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It’s been a very long time since I’ve flown anything smaller than the 737 for IFR flying, so stepping into the tiny flight deck of the Phenom 100 was a little bit of a shock. Suddenly everything feels cramped and close together, but surprisingly fresh and modern. I knew from the minute I switch on the engines of this bullet of a plane, that I would need to rethink how to fly. As soon as you step into the flight-deck, you will notice just how detailed and high resolution all of the textures are. Every switch and knob is well placed and well modelled, and the large LCD screens are crisp enough to see all of the details clearly. It’s certainly a step up of what other developers have done in recent years and certainly outdoes anything Carenado have done to date. As you explore every nook and cranny of this aircraft, you’ll realise just how much detail has gone into creating an immersive experience. Dust flickers off of the panels and various scratch marks can be seen embedded into the flight controls. Most aircraft these days are compared to the quality seen from the likes of PMDG, and in terms of sheer detail, clarity and modelling, the Carenado Phenom 100 definitely sits up there amongst the best. Further to the ‘office’ there’s also a fully modelled 3D cabin completely open and ready to explore. The seats, tray tables and window blinds are all designed beautifully and don’t look out of place at all. A great example of this is the fact the wings, and engines are all there just as if you looked out of the actual aircraft window. It’s an immersive experience. Emergency and safety signs are in incredibly high resolution, and again, dust / wear and tear can be seen from the texturing and modelling work. It certainly makes a change to be able to sit back and relax during the cruise from the comfort of your virtual leather seat. Apart from the window blinds, nothing else within the cabin is interactive, which although isn’t a deal-breaker, it would just add some extra value to the product. Moving away from the inside, the exterior of the aircraft just looks stunning. It’s obvious that Carenado have put a great deal of work into ensuring that every aspect of this beautiful aircraft looks like its real-life counter-part. The engine’s metallic cone reflects its surroundings, the 3D interior and silky smooth control service animations really bring this aircraft into life. The screenshots really don’t do this aircraft justice from a visual standpoint, as you don’t have the chance to pan around and zoom all the way in to see just how much detail has been added. After you’ve done admiring the beauty of the Phenom, it’s time to start doing some flying. And this is where things go just a bit wrong. Upon first glance, it would seem that Carenado’s Phenom 100 would be a case of set some flaps, set thrust to max and start inputting some simple autopilot commands. However, this isn’t quite the case, as it’s a little more complex. Whilst this may seem like a strange criticism, it’s the lack of tutorial or carefully written documentation that gives this aircraft such a large learning curve. Carenado have written a “Normal Procedures” document, but it’s in the form of a check list, without any screenshots, which for first time flyers is very daunting. Even I had troubles getting from the ground to cruising altitude. As you do start to learn the habbits and controls of this airframe, Carendo have done a great job at giving extra support to combat the awkward nature of the aircraft’s flight-deck design. Most buttons, dials and knobs are “doubled-up”, meaning from a virtual standpoint, they’re difficult to press and use. Luckily, Carenado have developed a system whereby, when you highlight a particular type of input, it will highlight green to show you exactly which dial you’re about to use. Not realistic, but very, very helpful and quite an innovative and unobtrusive way of providing a solution. In terms of system depth, it’s a mixed bag to say the least, and in my opinion, it appears to be more ‘eye-candy’ than actually simulated. The three LCD screens in the flight-deck have multiple functions. First and foremost, they act the same as traditional airliners. They contain the Navigation Display and the Primary Flight Display, but due to the lack of space within the flight deck, all secondary systems are now viewable directly on these screens. As such, these are called the Multi-Function Displays )MFD). It’s all very modern and takes a little getting used to. For example, the baro setting is adjusted through the screens, as well as setting the comms frequency and squawk codes. All flight plans, check-lists, system checking and so on all take place through the MFD. However, controlling it is very complicated and requires some guess work. Some buttons function as expected, whilst others seem to act against what logic would dictate. The manual doesn’t make things any easier by using a complex list of actions for each stage of the process. As I’ve already said, the majority of this is primarily eye-candy features that don’t surmount to anything other than a ‘fun’ interaction for the virtual pilot. For example, the checklist is certainly not as complex or as complete as other aircraft on the market. It’s simply a list of items to be followed and you need to check them off once you’ve met the criteria. Furthermore, system settings, pressurisation and so forth are again not simulated but there for a visual effect. Whilst this may come across as negative, for a $40 product, there seems to be a lot of detail. Flying the Phenom 100 is another high challenge curve. It’s very delicate in every movement you do, which seem a little off. Although I’m no pilot and have never flown in the type before, it feels too much like flying a light aircraft (which I have done). Furthermore, taxing requires an n1 power of nearly 70%! It feels really sluggish during taxi, but during the take-off roll, it skids and slides like it’s on ice. Despite a service maximum level of 41,000ft, I always find it struggles to even climb nicely to 36,000, even on very light loads, which makes me wonder if the flight dynamics have under powered this aircraft considerably. Although all-in-all, it’s a very stable aircraft, there are quite a few noticeable bugs that prevent the Phenom from reaching its full potential. Auto-throttle issues, rudder problems and problems with the MFDs when selecting flight plan information. One of my biggest gripes with the aircraft though is the unstable performance. For no reason at all, the aircraft sends my frame rates down the tube causing horrible and random spiking. Although this may seem like a configuration or computer problem, I can assure you it’s not – multiple users have had similar experiences. It’s also quite hard on performance. Despite many other developers able to create diverse and deeply-integrated systems through the FSX model, Carenado haven’t yet managed to achieve the same level of fluidity. The Phenom 100 certainly lacks a lot of polish and care other developers have given their aircraft, which is why it falls short of becoming a must have aircraft for me. It’s an interesting aircraft to pilot, but the performance issues, lack of real system depth and unrealistic flight dynamics make the Phenom a hard sell. However, the beautiful exterior and interior modelling means it’s a great aircraft for those that love those eye-candy shots. Purchase the Carenado E50P Phenom 100 HD Series Here My Specs: Processor - 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-3770K Ivy Bridge (OVERCLOCKED TO 4.8GHz) RAM - 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 2133 (PC3 12800) GPU - GeForce GTX 780 FTW 3GB GDDR5 Mother Board - ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard Hard Drives - 2 x 128gb OCZ SSD + 2 x 1tb 7200RPM HDD Operating System - Windows 7 (64-bit) Add-ons Used In Screenshots: Scenery - ORBX Gustavus Airport (PAGS) Aircraft - Carenado E50P Phenom 100 HD Series Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global