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This was pretty obvious wasn’t it. The Taranis has been well known since the start of the miniquad crazy to be the most capable radio for the least cost. Everyone at DroneInsider uses the Taranis 9XD, and we all love it. Its telemetry features are second to none, and the OpenTX firmware is limitless if you are willing to put in time to learn the intricacies of the programming. Perhaps the greatest advantage in our opinion is the availability of cheap receivers, for only $25 you can get a full range SBus capable receiver that weighs only 4g. A futaba equivalent would be 3x this price. Finally, the protocol FrSky use is bullet proof, and only a physical defect or the wrong antenna would ruin your radio link.
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This is the most expensive transmitter on the list, and for good reason. The gimbals on Jeti radios are supposed to be the best in the world and the DS-16 is said to be no exception. Combined with the hall effect sensors instead of potentiometer, this provides an precision response for smooth flying. In addition Jeti use their own protocol and serial interface with a flight controller, called EX Bus. One notable feature that is missing from this radio is the ability to use a module, we do not understand why Jeti would not include a bay for a module? When you’re paying over $1000 surely adding a module does not cost that much?
The Turnigy 9X is the first of the budget radios on our list. The 9X is available for only $60, this includes a 8 channel receiver, however we strongly recommend you do not use the included module as there is no fail safe option available, not only is this unsafe; but it could also result in the loss of your aircraft. Instead purchasing a FrSky Module would not cost much extra and would future proof you for years to come. Despite this, the 9X is a high capably radio, if you are comfortable with flashing it with OpenTX firmware. Note: The 9XR Pro is available for the same price as the original 9X, this is a great deal as all you have to add is an external module and you are ready to go. We used these radios for our community project at drone insider and are very impressed by their versatility.
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If you are short on both funds for the hobby and time, then the Orange T-SIX may be the radio for you. It is based off the Spektrum dx6i but is available for half the price. The user interface is said to be the easiest to navigate out of even the most expensive radios. Not only is the transmitter only $60, but the receivers, which work on the Spektrum DSM2 protocol, are also available for only $10 and are able to do a serial protocol for the minimum possible latency. Nevertheless the gimbals on this radio are said to some of the worst on the market, and the build quality, especially the switches, is not up to par with other radios on this top 5.
Futaba have a reputation for reliable operation, and if you are using your radio for professional work day in day out, the 14SG is a sure-fire way to ensure your control systems will work 100% of the time. Not only is the FAAST radio link said to be the best in the market. But the build quality is exceptional, as the 14SG comes equipped with some of the best gimbals on the market as well as tactile switches and trims. However the SG does not come in cheap at $600, especially considering you can purchase a Taranis on sale for half this price and get much more functionality.