Review: Taranis X9D+ “2019” SE Radio Controller – Should I Upgrade?
Frsky released a new Taranis X9D+ 2019 radio! It has the same classic X9D+ shell with upgraded hardware and additional features. But is it as good as the original, and should you upgrade? Let’s find out!
The Frsky Taranis X9D Plus is honestly the most popular radio controller ever made in FPV. It has been my main radio for over 5 years and I am still loving it. As soon as they announced the new 2019 version, I couldn’t resist and bought both Standard and Special Edition.
I will be giving away the Taranis X9D+ 2019 radio on my Facebook page, like and follow to receive my announcement!
Here are the product pages for the radios.
Taranis X9D+ 2019 SE: http://bit.ly/X9D-SE-2019
X9D+ 2019 Standard: http://bit.ly/X9D-2019
Here is a summary of changes from the original Taranis X9D+:
- Redesigned circuit boards and upgraded processor
- Supports ACCESS Protocol (read about the advantages)
- Scroll wheel replaces the 3 menu buttons on the right side of the screen
- Momentary power button instead of slide switch
- Additional momentary button (AUX control)
- Loaded with OpenTX 2.3
- Battery can be charged via USB port, barrel connector removed
- Only supports 2S LiPo/Li-Ion battery
Everything else such as form factor, gimbals, screen, switches, trim buttons etc. all appear to be the identical. Here is my old Taranis X9D+ side by side with the new Taranis X9D+ SE 2019 (right).
I’ve done a ton of DIY mods on my old Taranis, I believe most of these mods can be applied on the new 2019 version too.
The specs of the X9D+ 2019:
- OpenTX System
- Operating voltage: DC 6.5V – 8.4V
- Operating current: 130mA at 8.2V
- LCD screen resolution: 212×64
- Weight without battery:
- Taranis X9D+ 2019, 670g
- Taranis X9D+ 2019 SE, 700g
Both SE and non-SE versions come with the same accessories
- Mini USB cable
- Gimbal protectors
Here is the Standard (non-SE) version packaging.
And here is the SE Version packaging.
As you can see the SE version comes with a nice carry case.
Beware that they no longer come with SD card and battery, which is a bad move in my opinion. One reason we like the X9D Plus so much is because it was a radio we could pick up and use right out of the box.
I will explain what batteries you can use later in this review. As for SD card, any 2GB to 32GB cards should be fine, see this post for my SD card recommendations.
The scroll wheel is a great upgrade, it makes menu navigation so much easier. Looks kind of familiar don’t you think? 🙂
Still the same old LCD screen and no color screen. Personally I don’t actually mind because color screen drains the battery faster, and the mono color screen works just fine anyway. Only blue/white back light though, no more amber.
I am not a big fan of the new power button, takes longer to turn the radio on and off. I prefer the old slide switch. The only good thing about the new power button is that you won’t accidentally turn the radio off during flight, because you have to hold it for 5 seconds, even then it will still try to double check with you when the receiver is still connected.
The power button has a color LED that changes color depends on the state of the radio. It’s blue when it’s powered on, when it’s charging it goes green, encounters a warning it goes yellow and red…
The newly added momentary button located on the top left shoulder is kind of pointless in my opinion, especially for those who fly mini quads and wings.
However I would love to see a 6-position rotary switch though, it would be useful for advanced flight modes and special functions. In fact Frsky has been selling this 6-position rotary switch for DIY mods for years, but they don’t want to add it to their latest radio. (scratching my head)
Below the module bay are the trainer port, mini USB port and headphone jack.
At the bottom we have the battery compartment. Inside, there is a connector on the left which is a 2S balance lead input for powering the radio. SD card slot is located in the middle, and SmartPort is on the right.
They removed the barrel connector on the side of the radio. To charge the battery, you can now do it via the mini USB port. It’s great because you don’t need a transformer for charging anymore!
There are some minor changes to the interface in OpenTX 2.3, but nothing major really. The Internal RF module supports the latest ACCESS protocol from Frsky.
It’s very exciting to see it also supports the older ACCST D16 protocol, so you can continue to use your existing X-series receivers without updating them, like the R-XSR, XSR, X4R-SB and XM+.
However it DOES NOT support D8 anymore (e.g. D series receivers), so if you want to bind these receivers you would have to get an external XJT module, or multi-protocol module to install on the back.
The new OpenTX firmware comes with a built-in Spectrum Analyser tool that makes it possible to check the airwaves for RF noise.
The whole circuit board has been re-designed. There used to be two separate ribbon cables connecting the PCB’s between the two housing, now there is only one.
Processor has been upgraded from a STM32 F205 to STM32 F407. Quoting Frsky, these changes “increase computing power and improve running of more complicated LUA scripts, optimizes overall performance such as voice speech outputs”.
However Frsky seems to be moving away from modular design, which is not good news for repair and maintenance in my opinion.
Take for example, the internal RF module is now integrated into the back PCB, which is also shared by power management and some other things. That means when you replace a particular module such as the RF module, you would have to replace the whole board, it will be more expensive.
There is an internal antenna leading to what appears to be a Bluetooth module. I think that’s Frsky’s latest “PARA wireless trainer system“. It allows you to connect your radio to another wirelessly for training purposes.
Only the Special Edition has this wireless trainer system, the Standard version doesn’t.
It has the same low quality tiny speaker. Sound quality is still not as good as the one I replaced in my speaker DIY mod. And on the Non-SE version, the speaking makes a buzzing noise for some reason.
Overall the PCB’s appear to be well made.
The SE (Special Edition) costs $65 more than the Standard version, and has the following additional features:
- Carry Case
- M9 Hall Sensor Gimbals
- Upgraded Switches
- Removable antenna
- Both have trainer port, but SE has PARA wireless trainer function
Honestly, the “upgraded” switches in the SE don’t feel too different from the ones on the Non-SE, perhaps the clicking is softer, and maybe durability is better? Only time will tell.
But the Hall Sensor Gimbals on the SE are noticeably nicer than the G9D Potentiometer Gimbals on the Non-SE. Hall Gimbals have exceptionally smooth stick travel, the “click” in the centre stick is minimal and tension is very even through the whole stick range. Hall gimbals also last longer due to less mechanical wear.
With that said, the potentiometer gimbals get the job done just fine, but the hall gimbals are the icing on the cake 🙂
The antenna is removable in the SE, with an RP-SMA connector. This allows you to remove the antenna for transportation, or use a different type of antenna. You can do this DIY mod on the non-SE too, but you can risk damaging the RF module if not being careful.
Yes, the Taranis X9D Plus 2019 supports Crossfire, no need to do DIY mod like with the QX7, which is nice. But you have to flash the latest OpenTX firmware to enable it.
Out of the box I could only find the following external RF protocols:
- XJT D16
- DSM2 LP45
Only after updating OpenTX I was able to select Crossfire (CRSF).
Remember to turn off Internal RF before using External RF Module.
In OpenTX 2.3, they moved the Crossfire scripts from the top directory to the “TOOLS” folder in the SD Card. To access it you have to go to “Radio Setup”, then go to the “TOOLS” tab to access “Crossfire Setup”.
The Taranis X9D+ 2019 doesn’t come with battery, so you’d have to get your own.
In the manual Frsky recommends “2S Li-Battery”, I think that includes LiPo, LiFe and Li-ion (e.g. 18650).
The original Taranis X9D+ supports up to 3S, but the 2019 version only supports 2S since the specs states that the maximum input voltage is 8.4V. Maybe that has something to do with the internal charging circuit as it’s designed to balance charge a 2S battery?
Battery compartment dimension seems to be identical to the previous version, around 28x30x100mm? (not a precise measurement)
The biggest LiPo I can find that *might* fit the battery bay are these (not tested):
You can also use two 18650 Li-Ion cells, but you might have to break off the plastic struts in order to fit them, or make a 3D printed cover. I wrote about this mod here. (Note that it only supports Li-Ion batteries without protecting circuit)
It’s really disappointing that it still doesn’t have a 18650 battery bay design in the year of 2019.
Both 2S LiPo and 2S Li-Ion can be charged via the USB port. The cool thing is that you can now play flight simulators on the computer and it keeps the radio charged simultaneously.
You can also use the same old NiMh battery from the original Taranis, but it’s going to be inconvenient as you are not supposed to charge them inside the radio.
At the time of writing, OpenTX Companion still doesn’t support flashing the new Taranis X9D+ 2019. You have to put the firmware file on the SD card, and flash it inside the radio. I made a tutorial on how to do it.
You have to do this to get Crossfire supported.
By the time I received my Taranis, there was already a new firmware for the Internal RF module. I had to update it otherwise it wouldn’t bind to my receivers with the latest ACCESS firmware.
Luckily it’s very easy to do, I made a tutorial on how to update Taranis Internal RF module.
Adjusting gimbals tension is similar to the original Taranis with M9 gimbals. For other Frsky radios, see my tutorial on how to adjust gimbal tension.
Can I bind my old receivers to the Taranis 2019?
Yes if the receiver uses D16 protocol, including the R-XSR, XM, XM+ and XSR and X4R-SB. And it also support LR12.
But it no longer supports D8 protocol which the D series receivers uses including the D4R-II and D8R. For these you’d have to get an external module like the XJT and multi-protocol module.
You can also update your R-XSR to ACCESS firmware so you can use the latest ACCESS protocol.
Can I Flash Receivers Firmware with the X9D+ 2019?
Yes, it works exactly the same as the original Taranis X9D+. See my tutorial.
Betaflight LUA Script Support
As far as I know, Betaflight LUA script is not supported yet. We are waiting for developers to add support for the new radio. Scripts for the old X9D+ doesn’t work as I tried.
Any other issues with it?
I only got the new radios for a couple of days, still testing it, but so far so good.
One minor issue I am having is the radio makes a high pitch buzzing noise when I connect the USB cable. Maybe something to do with the internal charging circuit?
Although I wish there were more improvements, and the quality was higher, but I am overall content with the new Taranis X9D+ 2019 SE.
It feels absolutely the same in terms of ergonomics (which I am really happy about), with a much easier to use scroll wheel for menu navigation. The transition from the original X9D+ to the new radio is seamless, apart from the frustrating firmware flashing hiccup (luckily not for you because I’ve made a tutorial!).
If you are a completely new user, I can recommend the Taranis X9D+ 2019 radio. You will need the ACCESS protocol in the future for sure because all of Frsky’s new receivers will use it. And I personally love the Taranis X9D+ form factor.
If you have already got the original X9D Plus, I don’t think you have to upgrade just yet. Unless your old Taranis is falling apart like mine (my buttons are not responding well and external module bay died), and you really want to give the new features a try, then it’s a good excuse to get the 2019 Taranis.
Make your purchase using these links will support the blog:
Between the Standard and SE versions, I personally would get the SE version. But if you don’t have the budget, the Standard version gets the job done all the same. You can purchase and upgrade the parts later by yourself.