• X-Plane 11 Preview

    Sitting at the GA ramp start at my version of Campbeltown (EGEC) in the stock Cessna 172 was the benchmark for all my tests. My input hardware consists of a CH Products yoke, pedals and throttle quadrant as well as a Saitek TPM and four Saitek panels, 2 x radio, 1 x switch and 1 x multi. I also have a Heli-Kit for flying helicopters and I will come back to that later.

    X-Plane 11 beta     X-Plane 11 beta     X-Plane 11 beta

    If like me you have been reading the various official and non-official snippets and rumors floating around the Internet offering tantalising glimpses of what was to come in X-Plane 11, it was pretty easy to get carried away, but going through my mind were thoughts like, is this new version of X-Plane really the best thing since sliced bread or is it a case of the Emperor's new clothes? Obviously I was hoping and praying for the former.

    Now to be honest, I don't usually take part in beta testing and generally wait for the final release of updates or products before going the whole hog, but on this occasion, I couldn't resist and made an exception. I normally view betas a bit like buying pre-packed food from my local supermarket, in that I don't really want to know or experience the preparation of what goes into a product, I just want to step up, pay my money and enjoy my purchase. But this time it was very different.

    Initial Feel & Set Up

    Right off the bat, X-Plane 11 is clearly a very different animal to its predecessors in look, feel and setup. Laminar Research have made quite a change in how the sim looks. From the opening loading screen splashing a night illuminated runaway and cockpit across your screen(s), to the new and shiny user interface; it really does look very different. This is a lot more akin to a console game setup than to what we have previously seen in X-Plane, but for me at least this is progress and highly welcomed.

    X-Plane 11 beta     X-Plane 11 beta     X-Plane 11 beta

    Now I am sure there will be people who feel that we have lost something with respect to what we as users can tinker with, as from what I have observed so far, there are less hardcore graphic related features that you can play with. For example, you can no longer individually tailor the number of cars, roads or trees, etc., but to be honest I didn't find this an issue. Due to my setup, I can have lots of detail at good frame rates, however, this won't be the case for everybody so I can understand the concern. As the version on current release is still a public beta version, I am pretty sure Laminar will get all sorts of comments and feedback from casual users, right up to super users who really understand the fundamentals and complexity of what goes into sims of this type. I hasten to add I am not in that later bracket and am very much an enthusiastic amateur.

    The team at Laminar have clearly done their research and put a huge amount of time, effort and money into the look of X-Plane 11. For example, there are several easily accessible menu options in the opening screen that allow you to: resume the previous flight, load a saved flight if there was one, start a new flight, or the coolest part which was to access some hands-on flight school tutorials. Now this is a great new feature and although so far I haven't tried them all, I really like this option and am pretty sure I will be giving them all a whirl soon. This is very much like what you can do on the mobile version of X-Plane on your phone or tablet. Also, from the opening screen you can access the settings menu where you can start to tinker with many of the various features of the sim.

    X-Plane 11 beta     X-Plane 11 beta     X-Plane 11 beta

    Once in settings, you can click on a further raft of options from several tabs located along the top of the screen. These include options for sound, graphics, network, keyboard and joystick calibrations. You can fiddle about with the sim settings to your heart's content, although as I mentioned earlier, there seems to be less options for certain areas than were available in version 10. I can only assume this was a conscious decision by Laminar Research.

    In the joystick calibration page, you will now see a visual representation of your yoke input hardware with the various buttons numbered and highlighted, which I must say, does look very nice. My CH Yoke showed up no problem and I could add most of my favorite functions via the various drop down options, although I must admit it did take a bit longer than it did with version 10. Now this could just be me, but the only slight issue I found here was that the options to add functions to the hat switch was limited to a fixed list. This meant that I could not allocate it to external views as I used to do in version 10. Although I can only really vouch for my own hardware, I would imagine that Laminar will ensure that as many of the common input devices are covered here.

    X-Plane 11 beta     X-Plane 11 beta     X-Plane 11 beta

    One aspect that was a real disappointment (and I know this is still a beta version) was that I was not able to calibrate my Heli-Kit, as the sliders would not travel the full length regardless of how much I moved the various controls. As I have had no issues previously in version 10, I can only assume this is a bug, so accordingly I filed a bug report via the official Laminar Research online feedback form. Only time will tell if there will be a fix for this, but this means that for now I was unable try out the new S76 helicopter, which was a real shame. That apart, the new user interface is very pleasing on the eye and easy to use, and although I am sure there will be more bugs hidden in there, I think this will be a big selling point for both existing and more importantly new users who have still to experience the wonders of X-Plane.


    12 Comments
    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Great writeup Stuart!

      X-Plane 11 really does looks fantastic! Let's hope it has a promising future!

      Cheers

      Dom
    1. alpilotx's Avatar
      alpilotx -
      Great preview! Thanks!

      Andras
    1. btwallis's Avatar
      btwallis -
      Thank you sir. I have FSX, and now P3Dv3+, I find I don't fly FSX anymore. I would love to finally give Xplane a kick of the tires....I think it has come of age.
    1. SWM1968's Avatar
      SWM1968 -
      Many thanks folks, glad it was helpful.
    1. graaant's Avatar
      graaant -
      Good review, but I was disappointed that it didn't talk more about specs, performance on different systems. I tried out the beta yesterday on my Intel 5 3.3 Ghz (Turbo to 4 Ghz,) Geforce 970, 16 GB Ram, and in spite of moving sliders further and further left, the FRs stayed ridiculously low, and I sadly uninstalled the beta and went to fly in FSX. Always possible, of course, that I was doing something wrong, but ...
    1. pinkyjr's Avatar
      pinkyjr -
      I've tried XPlane over and over, and keep coming back to FSX/P3D over and over.
    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      I think it's important for people to remember, that the version of X-Plane 11 they are trying, is an unoptimised beta release. Many of the rendering functions which would normally help in fine-tuning a system are (at time of writing) not present.

      Hopefully these functions will become available as the beta progresses.

      Cheers

      Dom
    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Can I also add, that if you're experiencing issues (not uncommon in beta releases) then you should file a bug report to Laminar Research:

      http://dev.x-plane.com/support/bugreport.html
    1. Darren Howie's Avatar
      Darren Howie -
      As a real world pilot i gave up on the poor way FsX and P3D makes aircraft feel more like they are trains than aircraft. The feel of the way the aeroplane flows and moves through the sky really set it head and shoulders above any other sim.
      Xplane is my only sim now after years of FS its the only simulation of flight that is close to really flying.
    1. keithjsimmons's Avatar
      keithjsimmons -
      I find that in FSX and P3D, you can fly faster at low level than at Altitude and find I have to go full power to maintain cruising speed at 35,000 ft using modern airliners. Is X plane more realistic in that aspect?
    1. casarabill's Avatar
      casarabill -
      I definately looked at the comparison between it and FSX Gold and I like where X-11 is going. I like to see good landscape details, accurate mesh details , accurate roads, lakes, rivers. I like low level virtual VFR flying with real world air nav maps. So and with all the GEX, FSGLOBAL mesh addons for FSX-G, I still like it better then X-11. But X-11 I feel will get better and there will be add-ons that will push it past FSX in VFR details for sure, I do Love the light effects and the Virtual cockpits in X-11 and it is far superior to FSX Gold and that aspect is secondary importance to me. 3rd thing of importance to me is the realistic effects of flying which X-11 is probably far superior to FSX. This latest version of X-11 will probably mean I will get it and fly it. I have X-10 and found the landscapes were a turn off so it stayed on the shelf. I will continue to fly FSX-G and watch how the FS community takes to it. Eventually it will eventually go on the shelf like a well read book. Much the same way as MSFS 98 did back in the day. ☺
    1. casarabill's Avatar
      casarabill -
      "MSFS 98....Now that's a term I not hear in a long long time"....Obi Wan Kaobi
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