Prepar3D v1.4: First impressions!

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Archive: March 19, 2013

P3Dv1. As I continue to dive deeper into P3D the more astonished I become with all its goodies. As I spend more and more time with the platform, I find myself really thinking how I ever could have enjoyed my VFR experiences in FS9 as much as I did. Now don't get me wrong, FS9 is still very much my go-to platform when I want to relax with the PMDG 747. It's my primary stress relief. But with P3D, never have I wanted to fly closer to the ground. Never have I wanted to fly so slow. It's the likes of Carenado, and the masters at Orbx, that have opened my eyes. So join me as I finally begin the first in a series of tests for P3D. It's cold out here, bring your jacket!

I think the first airport that really blew my mind from the gods at Orbx was the Felts scenery. How these guys manage to capture the life and detail in each and every product they make is impressive to say the least. I am dying to start in-depth reviews of Orbx sceneries, but before I can adequately do that, I first need to develop my passion for P3D itself. I need to be able to enjoy it without the fear of fatal errors or oom's. And for now, I fly in fear. Fear that I can not fully enjoy myself because in any minute, I could go from a magical flight through the clouds to staring the City of London wallpaper on my desktop with the dreaded small window telling me that a system that has more memory then the freaking space shuttle has somehow run out of it.

So as a result, I am conducting tests. Trying to determine what my slightly higher than mid-range system can and can't handle. And the truth is, my system can in fact handle quite a bit. The issue lies with what P3D can and can't handle. So this is my first published test, detailing my exeprience. It helps that I have a huge library of toys at my disposal!

Now in this particular test, I choose to head to the latest region in the world of Orbx, FTX England. And as such, I choose one of my most favorite airfields in the country to depart from and an old FS9 favorite of mine: Shoreham. The detail in this airfield is simply amazing and mirrors the actual place. I should know, I've been there.

Now in order for this test to make any sense, you obviously need to know my system specs and internal P3D settings. This was performed on the "low end" system on our systems page. 

So now that I have selected the departure point, I now need to select an aircraft.This served as quite a challenge as I have many various aircraft in my Prepar3D hangar. So after about some 10 minutes of deciding weather I preferred either James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman to narrate my life story, I settled on the Carenado Cessna CT182T Skylane HD, fully equipped with the Garmin G1000 suite. This is one beautiful airplane. In fact, I dare say: she is downright sexy. Sorry, no UK reg.

So I perform my pre-flight checks, do my walk around, start her up and seconds later, i'm on the taxiway. The airport surroundings from the North and East are stunning and realistic. I also have time to notice I am getting 30fps with very smooth panning using Track-IR. Here are my scenery settings:

So as you can see, the only things I disabled are the extra grass, which, honestly, I could have kept in. But given the fact that I have some strong weather going, I didn't see the need for it.

And weather like this for this region is necessary. The UK always looks gloomy like this. Honestly, I actually prefer this weather over my usual sunny SoCali... I remember a couple years ago, I was staying in Bloomsbury in Central London in the middle of August. The weather in LA the day before was nearly 93F. So as I set out to discover the city as I always do when I'm in London, I couldn't help but notice people dressed so damn warmly. So I head out in my summer clothes only to find it a balmy 45F. This in the middle of August! Most of my trips to the UK over the years were during the winter... go figure. I ran back in and changed clothes.

As I said, the rolling hills surrounding the airfield are very realistic! I use 100% GA AI and statics as well. If there is any impact on performance, I didn't notice it. Still taxiing at 30fps. I am very pleased! If I had a clear day, the FPS would be even higher. In some tests I conducted, I got 55fps flying around the airfield in the same aircraft.

I really love the houses. All custom and hand placed. A lot of passion and hard work went into this project.

Okay ready to go! The basic plan is to climb straight out 2 miles to 1,000 MSL, turn right heading East, proceed on track about 1.5 miles then turn right again and head South towards the Channel. This way I can get a nice overview of the airfield before turning West along the coast. In an effort to stay below the clouds, we will maintain visual contact with coastline leveling off at at 2,500 MSL.

Rotating outward and climbing I can't help but admire my leather seats during a very critical stage of flight.

Looking out the left window, the vista starts to expand out in the distance and you really get a feel of the realism Orbx implements into its projects. I am damn impressed as my FPS climbs along with me. We are around about 40FPS at the moment. With this weather, that's very impressive. But I am also keeping a keen eye on the LCD RAM indicator on my keyboard. So far, 23% when it gets to about 55%, time to start worrying. And by worrying, I mean freaking the hell out.

From the exterior view from the climb out, I am so amazed at how sharp the ground textures are. No blurries! Not that you should at this speed. But even with flying the Lionheart Epic Victory at FL185 in high speed in a previous test, there were still no blurries! Crispness all the way to the horizon. This is also attributed to the fact that P3D is installed on a 500GB SSD. I fully recommend the SSD for FSX/P3D. Everything loads faster!! Take note!

Ok, making our first right turn, I start to get really concerned. AUTOGEN!! My worse nightmare in P3D. Not the trees, but the houses! Back during my tests in the PNW, areas like Monroe, Harvey, and Fall City bring me down to single digit frames. I always assume this is because of the dense autogen in the area, whereas areas like Orcas, Darrington, and Cushman yield me an easy 25-30fps. So when I saw these neighborhoods come into view, I started to freak out. To my surprise? NO DIFFERENCE!! I swear!! What's going on here?? Why did my frames NOT slow down?? I don't get it. Thus, this was the most impressive part of this test. What was done differently here? I surmise that it must have something to do with the developer. Because even at Airdrie, my frames take a strong dive. And that's in a rural area! It makes no sense.

After the second right turn, the airfield is now off to my immediate right and I have a full view. Just beautiful! Still climbing to the shoreline.

Now that we are over the Channel, my frames take another boost and I start to see 49fps flicker. Without weather, I got up to 60. My system likes flying over water and given my weather situation, it was best to take this route.

At this point, we are reaching our cruise alt. I am keeping an eye on my Garman for EGKR to come into view before I start descending for the right hand turn. This is a short flight. I am also keeping an eye on my white leather.

I am all stick today. No autopilot! Some slight micro stutters during brief moments of turbulence.

Now at a steady average of 50FPS (60 without clouds) Let's look around and admire the the hard work Orbx has performed here.

Okay we are getting close now, time to start descent and make that right turn in... Actually, it's easy to get distracted by the breathtaking vistas up here. I missed the point where I was supposed to turn. No worries.

Just look at the stunning vista. I love this place and I love this aircraft.

Let's get her into position. Frames back down to 40's.

As we continue to go inland, my frames bounce between 43-48. Still smooth panning with T-IR. No stutters.

Ah there is the approach! Let's make some corrections. This is the result of my missed right turn earlier.
Approach checks complete.

Beautiful!

Okay let's put her down. 35-40fps all the way to the grass.

And we're done.

I will be covering this region quite a bit more over the coming weeks. For now, all I can say for now is I am very impressed with both airfields and the landscape between them. I encountered no issues on this flight and next time I will be able to relax a bit more. All in all, easy frames, no major stuttering except during some brief moments of turbulence.

A quick thanks to John Venema and the guys at Orbx. There is a lot more to come as I get more acquainted with Prepar3D. This is just my first non review test so if there is something I didn't cover,  please feel free to ask any questions or give any advice on what you would like to see covered in future tests. I am hoping for these tests to evolve into a sort of mainstream community resource. So please help me help you!

Cheers!

D'Andre Newman