Review: PMDG 737 NGX
By Don Filer
This is a milestone in flight simulation product history. A very realistic simulator aircraft meets a game-priced, flight simulation platform with the most precision and accommodation to date.
Gorgeous isn't she? Three years of anticipation preceded the release of PMDG's promised 737NGX for Microsoft Flight Simulator X. Just my luck we at FlightSim.Com didn't get PMDG's news release about the 737NGX this past August. Someone else's mistake led to a surprisingly good beginning of the new year for me! I've had the good fortune to review PMDG's MD-11X, BAE Jetstream-4100 Turboprop and now the long awaited Boeing 737-800/900 NGX. It's like Christmas in February.
One of the benefits of reviewing a new sim model after it's been on the market for six months is, there are lots of reviews and videos already published - shortening the learning curve. This model is a continuation of PMDG's excellent training sims for Flight Simulator. Their original 737 along with the Queen of the Skies 747 for Flight Simulator would provide adequate background for mastering the new 737NGX. Due to its complexity there are already companies and individuals making training add-ons for this product. PMDG refers to Angle of Attack, as one of them in their documentation. They produced a very convincing video of the cockpit that's about an hour long. After viewing it, you'll be drooling too.
The new release is "as real as it gets" according to the abundant, supplied digital documentation; the price of which is $329 in printed form. That's what it costs for just the documentation. So at $69.99, PMDG's 737NGX is a bargain. The digital documentation is in Adobe's Portable Data Format (PDF). I got the boxed edition which includes a printed version of the Tutorial; that file is included digitally in PDF as well.
The Next Generation 737 is Boeing's response to the European Airbus A320 and it incorporates a lot of the latest technology especially in the flight management computer and autopilot. A great new addition to this 737NGX is a stunning heads up display. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
In addition to its price I had other considerations about getting this sim. How it would impact frame rates and system requirements foremost among them. I was very pleasantly surprised the frame rates are in the 10 to 12 FPS range with a target of 30 and I've experienced few CTDs or restarts. (3 year old Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q6600 (Dell XPS 420) running at 2.4 GHz with 6 Gigs of RAM. See Test System specifications at the end.) Last summer when first released, there were problems a plenty but PMDG got right on them and issued a service pack update and free downloads. With the number of possible permutations, and there are quite a few, bugs were bound to be discovered.
PMDG put it all in one place this time alleviating the need to pause the simulator to get information for the flight outside the simulator itself. There were load managers and weight computations that had to be made from outside the cockpit in the MD-11X and J-4100. That's all changed now in the NGX.
Aerosoft and PMDG with the help of Boeing and several 737NG pilots have achieved a new standard in realistic sim modeling. This is very realistic and flies like a passenger jet pilot's dream. The VC mode was the primary focus and even the horizon looks different between the virtual cockpit and the 2D panel which displays more knobs and dials and switches from the same eye-level viewpoint (unless you zoom out in VC). The documentation also makes reference to TrackIR, a hardware add-on that allows you to (view) from the direction a sensor that fits on your head provides. It purports to be a more realistic environment.
That leaves the 2D fans a bit put off and left behind. Another way of looking at it is there are a couple of missing pieces in the two dimensional panels. Three years and a releasable product that would not be a memory hog and frame rate killer required leaving out a 2D throttle. It's a small thing to leave out I suppose. Frankly, access to most of the interior is pretty easy in the virtual cockpit anyway.
While I'm complaining, pricing seems a bit of a mess too. The $69.99 PMDG 737NGX includes the 800 and 900 variants (with and without winglets). You have to pay another $24.99 for the 600/700 variants. The NGX is a realistic simulator. To vouch for this fact, watch out the pilot's window when you change the fuel and payloads on the FMC. The plane actually bobs down and up again to account for adding or subtracting weight.