The Airtronics MX-3 is a 3 channel computer radio system. This means that instead of having a few little nobs to adjust your throttle and steering trim, you get complete control of all sorts of settings.
It can store settings for up to 5 different vehicles, this allows you to just carry one radio and not have to re-adjust the settings for each one. Other features are Battery Voltage Display, Servo Reverse, Sub-Trim, ARC Settings, End Point Adjustment, and Steering Dual Rate.
When radio's start to get this complex, it's always good to take a quick look at the manual. At first I was happy to see that the manual was very simple. It's really only 4 pages. It then occurred to me that unless you knew what all these new settings did, you were going to have to find them elsewhere. I see this radio as something someone would buy as a 'step up' from the normal RTR type radio. For someone that went out and bought a decent RTR kit, and is looking for something a little more then 2 generic settings nobs. I'm very happy to see that CEN is shipping their newer vehicles with this radio! (Good job CEN!) But this is where the problem comes in. If I am a newbie to RC, or even if I have been around for a while, and I'm looking to make the jump to a better radio, I probably have no idea what Sub-Trim does, or ARC settings, or even Steering Dual Rate. Sadly, the manual does not explain any of this. It does tell you how to set your Steering Dual Rate, as well as your Sub Trim. Just not what they actually do. As long as I'm discussing the manual, there is a typo in the Steering Dual Rate section. It says 'Press the left menu key to move the cursor to EPA'. This is wrong, instead of 'EPA' it should read 'D/R'.
Enough about the manual, nobody reads those things anyway right? So the install went pretty smooth, your standard radio swap stuff, no real surprises there. Without changing any settings, the radio was working just fine. I had actually swapped it on a vehicle I was testing, and found that the radio range was much better then the generic stock radio's that usually come with RTR (Ready To Run) cars.
After a short testing period, I noticed there were a few nice features. I liked the large Channel 3 (AUX) switch. It's in a great spot that I can reach with my steering hand very easily. Most radio's have it somewhere near your thumb, and it's either too easy to accidentally hit (accidentally shifting into reverse while doing 30+mph is bad! Trust me on this one.) or I just can't seem to find it when you are in a panic and need to use it NOW. Another nice feature was the adjustable throttle trigger. By turning a few screws, I could bring the throttle piece a little closer or a little farther away from the handle. This really lets you get a comfortable grip going. While on the subject, the radio felt good in my hand, and was weighted pretty well.
So after some test runs, it was time to tweak a few settings. One of the cars I wanted to use the radio for was RC Drag Racing. When drag racing, you want your steering to be very slow in the center, and faster for the outside. So when you are doing 80+ MPH in a straight line, steering slightly left or right will barely turn your tires. Oversteering at these speeds usually has bad results. I knew the setting could be done in the ARC menu, but wasn't sure exactly how, so it was time to pull out the manual. Uh-oh. The manual reads 'Positive Steering ARC - Slower servo movement in center, faster after ARC percentage' Great! This is exactly what I need. So I ramp the ARC all the way up to 100% which should give me very little steering unless I'm at full turn. After the adjustment, I turn the wheel and ta-da, fast turning inside, with slow outside steering. Uhm.... wait. Yep, it's backwards. So I brought the ARC all the way down to -100%, and sure enough, that was the setting I was looking for. Another typo?
Other adjustments seemed to work just fine, and I didn't notice anything else wrong in the manual. Something that I would of liked was to give names to the 5 model/vehicle settings. If you had 5 vehicles (which I do) and wanted to run them off the same radio (which I like to do), I tend to run into the problem of not remembering which is which. Especially if I only ran 1 or 2 vehicles for a few months, then decided to pull out the old boat or something, I can never remember if it was set to 4 or 5, or whatever. If I actually had 5 monster trucks set up on the radio, I'd be in some trouble.
So overall, what do I think of the Airtronics MX-3? As a radio that comes with some RTR cars like the CEN Matrix, it's GREAT! I'm glad to see a radio that does not suck coming with my RTR vehicle! As an upgrade from a generic radio, it's still a decent choice. Honestly if you are looking to upgrade radios, you HAVE to save up a few more $$ and go with the synthesized model at least. All in all it's a decent radio in need of a much better manual. If you are a newbie, you will probably have to spend some time on the net or at your local shop trying to find out why you want to set your End Point Adjustment, or your Steering Dual Rate, but once you get past these hurdles, I think you will be happy with your radio.
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