RadioMaster Pocket Review: Is the Best Affordable Radio Controller for FPV Drone Beginners?

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RCHobby Lab’s Author: Daniel Henderson
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Reviewed by Marshall Abrams
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Reviewed by Marshall Abrams

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Remote control radios are the heart and soul of the FPV experience. Without a reliable radio link between your hands and the drone, all the power and performance of your craft are useless.

That’s where the RadioMaster Pocket radio controller comes in. This compact radio packs a ton of features into a portable form factor, making it a great choice for beginners and experienced pilots alike.

In this epic deep dive review, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this impressive new radio. From unboxing to flying, we’ll help you decide if the Pocket belongs in your gear bag.

Let’s get started!

An Introduction to Radiomaster and the Radiomaster Pocket Radio

Before we dive into the details, it’s important to note that the Radiomaster Pocket comes from Radiomaster – an established RC company with a reputation for making high-quality radios at reasonable prices.

This isn’t some fly-by-night brand – Radiomaster has proven itself trustworthy within the RC community over the years. And on the rare occasion they’ve released a defective or problematic product, they’ve responded well – replacing equipment and making things right for their customers.

So although the Pocket is an entirely new release, the Radiomaster name provides some level of confidence in its quality and reliability right out of the gate.

Now, in terms of the core specs and features, the Pocket is a compact, game-style radio controller powered by two 18650 lithium-ion battery cells. It features:

  • ExpressLRS 900MHz RF module (also available in CC2500 multi-protocol)
  • Clear polycarbonate case
  • 2x 18650 battery cells (swappable)
  • USB-C charging
  • 4x switches
  • 1x momentary switch
  • 1x potentiometer dial
  • Haptic vibration alerts
  • 60 model memory
  • Runs EdgeTX open-source firmware

The use of EdgeTX firmware means the Pocket has all of the features and customization options any pilot could need – from beginners binding a model for the first time to experienced fliers diving deep into complex mixes.

And being powered by 18650 cells means it benefits from readily available batteries that can be swapped out and replaced when needed. No built-in lipos here!

Now let’s look at why the Radiomaster Pocket could be the ideal choice for certain pilots.

Reason 1: Beginner FPV Pilots on a Budget

The FPV hobby has seen huge growth over the past few years. More people than ever are getting into drones – and many of them have never flown any RC aircraft before. This new generation of beginner pilots have some different needs when choosing their first “real” drone radio.

For starters, budget is often the #1 consideration for newbies eager to get airborne without breaking the bank on their gear. And at $99 for the ExpressLRS version, the Radiomaster Pocket delivers premium features at a very wallet-friendly price. There are cheaper radios out there, but none that pack anywhere near the capabilities of the Pocket at this price point.

The compact gamepad-style form factor is also appealing to beginners coming from video game or mobile device controllers. It’ll feel familiar in their hands right away.

And while the gimbals may not be the ultra-premium metal versions found on high-end Radiomaster controllers, they provide the precision needed for new pilots learning the ropes. No need to drop big money on fancy gimbals that won’t improve a beginner’s flying skills anyway.

The intuitive, easy-to-navigate EdgeTX interface also makes the Pocket a great choice for new fliers. The system menus and model setup pages are consistent across all EdgeTX radios, so skills learned on the Pocket can transfer to more advanced controllers down the road.

Finally, the rugged polycarbonate case and overall durable design gives beginners one less thing to worry about. New pilots crash – a lot! So having a radio that can withstand some abuse is always a plus.

The Pocket isn’t loaded with every possible feature, but it provides everything a new FPV pilot needs – all at a price that leaves room in the budget for the actual drone. For many newcomers, that combination makes the Radiomaster Pocket the obvious “first radio” choice.

Reason 2: Pilots with Smaller Hands

One common challenge for RC pilots with smaller hands is finding a radio that’s comfortable to hold and fly with for extended periods. And that’s where the ergonomic design of the Pocket comes into play.

Radiomaster markets the Pocket as being ideal for kids and female pilots. But as an adult male with fairly average-sized hands myself, I did find the compact form factor a tad small and cramped. Reaching the upper switches and pots with a pinch grip was awkward.

However, the gamepad layout with all controls easily accessible by the thumbs worked well. For pilots with smaller hands who prefer thumb flying, the sizing and button placements are near perfect. The stick ends also unscrew for storage and transport within the controller body – reducing the risk of damage.

The minimalist one-piece polycarbonate case further contributes to the ergonomics. Without detachable side panels, battery compartments, neck straps, etc. the Pocket ends up slimmer and lighter weight. Less mass to grip makes it easier to hold for those with reduced hand strength or arthritis.

While the Radiomaster Pocket may not offer ideal ergonomics for all, its compact gamepad design seems purpose-built for younger and female pilots. If you have smaller hands, it’s definitely worth considering.

Reason 3: FPV Pilots Seeking Ultra Portability & Durability

For FPV enthusiasts who are frequently on the move and participating in group events, having an “adventure ready” radio you can just toss in any bag is a huge asset. Whether hiking to far-off spots or packing for that dream trip abroad, the Pocket delivers go-anywhere portability and durability.

Starting with the lightweight 195g frame, the Pocket positions itself as one of the most portable full-featured radios out there. Stick ends unscrew to lay flush within the body, allowing it to easily slip into bags and pockets that might not fit bulkier controllers.

The robust polycarbonate case also means it can be stuffed anywhere without fear of scratches, cracks or dents during transport. No MORE carefully packing foam inserts or hard cases to protect your radio. Just chuck the Pocket wherever space allows.

And with an IP55 ingress protection rating, the Pocket can withstand weather encounters that would leave most radios powerless. Light rain or dust isn’t going to stop you from flying.

For frequent fliers and pilots taking their gear to extremes, the Radiomaster Pocket delivers convenience and durability beyond any compact radio I’ve tested. The “throw it in your bag and go” design enables adventures and spontaneity that others simply can’t match.

RadioMaster Pocket Radio Controller Features & Hardware Deep Dive

Now that we’ve covered the three pilot profiles I see the Pocket appealing to most, let’s dig deeper into the core features and hardware to see what exactly this new release from Radiomaster brings to the table.

ExpressLRS RF Module with 250mW Output

The Radiomaster Pocket is currently offered in two different internal RF module versions – ExpressLRS and CC2500 (FrSky-compatible).

My recommendation is to go for the ExpressLRS module if at all possible. The advantages of ExpressLRS are hard to overstate – incredible response times, near-zero latency, and proven range that goes beyond any proprietary systems on the market today.

The integrated ExpressLRS module in the Pocket runs ELRS v2.x firmware with 250mW of output power. While 250mW doesn’t provide quite as much range as a 1W external module, it’s still far more than enough for most pilots – even when flying at distance or penetrating structures.

The one downside of the built-in ELRS module is the inability to update firmware, as it lacks an onboard SPI port. This may change down the road if Radiomaster releases a hardware revision. But for now, 250mW ELRS v2.x will be a huge upgrade over any stock internal multiprotocol module.

If you think you’ll need over 250mW of power, the CC2500 version with a 1W external module is probably the better buy. But I suspect 250mW will be ample for the majority of pilots.

One issue I noticed is the Pocket ships with ExpressLRS set to F1K packet rate – the fastest option for minimized latency. However, F1K results in lower overall range compared to lower packet rates.

So I highly recommend immediately going in and lowering the packet rate to 50 or 100Hz in the transmitter settings. This will maximize your real world range at 250mW while adding negligible latency. Much better out-of-the-box experience!

Comfortable, Gamepad-Inspired Design

The ergonomic design and slim form factor of the Radiomaster Pocket are what allow it to hit a sweet spot between size, portability, and usability.

Inspired by handheld gaming devices, the layout places most controls within easy reach of your thumbs while holding. For pinch grippers like myself, it did feel too compact at times. But using thumbs on the sticks and accessing switches/pots/buttons was comfortable enough.

The hand feel is also aided by the one-piece polycarbonate case, eliminating any sharp edges from detachable battery panels. And at just 195g, the Pocket won’t strain your hands – even during longer flying sessions.

Having the ability to unscrew and stow the stick ends for transport is clever too. The threaded M2 design means you likely won’t find many compatible aftermarket sticks. But the included ends provide good tactile feedback and smooth precision out of the box.

So while not the perfect fit for all hand sizes, the gamepad-esque form factor strikes a great balance for a mini radio. Thumb flyers will feel right at home.

EdgeTX Open Source Firmware

Like all other Radiomaster TX controllers, the Pocket runs the open-source EdgeTX firmware. This provides access to every feature any pilot could ever need when it comes to model setup, endpoints, mixes, and more.

If you’re already comfortable with EdgeTX, you’ll immediately feel at home. And for newcomers still learning, rest assured the Pocket will grow along with your skills – no need to ever outgrow this radio.

Since the firmware is identical across all Radiomaster TX radios, it also means skills are highly transferable. If you move up to a fancier or full-sized option down the road, you won’t have to re-learn anything.

And of course, EdgeTX supports all major RC simulators for when you want to practice on a virtual drone. Just connect the USB-C cable to your computer, power on the Pocket, and you’re ready to fly in the simulator. No extra cables or adapters needed.

Having open-source firmware on a budget radio removes any worry of hitting a features ceiling or not having enough customization and progression room as your abilities improve. And that peace of mind is invaluable to pilots making their first (or fifth) radio purchase.

Durable Polycarbonate Shell

Rather than removable side shells, battery doors, and other separate elements, the Radiomaster Pocket utilizes a single durable polycarbonate enclosure for the entire radio.

This improves overall robustness and simplifies construction – reducing weight and potential failure points along the way. There are also fewer seams or gaps for water, dust or debris to creep in.

And if you do take a crash that cracks or damages the outer shell, replacement housings can be purchased for $20 or less. Swapping everything over to a fresh case takes just minutes.

So whether tossing the Pocket in a bag for a trip or setting it in the dirt at the field, you can do so knowing the case and gimbals are protected. This can save on accessories like radio bags or hard cases that would normally be needed to prevent scratches and dings.

Between the polycarbonate material and IP55 rating, the Pocket delivers confidence for pilots who want to grab their radio and go without babying their gear. The peace of mind from a nearly indestructible case is invaluable.

18650 Battery Power

Rather than incorporating a built-in battery like some compact radios, the Radiomaster Pocket is powered by two standard 18650 lithium-ion cells. This provides a few different advantages:

  • Cost Savings – 18650 cells are inexpensive and easy to source replacements for. No need to buy proprietary packs.
  • Longer Overall Life – Individual cells can be replaced as they degrade vs. tossing the whole radio when a built-in battery dies.
  • Higher Capacity – Two 18650s provide 4000+ mAh of capacity – much more than a typical built-in lipo.
  • Quick Swap Convenience – Keep multiple 18650 packs pre-charged for hot swapping at the field instead of charging via USB.

The only real downside is the lack of charging ability through the main USB-C port. You’ll need to use the bottom charging USB to actually recharge the cells. And you can’t charge while also using the Pocket as a simulator controller. Minor inconveniences at worst.

But on the whole, removable 18650 battery power is a huge plus – providing lower long term costs and less e-waste when the batteries eventually do require replacement after years of recharges.

Everything Else You Need to Know

To wrap up this full review, here are some final thoughts and details on a few other Pocket features:

  • Gimbals – While not the premium metal versions, the plastic gimbals provide sufficient precision and smoothness for most. And no slop or wiggle.
  • Charging – Charges via USB-C at up to QC 3.0 speeds. But can’t charge and use as simulator controller at same time.
  • Battery Life – Around 9 hours per charge. Can squeeze out more by disabling internal RF when using simulator.
  • Model Memory – Stores up to 60 models. Easy to scroll through and select the exact desired model.
  • Trainer Port – Supports trainer/buddy box functionality for teaching new pilots.
  • Neck Strap – Doesn’t directly support neck straps, but some users have rigged their own solutions. Lanyard hole an option.
  • Carry Case – A soft carry case will be available soon for around $20. Provides basic protection when traveling.

So in summary, the Radiomaster Pocket brings all the core essentials together into one of the most convenient radio packages I’ve seen. For the three pilot profiles outlined earlier, its capabilities and design simply can’t be beat at this price point.

Who is the RadioMaster Pocket Radio good for?

Based on its design and price point, the RadioMaster Pocket seems best suited for a few particular types of pilots:

1. Beginner pilots

For those new to the hobby looking for their first “real” radio, the RadioMaster Pocket offers incredible value. The abundance of switches and channels provides room to grow, while the price makes it easy to justify over a lower-end “toy” grade radio.

Beginners will appreciate that it runs EdgeTX, providing a consistent experience with higher-end radios if they upgrade down the road.

2. Pilots with smaller hands

Thanks to its petite form factor, the Pocket is also a great choice for anyone with smaller hands. Kids, teenagers, or even adults with small hands will appreciate how comfortable the Pocket feels to hold compared to larger radios.

The built-in trainer port also makes it a great option to pass down to younger pilots.

3. Pilots seeking portability

Those who prioritize portability will enjoy the RadioMaster Pocket’s smaller size. It can easily fit into a backpack or bag to take to the field or on a trip.

The removable sticks and clear case also help it better survive being tossed around. The USB-C charging also makes it easy to charge on the go from portable banks.

4. Pilots on a budget

For those where price is the primary factor, it’s hard to beat the value the Pocket provides.

The combination of a capable open-source radio with Hall effect gimbals and multiprotocol support at this price range makes this a top choice for budget-minded pilots.

FAQs about the RadioMaster Pocket Radio

Final Verdict on the RadioMaster Pocket Radio Controller

Over the course of testing and reviewing the new Radiomaster Pocket, it became clear this radio hits a sweet spot that will strongly appeal to certain FPVer segments.

For starters, it’s the obvious top choice for beginners seeking their first fully-featured controller on a tight budget. The capability and build quality on offer here for just $99 is impossible to match elsewhere.

It could also be the answer for pilots with smaller hands struggling to find radios that are truly comfortable to grip and fly with for extended periods. The ergonomic gamepad design and thumb-centric layout work incredibly well here.

And enthusiasts who frequently travel or participate in group events will love having an ultra-portable, grab-and-go radio that can be tossed into any bag without a second thought. The rugged polycarbonate shell and IP55 rating enable adventures and spontaneity beyond any other compact controller.

There are certainly shortcomings for some. Lack of support for external multi-protocol modules, no haptic feedback, and cramped ergonomics for larger hands. But through smart design decisions and focus on the core essentials, Radiomaster managed to keep costs down while including nearly every feature most pilots actually need.

So if you fit within one of those three pilot profiles described, I can highly recommend giving the impressive new Radiomaster Pocket a look. It has firmly established itself as my top radio recommendation for certain fliers.

Happy flying!

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Written By Daniel Henderson

My name is Daniel Henderson and I'm an avid FPV pilot and videographer. I've been flying quadcopters for over 5 years and have tried just about every drone and FPV product on the market. When not flying quads, you can find me mountain biking, snowboarding, or planning my next travel adventure.

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