V when only the Spektrum receiver has died?
These are digital servos and as such, they have their own microcontroller in them. In the case of the servos being used, that microcontroller stops working at 3V so, even though the FASST receiver is still working just fine, it is unable to produce any movement in the now-dead servo.
If analog servos, or digital servos with a lower brownout voltage had been used, the one connected to the FASST system would have kept on moving at 3V (and lower), while the one connected to the Spektrum would have stopped -- because the Spektrum receiver had stopped too.
If Horizon were not aware of this then they are clearly stupid.
If however, they *are* aware of this, then this video is a sad indictment on their willingness to engage in deception to try and mitigate the weaknesses in their product.
I have nothing against Horizon, nor do I have anything against the Spektrum product.
However, I do find it very distasteful when a manufacturer either deliberately sets out to deceive or is so lacking in technical understanding of the technology they sell that they can't spot the obvious flaws in their "demonstration".
Which is it Horizon? Lies or stupidity?
It is this kind of blatant disinformation and marketing-lies that prompted me to start RCModelReviews, so that people could get honest and objective information about the products they might be thinking of buying.
Let's be truthful about this, 3V is a perfectly respectable brownout voltage (although my own tests indicate that (at least the DSM2 receiver I tested) the actual point where some DSM2 units stop is a bit higher than this. This is not a complaint about the Spektrum product -- it's a a legitimate complaint about a distributor who appears to be deliberately setting out to deceive the market through devious tactics.
Horizon would have been far better-advised to simply demonstrate their own gear working down to 3.1V, rather than try and trick people into thinking that Futaba's product also stops at the 3.0V point -- that is just deception.
Of course if Horizon want to send me a Spektrum and a Futaba system that I can use to perform exactly the same tests with using servos of *my* choice, then I'll gladly do so and publish the resulting video for all to see. If they are right and I am wrong, this would leave egg all over my face.
However, I doubt Horizon will take me up on this offer -- you can work out why that might be for yourself.
Share your opinions and thoughts on this matter in the RCModelReviews forums to have your say.
Updated: 20 Sep 2012
Here's a blog that will keep you informed just what's going on behind the scenes at RC Model Reviews and also tells you a little more about myself.
23 Mar 2010
How come there's no compatibility between different brands of transmitters and receivers? Why can't you use a cheap Chinese receiver with your Futaba FASST radio?
4 Mar 2010
Since this has become a very frequently asked question, I've posted this simple guide to getting your product, or a product you're thinking of buying reviewed here at RCModelReviews
Useful information on what's inside your servos and how they work.
Important facts you should know about the oils that are used in our model engine fuels.
How well do five different 2.4GHz systems stack up when hit by interference? The answers are here, with more to come.
Yes it does work on model airplanes but there are some limitations involved with this bargain-basement radar speed gun.
These are possibly the world's worst servos, find out exactly why you should avoid these boat-anchors at any cost.
It's cheap but can it really stack up against other glow engines in the .90 market? Find out in this review.
How does this cheap 9-channel 2.4GHz radio system perform when compared to big-name systems that can cost two or three times as much? Have the Chinese finally developed a real contender with the iMax 9X?
Does all this 2.4GHz stuff have your head spinning?
I've done my best to demystify the whole subject so if you feel like a bit of learning, this is the stuff for you!
How can you tell when your engine needs new bearings? Who has the best prices and service on replacements? Just how do you change them? Get all that information and watch a great video tutorial anyone can follow.
The Chinese are now churning out a huge number of very reasonably priced no-name servos. But are they any good?
Nicad, NiMH, Li-Ion, LiPoly, LiFePO4, A123... the range of different battery types has never been greater. So how do they differ and what type should you be using?