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Beta Release : Beta version 10.30 releases... The new features in Clouds and Garmin GPS/NAV


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Beta Release : Beta version 10.30 release...  First Look.

 

Sunday Morning is a first joy at the sighting that the beta 10.30b1 had been released. In doing reviews I test a lot of add-ons and plugins and mostly I just throw everything in the usual various X-Plane file buckets as I download them (mostly into the custom Scenery folder). So as this beta has been a fair while coming it was time to get back to basics and do a complete file cleanout. So for the first time in a long while my X-Plane simulator is as close to Austin's godliness and vision that it has ever been.

 

The download for me was 1.3gb and it took about 81min to perform the actions. I noticed a lot of ground textures were replaced with most going into the "1000 world terrain" folder. start up of the X-Plane Simulator with 10.30b1 was smooth with no issues or resetting required. The first run of the simulator was to spread a smile over my face. X-Plane v10.25 was not very kind to me frame-rate wise, I found myself battling the render page quite often to just get some substance and any speed out of the simulator. In most cases I failed, 10.25 just was not good to me. My guess work it was the new (urban) ground textures that my processor really hated, as even if I was flying at over 30,000ft, and if I downcasted my view and the areas set below me were full of city grey, the red of my frame-rate counter would show immediately and the stuttering would begin. It made for frustrating work.

 

Austin Meyer noted that 10.30 "We just got into HUNDREDS of little details in the sim to make it really work as people should expect.  Adding a fancy new feature or two is easy… going in and cleaning up all the details to make the whole sim run exactly as people would expect is much much harder." and you certainly noticed that in the first running of the beta there were no glaring issues and it does run smoother, and 10.20b2 felt even better.

 

There are two main features that were forecasted in a new Clouds system and new Garmin GNS430/530 GPS/Nav. It must be noted that 10.30 is a rolling roll out. So we get the basic foundation now, and then other small features will be added as the beta progresses.

 

Clouds

When the X-Plane version 10 was released a new cloud system was one of top features of the simulator. It didn't really live up to the its full promise. It was really just puffs of cloud that went well... "puffy". Only going a slight distance into the formations and your world went hard grey. Worse the clouds were a framerate breaker in the heavy sense (unless you were in the grey). In most cases I had to switch them off unless my framerate was 40+ and that usually brought me back to the 20fr limit. A small revision came and went early in X-Plane10's release, but it was obvious that a totally reworking of the idea was required.

 

777_v10_Clouds B732 5.jpg  777_v10_Clouds B732 6.jpg

 

777_v10_Clouds B732 7.jpg  777_v10_Clouds B732 8.jpg

 

The clouds do look slightly different. The "Puffs" are still there but there is a translucent quality to the blanker areas that was missing before. It is when you get closer or within the clouds, in that you now flow through them and actually feel the misty shrouds around you. When the clouds get thicker, they do just that in getting denser and denser until you do finally fade into the grey. But still in there the grey you get is now very slight shades of translucent thinness that can come and go away as noted here with the FlyJSim B732...  All very realistic.

 

777_v10_Clouds B732 1.jpg  777_v10_Clouds B732 2.jpg

 

777_v10_Clouds B732 3.jpg  777_v10_Clouds B732 4.jpg

 

Whispy clouds are now just that in whispy, and they touch you around the aircraft. So did all this come with that dreaded frame-rate penalty...  Well no and yes?

 

Certainly the cloud system has been refined. It is now far, far better in frame-rate than what it was before, I can run now with the cloud system on all time and that has to be a very good thing, which was simply impossible before. However in the past the grey blanks would always cut in to boost my frame-rate through the roof just at the point of it hitting the dreaded stutter point. Now that has changed, as in light or medium clouds the system will cope easily. But as the clouds get denser and darker and denser, so does the hit on your frame-rate because the old grey saving grace is not going to cut in now until you (or me) are down at single digits on your frame-rate. So the rule is, keep well away from very heavy cloud formations if your system can't cope, as there is no cut off now even at the lower frame numbers.

 

Ben Supnik notes on the developers site that there is still more cloud refining to come with this 10.30beta rollout. If Laminar can get this area even with a slightly better absorbability in the denser clouds we will certainly be on to a winner. This does not mean the default cloud system is now perfect. But it is a major step in the right direction. 

 

I flew from Singapore to Hong Kong at FL360 in the flightfactor B777 Worldliner and everything flew very well and I was very impressed in the various cloud formations. Some things did stand out though.

 

777_v10_Clouds 1.jpg  777_v10_Clouds 10.jpg

 

The rain did look more heavier in that the lines were very significant and to the point quite annoying. I still had this rain effect even at FL360 and flying at .75mach? Is that normal?   I can't really see that.

 

One thing I will note of significance was the horizon looked far better than I remembered it. It is a more slightly hazy join between sky and sea, it made a big difference to the feel of the simulator. No doubt the ground textures look sharper as well for the a higher altitude. both very small changes but highly noticeable.

 

The ground visibility in X-Plane is 25 nm (about 46 km) so you don't see off the edge of the scenery tile. However what is it like when you go to a high flightlevel?  Not very good. 10.30 is supposed to give us a better (or greater distance) to help in this restriction. This extra distance is not in there yet, but the higher resolution ground textures are in there and the global planet textures have received a one-notch resolution increase. For me the planet textures didn't look enough, so I am going back to ISDG's Hi-Res version, not perfect but still better than the default textures. However overall the higher flight-levels do look better. It will be interesting when the tile sizes are larger in that how much better again this area of the simulator will be?

 

The visibility is now a lower limit to 100 meters, as per the minimums for a Cat-3 approaches, but until the "fog" is more refined (coming soon to 10.30) will it be perfect. You can still see the differences though even now, It is not a complete blanket, but softer and more translucent, which must have been carried over from the cloud work.

 

Here on approach to VHHH (Hong Kong) the visibility factor kept me on my toes, it was very impressive.

 

777_v10_Clouds 8.jpg  777_v10_Clouds 9.jpg

 

Overall the clouds are a significant step forward, at least I can even run them regularly now of which was not possible before.

 

Garmin GNS430/530

The other touted big feature was the Garmin GNS430/530 GPS/NAV. Disappointingly Laminar Research didn't update any of their default aircraft with the GNS430 with the beta release, LR note they will be converted before the end of the b10.30 rollout. But this meant that many of the punters (meaning you) couldn't see the new gizmo in action. However if you own the Carenado KingAir B200, you can simply convert it over to the new setup by just changing around couple of items in Planemaker. Mr Daniel Klaue notes on how to do this here.

 

Car_B200_King_Air_Head 1.jpg  Car_B200_GNS430 1.jpg

 

Very impressive the new GNS units certainly are and light years away from the old standard versions. But they are not simple to use as they are nothing like the old versions. You will learn it in time like anything else new that is thrown at you. But the menu system is highly complex to something or anything at all in that just a few buttons and the right lower right knob does almost every adjustment you will usually need to do (the lower left knob is for the radio/nav frequencies and is pretty well straight forward).

 

First off is that the unit pops out very easily (by pressing the centre of the GNS unit, press again to close). here we have a single and the double units popped out from the panel.

 

Car_B200_GNS430 popout 1.jpg  Car_B200_GNS430 popout 2.jpg

 

Again like the standard unit the top one is for Comm1/VOR1 and the lower unit is for Comm2/VOR2.

 

I can't see being new to the unit how you could fly and twiddle around with these complex menus. I suppose in time they would have an easier pattern of operation and automatic application of use. It does certainly help to program and complete the routes on the ground before flight.

 

Menus GNS430

This is a brief layout on how the menus work, No real detail here as that is for another time.

 

First there is the main Menu selection in - FPL (FlightPlan) - NAV (Navigation) - NRST (Nearest) - WPT (Waypoint)

 

GNS Start.jpg  GNS Main select Nav Main Menu.jpg

 

GNS Main select NRST 3.jpg  GNS Main select Way.jpg

 

To move between these main Menu selections you use the larger (outside) scroll manipulator. Then each selection has its own selection (or page) that is changed by the inner scroll manipulator.

 

FPL

The flightplan (FPL) has two active pages.

 

GNS FLPL 7.jpg  GNS FLPL 8.jpg

 

The first page will allow you to create a route and the second allows you to "LOAD" a default X-Plane .fms flightplan. You can save a created flightplane to the X-Plane FMS Folder as well.

 

NAV

The navigation (NAV) pages (three) are mostly for the display of your route and your position..

 

GNS Main select Nav Menu 1.jpg  GNS Main select Nav Menu 2.jpg

 

GNS Main select Nav Menu 3.jpg

 

The first page is interesting because it shows your current flightplan waypoint in "From" to "To" and your position in distance and heading, It is very powerful in operation. Page 2 is your position on a moving map and final (3) page is your "Vertical Information" or altitude.

 

NRST

 

GNS Main select NRST Menu 1.jpg  GNS Main select NRST Menu 2.jpg

 

GNS Main select NRST Menu 3.jpg  GNS Main select NRST Menu 4.jpg

 

GNS Main select NRST Menu 5.jpg

 

The NRST (Nearest) pages of which there are five cover information of your closest Airports and NAV-AID choices. 1) Nearest Airport - 2) Nearest Intersection (airway) - 3) Nearest NDB (Nav-Aid) - 4) Nearest VOR (Nav-Aid) - 5) Nearest Airspace.

 

WPT

 

GNS Main select Way Menu 1.jpg  GNS Main select Way Menu 2.jpg

 

GNS Main select Way Menu 3.jpg  GNS Main select Way Menu 4.jpg

 

There are four waypoint (WPT) pages that give you information on the airport, waypoint or fix of that position. First page is the Airport information in position and Elev, second page is the "Runway information", third page is the Airport Radio Frequencies and finally on the fourth page is airports ILS runway information.

 

Direct Button

In creating a route is is always best to select an airport and use the "Direct" button to insert it into the first place of your flightplan. This operation has three uses in that, one to start a flightplan, but to also clear an old flightplan for a new one by inserting a new Airport to start from. The third use is if flying and then inserting a "Direct" position you will set the unit to fly you directly to that airport or Nav-Aid.

 

GNS Main Direct 2.jpg  GNS Main Direct 3.jpg

 

GNS Main Direct 4.jpg  GNS Main Direct 5 Menu.jpg

 

Pressing the "Direct" button will clear the screen and allow you to insert the "Direct" to waypoint or insert the first waypoint of your flightplan, you can of course still have the option to still clear the flightplan under the Menu button in "Delete Flightplan?" (you can save your Flightplan here also).

 

Flightplan

 

GNS Main Direct 6 NewWPT.jpg  GNS Main Direct 7 ECADE.jpg

 

GNS Main Direct 8 Next.jpg  GNS Main Direct 8 Final.jpg

 

To add in another waypoint then press the center of the right hand knob to highlight the waypoint and turn the outer larger (outside) scroll manipulator (knob) to go down a line and insert another waypoint, in this case "ECADE" and then you continue with all the waypoints you require until you have a complete flightplan. In this case I did a circuit of KLAL to KLAL. Your route should be on the map display of the aircraft.

 

In the air you can see how powerful the unit is...

 

GNS FLPL INAIR 1.jpg  GNS FLPL INAIR Nav 1.jpg

 

GNS FLPL INAIR 2.jpg  GNS FLPL INAIR 3.jpg

 

The flightplan notes your current position in the list of waypoints (arrow), and the NAV waypoint position is excellent. You can press the PROC (Procedure) button for options on various procedures in flight or landing, and finally the MSG (Messages) button can provide messages that help you during the flight. To activate the GNS430/530 unit you change the VLOCK to "GPS" under the CDI button.

 

You can easily get lost as the (right hand) knobs do more than one operation, and you can easily get confused. But I found that in time it became clearer in operation. Powerful the GARMIN GNS340/350 unit is, and a huge step forward for any X-Plane user for GA flying. Certainly if you are flying over a distance, this unit will open up navigation possibilities that were just not available til now.

 

Summary

I found beta10.30b2 very, very stable and far better than 10.25. Yes this is still a beta and there are a zillion bugs to sort out, but crashes are rare. As the beta version is so good this early in the piece, I am sure that Laminar will now roll out more of the 10.30 features sooner than later. This one smooth beta...  more to come as the beta is heading to final.

 

NOTE: Laminar Research have moved the beta release notes from the beta Wiki to a new "10.30 Release Notes" page. Go here for full bug and change notes.

 

Stephen Dutton

3rd June 2014

Copyright©2014 : X-Plane Reviews

 

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