Garmin G1000 Panels For FS2004
By Matt Hinchliffe (10 February 2008)
he Garmin G1000 has replaced regular flight instruments in a variety of aircraft from new flight school Cessnas to home built kit planes providing 'jet level performance for piston aircraft price'. To find out more about the system I suggest watching this short video as to describe the functionality needs an entire article (or 340 page manual).
Reviewed here are two products now on the market for FS2004 covering the same system so rather than find out which is best I decided to look at the capabilities of each product and to which market they suit best.
To test I created a panel based on the Flight1 C172 Skyhawk and equipped three planes with each system - the Flight1 Skyhawk (a trainer), Robert Christopher's Lancair Legacy (sleek tourer) and the FSNordic Tundra wheeled Maule (bush plane) and travelled over three areas to see how the systems were useful in each environment. I explored Germany, New Zealand and Holger Sandmann's Glacier Bay.
It's important to note here that both planes as default installation have panel.cfg's for the default C172 and as such if you want something a little more convincing you're going to have to crack out Photoshop and Notepad to make your own, I haven't seen any user created panels out there yet because of course modifying panel bitmaps for distribution is mostly prohibited.
Both systems look very similar with overlays and options for a multitude of different displays on each screen to get the information you want.
As both packages under review here are complex I measured the RAM footprint and also FPS when compared to the default 172 2D with target frame rate set to unlimited. Neither system simulates the GFC 700 autopilot but instead can be slaved to any SDK standard autopilot with adequate results.
Commercial Level Simulations G1000
With last year's CLS Business Jet/Eclipse 500 we saw some of the most advanced XML gauges created in the Avidyne system and Nick Pike has here upgraded his G1000 style gauges from William Ortis' (Lionheart Creations) Quest Zodiak package to give the simmer almost every bit of information available. The CLS G1000 also comes with an installer for users of their BJet/e500 that installs a merge including autopilot and engine displays suited to fit. Users of the CLS BJet (1.1) will find gauges won't display in the virtual cockpit as the textures have been renamed after the re-branding of the package, so a few seconds are needed in the panel.cfg to sort out that.
First impressions of the CLS G1000 are that some of the numbers and labels are a little unclear in my panel, I have squashed both displays onto my 1280 pixel wide monitor whereas in the CLS C172 default installation these gauges are set into right and left seat panels. If you have a large enough resolution my panel situation shouldn't be an issue and those with smaller pieces of hardware can simply stick to the company's suggestion of half and half. The displays can also be popped up which takes a drain on resources but gives you time to really study what you're doing.
The system looks good and there are many displays to pop up and manage giving the immediate feeling of satisfaction wanted from a complex add-on. Getting round all the screens is a little intimidating, more so with no documentation - at least so I thought. Thinking something must have gone wrong I opened up the installer to find there is a separate option to install the documentation and gauges to a folder of your choice rather than a single default installation. In my eagerness I had missed this so please take note!
The documentation itself is brief providing links to the real Garmin issue manuals and candidly outlining what the gauges do and do not do relative to the real world and within sim limits. There are also a few hints and tips about how to navigate through the system and a diagram showing click points.
Most importantly there are documents that outline how to install the gauges in FS aircraft. I found these tutorials were well written and cover the seemingly complex art of panel configs in an easy to read style. The manual also covers the simple but vital points for editing autopilot entries in the aircraft.cfg. The only point I feel could improve the PDFs would be some formatting, even different sizes and/or colors for headings just to make it a little easier to read and navigate.
Using the gauges is a joy, everything needed is on hand in front of you making the 2D cockpit an easier place to work. Information on the MFD is highly configurable and it's always easy finding out exactly where you are and what to expect next. The MFD is mainly a mash up of the default GPS so don't expect to find any new flight planning or navigation features but it does also offer a three level weather report, engine information, basic TCAS traffic page and a few new display options for the GPS map.
The PFD is where you'll be doing most of your work tuning frequencies, adjusting values and actually flying the aircraft and CLS have produced displays that are for the most part clear, functional and a breeze to use.
I didn't find any show stopping issues while using the G1000 style gauges, but there is one irritation that bugs me - adjusting values. Normally I like to use the mouse scroll wheel or left and right clicks but with these gauges I found I could only use the wheel one way at a time, if I wanted to change a value in the opposite direction I would have to move the cursor to the other side of the knob. In my opinion these small left click areas result in annoying accidents.
Overall the Commercial Level Simulations G1000 gauges are a very useful and enjoyable addition to the sim hangar. If you're familiar with editing panel.cfg files or would like to add some complex glass cockpits to your favorite planes without heaving through manuals this could be the product for you.
- Adds loads of functionality to the cockpit
- Suits the casual flight simmer as well as the experienced
- Useful weather information pages
- Installation documentation and upgrade to CLS e500/BJet
- Mostly MFD is just a mesh of default GPS rather than custom
- FPS loss over default C172 2D panel: 8-10
- RAM footprint: 50 MB
- GRAPHICS: Standard XML gauge issues, some fonts a little small.
- Other: Twin jet or single piston engine displays.
Mindstar are a part of a production group who produce motion picture software and have now started a flight simulation department. They are also responsible for many of the great gauges included with Eaglesoft packages and I don't think it will be too long until this product is included with an aircraft. At double the price of the CLS G1000 style gauges, what exactly makes this set worth $50? Mindstar have set out to make this product as close to the real system as possible. That means a mass of custom features that require official Garmin G1000 manuals to expertly navigate, smooth GDI+ anti-alias vector graphics and multiple customisable configurations to suit different aircraft.
From the outset this product shines quality. Watching the system load up, fully animated is something in itself. You will notice the clear display and maybe be surprised how well it all performs as it steals little from resources. Starting up you will certainly be overwhelmed by the amount of features on offer (unless you are a real G1000 user) and at least a skim read of the official manual (downloadable from the Garmin web site) is required to learn the basic motions and areas of the system. If you have a good grasp of the default GPS and a certain amount of logic the whole system becomes usable - this is a credit to Garmin themselves for producing such an intuitive device. I found myself not using the large manual much as time with the system seemed to be the best teacher for me to understand its complex features.
Setting up a flight plan is little different to the default GPS, but it's a breeze using the mouse scroll wheel and nearest displayed waypoints or airports (or from a pre-prepared paper list). You can input safe heights but unfortunately the utility pages including the scheduler and pilot profile covering license details to dictate airspace access are not currently modelled and just there for show - though I can't see a need for most of them in FS. Flight plans can be saved for later use to copy or invert.
The Traffic Collision Avoidance System (or TCAS) is heavily simulated and a key feature that really shines with voice and graphic warnings. Arrows will show direction, where paths may cross while all being color co-ordinated just as the real thing for ease of use. If you have your traffic slider set high you will most likely feel a performance loss that becomes apparent when viewing the TCAS enabled pages, though of course it can be turned off or the range decreased.
The project is on going. So far only a few single engine aircraft are supported but more are in the pipeline including twins and using the provided software you can edit the numbers to the aircraft you are flying. The G1000 is easy to install, anyone familiar with editing configs will have it up in no time. If you don't, then don't worry - .cfg's and panel editing will be covered in another article but for now there are many user modifications available for download on Mindstar's web site. However after owning this product for 10 months there have been no updates thus far, though there has been progress regarding Windows Vista.
I found few problems at first. As with anything of this complexity the user experience will differ depending on your system. I did suffer two random CTD's, a few flight plan loading issues where the MFD would freeze and originally some errors when exiting FS2004. I can safely say these were rare and I have faith in the team to continue ironing out the irritations. Your .dll configuration may also have an effect. These problems have now gone, though I couldn't put my finger on why exactly.
In future if the simulation is further developed to include the scheduler, weather radar and terrain proximity display then this would represent amazing value for money for any simmer. In all you are purchasing a very good, polished representation of a very complicated piece of kit. If you are training with the real thing or a simmer seduced easily by technology I can thoroughly recommend the Mindstar G1000.
- Very smooth GDI+ vector graphics
- Detailed flight planning functionality
- Very good TCAS simulation
- Overall package quality
- Impressive performance
- Only a few single engine aircraft supported
- No scheduler, weather or terrain proximity pages yet modelled
- So far incompatible with Windows Vista
- FPS loss over default C172 2D panel: 4-6
- RAM footprint: 67 MB
- GRAPHICS: Beautiful displays though not perfectly smooth movement.
- Other: TCAS pages are CPU heavy. Auto update and configuration software is neat.