Walkera Devention Devo6 Review

October 15, 2011 16:09 | By | Add a Comment

Up until now getting a Transmitter with a color touch display set you back at least 2 grand. The Futaba 14MZ was the de-facto standard for this kind of extravaganza. But bling aside, a colorful touch display has another advantage: It allows for much more intuitive controls.

But who are we kidding? It looks cool too. But is cool enough to justify fumbling with a touchscreen? Find out in our in-depth review!

Enter the Devention line of transmitters by the Chinese manufacturer Walkera. Launching the Devo12 in 2010, they expanded down via the Devo8, Devo7 (which has a monochrome display), and now the smallest brethren, the Devo6.

At first blush this is a neat transmitter, ideal for indoor flying. As if they were reading our minds, Walkera chose to shrink this transmitter by about 10%. The result is a TX that’s simply adorable, yet big enough to be used even by pilots with big hands. There have been numerous voices on the web stating that this little baby might be “too small for some” – just as there have been people claiming that the full-size Devo8 is too big. In the end it’s a matter of taste, but suffice to say that my hands are very big, and I can use the Devo6 just fine.

The Devo6 vs. Futaba T12FG

As you might have guessed, the Devo6 is a six channel 2.4GHz spread spectrum transmitter.

The antenna design is almost perfect for indoor flight. I say almost, because with 2.4GHz there’s really no need for even a nub to stick out on top – instead the ideal antenna position would be 90 degrees of the plane, either downwards or sideways. So far only the new Spektrum DX10 has such an internal antenna design (though they actually have two antennae at a 90 degree angle to each other, which is even better)
But at least the antenna is small and doesn’t flop around like the one on the T12FG. And for indoor flight the orientation doesn’t matter, as this TX was not designed for full-range flight.

The switches feel crisp and solid, the buttons click satisfyingly and the sticks, while not perfect, are more than adequate. There’s no mushyness or grating feeling when moving the sticks near the outer edges, like on many cheap transmitters.

The backside rubber covers pop off to reveal holes for adjusting tension and the ratchet. A surprising feature for a transmitter of this low price range.

The USB Port allows for firmware upgrades, but sadly doesn’t charge the TX battery.

The Devo6 is powered by just 4 AA batteries – a huge plus. The battery tray fits perfectly and the compartment latch is very solid. Converting to LiPo seems impossible though.

 

On the back bottom of the TX are a connector for a charger as well as a simulator/trainer port. The stylus is made of pleasantly-smoothed metal with a plastic tip and pops out on the bottom. When it’s cold outside, using the stylus can be a chore. Luckily the entire transmitter can be operated without the touch screen via the buttons on the side. They correspond to up/down/left/right keys, as well as “enter” and “back”. Sadly the placement of the cursor keys is less than intuitive, a cross-placement would’ve been smarter. The stylus fits very securely in the transmitter – in fact, we couldn’t get it out without some screwdriver or other tool!

 

Software

The Devo6 software is, for the most part, intuitive and easy to use. Pressing the model name enters the model selection menu, pressing on the model icon itself opens the model-related settings, the two setting icons below are for the “Function menu” (Throttle curve & Expo, Gyro settings, Trim, mixers, etc) and the “System menu” (Language, Brightness, Buzzer settings, etc)

…now all it needs is Angry Birds…

The two timers can be manipulated right on the front page, a simple but useful feature that Futaba had to retrofit to its transmitters with a software update. In addition, Walkera added extra icons for throttle curve and DualRate/Expo settings to the front page, which means there’s no need to browse the menu for these two commonly-used functions. The software is multilingual and can be set to English, German, or Chinese (of course). The german and english translation is competent and makes sense, another unexpected plus.

Page 1 of the Function Menu, with the most important travel, trim and DR/expo settings. Note that non-applicable items are grayed out, which is sometimes not easy to see.

The model menu allows for basic model type settings, renaming, as well as wireless copying of model data from one Devo transmitter to another!

The system menu manages language, screen brightness, and other rarely used options.

Huge praise must be given to Walkera for their mixer and expo settings user interface: Where other transmitters dazzle the user with hard-to-grasp submenus, even the more complex settings are easy and intuitive on the Devention. Take expo or throttle curves for example, not only can you define complex curves, but it is also possible to selectively enable/disable specific points on the curve. The whole process is visually appealing and understandable. Even swashplate selection is made understandable with simple graphics. For the most part, Walkera has succeeded in making a radio that can be operated without even looking into the manual.

This curve has the middle point (50%) selected but disabled…

…when enabled, this point can be moved. This can be done for each point individually, allowing you to experiment with less or more points on your curve.

Complex curves are no problem either. Plus you can assign different DR/expo and throttle curves to the three different flight modes.

Intimidated by the different swashplate types? No longer, the Devo6 shows exactly what’s going on.

The Devention transmitters have no special “range check” mode, instead they allow you to set the output power in 6 steps, right from the front screen. Current transmitter power is always displayed on the frontscreen too.

The travel adjust screen. Does exactly what it says on the tin and is a good example for the straightforward operation of the Devo6.

After spending some time with the menu, there are a couple complaints to be made: First, the menu is a bit sluggish sometimes. This is mostly an issue with pages containing a lot of dials and controls, so it’s not always the same delay. It’s certainly bearable, but navigating the menus does not feel snappy. Second, we sometimes wished for an inverted color scheme, preferably with no background. The current background is nice but does look a bit busy at times, especially when there are labels drawn as simple black text with 1 pixel width.

One thing that is dangerous for non-experienced users is the fact that even destructive changes are applied immediately. While there is a confirmation for deleting a model, simply switching from airplane to helicopter mode for the current model erases all settings without warning! Whatever you do, don’t let other people fiddle with the settings unless you have saved the model in a backup location.

Sometimes menu options are grayed out and it’s not apparent how to enable them. For example, on a new helicopter program the Gyro menu is disabled. You have to go to “Device Output” in the Model Menu, and assign a switch to the gyro channel to enable the menu. Then the gyro menu can be used to set whether the gyro sensitive is controlled via that switch, or you just want set percentages depending on the current flight mode. Most of the menus are very intuitive, the Gyro menu and how to enable it sticks out like a sore thumb. That said, it’s certainly not a dealbreaker – there are way more silly user interface issues in the Futaba T12FG like hidden menus that you have to blindly “scroll back” into to find, for example.

 

2.4GHz Technology

So how does the Devo6 work, is it a frequency hopping system? Well… no. The Devo6, albeit a new system, uses three randomly-chosen channels which it determines on startup and binding. This works just like with the older WK-* transmitters: You power it up and the transmitter will talk to the receiver, automatically binding and negotiating the channels.In terms of robustness, the Devo6 is better than Spektrum DSM2 (which only operates on 2 channels and is thus susceptible to interference by 2.4GHz video transmitters), but it is not as robust as Spektrum DSMX, Futaba FASST, Hitec, Multiplex or Jeti. This is okay considering this is an indoor transmitter, but we don’t know if the Devo8 or Devo12 use the same system. We do know that the 8-channel Devention RX801 receivers are incompatible with the Devo6, only 6-channel Devention receivers work with this model. Take extra care when ordering extra receivers, make sure “Devention” is mentioned in the name!

RF Spectrum analysis shows three peaks. Each time you power on the transmitter causes these peaks to change location. Also, the Devo6 scans the spectrum and appears to avoid other transmitters in its choice of channels.

It may well be that the Devo12 uses a full-time frequency hopping system, but so far we cannot confirm this. We certainly hope this to be the case. But again, for the Devo6 however, the way it works is perfectly fine.

 

The Devo6 auto-binds at startup by default. However, you can “fix” this binding to a particular receiver, thus making it impossible to take off with the wrong model selected. Clever!

A unique feature of the Devention transmitters is the “Fixed ID binding”. Normally, the Devo6 automatically searches for and binds to any available receiver on powerup, which takes a few seconds. If you are tired of waiting, or want the additional security of the transmitter only talking to the currently selected model, you can mate the receiver to the model in the transmitter. So if you have a Genius CP for example, and want to make sure it will only take off if you have the right model selected in the transmitter, all you have to do is enter the “Fixed ID” menu, set it to “ON” after which it will select a random ID for you in the textfield below. You can either change that ID (it doesn’t matter, it should just be unique for your model), or press “Setup” to program that ID into the currently auto-bound receiver. The next time you power on, the main screen will come on almost immediately. No more waiting for the autobind process.

Another great feature is the ability to wirelessly copy a whole model from one Devo to another. Just select “receive model” on one, “send model” on the other, and you’re good to go. The 15 model memory is more than adequate for this transmitter too.

 

Summary

The small size, attractive looks and functional software make it hard to point out flaws here, but there are a few: We would’ve liked to have a bit snappier responses, the stylus comes out really hard, the startup/shutdown melody gets oldĀ  and cannot be shut off – unlike the keypress-buzzer thankfully. Alternative color schemes would’ve been nice, a feature that can be found on the big brother, the Devo12. The color screen is nice indoors, but can be hard to see outdoors. There is something to be said for the high daylight contrast of old B/W LCDs, but then again, this is primarily an indoor transmitter. It’s a bummer that the Devention RX801 receiver does not work with this model, only the RX601 will bind. Don’t expect to fly big planes in excess of 200 meters. It also understandably lacks a special glider program, this is airplane and helicopter only.

The Devo6 is a very attractive 6-channel radio in the sub-200 dollar price range. It is 10% smaller than normal transmitters which makes it unique, and features a mostly excellent user interface via its color touchscreen. Despite all that, just 4 AA batteries will get you through 1-2 days of flying.

Are you looking for a transmitter to take with you to those indoor flying sessions, replacing that big 12 channel radio you used to lug around? Do you want to comfortably set up multiple models and fly them with one cute little TX that has all the bells and whistles and none of the fat? Or do you just want to look as cool as those 14MZ-owners, without spending 2 grand and having to wait for Windows CE to boot? At roughly $170 for the transmitter alone, or a small extra when ordering a Genius CP helicopter, the Devo6 is easy to recommend.

A solid product with some innovative and useful extras, this little fellow is sure to turn heads.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out the Open-Source DeviationTX Firmware which adds a lot of extra features to this radio!

 

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