mc3030 Review

by Mike Shellim

1. Introduction

The Multiplex range covers low-end (Pico), mid-range (Cockpit) and high-end (30xx/4000) range. The high end comprise:

All the above share the same case style.

This test focuses on the 3030 transmitter.

2. Why I Bought a 3030

I used a Futaba FF7 transmitter for eight years for soaring and power. It gave me sterling service, but it also had a few limitations:

The MPX 3030 transmitter addresses all these points, and is at the time of writing very popular for F3F in the UK.

3 MPX 3030 Overview

3.1 Specs

3.2 Description

Several accessories are available.

3.3 Channel Check

Note RF module at top and header plugs from the various switches.

My Tx was supplied with the HFM3 channel-check RF module, which prevents the transmitter being switched on if another transmitter is detected on the same frequency. An additional Rx crystal must be installed in the RF module to use this feature.

3.4 Programming Features

The unit is programmed via eight keys which reside under a flap. The flap prevents accidental re-programming during flight. 99 model memories are available.

An unusual feature is the digi-adjuster. This is a rotary knob which simulates multiple presses of the "+" and "-;" programming keys. The digi-adjuster can also be used to vary program parameters in flight.

The following are the main functional areas of the programming screens

3.5 Instructions

Documentation consists of a 95-page A4 booklet with procedures and diagrams. The style is very much in the "cook-book" mould - I'd like to see a technical overview of the principles involved in programming the unit and more real world examples.

4 Programming the 3030

The program buttonsBefore the test proper, let's take a quick tour of the programming features.

4.1 A Different Philosophy

The unit has a flexible operating system, and a user interface which allows you to control things at at an unusually low level. This is in contrast to the the task-oriented interface of most oriental sets.

Programming is via a set of eight keys, with feedback provided by the LCD display. The mechanics of programming are described in the manual, so I won't repeat it. Suffice to say the main feature of the architecture is the three-tier "mapping" from Tx controls to servos which is described below.

4.2 Three Tier Architecture

The software architecture is very flexible. An illustration: there is no concept of a "throttle stick" in Multiplex-speak. Instead, you assign the throttle control to a stick, then you assign a servo to the throttle control. This allows complete flexibility in what channels control which functions, and which switches are used to perform particular actions.

The top tier comprises the physical stick and switches, which are identified by a letter A-I corresponding to a socket inside the the transmitter. Each stick or switch plugs into one of these sockets.

The middle layer is "soft", and comprises controls such as "aileron", "spoiler" or "elevator". Each control has its own set of parameters, so for example aileron can be adjusted for differential and exponential. The linking of controls to particular sticks and switches is programmed by the user. Also in this layer are mixers. When do you need a mixer? The simple rule is "when a servo is to be driven by more than one control".

Servos comprise the bottom tier. Servos are identified by the channel number. You assign each servo to a single control or mixer.

4.3 Mixers

Several pre-defined mixers are provided

IINPUT=Elevator/Spoiler/Flap OUTPUT= Elevator servo

INPUT = Elevator/Rudder OUTPUT = V-tail servos

INPUT = Elevator/Rudder/Spoiler, Flap OUTPUT = V-tail servos

INPUT = Aileron/Flap OUTPUT = aileron servos

INPUT = Aileron/Flap/Spoiler/Elevator OUTPUT = wing servos

INPUT = Aileron/Flap/Elevator OUTPUT = wing servos

INPUT = Aileron/Elevator OUTPUT = wing servos

+ heli specific mixers

The predefined mixers have sensible names and some "intelligence" for specific applications, for example the BUTTERFL (Crow) mixer cancels any aileron differential when full crow is utilised, to allow roll control to be maintained.

Alternatively up to three user-definable mixers can be created, each using up to four control inputs. You can specify whether the trim lever on a particular control should be included in the input signal.

A single mixer can be connected to one or more servos, with mixing of all the inputs independently configured for each servo.

4.3 Secondary switches

In addition to the primary sticks and switches labelled A-I, a set of secondary switches are provided (labelled S1 - S5 and L/S) which can optionally provide the following functions:

As with the sticks and switches, secondary switches are "soft" and assigned via the menu system on a per-model basis, i.e. a switch can function as a dual rate switch for Model 1, or a flap switch for Model 2, without the need for any rewiring.

In addition a special "softswitch" function provides the same facility, but triggered by the displacement of one of the primary sticks. This can be used for example to trigger the Timer function when full motor power is applied.

5 On Test

5.1 First Looks

My first unit was Dead On Arrival! A call to Multiplex in Germany diagnosed a duff Lithium battery for the on-board memory. The unit was exchanged without fuss, and my confidence is fully restored.

Construction of the unit is very robust. The internals are very neat and carefully thought out.

Photo left shows header plugs from sticks and switches which connect to main board.

5.2 On Test

So how does all this brilliance work in practice?

So far, I've programmed the unit for eight soarers including F3F and Sport types and also a power model with flaps.

For flight tests, I used a Mini Ellipse (fully moulded 60" speed/aerobatic V-tailer) and an EMP Algebra (3m general purpose soarer). Both models have been flown with the Futaba FF7 so a direct comparison was available.

Here are your reviewer's thoughts:

5.2.1 Ergonomics


The MPX 3030 is bulkier and heavier than the FF7 and this takes some getting used to. You may need a bigger back-pack!

The antenna is about eight inches longer than the FF7's and has a tendency to tip the Tx down towards the ground - the strap attachment point needs to be higher up the unit. The antenna is attached via an adjustable ball joint. A good idea, but in a strong wind you need to tighten it up to prevent it blowing about. Multiplex sell an optional rubber ducky antenna which balances nicely, but at the expense of reduced range.

The three-position retractable carrying handle is a nice touch.

Flying Styles

The unit is well shaped for thumbs-on-sticks flyers - the transmitter is shallower than normal and the sticks are close to the edge of the case.

Thumb-and-forefinger flyers may like the transmitter side cheeks which are available as an optional extra. These provide room to rest the fist. Fittings for an alternative neckstrap attachment are also provided, however the tendency for the aerial to tip down is made worse. Curiously there appears to be provision for an extra set of strap attachment points on the side cheeks as well, but no fittings are supplied.


Stick mechanics are robust high quality mouldings and the wires are well supported. The ratchet function can be swapped easily between sticks or removed altogether.

The stick ends are essentially flat except for a raised circular edge - I have since replaced them with Futaba stick ends which are a great improvement.

Stick tension is a little high for my tastes and is not adjustable (I fly with thumbs on sticks so your mileage may vary). There is a little bit of wander when moving the stick slowly and gently to the diagonals which indicates a degree of friction but it's not a major issue with the supplied tension springs.

In all, the sticks are acceptable, but not up to the standard of the better Japanese sets.

Xtal access

Access to the crystal entails removing the back of the transmitter, and withdrawing the RF-module. Less convenient than the FF7, where the RF module plugs directly into the back of the transmitter but it is more weather proof.

5.2.2 Channel Check

The channel check feature prevents your transmitter from radiating when you switch on if another Tx is on the same frequency. However, it requires an additional crystal in the 3030's RF module so is not very practical if you change frequencies a lot. You can simply omit the extra crystal in which case channel check is disabled. Some people swear by this facility, your mileage may vary.

5.2.3 Programming

Programming flexibility is unrivalled at this price level and well in advance of the FF7 and its successor the U8 in most areas. The 99 model memories come in handy and encourage experiment.

A full-house model like the Mini-Ellipse can be flown with all the fancy mixing yet using a tiny four function receiver like the MPX Pico 4/5. With the FF7 I had to use a seven channel receiver.

The set comes with several common configurations already programmed in the lower memories, including a six servo F3B ship. These can be modified for specific requirements. However, a good understanding of the system pays dividends and it's worth reading the manual and R/C Soaring's free Programming Guide.

A minor gripe: you can't quickly set the neutrals on the servos so that the trim levers can be moved back to the centre - it involves adjustments in the Control Centre screen.

So which is easier to program, the FF7 or the Multiplex? The MPX requires more intellectual effort to get going, and it's easier to make a mistake since there are more key presses involved. The sheer flexibility of the MPX means there is more to learn, but it is very satisfying to see what can be done. However once you become familiar, it really is very easy. There should be no need to refer to the manual as it's all quite logical.

5.2.4 Limitations?

For sport flying and moderately complex applications, I can't see any serious shortcomings. There are a few esoteric features which are only available on the more expensive 4000. For example, some F3F flyers would like to set an absolute limit of say 3 degrees flap movement due to snapflap mix, even at full up elevator. This kind of thing can be done with a 4000 where you can create non-linear mixers signal filters. But there is a trade-off here which shouldn't be ignored - the 4000 is a more complex and expensive unit which is not well documented (see separate review).

Multiplex do not supply software to backup to a computer, but fortunately there are a couple of excellent third party solutions from Airworld and Seagull Technologies.

5.2.5 Battery Life

4.5 hours from a full charge after 14 months use (down from 5.5 hours when new).

5.2.6 Compatibility Issues

A techie at the Multiplex factory confirmed that the MPX transmitter is compatible with Futaba PPM receivers as long as the relevant manufacturer's crystals are used! don't put a Futaba crystal in the MPX Tx or vice versa (in any case this won't work, as the MPX Tx crystal oscillates at half the nominal frequency). This information applies to UK-spec models, please check with your dealer if outside the UK.

Futaba PPM receivers and servos work perfectly. I also have three Multiplex Pico 4/5 receivers which have been fully reliable. My Hitec HS 80, 81 and 85 servos have also performed nicely.

Some people including myself have experienced slight "shimmer" when using some JR servos e.g. 3341 and 341. The jury is still out, but it seems to the primary reason appears to be the frame rate incompatibility. To complicate matters, it appears does not always happen with some receivers. It's not a show-stopper, although it can't be doing much for battery duration.

6. Summary