I've had the Taranis X-Lite controller for 2 months now and in that time many reviews have been published, each adding to the information available in the public space. I have made sure I've spent a decent amount of time with this controller before writing my review and as a sneak preview I've sold my Taranis QX7s such is my impression of this controller. I've found that the universal comments that resonate with me are:
I am a thumber I don't care if I can or can't pinch
Let's face it, it's no surprise that this controller has taken design cues from console controllers to target those who have grown up with a controller in their hands. Further more it is suitable for any 'thumber' like myself where your hand naturally fall into a comfortable position with all controls and switches in close proximity. I'm all for the omission of a neckstrap because the weight, size and way you hold makes it unecessary in mind. What if you're a pincher? This review probably isn't for you because I can't empathise but there is no common opinion on whether this will suit you or not. For example two reviews I have a tremendous amount of respect for (NJTech and NickBurnsRC) have opposite ideas on suitability for pinchers. Check out their youtube reviews for more. All I can say is that it is excellent and feels natural for someone who has only ever been a thumber.
Open TX is the operating software
The Taranis X-Lite runs open TX which is the most common transmitter software in FPV (The Flysky Nirvana and new Jumper Radios use open TX too). The X-lite runs the latest version 2.2.2 and find navigating easier than on the X9d or QX7 with the new 'nub' control. I won't cover Open TX here but for those familiar with the system there are no surprises here. The latest version of Open TX for the X-Lite can be found here
I now have a better appreciation for the battery size
When the X-lite was first released everyone was upset about it using 18500 batteries instead of the more commonly available 18650. 18500 batteries were not as common but have now popped up in most stores like Gearbest, Banggood, Piroflip etc. Since battery shipping is still dicey I found an option to use "AA" sized 16500 batteries in my X-lite in this blog. I can now appreciate FRSKY's no compromise approach to choosing the 18500 over the 18650 - it is much more compact especially when considering the batteries used in the QX7 and X9D. Below is a picture of how the X-lite would have looked if they'd gone with 18650 batteries - awkward. Here is the link to thingiverse however if you wish to print.
It is so portable!
Unfortunately the thumbing/pinching has dominated discussion on this transmitter (at least in reviews) that many tend to gloss over what I believe is the strongpoint that sets it aside from most controllers out there - it is very small and very portable. My last controller was a Taranis QX7s which is up until recently has been the most popular transmitter, particularly in the cheaper QX7 form. Although it is an excellent controller, it is large in size (especially if you fly mostly micros!) and it is not especially robust, particularly the auxilliary switches. Really it needs to go in a protective case first and then in your backpack where it tends to take up most of the room. In contrast the X-Lite is small and even if you use the protective case it still doesn't take up much room. Furthermore the Aux switches are smaller, stiffer and overall stronger meaning if you can find a way of protecting gimabls and the screen you could chuck this straight in your backpack without any other protection. Gimbal protection is included but these are loose and would easily come off if the controller was placed directly in your bag. I've recently ordered the "Realacc Stick Rocker Protector & Screen Guard For FrSky Taranis X-Lite" from Banggood which is a 3d printed minimalist gimbal - screen - joystick protecter that *should* allow me to place this directly on the bag and leave a helluva lot more room.
It's worth noting the space and portability was a big reason I preferred Aomway Commanders over box goggles (blog here) and saving room with transmitter is similarly important now I know firsthand what a benefit this is to me.
It takes time to adjust but performs really well
It's no lie saying that my flying was significantly worse than usual when I started out with the X-lite because it felt unfamilar. Yes the gimbals are smaller and yes the have shorter throw. What this meant in the first few packs there was a lot of over correction because it makes you feel like you are running higher rates. Don't adjust any settings though because your brain will adjust and correct. Now I genuinely prefer the X-Lite after this adjustment phase becaue I could never reach full deflection comfortably with the QX7s but can with the X-Lite - I get to make use of the entire gimbal. Bottom line - stick with it, it will feel awful at first but you'll soon come right.
And on to the switches - they are bloody brilliant. They have a much more positive 'click' than other taranis radios and much shorter length meaning no accidental switch flicks plus they will be way more robust (I broke several switches on the QX7s). All four are much easier reach from your index fingers. The practical outcome for me is a can disarm just off the ground during landing rather than trying to land, boucing because of airmode and the disarming... a minor quibble no doubt but definitely still an advantage. There are 4 switches in total - top left and right are 3-way and bottom left and right are 2-way. You can swap these out for other variants including momentary switches if you want. Lastly there are 2 slider style potentiometers (pots) for progressive rather than binary control over gimbals, servos and the like. For most FPV quadcopters these will not be used.
It has a proprietary expansion port
Historically most modern radios including the Taranis range (X9D, QX7) have used the JR expansion port for additional functionality. This includes multiprotocol modules such as the MTX9D and IRange-X IRX4 Plus for control over other receivers and the TBS Crossfire module for a long-range 900MHz control link. For reasons that are becoming clearer now this has changed on the X-Lite. The module is smaller in size and profile and is unique to the X-Lite. At this stage only 3 modules fit the X-lite - the Vantax MPM Lite multiprotocol module, the IRange-X IRX4 Lite multiprotocol module and the FRSKY R9M slim long-range 900MHz control link. The TBS crossfire modules do not physically fit BUT since the pin out is the same, some clever cookies have made 3d print designs that allow the crossfire module to connect to the X-Lite ableit a little ungracefully. As a side note I have a $6 multiprotocol module that I will look to adapt to my X-Lite in order to control my NFE silverware bayang protocol micro brushed quads.
It's really easy to recommend this to a thumber
For a long time there was a lot of hype around project dark knight (now FLYSKY Nirvana) which was due to be the spiritual successor to the Turnigy Evolution. However, the Taranis X-Lite has come out of nowhere with a set of features comparable to the best Taranis controllers in a smaller package at an extremely competitive price and so has kind of knocked the stuffing out of the Nirvana launch. It's a simple upgrade for many in the FRSKY ecosystem because we can use the same receivers which on the whole are the smallest, cheapest and best performing - e.g. the XM+ with excellent range at aroung 1g can be had for around $9 at Hobbycool. The controller is so easy to like and obviously a lot of work has been put in by FRSKY to make this an extremely competitive price - it is only $20 more than their entry level QX7 and includes the much more expensive Hall-effect gimbals as standard rather than an upgrade part.
If you are a thumber or are coming from a game controller I would recommend this highly as a first (and last) controller. Likewise I would strongly recommend this as an upgrade from any other controller especially if you are looking for better portability.
Quick note on the FLYSKY Nirvana
This looks like an excellent controller but is $40 to $50 more expensive that the X-Lite. It has support for a standard sized Crossfire module, better grip options for pinchers and a more colourful touch screen display. It is bigger though - closer to the QX7 in size than the X-lite. If these things are important to you, consider the Flysky Nirvana but if they are not (like for me) then go with the X-lite if you are looking for a console controller style of remote. One potential downside of the Nirvana is that is uses flysky receivers by default which have historically been lacking in features (RSSI, Telemetry) and range although this will supposedly be rectified soon. If you have come from FRSKY though it would mean a full set of new receivers rather than just a re-bind.
Please note this Taranis X-Lite was kindly provided by Gearbest.com. If you find this review help you in your decision to purchase, please consider purchasing from them at this link
Accessories currently available for the X-Lite
Note: Any replacement parts can be purchased from HORUSRC.com