RCU Review: Futuba 3PM 2.4GHz MX TX & R603FF RX

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    Contributed by: Matthew LeMay | Published: February 2010 | Views: 87954 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Futaba 3PMX

    Review by: Matt LeMay

    Distributed in the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico by:
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021


    High quality

    3 channel 2.4GHz technology

    Easy to follow instructions

    Great rock crawler features

    Great racing features

    Easy to learn even if you've never owned a computer radio

    High value per cost ratio

    A little something for everyone


    The Futaba 3PM-2.4GHz MX radio was designed with all types of surface vehicles in mind. Whether you bash in the yard, race on the weekends, or rock crawl, the 3PM-X has something for you.

    In this review we will look at the basic features as well as the vehicle specific features of the 3PM-X.

    Keep in mind this radio wasn't designed for the professional team drivers, but rather those of us who dream about being pro drivers and don't have the money to spend on the 3PK and 4PK. The 3PM-X offers a good alternative for those on a budget.

    Name: 3PM 2.4GHz MX surface transmitter and R603FF receiver
    Price: $179.97 for transmitter and one R603FF receiver. Servos are not included.

    Type: Pistol grip
    Number of channels: 3
    Band: 2.4GHz Spread Spectrum

    • Futaba servos recommended (digital or analog)
      8 AA batteries for transmitter
      6v NiCD battery for receiver

    Included in the box are the 3PM-X transmitter, R603FF receiver, on/off switch, instruction manual, and decal sheet.

    The 3PM 2.4GHz MX radio is well built. I've had a lot of transmitters go through these hands, as most of you have, and I can say this thing feels tight. There is no slop or unwanted resistance in any of the controls. The steering wheel is incredibly smooth and the trigger is without slop.

    The foam cushion on the satin chrome steering wheel is comfortable and the trim adjustments are easily accessed.

    The antenna rotates half a turn which allows it to be angled toward the right, left, or anywhere in between on the control side of the radio.

    Let's take a look at some of the features of the 3PM 2.4GHz MX transmitter.


    2.4GHz FASST (Futaba Advanced Spread Spectrum Technology) sends twice as much information to the receiver at eight times the resolution of standard systems for incredible control and smooth servo travel. Frequency channel setting is unnecessary. Shifting the channels takes place within the 2.4GHz band automatically and minimizes interference from other 2.4GHz systems.
    The 3PM-X offers a ten model memory. Each of the models can be named with up to 3 characters. There is also a model copy function to simplify using the same model with different settings.
    10 model memory
    A function "Auto Detect" is used to automatically determine which mode is in use. The two modes are HRS and PPM. The active mode is displayed on the start up screen.
    HRS/PPM auto detect
    The 3PM-X includes digital trims which are displayed on the screen for 3 seconds when adjusted. The digital trims include steering trim, throttle trim, steering D/R, and throttle ATL.
    Digital trims

    Adjusting the digital trim step function will change the amount of trim adjustment applied with each click of the trim lever.

    This adjustment works on DT1, DT2, DT3, and DT4.

    Digital trim step function
    Steering dual rate adjusts the amount of angle, or steering throw, the wheels will turn. It is adjusted using the digital trim lever and is displayed on screen.
    Steering D/R
    Throttle acceleration (ACC) is used to minimize the lag before the clutch and brake engage on gasoline and nitro engines. This gives the smooth and responsive feel of an electric vehicle.
    Throttle ACC
    Steering speed can be adjusted if the servo seems to operate to quickly for your driving style. This can be beneficial to correct over steer.
    Steering speed

    The anti-skid braking system function applies the brakes so that the tires of a gasoline or nitro powered vehicle don't lockup and result in loss of control. The brake servo actually pulsates like full scale ABS brakes do to ensure control through the entire braking process.

    The amount of return, cycle speed, and delay can be fine tuned to accommodate your driving style and track conditions.

    Brake mixing is used to adjust the amount of braking used on the front and rear tires independently. This function is beneficial for large scale vehicles with a separate servo for front and rear brakes.
    Brake mixing

    The racing timer can be set to start automatically by the throttle trigger or by using a switch. Up timer and down timer can be selected. A lap timer can record 100 lap times and the total run time. You can also set the race time.

    An alarm can be set to help schedule pit stops.

    Racing timer

    The four wheel steering (4WS) mixing is used with crawlers and other vehicles that have four wheel steering. The SW1 switch on the transmitter's handle is used to toggle through four different steering configurations.

    (F1)=reverse phase which turns the front and rear tires in opposite directions for sharper turning. (F2)=The "same phase" turns the front and rear wheels in the same direction (crab steer) for shifting the vehicle to the side while remaining aimed in the same direction (driving sideways). (F3)=Front wheels only. (F4)=Rear wheels only.

    2cy mode toggles between F1 and F2.
    4cy toggles all phases.

    In specific functions, two rates can be set up, and switched with the SW1 switch simultaneously during a run.
    Condition 2 selection

    The function select lever assigns a function to different levers (digital trims and switch levers). Trim positioning at each model call is unnecessary because all the trim levers are digital.

    This is where you can personalize your radio trim levers by assigning the functions where you want them.

    Function select lever
    Function select switch assigns a function the two installed switches.
    Function select switch
    The adjuster function is used to apply steering wheel and throttle trigger neutral position and operating angle corrections.
    Adjuster function

    The steering wheel tension can be adjusted from the outside using a phillips head screw driver.

    Adjusting the mechanical ATL using a phillips head screw driver adjusts the trigger stop position. This will effect the amount of throw in the braking controls.

    Wheel tension and mechanical ATL adjustment screws

    Below is a list of functions offered with the 3PM 2.4GHz MX radio system.

    On the left side you will find the abbreviation and on the right there is a brief explanation. The instruction manual explains these functions in greater detail.


    EPA End point adjustment (CH1, CH2, & CH3)
    ATL Adjusts amount of throttle and braking
    SPD Speed of steering servo. Helps to correct over steer
    EXP Adjusts steering and throttle sensitivity around neutral
    A.B.S. Anti-skid braking system. Pumps the brakes for better control
    ACC Reduces throttle and brake lag in gas and nitro vehicles (quicker response)
    BMX Brake mixing (large scale gas powered vehicles)
    PMX Programmable mixing between steering, throttle, and ch3
    4WS 4 wheel steering mixing
    F/S Fail safe function prevents runaway vehicle if signal should fail (possibly due to low transmitter batteries)
    TRM Steering and throttle trim
    D/R Steering dual rate
    SBT Sub-trim is used to set the neutral position of steering, throttle, and ch3 servos
    TIMER Timer is used to check lap times, race times, and refueling
    SEL Model select
    CPY Model copy
    CLR Model resets to original factory value
    MOD Selects between HRS/PPM signal modes
    FNC-SW Function select switch assigns a function to a switch
    FNC-DT Function select lever assigns a function to a lever
    STP-DT Digital trim step adjusts amount of trim adjusted with each touch of trim lever
    COND2 Condition 2 selection is used to set up two rates for specific modes
    LED-MD LED mode selection lets you choose between 4 brightnesses of the pilot lamp
    ADJ Adjuster for steering wheel and throttle trigger neutral as well as operating angle corrections
    REV Channel reversing

    As you can see the 3PM-X is not your average 2.4GHz radio. There are many features and options that will allow you to fine tune your vehicle's handling no matter what you drive.

    The instruction manual explains everything in great detail and supplies illustrations when necessary. The Futaba 3PM 2.4GHz MX selection screens are laid out well and are user friendly. You'll be fine tuning your vehicle's performance in no time.

    Steering (DT1) and throttle (DT2) trim levers
    Grip buttons
    Button layout
    Battery plug
    3 channel receiver
    Removable battery tray
    Charging jack
    Back of transmitter

    The 3PM-X radio system we are testing includes the Futaba R603FF 3ch receiver. This receiver comes with a 7 5/8" long antenna. The short antenna is just one of the many benefits of the 2.4GHz systems.

    The battery tray can be easily replaced with a rechargeable battery pack. Just remove the tray and plug in the pack. The 3PM-X already has the charging jack there for you.


    Futaba's 3PM-MX radio system includes a fail safe mode which allows you to set a pre-designated position for a channel to enter incase the receiver loses contact with the transmitter. Setting the F/S is quick and easy.

    • PPM mode:

    With the radio and receiver turned on, using the controller set the channel or servo into the desired position and push the F/S button on the back of the controller. The button will flash green when you are done. Each time the receiver is turned off, the fail safe needs to be reset.

    For example, if I want the brake to be applied on my nitro vehicle when the fail safe function takes over, I would push the throttle trigger forward and push the F/S button on the back of the transmitter. When the button flashes green I am done! It really is that simple.

    • HRS mode:

      When the radio is set to HRS mode, the fail safe must be set through the selection screen. Once the radio is turned on, use the select key to select the F/S screen. Press the "CH" key to toggle through the three different channels. Once you have selected the channel you want the fail safe to effect, use the transmitter controls (trigger, wheel, or switch) to set the position it will enter during F/S. Hold that position and press (+) and (-) at same time and hold for at least one second. The radio will beep when you are finished. You can set all three channels and the transmitter will hold the setting for the next time you wish to use it.

    If you are using newer style digital servos, you can take advantage of the HRS mode. In the high rate servo mode it utilizes the servo's capabilities by delivering more power, higher speeds, and better resolution to the servos that standard PPM mode will not. Those high dollar digital servo can now operate to their full potential!


    • 4WS (four wheel steering)
    • 2 or 3 position dig switch. First assign a lever for the dig function (ch3). Then assign the digital trim step as a "2 position" or "3 position" lever
    • Exponential
    • Lever re-asignment to your liking
    • Timer can be set for up or down counting


    • Steering and throttle exponential
    • A.B.S. (anti-skid braking). Control your vehicle during hard braking
    • Timer
    • Steering speed
    • Throttle acceleration (gas and nitro vehicles). Remove the slack in the throttle and brake linkages
    • Fail safe. Protect against a runaway
    • Steering dual rates

    Setting up 4WS

    Download and Watch in Windows Media Player here!


    3PM-X in action

    Download and Watch in Windows Media Player here!


    Adjusting the ABS

    Download and Watch in Windows Media Player here!


    Track Report

    With in an hour I had the 3PM-X receiver install into my truggy and all the trims set. I had some soft foam lying around so I cut a piece to wrap the receiver in. I then put my 6volt Futaba NiCD receiver pack in the battery box along side the receiver.

    I routed the antenna straight up a shortened antenna tube and sealed up the battery box. My RC8T with futaba radio system is now ready to go.

    The weather is wet and cold, 34º to be exact, and I wasn't able to go to the track because of mud. Luck for me there are always plenty of parking lots.

    The radio performed as expected, flawlessly. I took some of my other radios and turned them on while testing the 3PM-X and there was no interference picked up from any of them. The different radios I had used were two 2.4GHz, a FM, and a few AM frequencies.

    The trims were easy to use and the radio fit my hand nicely. I did have to look at the manual a few times to get used to what the abbreviations on the screen meant, but overall it didn't take too long to figure out.

    The timer is definitely going to come in handy. I went ahead and broke in a new motor while using the radio and the timer helped me to allow the engine to idle for two minutes each time I started it before putting around the driveway. I also used the timer for refueling. It's not a good idea to let an engine run completely out of fuel during the break in process.

    I haven't tested this yet but I know the timer will also help me pick the fastest line and driving style. I'm kind of a b@lls to the wall driver. Give it all you've got! That isn't always the quickest way around the track though. This radio will help me hone my driving skills by starting the timer, making some laps one way and then making some slower and more precise laps. When I'm done I can look at the different lap times to see which is more beneficial.

    The A.B.S. (anti skid braking system) worked great. Even on the gravel parking lot I could see a difference in the amount of wheel slide. I could obviously make the car slide by cranking the wheel sideways, but when control is wanted it was as if I were gently applying the brakes. I'm not sure about you guys but when I'm in an actual race it's difficult to apply just a little braking, my adrenaline demands more. I can see how this feature will come in handy!

    I didn't find the need to use the radio's lever relocation function but it's good to know I can if the occasion arrises.

    I was using the PPM mode because my throttle servo is analog so each time I turned the car on I set the fail safe. It literally took two-seconds to do. It's nice having that built into the radio.

    Over all the Futaba 3PM 2.4GHz MX radio system performed great.

    Setting up 4WS
    The 3PM-X test drive
    Adjusting the A.B.S.

    The 3PM-X is not your average computer radio. The many features that are offered make this radio a one for all. Futaba had everyone in mind when they created this radio, the 1/5 scalers, the rock crawlers, the on and off road racers, the yard bashers, water craft, and anything else that operates on a surface that requires three channels.

    Are you on a budget? If you have a vehicle that uses three or less channels and want to expand it's possibilities, the 3PM-X is definitely for you.

    Distributed in the U.S.A., Canada and Mexico by:
    Great Planes Model Distributors
    P.O. Box 9021
    Champaign, IL 61826-9021

    Website: Futaba products

    Service center Email: service@futaba-rc.com.

    Comments on RCU Review: Futuba 3PM 2.4GHz MX TX & R603FF RX

    Posted by: Gyronator on 02/24/2010
    Great review! Really got me in thinking on getting this instead. Around how much are the recievers for this thing?
    Posted by: tymtofly2 on 03/02/2010
    The radio of course comes with one and additional receivers are around $90. You can probably find them cheaper if you shop around. Thanks for the comment.
    Posted by: wminmi on 10/22/2010
    just ordered this radio, hope it lives up to this review!!
    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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