• X-Plane 11 Preview

    First Flights

    All set up and with loads of places to explore, my initially experience was to carry out a couple of simple flights in the stock Cessna 172 with no add-ons, although I was itching to try my favorite plugins and aircraft to see if they would port over to version 11. One of the most striking new features is the flight configuration page where you can now see the aircraft in all their 3D glory, select liveries, airports and specific ramp locations. You can also adjust the weather and time on this page via a couple of sliders which makes it very easy and intuitive. All the previous options such as being able to set the actual time and weather to the location you are in are also still present, so setting up a flight is easy, and to be honest, quite a pleasurable experience. This is also the page where you can add AI aircraft if you are so inclined, especially for those of you who don't like flying alone.

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

    The new interface is very different to what went before and is easy on both the eyes and brain. After about 15 minutes or so, I was well versed with its various features and had made the adjustments to suit my requirements. If you do get stuck, there is also a nice mini menu hidden up in the top right of the screen where you can access several of the menu options including the help page which takes you to the sim manual. Simply hover your mouse at the top of the screen and it will appear. This mini menu includes a pause option, as well as bringing up the map which you can now be viewed in screen, which is a nice improvement. The ATC menu and the settings page are also accessible here which is just one of several new features that make accessing the menus during flight a breeze.

    In additional to the stock Cessna 172, there are the usual suspects such as the Baron B58, King Air C90, as well as the ASK21 glider. You also get a fabulous Boeing 737 and 747-400, an MD-82, a float plane version of the Cessna Skyhawk, a Cirrus Vision SF50, and a Sikorsky S76. Included also are the older models which are available via a clickable button, so classics such as the Stinson, Space Shuttle, 747-100 and F-4 Phantom II are still there if you want them. The Bell 206 and Robinson R22 are a thing of the past and not available.

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

    I can safely say that although there are a couple of graphical bugs (see the C172 NAV dials for example) this new generation of default aircraft really represents a massive jump up from the default models included in X-Plane 10, with the three heavies and the Cessna 172 being the standout examples. The improvements in interior and exterior quality is quite spectacular when viewed first hand (glass gauge reflections for example) and which is made even more impressive when you consider that these features come with hardly any drop in performance. There are lots of clickable switches, improved sounds in some areas (not so great in others) and an active scroll wheel function which really adds to the experience. All I can really say is, well done Laminar Research! These improvements alone are worth the upgrade fee in my opinion.

    As far as flight characteristics are concerned, I haven't really flown enough flights to really be confident and compare all the new aircraft. What I can say though, is that in the aircraft I have tried, they certainly didn't feel inferior to the previous offerings. In other words, I was quite happy with what I experienced.

    As far as the external scenery goes, I think this is an area that still needs a bit of work before the first main release. One issue is how X-Plane 11 goes about modelling haze. It seems to be constantly present and a little excessive at times. When it's done right though, it looks incredible. I also felt that the colors appeared to be a little washed out for my liking on occasion, but this is probably linked to the haze. Other than that though, I was quite happy with what I saw.

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

    When it comes to how weather is drawn in the simulator, I'm not sure if there are any improvements over X-Plane 10. I was a big fan of SkyMaxx Pro in the previous version, however, sitting on the runway in the pouring rain on a grey winter's day in Aberdeen, Scotland, the default weather seemed to be doing a pretty good job of looking like the real thing.

    An area of improvement which I think many will be happy with, is the night time illumination of towns and cities; it's simply fabulous and looks as if you're flying over a real town/city. I did notice a strange glow in the sky at one point, but this disappeared if I happened to advance the time, so I assume it was a bug of some kind. That said, the improved night textures are fantastic and would definitely encourage me to do more night flying.

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

    As far as the ATC goes, there is a new interface window which allows easy access to the various contact options. This, like all the new pop-out windows, can be moved around the screen and resized as you see fit. Unfortunately, the voices and phraseology seem pretty much the same, so it's not clear at this stage if there are any changes from version 10. This I am sure will be a big disappointment to many. Hopefully, over time, the new platform will allow for some significant improvements in this area.


    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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