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FS9 vs. FSX for soaring

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I have flight simulator pretty much exclusively for soaring, and ran with FS9 for a couple of years and now have FSX. I think I've now accumulated as many flying hours on FSX as the entire prior time with FS9. Here's a brief comparison:

Disclaimer: this is all my opinion. I'm not pretending these are absolute facts.

* FSX has a DG808S as standard. The visual model is actually very good, with a well modelled virtual cockpit, flaps, waterballast. The flight model is not bad, except for a couple of flaws - the airbrakes result in an oddly nose-down flying attitude and kill the speed before lift. The roll stability is a bit low (I always fly on 'realistic'). Sounds are pretty good. Instrumentation looks good and operates smoothly. Has two non-compensated vario's though. (FS9 just had the schweizer)

* Default FSX 'fine' weather includes thermals. These are immensely strong (15 knots to 18,000 feet in the UK) which limits the realism somewhat. And they don't connect to clouds. (FS9 needed add-on thermals) But it does mean you can soar the default scenery without addons.

* FSX scenery is pretty good (if your computer can cope). Alignment and density of autogen on the default tiles is much better, as is the resolution of the ground images. Clouds are awesome. (These things all look better than FS9). VFR photographic scenery has moved to a much higher resolution if that's your interest.

* FSX has 'missions' as 'canned' areas of scenery with defined waypoints that you go round against the clock. FSX deluxe has a mission editor. This means it is actually fairly easy to create a soaring mission (thermals are placeable scenery objects) with defined waypoints, i.e. you can create a x-country race. One of the pre-canned missions (Austrian Soaring) is a 250km race around 11 waypoints in the Austrian Alps. FS9 had nothing like this and I suspect this is currently an underestimated aspect of the sim. The FSX soaring mission seems to be quite popular.

* FSX has much improved multi-player support (I haven't tried it) but a significant limitation for virtual soaring is that you can't multiplayer in missions.

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FL many thanks for this. It gives us non FSX soaring users an idea of what FSX will provide if we decide to purchase. I too have been a heavy user of FS9 particularly for soaring and online racing with APS/FFVVV.

I would be interested to hear what the spec of your PC is and does it give a good FSX response. Your post indicates that it does.

One of the things I understand about FSX reading the latest "PCPilot"

http://www.pcpilot.net/

magizine is that MS have built a lot of future into FSX and that the PC and operating systems to get full use of FSX facilities are not yet common. Not that do not exist but they do not exist on most home owners desktops.

I think we are all awaiting to see what the MS Vista world has in store for us.

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I bought a new PC to tie in with the release of FSX - not quite as delinquent as it sounds as I was due a new one anyway.

The key features are:

E6700 core duo cpu

4GB memory (XP maxes out at 3GB I think)

6800GT/256MB graphics card

triplehead2go with three 20-inch LCD screens running at 3072x768

The CPU/memory are clearly top end kit for today, but the graphics card is one I had anyway, and I already had the monitors. I can't remember the PC cost but I reckon around $1000 because I had a lot of the ancilliaries already.

FSX ran smooth out-of-the-box, but I've experimented with upping the sliders to see the max I can get away with. My FSX is set to frame-rate-limit at 25fps, and runs very smoothly at that rate (a lot more smoothly than FS9 at the same rate), and I only made enhancements if I could stay within that frame-rate. The settings I enhanced are kind of soaring-related so you might be interested.

Settings I enhanced include:

* Scenery detail (set to max) - the lower scenery detail settings really (really!) reduce the quantity of scenery at airports. The buildings only all appear on the max setting and I found I could get away with this for soaring airports. I have *not* tried parking on JFK facing Manhattan to see what I get (I don't soar there that often) - I did take a peek at Stansted though and that was fine.

* Cloud detail (set to max) - I know it's a shame FSX thermals don't join up with the clouds but even so the cloud models in my opinion are simply superb. After a high climb on the Austrian course you can get up and among the clouds and is the closest I've seen so far to capturing the true-life experience. For what it's worth that's my favourite bit of real soaring.

* Autogen detail (set to very dense I think) - autogen is much more dense in FSX than FS9, and is now carefully placed along the field boundaries etc on the generic landscape tiles. So it looks 'ok', certainly great for practicing field landings (choose a field, come in over the trees) but as a real VFR pilot I'd prefer photo-real scenery at least in my area - this currently loses the autogen though so you can't win (yet). Autogen is advertised as a major frame-rate killer on many internet forums but it works great for me.

* Terrain texture detail (set to highish - 1.2m I think) - this makes the resolution of the ground textures quite detailed, which is neat when you're ridge soaring close to the ground, or landing-out.

* Terrain mesh complexity (set to something highish) - the default on FSX install was 140m or something, and I found I could increase that to something significantly higher so the austrian alpine scenery is more detailed - it certainly looks fine now.

* The water-ballast-dumping effect used to cause my FS9 to stutter, but the effect in FSX is smooth, better looking, and causes no stuttering on my machine at all. One of my setting changes may have improved this, or that could be the stock performance, I'm not sure.

* I run the graphics at 4xAA, trilinear filtering, 3072 x 768

These are things I'd would like to increase but can't for performance reasons:

* the triplehead2go can run at 3740x1024 (three times 1280x1024) but that causes my performance to reduce to single digits - I'm guessing my graphics card is maxed out. The 4xAA and trilinear filtering makes the picture look ok but all things being equal I'd prefer the higher res.

* In FSX you can set a 'radius of detail' parameter which I have set to something reasonable-sounding. I haven't experimented much but I do see autogen appear and textures snap into more detail sometimes as I'm ridge-soaring in the alps. Either I need to up this parameter, or my graphics card is running flat-out loading textures. Please note I'm talking about a smoothness of texture loading and a level of detail already in a totally different league from FS9, so I'm not complaining, but you can peripherally detect some graphics-loading taking place so I'm on the limit of something.

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Thanks for this FL. I guess all of us will looking to see how we can upgrade our hardware with Vista approaching and move to SLI and dual processing.

I think your post is the start of a hot topic and that hardware spec will discussed in ernest in the New Year.

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