• Review: TrueEarth US Northern California HD - X-Plane

    Review: TrueEarth US Northern California HD - X-Plane

    By Andrew Parish

    I must admit I have approached this review with some trepidation. Before taking it on, I knew little or nothing about Northern California other than where to find it on a map. Every day's a school day as they say - and I saw this a great opportunity to learn something new.

    So... without further delay...

    Northern California

    The designation 'Northern California', whilst not formally recognised, popularly applies to the 48 northern-most counties of the US state of California above the latitude 35° 47' 28" - a line which forms the southern boundary of four of those counties. A quick check of the Orbx scenery coverage map shows that the scenery package closely matches this definition.

    Orbx TrueEarth Northern California
    Figure 1 - Map depicting the area covered by the Northern California scenery package.

    The region has seen a varied history with its various parts having been inhabited and colonised by Native Americans, European explorers, Spanish missionaries, Russian fur traders and Mexican settlers before American trappers started to arrive in the 1830s. Fourteen short years later came the start of the California gold rush which saw over 300,000 people flood to the area from across the globe and the exponential population growth ultimately gave rise to the admission of California into the Union in 1850. As the gold rush petered out, the region continued to expand dramatically in terms of both population and a predominantly agricultural economy.

    The economy of present-day Northern California has grown from its agricultural roots and whilst now heavily reliant on high technology, it is also known for clean power, biomedical industries, government and finance. It is the home of both Silicon Valley, and the state capital of Sacramento.

    The region now boasts 40 cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants, three extended metropolitan areas, eleven major airports, tens of national parks, a complex road and transportation network, and eight major league professional sports teams. Geographically, it is home to mountain ranges and lakes, rugged coast lines and stunning beaches, and rich agricultural plains.

    Plenty of potential for eye-candy then, and lots of things to look out for!

    Installation And Configuration

    Installation, as with all Orbx products, is managed using the Orbx Central tool - a free download from the Orbx web site. Once the product has been purchased online, it appears on the 'My Products' tab of Orbx Central and is available for download and installation. The process for this can be as simple as clicking a button to start and accepting the defaults.

    A scenery product of this complexity is going to take a while to download and, depending on your internet connection, you're going to have enough time to do anything from watching a movie to a whole box set whilst the 52.3 GB download (43.4 GB for the SD version) completes. It's important before starting the process to ensure that you have the space available for the uncompressed files! The uncompressed HD version of the scenery weighs in at a whopping 195.2 GB; the SD version at a less disk-hungry 53.1 GB.

    The installer inserts the required entries into X-Plane's scenery configuration file simplifying the process for those who are reticent to do it themselves. For me, the entries as they were created were put in the middle of the default list of X-Plane landmarks. This would have worked with no issue, but I'm a stickler for tidy installs so a short edit later they were where they needed to be.

    Configuration options are minimal and allow you to use default X-Plane road textures for the road network, or to use transparent ones which allow the photo realistic roads to show through. Your choice here is a matter of personal preference - I selected the default textures.

    Orbx TrueEarth Northern California control panel
    Figure 2 - The Northern California scenery package configuration dialog.

    For the purposes of the review, I disabled all other scenery and all add-ons.

    1. DavidN16's Avatar
      DavidN16 -
      You ought to compare this to FS Earth Tiles using .5m per pixel. You can get the full state of CA downloaded for under 200 gb. If you are flying low and slow in GA you can not go wrong. I just downloaded Yellowstone National park last week and flew from Cody to the Park then down to Jackson.
    1. bjl345's Avatar
      bjl345 -
      For what I could see in the photos it would be a pleasure to fly VFR on this scenery. Good description of POI. I almost felt as if driving again to Oregon Nat´l Caves.
    1. nathantw's Avatar
      nathantw -
      They need to fix the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Bridge. It looks like the Brooklyn Bridge.

      Overall, though, it looks really good. Much better than the default scenery I'm currently using.
    1. goofyguns's Avatar
      goofyguns -
      Quote Originally Posted by nathantw View Post
      They need to fix the Oakland/San Francisco Bay Bridge. It looks like the Brooklyn Bridge.

      Overall, though, it looks really good. Much better than the default scenery I'm currently using.
      That explains why they so carefully hid that bridge from view on every screenshot and video
    1. Mogget's Avatar
      Mogget -
      What puzzles me is that the SF-Oakland Bay bridge model in FTX Northern California looks very good.....so why didn't they just use that model?? The version in TE Northern California looks ridiculous.
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