Friday, November 8, 2013

Devo 6s vs. Devo 7E

Introduction

The Devo 7E and 6S controllers are unique - at least to my knowledge - in being fully computerized rc controllers in a toy controller form factor. As such, a comparison of them seems to be worthwhile.

I got a 7E about a year ago to check out deviationTx, and have been using it regularly for all my Blade & Walkera copters. While I expected to be pleased with deviation, what I didn't expect was how much I'd like that form factor. It's great for flying micro helis indoors.

I got a 6S earlier this week, and have converted and flown everything I was flying with the 7E. I thought I'd go over the pluses and minuses for those who are contemplating this.

First and foremost, I'm not going to disagree with the assertion that the 10 - at the same price point as the 6S - is the better buy. Unless you want the small form factor (hence the comparison with the 7E) or a color screen (save a bit extra and get the 8S!), go with the 10.

Pluses

Better hardware

The 6S has noticeably better hardware. My first reaction on picking up a 7E was "yuch", because of those black plastic sticks. In fact, that's my only mod to the 7E - replacing those things. The gimbals in the 6S are also smoother than the 7E, making it easier to fly with.

The microcontroller in the 7E is cheaper than the rest of the line, that it has less memory being the crucial point here. This means installation is a little harder to deal with code that is loaded on demand, that there is at least one missing feature in the current (3.0.0) release of deviation, and more in the current nightly builds. The things that have been removed were excellent choices, and really amount to no more than inconveniences, not even being annoying. This could get better, as I don't know how much effort has been spent on refactoring the code to make it smaller. However, I'd expect it to get worse first.

Switches

The 6S has two extra three-position switches. There is a mod for the 7E that can add either one 3-position switch, or two 2-position switches, neither of which bring it up to the 6S. All the craft where I had sacrificed controls I'd like, or deformed things in some way to fit on the 7E, work much better on the 6S. Just adding one 3-position switch would do it, so a modded 7E would be up to what I'm doing now. However, I'm also considering moving some craft that I couldn't fly at all on the 7E over to it.

The nightly builds on the 7E or 6S will let you use the navigation buttons as control switches, which adds a lot of capabilities to the 7E. However, even this works better on the 6S. It has the touch screen for navigation, and a way to enabled and disable the navigation buttons for navigation. Presumably, that will also toggle those buttons as switches, but even if it doesn't, you still get to use them all until you toggle it.

Display

Ok, the display isn't that big a deal when flying. After all, you're paying attention to what you're flying, not the transmitter! So, except to sneak an occasional glance at whatever I'm measuring to determine the end of the flight, I ignore it. Even the deviation toggles I've so carefully configured never really get looked at.

But the 6S display is twice the size of the 7E. On the 7E, I could never get everything I wanted to look at during the configuration process on the display, even for the 4-channel craft. The 6S I can get everything of interest on the display, even for the 6-channel CP helis! This makes the configuration process a lot more convenient.

That it's a color screen also means it's prettier, but again, I don't look at it when flying. Maybe it's a little easier on the eyes during the config, but who really cares?

Range

The 6S doesn't have the range-limiting diode in it. Easily removed from the 7E, but you still have to do it.

Undecided

I'm not sold on the touch-screen UI yet. While you can use the navigation buttons, you have to enable that every time you want to use it, and it's not quite as smooth as it is on the 7E. The touch screen should be easier to use, but the elements are a bit small for my big fingers. Maybe it just takes some getting used to, or a stylus.

Minuses

Not clear how readable the color display will be in bright sunlight.

The 6S costs twice as much. Sort of hard to ignore.

Conclusion

So the question is, is it worth the cost? I think for my uses - flying mini 'copters indoors, the answer is yes. The 7E modded with a three-position switch plus the new momentary buttons would be enough for everything I plan to fly with the 6S, but just barely. All the benefits together - not having to mod it, fewer steps in updating and configuring deviation, the better gimbals, and room to grow add up to that yes, but just barely. If I were planning on flying outdoors a lot and that screen were hard to read, it might not make the cut.