RCU Review: Futaba 8FG transmitter, 1700 mAh battery, charger


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    Contributed by: Chris Batcheller | Published: December 2009 | Views: 107417 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    RCUniverse.com Review of Futaba 8FG 8-channel 2.4GHz Computer System

    Author
    RCU Forums: batchelc
    Email: chris@nolapilot.com

    Navigation

    Hits
    • Solid construction
    • 2.4 GHz FASST Technology
    • High Speed 2048 resolution
    • Ball Bearing Sticks
    • Comfortable to hold
    • Backlit LCD
    • Easy to use touchpad
    • Programs for Airplanes, Gliders and Helicopters
    • Tons of features!

    Misses
    • Instructions could use additional examples and explanation of programming features

    Introduction

    Futaba's new 8FG transmitter fills the gap between the 6 channel basic computer radios and the wiz-bang top of the line 10, 12 and 14 channel radios. Its features and programming capabilities are closer to high-end transmitters at a price sport flyers can more easily afford. The 8FG has 8 proportional output channels and 2 additional channels which can be used in the programming.

    The programming and menus are similar to the Futaba 12FG which RCUniverse reviewed HERE. The 8FG also features ball-bearing sticks and when used with a high speed receiver (like the R6008HS), the combination gives the feeling that you are connected to the airplane. The 8FG also features a touchpad, similar to what you would find on a modern cell phone or music player.

    The 8FG Transmitter is so full of features, there is no way to cover each and every one of them in this review. Instead, I am going to focus on the airplane related programming and the features that I think will be used by most pilots. The 8FG does have a ton of features for the helicopter and glider pilots, and I will highlight some of those in this review also.


    Specifications

    • 8 proportional channels
    • 2 digital switched channels
    • Integrated FASST 2.4GHz design
    • 2048 resolution
    • SensorTouch? programming
    • Airplane, heli & glider software
    • 20-model internal memory
    • Mode 1-4 selectable
    • Direct access to timers, channel mode & model selection
    • 2-touch access to system, linkage & model menus
    • Compatible with 32MB to 2GB SD Memory Cards*
    • Assignable switches/functions
    • 10-character user & model naming
    • Model select, copy & reset
    • Data transfer
    • All-channel & battery fail-safes
    • Sub-trims, servo reversing, dual rates, expo & EPA with limits
    • Digital trims & memory, with step and % options
    • 128 x 64 backlit LCD w/auto-off timer, normal/large timer
    • display options, adjustable contrast & brightness
    • Servo cycle w/bar graph displays
    • Model & system timers
    • Trainer system w/channel/function options
    • Sticks w/ball-bearing gimbals, length & tension adjustments


    First Look

    Nestled in a molded styrofoam block and wrapped in a color box, the 8FG is sure to survive anything the shipping companies can dish out. It arrived to my house in perfect shape.

    The 8FG comes with the following:

    • Wall charger
    • 1700 mAh NiMh battery
    • R6008HS receiver
    • Heavy duty switch harness (for those power guzzling digital servos)
    • A plastic screwdriver
    • Neckstrap

    The R6008HS receiver has two antennas that exit one end while the wires all plug into the other. This allows you to place the receiver into smaller spaces. It also helps keep the radio compartment uncluttered. Binding the receiver to the transmitter is easy and doesn't require you to use any binding plugs! The R6008HS has an "Easy Link" feature that links the ID code of the transmitter to the receiver.




    Instructions

    The instruction manual reads easily and covers all the features.

    The manual could have better explained some of the programming terms. One example is in the FUNCTION menu, the manual never really explains what the difference is between the combination "COMB" and separate"SEPAR" modes.

    It would be great if a quick example would be included when you might use each mode. On items like this, I usually figured out what the setting really did, or simply left it at the factory default. With all that said, the helicopter programming setting did include those extra explanation of terms and real world examples.

    Futaba Manuals and Software Upgrades can be found HERE. At the time of this writing there were no firmware / software upgrades, but Futaba has released the 8FG File System Utility (zip) that would be used if or when they release upgrades.



    Mechanical Features

    The Futaba 8FG radio construction feels solid when you hold it in your hand. The overall size of this radio is nice; it's easy to hold and it's lightweight. It has an LCD screen to handle all the programming chores, which is backlit, making programming in a dimly lit workshop very nice. I suspect this would also come in handy for those early morning or late night flights too.

    The radio has a SensorTouch? touch pad similar to a modern phone or music device, which also makes it familiar to use. It also features height and tension adjustable ball-bearing sticks that feel smooth and precise.

    The radio's trims are all digital. One thing you lose with digital trims is the ability to "feel" the trim position. The Futaba 8FG beeps when you pass center on any trim, and you can set the number of steps (or percentage) per click.

    The 8FG doubles the 1024 resolution of the PCM systems (transmitting on FM) with Futaba's FASST 2048 resolution. This is an 8 channel radio with 8 servo connections and two additional channels. To go along with all that, I found it also balances very well on the neck strap!

    You will find 10 switches and knobs, including 6 three position switches, one single position switch, one momentary switch, two rotary "volume" type knobs and two slider switches on the bottom and sides of the radio. The back of the radio has the trainer cord connection and the charging jack.

    The metal handle is something I think should be on all radios. I've had a few transmitters with plastic handles and they all broke, but that won't be an issue for the 8FG. The bottom of the radio houses the 7.2 VDC 1700 mAh battery and SD Card slot. There is also a tiny switch that would be used if you ever update the software.



    Programming Basics

    This far down in the review, you are probably wondering how easy or difficult it is to program. With the limited amount of information that you can fit in a 124 x 68 black and white LCD display, Futaba has done a good job of making the programming simple.

    The radio menus are mostly intuitive and they become easier to use after about a 1/2 hour. One nice feature is pressing and holding the S1 button on the touch pad you instantly are sent to the home screen. Maybe the Futaba engineers can design me an S1 button for the next time I have to fly somewhere on the airlines! The S1 button is really handy when you are first learning your way around this radio.

    With the SD Memory Card Slot, I was hoping for a computer program that I could also load on my desktop computer to program the radio. A desktop application would give the engineers and programmers the ability to explain all the functions as you program.

    Turning the radio on, the first thing that you see is "Check RF Condition..."

    Once the RF condition check is completed, the home screen is displayed. From here you can see:

    • Transmitter name
    • Battery voltage
    • Key lock (not shown) - Press S1 for one second to lock the touchpad
    • SD Card indicator (not shown)
    • The system time and both programmable timers (count up or down)
    • Trim positions in both graph and number form
    • Model name
    • FASST mode
    • Model Timer (shows you how much time you have on this model)
    • An icon of an airplane, helicopter or glider
    • An icon (highlighted below - it looks like a clock) to bring you to the 2nd home screen. This screen just displays the Transmitter name, battery voltage, SD Card indicator, trim information and two LARGE timers.

    Navigating around using the SensorTouch touch pad is easy. The pad is very similar to a cell phone or music player, so it's instantly familiar. You can navigate the menus by moving your thumb in a clockwise or counterclockwise motion around the SYS-LNK-MDL-S1 buttons. A return button in the center is used to select things by single or double tapping. I liked using this interface because it doesn't have anything to get stuck or bind.

    There is a "basic model setting procedure" where you set a few basic parameters. You get to that by double-tapping the linkage button and highlighting "MODEL SEL." and tapping return. Highlight "NEW" and tap return. It will ask you to hold the return button for one second. From here you can select Airplane, Helicopter or Glider. Depending on what you select, the other choices will change.

    For example, if you select airplane, you can choose what kind of wing you have (normal or flying wing) and how many flight controls are on that wing (2 ailerons and 1 flap or 2 ailerons and 2 flaps, etc.). Notice I didn't say how many SERVOS are on the wing, more on that later. See the example below for setting an airplane up with flaps that has two ailerons and two aileron servos.

    If you need to change anything that you set up in the "basic model setting procedure" you can always go back to the linkage menu and select "MODEL TYPE". If you change anything in "MODEL TYPE" - ALL your programming settings will be reset to the factory defaults. I know that because I didn't read the bold note in the manual!

    Next we will look at the 3 main programming menus:

    • System - Sets up functions for the transmitter
    • Linkage - Best described as basic settings for any model
    • Model - Home of the coolest functions and the common Dual Rate function



    System Menu

    The system menu sets up the transmitter functions. Here you can set the trainer mode for using the radio with a buddy box and also control the display contrast and brightness, set the user name and set the mode (mode 1 - throttle+rudder on the right or mode 2 with throttle and rudder on the left).

    If you do any sort of instructing or are learning to fly, the TRAINER menu has one of the coolest things that this radio does. More on that later.

    The DISPLAY menu will let you set the brightness, contrast and seconds before the backlight goes out.

    The USER NAME menu will let you set a user name that displays on the home screen. Handy for when all your buddies buy Futaba 8FG radios and you all set them down on the bench together. It has enough spaces (10) for a phone number and just enough spaces to put RCUniverse. Perfect.

    The H/W SET menu lets you set the stick mode and any of the switches. This will let you set the radio up into traditional Model 1 or Mode 2 or or less traditional Mode 3 or Mode 4.

    The INFO menu just gives you the software version, language and how much data is used on the SD Card.


    Linkage Menu

    At first the LINKAGE menu didn't make much sense to me. What is linkage? I think of it this way, everything in this menu is linking your models controls to the transmitter. The linkage menu is home to the servo monitor chart (SERVO menu) and also the FUNCTION menu, which gives you the power to assign ANY control to ANY switch, stick or knob. For example, I like to reassign the trims in the FUNCTION menu.

    Writing a review like this, it's tempting to drill down the menus and comment on all of them. Instead of boring you with a repeat of the manual, I'm going to tell you about my personal experience setting up the Great Planes Eagle 580 using the Futaba 8FG. For the original Eagle 580 review, I flew the airplane on 72 MHz with a 6XA radio. The Eagle 580 has two large ailerons, driven by 2 servos, one in each wing.

    The first time I set up the airplane with the 8FG, I selected the 2 ailerons and 1 flap from the MODEL TYPE menu.

    • In the FUNCTION menu under LINKAGE I assigned the flaps to the LS switch
    • Then under the PROG. MIX in the MODEL menu I mixed FLAPS->AIL.
    • Then under FLAP SET, I set the flaps to the amount that I wanted them deployed

    I selected the LS (Left Side) switch to position the flaps. The switch beeped when I hit the middle, so I know where 50% flaps is without looking. Tell the radio the functions you want, and not necessarily the physical layout of the airplane and programming is easy.


    Model Menu

    You could probably just stop programming at the LINKAGE menu and fly your airplane, helicopter or glider just fine. But you can't be satisfied there; you just have to take it to the next level, don't you? With almost two full menu pages there is enough to keep you tinkering and having fun.


    The 8FG has all the standard complement of programming functions that you come to expect from a computer radio; Dual Rates, PROG MIX and even Aileron Differential. All these functions are relatively simple to set up and are either self explanatory or fairly well explained in the manual. The more time I spent with the 8FG, the faster I got with the programming.

    The 8FG will easily mix Rudders, Ailerons and Elevator. The RUD->AIL, RUD->ELE and AIL->RUD lets you select a switch and set the amount of mixing.

    This radio will also allow you to set 5 point throttle curves along with a nice throttle delay function. The throttle delay lags the throttle to simulate a turbine engine! In a few clicks on a menu you could be simulating flying a turbine with any airplane! Another cool function is FUEL MIX, which lets you richen or lean the fuel mixture at various throttle settings, a feature pilots of larger gas engine airplanes will certainly enjoy.


    SD Card

    The 8FG uses an SD card to store extra models. In case you use up the 20 models that this radio can hold internally, you can insert up to a 2GB SD card. The SD Card format is a plus for many modelers over the more expensive CF memory cards.

    The SD Card is inserted in the bottom of the radio next to the battery. The radio automatically detects a card that isn't formatted for the radio.


    Range Check and RF On / Off


    Download and Watch in Windows Media Player here!


    Glider Functions

    The 8FG doesn't leave the glider pilots up in the thermals! This radio has a specific glider type under MODEL TYPE (Airplane - Glider - Helicopter). It will let you have up to 4 ailerons and 2 flaps or 2 ailerons and 4 flaps and everything in between. You can also set the wing type to NORMAL or FLYING WING for maximum flexibility. By setting the MODEL TYPE to GLIDER the functions that would be associated with a powered airplane disappear.

    The 8FG will handle several configurations of ailerons and flaps, and it makes the maximum use of any servos that you put into the wing. There are options to mix in camber, flaps, elevator, aileron differential, v-tail, ailevator, winglets, and even brake flaps.

    One cool glider function is called the Butterfly. The Butterfly deploys ailerons up, flaps down and mixing in elevator to put the airplane in an extremely efficient landing configuration.


    Helicopter Functions

    Helicopter pilots will find the 8FG will let them customize their bird just as much as the airplane and glider folks. The 8FG has specific functions that lets it interface with a Futaba GYA series gyro in either normal or AVCS mode. The radio also has specific functions for setting 5 point pitch curves and 5 point throttle curves, critical for smooth heli flying. Mixing is no problem either with swash, throttle, governor (for a Futaba GV-1 governor) and gyro mixing functions.

    Props (or rotors!) to Futaba for including some "Example of Use" boxes and "Curve Setting Examples" in the instructions. They give you a little more insight on how to use the helicopter settings. These additional boxes really explain the functions well.

    I found the the helicopter section of the instruction manual to be the most complete and detailed. Some of the definitions were helpful in learning about the 8FG.


    Cool Features
    Trainer Mixing

    If you do any sort of instructing or are learning to fly, the trainer setting is one of the coolest things that this radio does.

    The trainer menu can be set so the radio acts like a standard buddy box. You can assign the trainer switch to any of the switches on the radio. In my case I have it set to the large left toggle switch (SF). I like this switch because it is not a momentary switch like most other transmitters. That way my finger doesn't go numb when I have a student that is doing well. Of course if you long for the momentary switch for those new pilots, you can assign the trainer function to the other tall switch (SH) on the other side of the radio.

    Now onto the cool trainer stuff. The Futaba 8FG also has a MIX function. This allows the 8FG to act like a dual set of controls. Normally when you flip the trainer switch, all control is lost from the instructors transmitter. Turning the MIX on gives you dual controls, just like the full scale airplanes! When the student is going left, and you think they should go right, just push the stick.

    The instructor commands will be mixed into the students ones. That being said, if the student gives the airplane a hard left and you give hard right, the ailerons will go to neutral. At this point it would be a good idea to call "my airplane", flip the switch and take back total control, but if you are working on a particular maneuver, you can help a student out in a way you couldn't in the past.

    Another cool part about the MIX is how you can set the percentage of MIX. This limits the students control throws proportionally. You can also select which channels map between the instructor and student. If the instructor wants to fly on Mode 2 and the student wants to fly on Mode 1, the 8FG will let you both have your preferene.

    To access the trainer settings, select the SYSTEM menu and select TRAINER.


    Servo Monitor Chart

    Futaba has included a servo signal position chart which shows you in graphical form what signal the radio is sending to each servo and the two digital channels. This same function is normally included on the more expensive radios and is a nice addition to the 8FG.

    It comes in handy when programming a new airplane. If mixing functions are turned on, the radio will graphically show you what it is mixing on the various mixed channels.

    The coolest part is that you can select NEUTRAL - that will lock all the servos in the neutral position. You can also select MOVING, and that will actually cycle all the servos at the same time. This can be very useful when testing servos and when installing them in an airplane. As you can imagine, the Servo Monitor makes programming much easier.

    To access the Servo Position Chart, select the LINKAGE menu then SERVO.


    Automatic Timer

    Sometimes the simplest functions will surprise you. These days electric airplanes are popular and we've been reviewing a bunch of them here at RCUniverse.com!

    I can't tell you how many times I took off and wanted to know how long I was flying for a review. Then there were the times I simply wanted a count down timer to leave me enough electrons for a few go-arounds if needed. The problem is I usually forget to set or start the timer! The 8FG solves that little problem by letting you assign the start/stop and reset functions to various switches.

    I've assigned one timer as a count down timer and the other as a count up timer. Both are assigned to the throttle stick, so when I pass the first click on the throttle stick the timer starts. Now I can't forget!

    The timers beep once per minute allowing me to count in my head how long I've been in the air. The timers also beep different tones when the count down timer is almost to zero. You can access the timer screen from the 1st home screen by selecting ST1 or ST2.


    Throttle Cut / Idle Down

    In the "how did I live without these" category is the Throttle Cut and Idle Down functions. The throttle cut allows you to assign a switch to kill your engine by closing the throttle down to a preset level. This way you won't need to kill the engine with the trims. The throttle cut function can be assigned to a switch of your choice and will only work when the throttle stick is at idle.

    The Idle Down function basically lets you set two idle positions. This is a great feature if you have an older finicky engine that doesn't like to run until it has come up to temperature! It's also good for setting the in-flight idle different from the ground idle. Like the throttle cut, the Idle Down only works when the throttle is at idle.

    You can access the Throttle Cut and Idle Down from the LINKAGE menu and selecting THR CUT or IDLE DOWN menus.


    Setting Cross Trim

    While not a standard menu option, setting the radio with "cross trims" can help you in a pinch, especially when flying an airplane for the first time or after major changes. "Cross Trim" simply means that you program the aileron trim to the side with the rudder stick and the elevator trim to the side with the throttle stick. The throttle and rudder trims are programmed to the aileron and elevator stick side. This lets you keep your thumb / fingers on the ailerons and elevator stick while your other hand can operate the trims.

    The 8FG will let you program each model differently, so you could program one airplane like this and the other models in memory different. If you set your transmitter like this, just remember that you did. I like setting this up, but I've found it easier to set all my models like this, just so I don't forget which trim does what.

    To set "Cross Trims", access the LINKAGE menu and select FUNCTION.


    Snap Roll

    The aerobatic and pattern pilots will enjoy the SNAP ROLL function that allows you to complete a snap roll by flipping a switch, literally. Even better, the the folks at Futaba have decided that you should be able to choose the direction and if the roll should be upright or inverted by allowing you to select 4 different switches for direction.


    In addition, the radio will let you set a safety switch (such as a landing gear - so you can't snap roll with the gear down) and also a master switch that will be switched to execute the snap roll.

    To access the snap roll function, access the MODEL menu and select SNAP ROLL.


    Flight
    You've read all the cool features that this radio has and seen it's switches, the only question left to answer is how does it work at the field? The short answer is great!

    I flew the 8FG in two different airplanes. The first was the Great Planes Eagle 580 that I did a review on HERE. When I first flew the Eagle 580, I used my trusty Futaba 6XA radio. The 8FG was definitely an upgrade. With double the resolution and the ball-bearing sticks, the Eagle 580 seems to move instantly. This radio is going to work excellent for someone that flies precision aerobatics or 3D where fast, precise control movements are important.

    I also flew the 8FG in the Hobbico NexStar MiniEP. With the NexStar MiniEP I hooked a buddy box up and did some training with a new student. I also flew it at my club's Fly-In with some spectators on the buddy box. I was really impressed with the features in the TRAINER menu! The mix function works great, and essentially gives you the ability to "nudge" a student in the right direction. This came in especially handy when letting the spectators at the Fun Fly have a turn! I also liked that I could set the trainer switch to the non-momentary switch, something that kept my finger from going numb when the student was doing well.

    The only problem that I had at the field was forgetting which switches I set to various functions! I would recommend that you pick a "standard" set of switches among the various models in memory so the same switches control the same functions. It would be nice to have a "reminder" menu that would show you the assignments of the various switches.

    Overall the 8FG is light enough I found myself forgetting to use the neckstrap, but if you use one it balances nicely. The transmitter also feels very well balanced in my hands. Gone are the days when you transmitter wanted to constantly tip over because of the 4 foot long antenna!


    Video


    Summary

    I think Futaba has a winner on their hands here! This is one radio that will be able to grow with you, even if you are just starting out, or if you have more than a few airplanes. With this radio you can fly airplanes, gliders and helicopters of all sizes. The 8FG fits a nice market niche between the basic computer radio radios like the 6EX and 7C and the more complex (and expensive) 10, 12 and 14 channel radios. The 8FG has a lot of the features of the more expensive radios, like the ball-bearing sticks, high speed data stream and programming that is very similar to the 10C and 12FG radios.

    I liked some of the programming features enough that I made a section for "Cool Features" above. These included things like the ability to mix instructor and student signals when training, the easy to use timers, servo monitor chart and snap roll switch.

    I really enjoyed flying the Futaba 8FG radio. Between its silky smooth sticks and fast response time, this radio will make you feel connected to your plane, glider or helicopter. It has enough programming and mixing to let you tweak your plane all flying season. When you are at the field, it is easy to switch between models, and the radio feels great in your hands.



    Dealer Information

    8FG by Futaba:
    Futaba distributed exclusively by Great Planes Model Distributors

    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826
    Phone: 800-682-8948
    Web: http://www.futaba-rc.com

    The Futaba 2.4GHz
    Distributed Exclusively in the
    U.S.A., Canada and Mexico by:
    Great Planes Model Distributors®
    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021
    Web: http://2.4gigahertz.com

    Credits:
    Pilots:
    Chris Batcheller
    Joe Schambre
    Video:
    Chris Batcheller
    Photos:
    Chris Batcheller



    Comments on RCU Review: Futaba 8FG transmitter, 1700 mAh battery, charger

    Posted by: G.Barber on 12/13/2009
    Great job on the review Batch! That looks like one heck of a radio!
    Posted by: rmillerawacs on 12/14/2009
    The radio looks to have some really nice features....But I am a little sad on how the radio looks....It does not look like a 500$ Radio. I have been waiting to change over to 2.4 for a while now. I think I am going to have to go with the new Hitec 9 channel.
    Posted by: Sierra11861 on 12/20/2009
    Just bought one. I like it overall but the one thing that really has me steamed is that you need a new trainer cord if you are going to use this as the instructor box. The cost of the cord is approx. $40.00. I think that price is very high since this issue will come as a surprise to most. I have not seen this issue mentioned in any of the reviews.
    Posted by: Freddy! on 12/30/2009
    I receved my 8FG from towers today and was very happy with it.Now the bad part,NO CHARGER,A call to towers,and one is on its way.I like your right up,For time to learn all the Fun things Dave
    Posted by: vmsguy on 01/05/2010
    One function I am curious is binding throttles to rudder. This is useful for twins/multi engines. Allowing the "outside" motor to run faster.. I know the 10 channel radio can do this? Can the 8 channel? Have you gotten any communication from Futaba as to IF they will come out with a PC program to read/interact/program the SD card?
    Posted by: FilPilot on 01/13/2010
    Futaba will need to do more to get back the people who made the change to 2.4 . It is going to take more than just features; it is going to take lower prices for both radios and receivers.
    Posted by: barnesjonr on 11/27/2010
    I want to commend you for a very well written, composed and illustrated radio review. I know that doing such a review poses certain unique technical difficulties and a deft touch on the camera gear for getting good studio media. You did a fantastic job sir all the way around!
    Posted by: Goodtrip on 12/12/2010
    Can it be programmed to use twin rudders (twin servos) as air brakes? If so, how?
    Posted by: darrylhunt on 10/27/2011

    Posted by: 1g1yy2 on 05/07/2012

    Page: 1
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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