The New Hotness

Okay, the last couple of posts have been a little negative. I finally got my new radio system on Wednesday, It’s a DX4C from Spektrum. I’ve had a couple of days to play around with it, but the “new shine” hasn’t worn off yet. So, this should be a little more positive.


That’s right. It knows my name. B)


Except, with the timer function active, it just show’s the truck’s name.


Do an image search for “Spektrum DX4C” if you want to know what the whole thing looks like. I seem to be taking terrible pictures, tonight.

All the various buttons can be assigned to whatever function you want, and I’ve got the timer assigned to the one on the bottom left, of the ones around the wheel. (9 O’clock position) I can easily get to it with my thumb, without accidentally bumping it. The button down by the thumb rest area is assigned to channel three. That runs my lights, and I do tend to bump it by accident. Fun fact, the positions are persistent, between power cycles. If you shut the radio off, with one of the channels set off to one side, it’ll still be like that, when you turn the radio back on. Nice feature, for guys running multi-speed transmissions.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I said in the Old Hotness post, that I was disappointed in how the RC4WD radio felt, when I held it by the handle. It felt flimsy, and I could easily make it flex. This new Spektrum feels very solid, in my hand. It seems to be made of not only thicker, but also denser plastic. The only flex is in the rubber grip. The medium and the large grips have hollow spaces inside, to save weight. That also provides a little bit of extra cushioning. I’m still not sure which size I prefer, but I’m thinking I’m going to go back to the large one, for a while at least. There’s no unusual flexing in the trigger, either. This was the big problem with the radio I smashed. The trigger mechanism on that one moved around so much, it damaged the potentiometer. The Spektrum has minimal lateral movement. Peeking up inside from the gap around where the trigger comes out, I saw a hex nut, that looks like the ones on standard sized potentiometers. If the pots are remotely like standard units, that alone should be much more robust than on the broken transmitter. (I hate to call that one the “old one” because my old radio is that Airtronics unit, that’s still working fine.) This whole radio just feels much more robust, and substantial. It’s a tank, compared to the other one. It’s just…. Solid.

Unlike most, I’m not a fan of foam rubber grips on the steering wheels, on these things. I’d rather have a lightly treaded rubber grip. But, foam rubber seems to be the standard. The grip on this radio made from much denser foam than the broken unit’s was. I’m hoping it won’t get grungy as easily, but I’m still thinking about cutting down an RC car or truck tire. Not a big deal, and probably more just me being weird, than anything at fault with the radio.

On the other hand, I can easily reach, and use the roller that controls the menu, with the thumb of my left hand. Not that I make a habit of putzing around in the menus, while I’m driving. It just feels natural to use it that way. Despite the horrible pictures I took, the LCD screen is easy to read. It’s not back-lit, which I like. The other one would always blind me, when I was driving after dark. It’s a double-edged sword though, since I can’t read it when it’s dark. I like to use the timer to see how long I’ve been driving, but I have to use the truck’s lights to see the display. To be honest, I still prefer it this way. Less aggravating, without the big blue light shining in my face. The little power LED down on the base of the transmitter is pretty bright, though. That one doesn’t chine in my face, so I don’t care.

The radio has trim, reversing, and end point adjustment, for all four channels. It also has exponential for throttle/brake, and steering. By default, it adjusts end point and expo for directions, simultaneously. channels one (steering) and two (throttle/brake) can adjust just one direction, by moving the control in that direction, for a moment. You don’t have to hold it there. I have yet to find a way to adjust the third or fourth channel asymmetrically. It doesn’t say anything about it, in the instructions. Much more thorough instructions than the Busted Junk came with. The Spektrum instructions actually bother to tell you what the various adjustments do. It even tells you which direction the exponential works. Yes, different manufacturers expo settings run different directions. On this one, positive expo makes the channel less responsive near center, requiring more input per control reaction. This makes the slow driving I do easier. It can be difficult to not give it too much “gas” when trying to crawl. Busted Junk…. can we just call it “BJ” from here on out? BJ had an exponential setting, that I was always trying to figure out which it worked. I honestly don’t think that it did work. I could never tell a difference between zero, +95%, or -95% exponential, on that one. So, I cranked the Spektrum’s expo up to 90%, before I’d ever powered on the truck. I immediately had to turn it back down to 50%. (60% for reverse)

There’s also a dual rate setting for the steering. This is sort of a variation on end point adjustment, but it’s always symmetrical. Given how inconsistent Fenrirkynd’s brake based steering is, this is nice to have. I didn’t even realize that BJ had a dual rate setting (despite the controls being clearly labeled) until shortly before I destroyed it. So, I don’t know if it required confirming the setting when the DR was adjusted. I know it did it for adjusting the trim, which I found kind of annoying. The Spektrum doesn’t require any extra button presses, for either adjustment.

Something else I don’t miss from BJ, is the Wi-Fi antenna sticking out the top of the thing. It was one of the first things to break, when I started getting riled at that transmitter. The antenna itself never broke, but the bits of the case that held it in place did. I know some of the older Spektrum pistol grip radios had those, but this one does not. You can see part of the antenna housing in the one picture up there. At first I thought it was made out of an unusually dense rubber. It’s not. It’s actually made from some sort of slick engineering plastic. (I suspect something in the Nylon family) It’s just nicely textured. Having to deal with similar, if not the same, plastic when doing custom action figures, I know this stuff is impact and abrasion resistant. Shouldn’t be any worries about broken antennas, here.

Now, I think Spektrum designs these things predominantly for racing. There’s large lettering down one side of the box, that reads “go faster.” Yes, all lower case. It explains the asymmetrical (I feel like I’ve been using this word a lot….) throw on the throttle trigger. It seems to have a rough 60/40, maybe 70/30, split between forward and reverse. This is why I keep the exponential set higher on reverse. I don’t know how common this uneven forward/reverse split is. I’ve not own a lot of RC radios in my time, and the only place I’ve seen it, is my old Airtronics Rivals. Behind the smoked door, with the power level lights, and the servo reversing switches, was another switch, that set the trigger between 50/50 and 70/30 split. The longer pull is nice for easier low-speed crawling, or just smoother acceleration. Given that I drive electrics with reverse, I usually tend towards a 50/50 split. No big deal. Exponential keeps reverse slow, until I need it not to be. 🙂

There’s one feature I’d kind of like to have. That’s a place to attach a lanyard. It’d be nice to be able to just let it hang from my neck, if I have to stop to do something. (forever weeding the backyard trails) It doesn’t seem to be common on pistol grip radios, so again, it’s probably just me being contrary. My Airtronics radio has a lanyard loop, but I wouldn’t want to use it, on that radio. Being an old AM unit, it’s got that long, telescoping, metal antenna. Try to let that one just hang, and you get smacked in the face with 50 acres of thin metal tube.

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September 2015

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