Your choice will depend on your budget and a few other needs.
If money is the most important factor then the Turnigy 9X (an 8-channel radio) is hard to beat. You just can't get anything else close to this level of capability for $55 -- end of story!
However, if you need more than the 9X can deliver then you have to look at the various "brand name" radios.
These days that means Spektrum, Futaba, Airtronics, Hitec or JR.
If this radio is going to have to last you a while then you might be better off going to 8-9 channels right from the start. It's not that you might need all those channels but generally speaking, the 8/9 channel systems offer much more powerful mixing and other features not always present in the 6/7 channel sets.
Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and ultimately it boils down to a personal choice.
What you need to determine is what you will be looking for in a radio.
Do you need:
- support for dual-elevator servos (not all low-end radios have this)
- good support for glider mixes (crow-braking, etc)
- flight modes (handy to have on some models)
- downloadable software upgrades (becoming increasingly important)
- fully programmable failsafe
- power-down range-test capabilities
- etc, etc.
But perhaps just as important is the way the radio feels in your hands.
I really wanted to buy myself a JR11X because I *love* that styling. Then I actually held one in my hands.
Boy, I'm glad I didn't fork out big money for one of those radios without holding one first. It just didn't fit my hands and I discovered that in the process of designing a "sexy" transmitter, they neglected some of the most important basics -- such as comfort and being able to reach the supplementary controls while flying the model. Suffice to say, despite its many other great strengths, the ergonomics of the JR11X killed it for me. I won't be buying one.
Now that Spektrum has seen the light and dumped DSM2 in favor of an agile system then I have no hesitation in recommending their systems as one option. Be careful though -- there are probably still a lot of "old stock" DSM2 Spektrum systems out there that won't support DSMX without being returned to Horizon for "upgrade" (which may or may not cost $).
The Hitec Aurora 9 is getting very positive reviews from those who have them and I must say that I'm very impressed with the one I have here. It ticks most of the boxes and is hard to fault -- but again, it's not a good fit for my hands (which are average sized).
Futaba's 8FG is a very nice radio and now they've upgraded it (via software downloads) so you get lots of extra channels for free (12 or 14 I think).
The DX8 is a popular radio but again -- doesn't suit my hands and I find the lack of sliders on the side of the case to be a really significant omission for anyone who wants proportional flaps or to use retracts without having to take their fingers off the sticks to activate them. I also don't like the DX8's styling -- but that's purely a matter of "taste" and one man's meat is another's poison. I know lots of people who *love* the looks of the DX8.
I have been trying to do a "shootout" series on RC transmitters but have found most manufacturers very reluctant to get involved. Only Hitec has so far had enough confidence in their product to submit one for review -- and I can see why.
However, I am slowly getting my hands on the other radios and reviewing them so I can publish the whole series side-by-side.
In the meantime remember this: any radio you have is always better than any other radio you don't have.
RCModelReviews.com, just the facts.