Words: Tony Phalen
Back in the day when I started racing, the transmitters were pretty simple. There were no digital readouts or hidden antennas and if someone was on your channel, you had to run back to the pits to change the frequency crystals in your car and radio. Dials were limited to EPAs and Dual Rates and, if you had the big bucks and could afford it, you had an awesome black antenna. Not only were the transmitters much simpler, but the drivers were much thinner too (from all the running around)!
Through the years, the transmitter has evolved into more than just a hand-held steering device; it’s basically a computer in your hand. Airtronics has seen some big success with transmitters like the CS2P, the Caliber, the M8 and the M11. Recent releases, like the M11x and MT-4, have pushed the boundaries of what the RC transmitter is capable of…until now. The M12 is by far Airtronics’ most advanced, Spread Spectrum 2.4GHz transmitter ever. Not only does it look amazing with its sleek design and M16-style top-grip, but it comes with a bible-sized manual to help clue you in on its over-the-top performance.
So what’s new with the M12? For starters, the M12 boasts a Superman-fast latency speed of 0.95ms! That’s faster than any current radio on the market! The M12 is lighter than the M11x. It comes with multiple grip inserts so you can customize the feel to fit your hands (if you have monster meat-mitts or teeny-tiny baby hands). The M12 is capable of monitoring certain telemetry features such as rpm (or speed), temperature and receiver pack voltage. These features are excellent for anyone that races nitro (or gas) powered vehicles. Another cool function lets you set up the M12 with up to five different racing modes, allowing you to change, on the fly, to another racing mode depending on track conditions. The 50-model memory is nice, but seems a bit excessive. I do like the new 10-car type templates that the M12 includes. This system allows you to use a pre-set template that is already set up for that type of model. For instance, if you’re going to be using a crawler that has front and rear steering, choosing one of the crawler modes will automatically set up the M12 with 4-wheel steering. There is even MOA mixing (for Dig and Burn crawler functionality). PC-Link capability allows you to save and load model programming data (in the unlikely case there is something you can’t do straight from the transmitter). The adjustable latency lets you slow down or speed up the ‘feeling’ of the radio to match your driving style and track conditions. It even has an inactivity alarm that sounds after ten minutes, beeping and blinking at you to let you know you’ve left the M12 on.
The LCD screen on the M12 measures a monstrous 3.2×1.7 inches in size. It is crystal clear and, upon startup, allows you to set the M12 to bring up the home-screen right off the bat; no more waiting those extra seconds for the animated title screen. All of the ‘should be up front’ items are there; model number and name, battery voltage, audio indicator, ‘On-Time’ indicator, trims, dual rates, car type and racing mode indicator. There’s a lot going on, certainly more than the M11x had, but what you need is right there and on the home screen. That’s good because if you loved the M11 style menu system (like I did), you’re not going to be so happy about the new M12 menus. Even though this transmitter is chock-full of additional goodies, the menu is a bit complicated when first starting out. You must utilize three different buttons to navigate the menus; a left/right trim style button to toggle through the main menu, a roller dial to change/confirm your selection and a push-button that is used to move back one screen in the menus. I will miss the simplicity of the M11x but, as with all new things, I will certainly become familiar with the M12 design in time.
On the track, the M12 definitely feels the part; it’s ergonomically solid and has a gazillion buttons on hand that are customizable for whatever vehicle you are racing. The steering drop-down is adjustable too, allowing you to rotate and even tilt the wheel (with different inserts which are included). The balance is good but feels a little bottom heavy with the included four “AA” battery holder. Swapping out to a 2S LiPo should help with that.
The M12 is certainly a top-level transmitter. While I’ve mentioned some of the cool features this pistol-grip radio has, I haven’t even touched on what it can do. You’ll just have to pick one up and start using it.
Airtronics airtronics.net, (714) 964-0827