I went with the OrangeRX T-Six as my first radio. After reading all I could on sub $100 radios and realizing that I would quickly want something beyond a 4 channel radio, this was my choice.
Key things I like about it:
- Nice back lit screen that is easy to navigate
- The scroll wheel for menu navigation or dedicated push buttons
- Trim indicators on screen
- Can run on AA or a dedicated battery pack
- Metal stick tips (better feel than cheaper radios)
- 10 Model memory
- All the tuning I'll need for a while, mixing, dual rates, Expo, reversing, travel, Gyro gain, Vtail, elevon
- It's bright orange! (I dig it)
- Good price (6 channel receiver is ~$6)
A few things I don't like about it.
- When you view the model list it will say Model 1, Model 2, etc.. You can name your models but the name doesn't show up on the model list, it shows up once the model is loaded
- The trainer/buddy box port is a bit of an odd plug
- They don't sell a bundle with a receiver so you have to buy it separate
I started with a real cheap ($35) six channel radio. I was good for a start but if I'd have known about the Orange RX or the Dx6i I would have gotten one of those. Three main reasons for me. 10 models + ease of changing rates or expo, no need to bring a laptop to the field, and expo. The really cheap ones don't do expo. I have the DX6i but I don't see anything wrong with the Orange. I want to get an Orange for my nephew. Here's a link to a side by side comparison.
If you want a good radio at a decent price and like to tinker, go with the Turnigy 9x. If you don't like to tinker, go with the Turnigy 9xr. In either case, I would buy it WITHOUT the module and buy a separate transmitter module like the FrSky DJT. Without the module they are around $50. A DJT module is around $25 and about the same for a receiver with telemetry.
A lot of folks swear that the FrSky system is so much better than either the FlySky that usually comes with the Turnigy controllers or the DSM2 modules. And you are still spending only about $100 for either.
The biggest differenct between the 9x and the 9xr is that the 9xr comes with an LCD backlight, a programming port and both JR and Futaba trainer ports. The 9xr's black and chrome plastic is also a bit less aesthetically pleasing than the 9x.
Either way, you will want to flash the radio with OpenTX which is the same as that used in the FrSky Taranis. But of course the Taranis is as rare as hen's teeth these days. You would have to get on a waiting list, or just get lucky, or spend more on shipping.
Might be easier said than done. While he *might* be able to scavange the electronics from the RTF plane(e.g. a champ brick won't work for an FT flyer), Getting another receiver that will bind to his transmitter might not be possible. Also, some of the control setups (elevon vs. Rudder/Elevator) just won't swap easy without a programmable radio.
You do make a fair point, and it's worth asking . . .
What kind of RTF do you have -- specifically, what company made it?
+1 for the 9X. For a beginner, I recommend the 9X that comes with module and receiver. This will allow you to fly out-the-box, and as you gain experience, this transmitter has lots of room for DIY expansion/upgrades (if you don't mind tinkering with the transmitter). 6 channel receivers go for around $10, and they work just fine for these scratch-build parkflyer applications. You can program 8 models in its stock configuration, and up to 16 if you upgrade the firmware (requires some hardware modding). You can also swap the module out to allow compatibility with receivers that use different technologies (eg. DSM2). Honestly, you can't go wrong with any of the transmitters that have been recommended so far.
I went with the 9x and don't regret it for a minute. My only complaint is that the RX's seem a little more expensive than I would have expected given how cheap the radio is and how cheap the orange DSM RX's are. But I've been using the HK 3 channel RX's for my simpler models (http://hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__10625__Hobby_King_GT_2_2_4Ghz_Receiver_3Ch.html) and they're only about $6. The one down side I've found to those 3 channel RX's is that they have a small component in them (an inductor I think) that isn't glued down and is just supported by it's two very very thin magnet wire leads. After a dozen or so hard "landings" I had one of those come loose and repair was maybe possible...but way too much of a PITA for me to bother over $6. For my nutball, flyer, bloody wonder, delta, old fogey...they've been great as an RX.
I'll probably step up to the frSky system at some point though if I decide I want telemetry and with the 9x that's an easy option.
The one catch to the 9x is I'd say customization isn't just possible but required. The stock software is pretty crummy. But openTX is really nice. Almost every time I use this thing I'm blown away by how much radio is is for how little it costs. I have an old 4 channel FM Futaba stashed away in a closet and the original price sticker on it (mid 80's) was almost twice what I paid for my 9x and it doesn't have dual rates or expo let alone multiple models and swappable TX modules.
I am going to encourage you to get the 9x or 9xr. But since I got the Taranis, my 9x is now my backup transmitter. So I no longer need my HK T6A transmitter as a backup. If you're interested, I've posted it for sale along with the computer connection (USB) cable and 6 channel receiver.
It would be half the cost of a 9x if you want something cheap to start.