Analog vs Digital Servo

Analog vs Digital Servo – Which One’s For You?

A servo is an electronic device that is used to operate RC vehicles by determining the motion direction. Besides being used in RC vehicles, it is also prevalent in robots, electronic toys, and electrical appliances. In this article, we will put our attention on two different types of servos – analog and digital. Stay tuned while we compare the similarities and differences between an analog vs digital servo.

What is a Servo?

Analog vs Digital ServoBefore we go ahead and compare the two servos in depth, let us learn the technical aspect of the device and how it works. RC servo motors function based on the waves of pulses sent by a command, say from a transmitter, to create a mechanical motion. For example, we use a servo to control steering by adjusting the levers back and forth. We also use a servo to control the speed of the car by connecting it to the engine throttle.

The specification of a servo is normally being set by the turning angle per time at 60 degrees (speed) and the load carrying capacities (torque). There are also weight and dimension in the specifications.

In general, a servo contains a control circuit, DC motor, and potentiometer. The potentiometer is a position sensor that is connected to the output shaft. The shaft is attached to the control wheels by gears and the movement as well as its direction is controlled by an electrical signal.

So, how does the servo work? Well, firstly, there are three wires connected to the servo. One of them is the signal wire. This is the component that is responsible for supplying the electrical pulses. The motor turns to the appropriate direction as commanded by the pulses. When the motor rotates, it changes the resistance of the potentiometer and ultimately allows the control circuit to regulate the amount of movement and direction. When the shaft is at the desired position, the supply power shuts off.

When it comes to choosing the types of servos for your RC cars, RC trucks, and RC helicopters, there are multiple of options available out there.  While you are picking one for your RC vehicle, chances are you will bump into tons of terms. Analog, digital, coreless and brushless are some of them. In this article, we will focus on two of them, which are analog and digital.

Analog RC Servos Explained

An Analog RC servo motor is the standard type of servo. It regulates the speed of the motor by simply sending on and off pulses. Normally, the pulse voltage is at a range between 4.8 to 6.0 volts and constant while at that. The analog receives 50 pulses for every second and when at rest, there is no voltage sent to it. The longer the “On” pulse is being sent to the servo, the faster the motor spins and the higher the produced torque. One of the major drawbacks of the analog servo is its delay in reacting to small commands. It does not get the motor spinning quickly enough. Plus, it also produces a sluggish torque. This situation is called “deadband.”

Digital RC Servos Explained

Digital ServoA Digital RC Servo has a different way of sending pulse signals to the servo motor. If analog is designed to send a constant 50 pulse voltage per second, the digital RC servo is capable of sending up to 300 pulses per second! With this rapid pulse signals, the speed of the motor will increase significantly, and the torque will be more constant; it decreases the amount of deadband.  As a result, when the digital servo is used, it provides quicker response and faster acceleration to the RC component.

Also, with the fewer deadband, the torque also provides a better holding capability. When you operate using a digital servo, you can experience the immediate feel of the control.

Let me provide you with a case scenario. Let say you are to link a digital and analog servo to a receiver. When you turn the analog servo wheel off-center, you will notice it responds and resists after a while – the delay is noticeable. However, when you turn the wheel of the digital servo off-center, you will feel like the wheel and shaft responds and holds to the position that you set very quickly and smoothly.

Analog vs. Digital – The Two Servos Compared!

Physical wise, there is not much of a difference. Both use three-wire connection system and contain similar inner parts. The only difference is perhaps the digital has a microprocessor that automatically regulates the frequency of the pulses. When we compare the two RC servo motors, the difference is more obvious from the operational perspective. Upon comparison, we have learned that the digital version has several advantages over the analog.

  • Digital servos produce higher speeds and acceleration than analog servo
  • Digital servos have a higher torque and consequently better holding capability

As you can see from above, the digital type has a quicker and smoother output compared to analog. However, there is a little bit of disadvantage that comes with this type of servo – high power consumption. It makes sense because the signals of on/off are being sent more frequently compared to analog. Therefore, it sure has a greater accuracy, but it comes with the cost of power.

If you wish to switch from analog to digital servo for your RC cars, we highly advise you to use a capable battery or switch to BEC circuit to power the servo. Once you adjust the battery or circuit to suit the powerful digital servo, the power consumption is no longer an issue.

Plus, the digital RC servo also comes with a little bit of noise when it is in a neutral mode or not being commanded to move. This is due to the rapid voltage adjustment made inside the motor. Regarding the monetary cost, digital servos are more expensive than the analog models.

In addition to that, the hundreds of voltage pulses sent to the motor can also drain the battery pretty quickly. On another note, you should know that not all digital servos are better than the analog ones. When you compare between the low-spec digital and high-spec analog, the latter might provide better speed and torque.

The Verdict

In conclusion, digital servos are much more efficient in doing its job. However, it does not mean that you should always pick it for your cars. If you are shopping for a new steering or throttle servo, try to think about the speed and torque that you need and whether or not they are necessary.

Depending on the types of your vehicles, an analog functions just fine. Plus, a bashing RC truck may need a different servo than a regular RC racing car. You should also consider the extra expenses (e.g. higher price tag, additional upgrades) that come with a digital servo. Choose wisely, and you will definitely enjoy a better steering and speed performance on your car!

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