I love interesting gadgets and the Tactic FPV Wrist Monitor ($50) certainly qualifies. It looks like a smart watch, or maybe something Dick Tracy would wear. When you flip out the folding antenna, it's easy to imagine that you're a high-tech spy sending an urgent status update to your secret underground headquarters. The actual functionality of the wrist monitor isn't so clandestine. Its primary function is to receive and display video signals from RC models with a FPV system.
What It Is
The heart of the wrist monitor is a 2" (51mm) LCD screen. It displays in full color with a resolution of 480x240. Overall dimensions of the monitor housing are 2.2" x 1.9" x .5" (56 x 49 x 12mm). Weight with the wrist band is 2.2 ounces (61.5g).
The unit has an integrated 5.8GHz receiver with the aforementioned folding antenna. Most FPV activities currently use 5.8GHz signals, so there are plenty of compatible video transmitters available. The receiver can pick up 32 different channels divided among 4 bands (A, B, E, and F). A button on the side of the monitor allows you to choose your desired band and channel. There is no provision to input a wired video signal. Nor can you record or export the receiver's feed.
Its primary function is to receive and display video signals from RC models with a FPV system.
A built-in 300mAh LiPo battery provides power for the monitor. A full charge will provide about an hour of operation. Unfortunately, there is no battery status indicator anywhere. You'll know the battery is dead when the monitor shuts itself off. The battery is charged via a micro-USB port.
The included wrist band is a simple rubber unit with a metal buckle. Like the footprint of the monitor itself, the band is wide and beefy. The band is obviously sized for larger wrists. I think I'm an average guy I use one of the smallest settings on the band. Anyone with smaller wrists may have trouble getting a comfortable fit. Even if you poke extra holes in the band, the girth of the monitor could become a factor at some point.
What It Does
When worn on your wrist, the monitor is probably only practical for FPV spectators. After all, most of us use two hands to fly or drive our models. So an FPV monitor clinging to your wrist can't be seen and isn't very useful. If your intent is to watch the video FPV feed of others, then I can see where the watch-like platform is handy.
The only hitch with using the wrist monitor to pick up video signals at an organized FPV event is that it is not tuned for the "race band" channels used at many FPV quad races. Basically, the race band consists of 8 channels that are spread across the 5.8GHz spectrum to reduce the chances of interference. There is only one race band channel that coincides with the A, B, E, and F-band channels. A few others are close enough in frequency that you might be able to pick them up. But it's not a sure thing.
I recently gave a talk about multi-rotors at my daughter's middle school. I brought along the wrist monitor and passed it around as I was demonstrating the video system of a mini-quad. The kids all thought it was really neat. That experience convinced me to keep the wrist monitor in my field box. Whenever I fly FPV, there always seems to be someone who is interested in checking out the video feed. My FPV goggles are fitted, so they can be awkward to share. And I'm not really comfortable handing off one of my larger, more expensive monitors. The wrist monitor is a convenient solution. It gives newcomers a general feel for FPV, but it's cheap enough that I don't stress over letting others use it.
Just because the monitor has a wrist band, that doesn't mean that you have to wear it like a watch. I have a friend who removed the band from his monitor and attached it to the transmitter of his indoor racing quad. It makes for a really compact and portable little setup.
I was skeptical that a 2" screen would be large enough to use as a primary FPV video source, but was way off the mark.
I was skeptical that a 2" screen would be large enough to use as a primary FPV video source, but I was way off the mark. I set up my indoor racer similar to my buddy's and it actually works quite well. Sure, it's not as immersive as goggles. But I can see everything clearly as I navigate around all of the obstacles in my house. There is no signal lag and I have not experienced any reception problems (except when I forget to deploy the antenna).
I considered removing the wrist band for this application but it turned out to be useful. My transmitter has an integrated clamp for holding a monitor. By clamping the wrist band, the monitor is elevated several inches above the transmitter, making it easier to see.
Now that winter has set in, I'm planning some other indoor-oriented FPV projects. I think the tiny FPV Wrist Monitor will be a good fit for them. I'll include those projects in my column here and let you know how the monitor pans out.
When I first received the Tactic FPV Wrist Monitor, I thought it was a cool gadget. But I also felt that it lacked a clearly-defined application. In some respects, I think that is still true. At least it doesn't seem to be marketed for a specific purpose. Yet, the more I use it, the more I think of different ways that it can be utilized. The FPV community is a creative and innovative bunch. So, I'm sure that we will continue to see new and inventive ways to use this device. Or maybe it will find its way into the cosplay universe (speaking of creative people…). The monitor works well and it is cheap enough that I think folks will be willing to experiment and have fun with it.
Author's note – Most 5.8 GHz video transmitters that are compatible with the FPV Wrist Monitor require an FCC amateur license (ham license) to operate legally. No license is required if you are only operating the receiver. Find out more about getting a ham license HERE.
Terry is a freelance writer living in Lubbock, Texas. Visit his website at TerryDunn.org and follow him on Twitter and Facebook. You can also hear Terry talk about RC hobbies as one of the hosts of the RC Roundtable podcast.