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THE Futaba 4PLS (4PL Super) S-FHSS Telemetry Radio Review

Futaba 4PLS 4PL Super Review

The venerable Futaba 4PL was perhaps the best radio system ever made for the bashing market. Well it’s deceased now, replaced by a newer model, the 4PLS (Super). Does the 4PLS live up to the high expectations? Being Futaba’s first surface radio with telemetry, did they get it right? Can it take an epic beating? Click the “Read More” button to find out… (And see the Durability Testing Video)

From: Futaba
Direct Link: 4PLS Telemetry Radio
Unboxing Pictures: Unboxing the 4PLS

Review By: Cubby
Pics By: Cubby

Specs:

Transmitting Frequency- 2.4 GHz T-FHSS/S-FHSS/FHSS
Number of Channels- 4
Power Requirement For Transmitter- 4 cell AA
Transmitter Current Drain- 150 mA or less
Transmitter Weight (measured by BSRC w/ batteries)- 512 grams
Receiver- Futaba R304SB
Receiver Size- 35.1 x 23.2 x 8.5mm
Receiver Current Drain- 135 mA or less
Receiver Weight (measured by BSRC)- 6 grams
Warranty- 1 year
Street Price- $250

Primary Competition: Spektrum DX4S

What’s In The Box: 4PLS Pistol Grip Transmitter, R304SB receiver, Switch Harness, Small Screwdriver, Manual. No telemetry gear is included with the unit.

Build Quality: Everything felt well put together, nothing loose or missing.

Test Drivers: Cubby, Tim, Iron Mike, Sam “The Noob”

Test Venues: RC Outlaws in Collinsville Illinois, Dirtburners in St Louis Missouri, Cliff Cave Park in St Louis Missouri.

Set-up Notes: We installed the 4PLS in our MIP/STRC/Losi SCTE short course truck. A ProTek 2S 7000 mah Lipo was used for power, Hitec handled the steering duties, and a Castle brushless system powered the beast. We installed all three possible sensors for the 4PLS into the truck. The voltage sensor (#SBS-01V5) was soldered onto the power leads on the speedo, the temp sensor (#SBS-01T) was wrapped around the brushless motor, the magnet for the rpm sensor (#SBS-01RM) was attached to the rear center drive-shaft, and the rpm sensor was located nearby on a lexan bracket.

Feel In Hand: The grip was nicely formed with no rough edges and felt good for a plastic unit. The foam on the wheel was exceptional and raved about by all our testers. The foam wasn’t too soft, nor too hard, and it had good “traction” on the fingers. Wheel diameter was well liked by our testers and its relationship to the grip and trigger felt natural. The trigger was nice and smooth with no rough edges. Most of our testers liked the triggers tight fit, making it easy to stab the brakes without fear of your finger slipping off. However, the trigger felt a bit too tight for one of our larger fingered guys. Overall, the 4PLS has exceptional ergonomics.

Ease of Use: The 4PLS comes with a different menu system that we much preferred over the original unit, it just seemed more intuitive.

Features: Of course the big news is telemetry, the 4PLS is the first Futaba surface radio to incorporate it. Otherwise, the 4PLS is loaded to the hilt, with essentially all the features of high end radios.

Glitching: We did not experience any glitching during our review period.

Driving Performance: Driving the 4PL Super is what really puts a smile on your face. Throttle response is precise and linear, noticeably so compared to other brands on the market. Steering is also linear and quick, it simply does what you tell your truck to do, when you ask it to do it. Another brand on the market seems to change steering response at distance, the Futaba 4PLS related the steering signal the exact same way at 5 feet as it did at over 500. Combine the good ergo’s with the dead-on radio performance and you have a radio that impresses you while driving.

Radio Range: Range on the 4PLS was standard Futaba- excellent. During some heated bashing sessions we managed to rip the antenna out of the receiver and we were still getting 500 feet worth of range. People who run exclusively on tracks won’t notice the excellent range of the 4PLS, but bashers who run high speed in big open parking lots will appreciate it.

Durability Testing: We did some pretty extensive “durability” testing on the old 4PL, so I came up with a plan to go bigger on the 4PLS. To be the “ultimate” basher radio, it has to be able to take not just a normal beating, but something insane, so we popped the 4PLS up on the roof of a building, then slammed it back to Earth with a Thunder Tiger MT-4 G3 monster truck. After the 4PLS had landed, we immediately picked it up and drove the vehicle it was controlling. And we didn’t try to simply nudge the 4PLS off the roof, we slammed it, not once, but twice. The end result? Not much really. The battery door never came off, in fact the unit itself was relatively unharmed except for some minor scrapes and scratches. The antenna wasn’t even tweaked. The screen protector popped of on one of the slams, but was easily popped back in. Overall, the 4PLS took the most insane beating I’ve ever seen a transmitter take, and today it works as well as when it came out of the box. The 4PLS has earned our utmost respect for durability. Very, very impressive.

Downsides:

Some of our reviewers would have liked to have see a drop-down wheel option for the 4PL Super.

The manual doesn’t explain very well how you go about connecting 3 sensors to the one input port on the receiver. It briefly mentions a “hub”, but doesn’t list a part number. How did we go about doing it? With a pair of dual servo extensions.

Occasionally our rpm sensor would not be displayed on the radio. We didn’t trouble shoot it, it may have been from our flimsy sensor mount.

Misc Notes:

The display was large, backlit, and easy to read.

So what about those sensors? We found them easy to install and they seemed accurate and worked well. It took less than 30 minutes to install all of them, and they came in real handy while driving. It was especially nice knowing how close the trucks battery was to being empty. Also nice was being able to keep an eye on motor temps while up on the stand.

Best Hop-up: Easy one here, the 2S LiFe 1900 rechargable battery from Hobbico. It has a street price of $35 but will pay for itself very quickly. Also, it gives a really, really long runtime.


SUMMARY

A = Outstanding/Best in Class, B = Above Average, C = Average, D = Below Average, F = Horrific

Time To Bash: B Binding is super easy and the menu system is a breeze.

Car Show Rating: A All our reviewers thought the looks of the 4PLS was top notch.

Bash-A-Bility: A+ Absolutely top notch, the 4PLS lived through the worst beating we’ve ever put a transmitter through.

Range: A Futaba remains at the top of the list for radios we have measured.

Value: B Solid performance, good ergo’s and the ability to do telemetry at a $249 price point is a good value.

Big Squid Rating: A- It has loads of features, feels good in the hand, has class leading range, it’s tougher than a junkyard dog, and comes in at a modest price point. The Futaba 4PLS is arguably the King of the Hill for bashing radio systems and we very highly recommend it.

Check out this short video we shot during durability testing!