Zinertek Ultimate Airport Environment X
By Gustavo Mercado (10 January 2010)
Coming back from the very first version of MSFS we can easily say we have taken monumental steps forward in every sense of the word. But I think it is necessary to point out that after probably FS5 not much has been done in modeling airports and the environment that surrounds an airport. Don't get me wrong, since a very long time our friends at Microsoft always went the extra mile at modeling big and important airports such as O'Hare and JFK the closest they can, but the rest of the thousands of airports in the world not so important pretty much have always looked the same.
I am from Central America, Nicaragua to be exact. After spending some eight years of my life enjoying the hospitality of our great northern neighbor the USA (four against my will, and four on my own steam working to pay for flight school) I found out I like to fly in Central America. More often I usually like my flights to start in my home airport MNMG and after a quick flight or a long tour around the globe; the flights always end where they started, at MNMG.
Now if you take a tour around the most important airports in Central America you will notice (the same as in most of the FS world I'm sure) that they are all the same. The only thing that will vary will be runway extension, building size (but they are all the same) and the placement of the tower. I really don't know what percentage of our community is represented by us South Americans, I'm sure it's not large, but if you count all of us who fly out of smaller airports I'm sure you will get a big number, hence a good market niche for someone willing to put an effort to create more credible small airports in the FS world.
There are great scenery packages out there; you can find a bunch at our Pilot Shop, but its one airport, and you will end up paying at least $15.00 bucks, so if you multiply this by the number of airports you might like to fly to, and the fact that for at least half of them you won't be able to find a scenery product, you will end up with the SOS of looking at the same thing every time.
Zinertek has a good option for finding a middle ground to this dilemma. Before choosing to review this product I had not heard much about them but as it turns out they are a technology company, and they are focused on many areas, not just flightsim products. Turns out they are data and optical network providers offering solutions for VOIP (which is the lifeline of the company I work for today) video over IP, and many other high tech applications for other industries. How they ended up with a flightsim department? That's what I don't know and regretfully could not find in their web site, either way seems like they are coming with interesting options to make our FS world "as real as it gets".
The software is available through direct download at the Pilot Shop. It comes in a 47.5 MB compressed folder and download is a breeze on a semi good connection. The software comes complete with its own installer making installation a breeze and after maybe ten minutes from download to finalized installation you should be ready to go. The very first time you run FSX it might take a little longer as it is assuming the new textures and placing them in their correct place and after that you are ready to start flying.
Ultimate Airport Environment
The product is marketed by the developer as being a texture booster, with over 200 textures that promise to greatly enhance ALL of the default airports around the FS world. The 200 textures boost the look of the terminal buildings, runways, taxiways, tarmac surfaces, hangars, warehouses, jetways, and much more.
The changes done to the general look and feel of the FS world are instant, and you feel them since the very first time you load FSX. Terminal buildings come alive and look crisper, more detailed, and more alive. Taxiways and tarmac surfaces have darker stronger colors to give a stronger impression of concrete, which makes the yellow lines stronger, shinier and easier to follow, especially at night. The gates also look very different than the default ones. They look like modern almost transparent gates, and look more alive once they are moving.
If you look at the pictures (click them to get the full size image for the full effect) the tower looks much more real as well. In the old configuration the tower at MNMG looks like it was painted in some tacky brown color, or it was partially made out of wood, once the new textures kick in you can see a robust tower made out of concrete with nice blue finishes in the upper part of the tower, and the necessary antenna equipment. Another important thing to notice is that the new textures while bringing a stronger set of colors to the airports, they become more alive once you see them in the distance in an approach, especially at night.
Perhaps the best thing about this product is the all important frame rates. At least on my system there was virtually no compromise on performance whatsoever. My computer's performance pre installation and after is exactly the same, and I tested it on various scenery complexity settings. I most apologize though that I cannot include before and after pictures in this review, prior to installing this product I had already played around with some textures to make the tarmacs and taxiways look better, so if I were to make before and after pics it would not be fair to the developer.
Readers who have the default scenary untouched will be able to appreciate the difference by the screen shots in this review. I must emphasize that the installation of the software went over some of the textures I previously had to enhance the runways and taxiways, so you can be sure what you see in this screen shots is what you will get.
All Said And Done
Highs - The software does a great job at making all default airports look more real, with better presented runways and taxiways. It enhances the FSX experience considerably and does not hurt the mighty FPM's, and has a fair price considering what some people pay just to enhance one airport.
Lows - Although it was a great effort in textures, the product might have been more complete if it helped overlooked airports more real. For example many airports (such as MNMG) which in real life have gates, don't have them in FSX.
The Verdict - First product I ever try from Zinertek and I was very happy with the end result. It delivers on what it promises, and the most important thing I always ask myself, is my flying experience better because of it? The answer is a big YES.
Microsoft Flight Simulator X (SP2)
3.22 Quad Core Extreme Processor
4 GB high speed RAM
526 MB Nvidia graphics accelerator with DirectX 10
Reviews of other Zinertek Products:
Ultimate Weather FX