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 Post subject: Graupner/SJ MZ-24 review thingy.
PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:36 pm 
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Howdy all. In my continued quest to flush all my money down the toilet and try out various high end radios, I picked up the new Graupner/SJ MZ-24 HOTT radio. Why? I dunno, it's shiny, got a color screen, and I really liked how it looked. If you are a 'murcan like myself, you are probably not familiar with the Graupner stuff beyond really nice props for multirotors. However, much like David Hasslehoff, the Graupner stuff is big in Germany and the rest of Europe. They have been around using this protocol for years now, and when Graupner declared bankruptcy about a year ago SJ Propo of South Korea bought the rights to their name since they already manufactured all of the radios, chargers and other electronic goodies for Graupner. They recently opened up a North American branch for distributing their stuff in San Diego, and had a Black Friday sale, and just like that, I was roped in.

So why did I want to try it? Mostly it was the telemetry options, and the low price of sensors and receivers. I've never seen such a comprehensive suite of sensors, and everything is displayed nicely on the transmitter using graphs and numbers. It's also all logged to the SD card and the flights can be played back later on the computer. The highlights of the sensors available (in my opinion) are the Electric Air Module which in 1 $60 box gives you amps up 150a, voltage, MAH consumed, vario, temperature, and plugs for up to 14s to monitor all the cells in a pack, also the standalone Vario to put in planes gives sink and climb rates, plus altitude for only $25. Alarms can be individually set for each value, and the transmitter can read off any of the telemetry values as well with a switch, or automagically when it hits the value you select. They also have a full line of very reasonably priced ESCs that give voltage, consumption, RPM, and temperature. In addition, the receivers all have telemetry for signal strength and quality, temperature, and voltage. So awesome telemetry + shiny good looks = I want to try it out.

Design & Ergonomics

First, this transmitter feels GREAT in my hands. It has just enough weight to let you know you've got a nice piece of equipment without being too heavy. The size and shape along with the rubber grips on the side and back feel fantastic. Unfortunately, it does not balance on the neck strap, and since I'm a pinch flyer that is important to me. They include a balancer which looks dumb, but works. I replaced it with a nice SECraft that I have had for a while. It's disappointing that when we've had 2.4 radios for years manufacturers still put out radios that don't balance on the strap properly. I give my Taranis a pass because it is cheap and uses a knock off of the old 9303 case, but there is no excuse here, it's a new design. Someone wasn't thinking.

I love the switches, almost every switch is 3 position, and 2 of them (one on the face on the left and the top right back) are 3 position with the position pulled most forward being spring loaded. There are also 4 knobs, and 2 sliders. I really like the switch layout and variety, actually it's my favorite layout and setup that I've had so far. Sounds perfect, but sadly, it's not, the switches on the top are far too close together, and I happily flew a Futaba 8FG for years, which many say has the switches too close together. I had no problem getting my fingers between the switches on the 8FG, but I really can't on this. I have to rest my fingers on top of the flight mode and throttle hold switches, I can't get them between while flying.

Aside from that, everything feels great, very smooth gimbals, as good as any I've used aside from Jeti, and the switches and knobs are all very positive and solid feeling. I love how the gimbals don't have a raised edge around them, it is a nice smooth bowl type shape down into the gimbal, so someone like me who pinches and rest his fingers on the case is comfortable and has great control. The one lone niggle is the sliders on the side are kind of recessed into the rubber grips when they are all the way down and rub a bit. As such they are hard to move and drag. On my first MZ-24 (don't jump ahead on me here) I pulled off the rubber grips and trimmed them and it was much better. The second MZ-24 is a tiny bit better in terms of drag on the slider, but not perfect, and still hard to reach when they are all the way down.

The screen on the MZ-24 is a resistive color touch screen. If you are not familiar with the difference between capacitive and resistive, your smart phone is capacitive and works by sensing the capacitance of your skin to know what you want to do. Resistive are the kind where there is a softer plasticy top that you push down and it changes the resistance in that area to register a touch. You can operate a resistive with gloves, capacitive has higher response, and is a better tech, but more expensive. This is the same type of screen as my old 14MZ, but it's easy to tell that it has been refined, because it is much more responsive than the 14MZ, and always registers what I want first time even without using the stylus. The color screen is really nice, and easy to use, it's very nice for telemetry value graphs, and impressing small children. Like any other color screen you have, like your phone, it does get washed out somewhat in bright sunlight. It's not unusable, but it's not nearly as bright when out in the sun, same as every other color LCD. Turning my back to the sun provides enough shade that everything pops out really nicely again.

Power is from a 1s2p 4000mah lipo. It gives about 4 hours of RF on time, and charges in the radio. It would last longer, but for some reason the screen backlight never completely turns off while you are using the radio, it only dims. Hopefully a future update will make it turn all the way off. It'd certainly improve the battery life.

Programming

Kind of a mixed bag here. If you are a computer geek like I have been in a past life, you'll know exactly what I mean when I say this is a typical 1.0 release. It's ambitious, but in many areas misses the big picture and lacks polish. The good news is that what is there is very good, and Graupner has been very receptive to suggestions, even putting out multiple releases with new features and fixes since this first was released in Korea and Germany a few months ago.

Every switch and function is freely assignable to anything else, which is great. You want to control your throttle by flipping a switch? Done. Timer on aileron? Easy. However, you can't make it announce flight modes with the voice. You can't make it count down the timer every minute automatically (have to flip a switch to have it read the timer). Want to assign one switch to read the timer, another to give signal strength, and another to tell you MAH used? Too bad. Can't do it, it'll only cycle through values on a single switch, and you have to hit the switch every time to get to the next one.

Setting up a new model is great. Just select a memory slot and hit new. It'll walk you through EVERY step to make a model from naming, end points, wing/swash type, everything. However, if you have a heli setup, it strangely puts a throttle limiter on it where the value of CH12 is the max that you can get the throttle to, and that value is determined by the top left knob. HUH? Why would it do that? It's totally independent from the throttle hold and throttle cut values, and the only way to stop it is to unassign the knob from CH12.

Setting up a plane where you wants flaps and/or spoilers? Awesome, it's easy to do, there is a canned mix, and you can assign the control to any switch stick or slider. Hit the next screen button in that nice graphical mix and it takes you to setting the elevator to compensate for any pitch changes. Very slick. However, you can't have proportional control of it, it's all or nothing, even on a slider. Someone wasn't thinking. I like having both flaps and spoilers on my glider that has 2 aileron servos, but I don't want all or nothing. Luckily, the radio is very flexible, so it's easy to go into a free mix and make one to operate proportionally to get the result that I want. However, I'm a primadonna and want to use the pretty screens and neat setups, so I would like it to operate the logical way and not have to work around it.

Sadly, no logic switches are in the software. I've really grown to love them, and miss them terribly. If you are not familiar with them, it allows you to define a switch based on multiple things (switch position, telemetry value, etc) that all have to be true to trigger something.

The receivers, ESCs, sensors etc can all be programmed wirelessly form the radio. It's a VERY slick system. All of the receivers are capable of single line output into a FBL system (I've got them into and IKON and a Brain, and tried it with the Robird, all worked great), and that is set right from the radio. The ESC I've set up was simple, think of the stuff you can do with a Castle using a Castle Link, and I can do all that same stuff wirelessly right from the radio, plus tell it to alert me of values that I set, and even have it read off the headspeed at the flick of a switch!

Other stuff

Speaking of receivers, they are great. They are fairly small, and fairly priced. They all have the ability to do single line in and out so they can be chained together for redundancy, and to expand the number of channels you have up to the max of the transmitter. You can chain them with a servo cable or leave them independent and just have 2 totally separate RX running different parts of a plane or heli. They have a wide variety of them too, from tiny to large, and most of them are available with a 3 axis Gyro and vario/altimeter built in. They even say there's a future update to allow the 3 axis gyro to work as a FBL controller. I've had a lot of different systems, and I'm most impressed by the receivers that Graupner offers. Binding is done by pressing a button on the receiver. Easy and fast. Relink time after signal or power loss is pretty much instant, slower than Frsky, faster than Jeti, Futaba and Spektrum, but close.

I mentioned above what that the radio can read all telemetry values to you with the speaker, although other voice options are severely limited, and you cannot add your own voices and sounds. The speaker is very clear, and the British lady who lives inside sounds kind of sexy, if a bit slow talking. However, none of that really matters because it is quiet. Really quiet, even with the volume all the way up. I took my son out today, it was a nice calm day and we were flying his electric trainer. I could hear all the voice alerts, but if he talked I couldn't, if a car was to drive by I wouldn't have been able to, if a mouse farted, forget it. That's disappointing. The radio does have a headphone jack, but I don't want to wear headphones, even if I would look great with a big red set of Beats by Dre cans on my old bald head. There is a bluetooth option for the radio, so a single bluetooth earpiece could be used, and that's actually a great idea, but I fly in pretty quiet areas and should be able to hear it clearly even at less than max volume. My Jeti and Taranis are both flown at less than max volume and I have no problem hearing them in the same places and situations. It does come with an MP3 player which is neat... I guess.

Another place that is hit or miss is the trainer function. It can wirelessly link to another Graupner to buddy box someone. Being a sucker for cool toys and having been unable to find a good radio for my 5 year old son, I picked up an MZ-12 6ch for him to take advantage of this. It is the perfect radio for him, a little smaller than your average transmitter, light, but still full function with great gimbals and switches. Control transfer can be specified so the student only has the channels you want them to have, but once it's switched they have total control, I prefer the Spektrum and Futaba method where the teacher can give inputs and corrections without taking control back from the student to just give them a little push to help.

The process of binding the 2 radios together for training is strange, and in the end the student transmitter is actually bound to the receiver, but all the mixing and controls of the teacher are what it flies with. It switches between the 2 flawlessly, and no mixes in the student TX are done. It's VERY slick. However, once you have it setup, the plane can't be flown with the teacher transmitter unless the student transmitter is on without rebinding. Also, I tried a number of different ways and it can't be range checked when setup as a wireless trainer. It just won't do it. I'm a gambling man though, and an EPP trainer was all that was flying, so I threw caution to the wind and flew it anyways. It all worked, but I hate not being able to range test.

Speaking of range test, it works like a regular old transmitter. Hit test and walk away until it dies. Disappointing that with the telemetry they didn't do it like the Jeti and Taranis. On those, you range test and it brings up the signal strength on the screen and while walking away you can look and see what it is doing, and not try to see a little rudder or swash movement at 30 yards. It's a little thing, but it shows that not enough thought was put in to the software.

The main screen has a ton of buttons that do things, and a ton of things that look like buttons that don't. Very 1.0 Want guidance on how to program things? Read the manual. When you become conscious again after banging your head on a hard surface after seeing how horrible that manual is, just start pressing buttons, and you'll figure it out. For more advanced things like the wireless trainer, download the manual that the Germans who originally owned Graupner wrote for the MC-20. It's very similar and actually explains things.

Seriously. Look at this thing. It's like information vomit. Full of bright colors, but useless and gross.
http://www.openhobby.com/board/download.php?board=download_en&num=172&file_name=Graupner+SJ+mz-24+%28USA%29Manual.pdf

I have no reservations about dealing with Graupner/SJ USA at http://www.openhobby.com. Their responsiveness and service has been spectacular, even as good as Horizon. While messing around with it I had the bright idea of taking it apart and possibly changing the speaker. I'm sad to report that for the first time in 37 years I've taken something apart and broke something bad enough that I had to have professional help. While removing the antenna I pulled the u.fl connector off the RF board. I also might have pinched and cut a gimbal wire. I could have repaired both with an order from digikey, but decided that I'd have them do it since it was only a few days old. I sent it in and the day after they received it I got a quote of $120 to fix it, which seems very reasonable. However, rather than repair, they just sent me a brand new radio for the $120. That's not a bad price at all based on how it broke and the things needing to be replaced. The service guy I've spoken with, Matt, is AWESOME. He is fast to respond via email, friendly on the phone, and really knowledgeable. When I contacted him with some of my ideas to improve the software he even gave me the phone number of one of the guys who works on the software development so I could bounce things off him. Pretty awesome.

Performance in the air

Great. No complaints. Link was solid, response was great. Gimbals feel great, and other than the switch spacing, I loved flying with it. Specked my glider out (it's a little FMS EZ Trainer, like a HK Bixler, or MPX Easy Star), I was way out and the telemetry said I was at 350 meters which is approximately 4.3 miles high if my metric conversion is correct, and I was still at 85% signal strength. Don't quote me on that, sensible measurements confuse me. Switching control back and forth with my 5 year old was seamless and simple, and we had a GREAT time flying his little EPP Tuff Trainer from Hobbyking. By far the best he's ever done flying RC. Part of that is the trainer and setup, part his incredible teacher, but a large part was the easy wireless trainer link allowing him to wander about a bit without worrying about the cord, and the light MZ-12 fit him really well.

Am I keeping it?

Nope. I like the feel of the radio, but at the end of the day I never got comfortable with the switches, and the volume of the speaker is way too quiet. I love the link, love the hardware (aside from spacing), love the support, and love the prices. I think it's a better radio than my Spektrums and Futabas, but if I'm going to go all in on a system I have to love everything. I'm debating what to do next, I may buy the MC-20, which is the tray version, but without the color screen, and with an integrated antenna. They will take it back within 14 days if I don't like it, but from talking to people the speaker is loud, and I've been through the manaul and it'll do almost everything I want right out of the box. Plus I like having an integrated antenna, and I've got 6 Graupner receivers, 2 ESCs, and a vario. If the speaker was louder on the MZ-24 or the switches were spaced a bit farther apart, I'd probably keep it, but with both not being what I want it's a no go.

I will be keeping the MZ-12 for my son, though. It is perfect in every way, and even if I don't have a Graupner for my own radio I've setup a wireless trainer link using its included receiver and a cable I made to my Taranis.

So who knows what's next. I like the Graupner line, so maybe that MC-20.

Here's some links to some Youtube videos I made of various things on the radio. It'll give you a feel for some of the programming.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl8CEWY3IZE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-8puRYbQaQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grAGsCouxW4

And this is a link to an unboxing video which is what made me decide to buy it. It shows all the cool switches, and is good to boogie down to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgORx221krU

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 Post subject: Re: Graupner/SJ MZ-24 review thingy.
PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:04 pm 
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Wow, Nick what a great review! :thumbup:

So the search continues... I've been following along with your videos and posts on RCG about this radio, but I totally get what you mean by the switch spacing. Hard to believe it's tighter than the 8FG... wow. It must be made for little girl fingers! :lol:

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 Post subject: Graupner/SJ MZ-24 review thingy.
PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:08 pm 
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I've got to be honest, I'm regretting selling my Jeti. Luckily I sold it for almost exactly what I bought it for so if I decide to get another I won't have lost any money. Either that or I'll just stick with my Taranis, which has been consistently awesome. Just not shiny enough.

The MZ-24 is up in the RCGroups classifieds, I'll figure out what I want to do when it sells.

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 Post subject: Re: Graupner/SJ MZ-24 review thingy.
PostPosted: Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:31 pm 
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Eury wrote:
Either that or I'll just stick with my Taranis, which has been consistently awesome. Just not shiny enough.
Well heck, that's easy to fix! Just give it to Ben for a weekend and let him put some gold foil on it. :tongue

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 Post subject: Re: Graupner/SJ MZ-24 review thingy.
PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2013 5:38 am 
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His Dx8 is quite Bling tastic. I'm not sure that I'm ready to go for the full crazy billionaire look yet.

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 Post subject: Re: Graupner/SJ MZ-24 review thingy.
PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2013 7:23 pm 
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Wow great review Thanks for sharing!

Lol Chris has seen my TX in person and is not as Bling as you might think

However is not very durable so in sure it will look terrible when I actually start to fly regularly again when ever that might be. ..

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 Post subject: Re: Graupner/SJ MZ-24 review thingy.
PostPosted: Sat Dec 21, 2013 7:47 pm 
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Sure, Goldmember. You're just being modest.


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 Post subject: Re: Graupner/SJ MZ-24 review thingy.
PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 1:01 pm 
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Nick,

I played with this radio last week at Joe Nall. It is impressive. I'm considering picking one up to compare to my DX9. :thinking

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 Post subject: Re: Graupner/SJ MZ-24 review thingy.
PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2014 1:25 pm 
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They've got another one coming, I think its the MZ32. That looked pretty awesome as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Graupner/SJ MZ-24 review thingy.
PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2014 7:37 am 
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The MZ32 looks pretty cool. He said it is going to be a while before it hits the market though. I'm going to have them on the show soon.

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