Competition is Good for Consumers…
Radioking just entered the market with their TX18s Multiprotocol OpenTx RC transmitter radio and when companies compete, consumers win. It is fairly well known by now the owners/founders of Jumper had some sort of falling out and Ben left to start Radiomaster.
From an intellectual property standpoint, Ben must have had a right to take information with him because Radiomaster released the TX16s which by any modern cell phone standard was an iteration of the T16 Pro–with improvements. The TX16s added integrated USB charging, a touch screen, external UART ports, bigger battery bay, and a more accessible SD card reader. All of these features landed with a reduction in retail pricing of about $30.00. See: Competition is good for consumers.
The Jumper Strikes Back
Not to be undone by their former colleague, Jumper came back swinging with the release of the Jumper T18. One would think this radio would have built upon what Jumper learned with the release of the T16 and subsequent T16 pro. But did they learn? The T18 lineup includes the T18 Lite, T18 Standard, and T18 Pro. In my YouTube First Look of the T18 Lite, I explain why the Lite version is the best option.
I can’t fathom why Jumper didn’t take this release opportunity to make the improvements needed to leapfrog over the Radiomaster TX16s, but they didn’t. Notably missing are internal USB charging and a touch screen. While the T18 did away with the troublesome ribbon cables, they did not add improved potentiometers for the S1/S2 knobs or the LS/RS sliders. Instead they focused on gimmicky features like backlit switch labels. While that certainly has some cool factor, it does nothing to enhance the operational efficiency of the radio in direct sunlight.
The T18 Standard and Pro models also made the questionable choice of using an internal PCB antenna for the 2.4ghz radio. Instead, they placed the 915mhz antenna for the R9 protocol on the outside. On the other hand, the T18 Lite does not include support for R9 and 915mhz, so on that radio the 2.4ghz antenna is the size it should be and is located on top of the radio where it should be.
Closer Than You Think
Jumper squandered an opportunity to leapfrog the TX16s. I have no visibility into their production cycle, so I have no way of knowing when the T18 design choices were finalized and sent to production vs when the TX16s hit the streets; however, it is clear they missed an opportunity to take a clear leadership position in the multi-protocol OpenTx radio race. In my Radiomaster TX16s vs Jumper T18 Shootout video, I compare the two radios side-by-side scoring their individual attributes. Even though the T18 released after the TX16s, it feels like it is just a half step behind the latter. In the end, the TX16s edges out the T18, but that is not the way it should have gone. The T18 should definitely have been the obvious choice.
Enter the Radioking TX18s
What’s this? A THIRD entry in the race? Within a few months of the TX16s hitting retail shelves, a new mystery (they think) company appeared by the name of Radioking. Radioking’s initial offering. Say hello to the TX18s–and no, I’m not making this up. It’s shocking to American business minded people how much crosspollination of IP goes on in China. If you visit the Radioking TX18s website you’ll find the radio prominently displayed. It appears this is Radioking’s only product. As of this writing–little else is shown on their website. The About Us page is blank, the Products Page includes only the mysterious TX18s. I’ve reached out to Radioking via contact form on their website seeking additional information about company principles, products, and roadmap. We’ll see what else we can learn about the mystery company.
Let me save you the suspense though: Radioking is Jumper. There are a couple of hardware bits and layout choices on the inside of the radio along with some technical mumbo-jumbo below that lead me to this conclusion. For some reason it seems Jumper is trying to shroud this fact through obscurity. A quick look at the Whois Records from their domain name removes any further doubt:
Registrant State/Province: Jiang Su
Registrant Country: CN
Registrant State/Province: jiang su
Registrant Country: CN
Registrant State/Province: guang dong
Registrant Country: CN
Jumper-RC and Radioking-RC are in the same city in China, which is 1570km or 975miles away from the registrant city of Radiomaster.
Ok, enough sleuthing around. Why did Jumper start a new entity? Why are they masking through obscurity who they are? What does this mean for the Jumper entity? What does this mean when you need support for your Radioking TX18s? Time will tell I guess.
Where Do We Go From Here
One thing for certain: Radiomaster and Jumper are battling for consumer dollars in the OpenTx multi-protocol radio space. That is not a bad thing for consumers because competition will drive prices down while forcing the entrants to innovate and bring more features to the consumers of these products.
On the other hand, the business model is unusual because there is definitely an undercurrent here. Radioking launches a hybrid TX16s/T18 radio with little fanfare and little information about who is standing behind this product. For consumable widgets and gadgets that’s not too big of a deal, but for a radio that will control some potentially very expensive RC Planes in-flight, it’s good to know a little about the company making the product.
Until the reviewer community gets hold of these TX18s radios and puts them through their paces, my advice would be to steer clear. You have two very good and very competitive options as of this writing in the TX16s and T18 Lite. So if you have to have a multi-protocol OpenTx radio right now, do yourself a favor and choose from one of those two until we can sort out what’s going on with the TX18s.