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When SimWings / Aerosoft announced that they were hard at work at creating a brand new Heathrow, it was met with a massive “well what is the point” from the community. Not only was UK Airport Developer Gary from UK2000 scenery hard at work at creating a brand new version of Heathrow, but it was very close from being released. However, the community suddenly perked some interest when the first screenshots were shown. Suddenly, things were heating up, and with anticipated release dates for both sceneries within spitting distance of one another, it gave consumers a massive headache – which would be the better of the two. Just as people were getting their heads around it, SimWings delayed theirs and Gary released his. At the time, it was obvious: if you wanted the most up-to-date and frame friendly Heathrow on the market, Gary’s was the way to go. However, the choice is now much more difficult as we have two excellent products on the market (let alone the numerous versions of the exciting airport from before!) As a result of this direct competition and the angst amongst you all to find out which product you should spend your money, I have divided this review into several sections allowing you to read what you want to read which will help you decide. The sections will be as follows: THOSE WHO HAVE UK2000’S HEATHROW V3 AND ARE NOT SURE WHETHER TO UPGRADE THOSE WHO HAVE NEITHER AND UNSURE WHICH TO PURCHASE THOSE WHO HAVE CONCERNS OVER PERFORMANCE AND VAS USAGE CONCLUSION All sections will cover and answer the questions that most have about SimWing’s Heathrow and how it stacks to the competition. My specs are at the bottom of the page and all my settings are pretty standard. All screenshots were taken in ‘normal’ conditions for me, so no bullshot to mislead you. I RECOMMEND READING THE WHOLE REVIEW FOR A GOOD OVERALL REVIEW ON THE PRODUCT. Let’s start: THOSE WHO HAVE UK2000’S HEATHROW V3 AND ARE NOT SURE WHETHER TO UPGRADE So you have UK2000’s Heathrow V3 - a fantastic product in its own right. It’s detailed, accurate and the most up-to-date Heathrow on the market. Not only that, but Gary is a solo developer that relies on repeat business and has always gone from strength to strength. I really enjoyed Gary’s edition of Heathrow. It was surprisingly easy on the frame rates and the VAS usage was controllable. But how does it compare to Aerosoft’s / SimWing’s Heathrow Xtended? As you can see from the screenshots, Aerosoft’s Heathrow looks stunning. It is immediately noticeable as to how different it looks compared to UK2000’s Heathrow. Everything from texture work and objects are completely different. In my opinion, the texture work from SimWing’s out does Gary’s work and then some. The texturing is much more detailed and colour accurate. Something I didn’t like so much with UK2000’s Heathrow was the ‘yellow-ish’ tint that seemed to cover the airport. Taxiways and runways all looked a bit off-colour. However, SimWings have done an excellent job at creating a much more realistic and believable colour pallet. The grass verges, the runways and taxiiways all look incredible and are streaming with detail. There’s clear definition between every single object and light within the airport. I love the way that there’s clear contrast between terminal buildings and the more generic buildings of the airport. As a result, you feel like you’re actually taxing through Heathrow’s huge apron, passing distinctive and recognisable buildings. As you explore, you will notice even the finer details that make this the most up-to-date Heathrow currently on the market. For example, the Virgin Atlantic hanger is now equipped with its current logo, something already outdated in UK2000’s Heathrow. Sure it’s a small thing, but if you’re after accuracy in building placement and design, Aerosoft’s Heathrow is for you. Further to the defined texture work and new buildings, the night lighting compared to UK2000’s Heathrow is vastly better. Every single taxiway is lit up now, and the apron really comes to life with yellow tints spread throughout the airport. Compare that to the dimly lit and lacking night lighting of UK2000’s version, you will see an immediate difference. Quite simple, Aerosoft / SimWings have NAILED the night lighting and approaching the airport during dawn/dusk is simply stunning. When you install UK2000’s Heathrow, you’re given many options to help increase performance. The screenshots you see in this section have my settings on the low-amount setting offered by UK2000. Why? Simply because I wasn’t achieving an acceptable frame rate. As soon as I turn it up to High or even EXTREME then my frames sunk drastically into the low-teens. Unlike UK2000’s version, Heathrow Xtended has no options (besides the ability to turn off AES Lite around the airport) for increased performance. However, I achieve similar frame rates as I do with the current LOW setting of Gary’s Heathrow. So I am able to achieve what essentially what EXTREME would like, but with solid and acceptable frames. This alone is reason to buy it over UK2000’s Heathrow. So should you buy Aerosoft’s / SimWing’s Heathrow despite owning UK2000’s? YES --- THOSE WHO HAVE NEITHER AND UNSURE WHICH TO PURCHASE So you’re fed up of default Heathrow and are unsure which Heathrow to buy. Sure, that’s fair enough with so many different Heathrow add-ons out there to buy. SimWing’s Heathrow Xtended is not the cheapest option out there. UK2000’s undercuts Aerosoft’s by just a bit, but in this money saving culture we live in, is it justifiable to spend extra for an increase in quality? If you’ve read the section above, you will know that I had a lot of praise to say about the increase in quality between the two products. There are a lot more objects, a lot more detail in the textures and the airport is much more up-to-date in terms of structure changes and signage. If this is important to you, then I recommend you spend the extra money on Aerosoft’s Heathrow Xtended. It’s easy to think that newer is always better, because for some people it may not be the case. If you wish to use things such as the airbridges (which Heathrow has a lot of), then you need to be prepared to buy AES from Aerosoft as well to enable them (also bearing in mind it’s not out yet). Yet, with UK2000’s, airbridges work by default and stick to your aircraft wonderfully. Furthermore, as far as I’m aware, the texture work of Aerosoft’s Heathrow have been designed with ORBX’s FTX Global in mind. I’m lucky enough to be in possession of both products and have it merge in wonderfully with Global and FTX England. However, UK2000’s doesn’t merge as nicely, it does however, merge nicer with default FSX. So again, if you wish to have all the perks and benefits of SimWing’s Heathrow, then you’re going to need to spend extra money. Suddenly spending a few extra pounds/euros/dollars has resulted in your spending more and more. Of course, if you own ORBX FTX Global / England and are prepared to use a few AES credits, then you’ll have no problems. That’s not to say however, that you MUST buy all the extras for the scenery, as it still looks wonderful without it and functions as intended. So should you buy SimWing’s Heathrow over the competition? YES – as it offers the best value for money in terms of performance and high quality visuals. -- THOSE WHO HAVE CONCERNS OVER PERFORMANCE AND VAS USAGE Every time a new Heathrow is released, one of the most requested features if a high frame rate and a much more managed VAS usage. In the day and age of extensive add-ons, high resolution textures this is a reoccurring problem for developers and consumers alike. We all crave the most realistic experience possible, but with that, we must take some sacrifices and the same has to be said here, with SimWing’s Heathrow. Much attention was given to the amount of VAS and how the scenery performs on people’s systems. There isn’t much to ‘review’ on VAS usage other than I can tell you that it only uses roughly 500mb of memory. This is nothing compared to the number of parking stands and sheer amount of detail the airport covers. Not only that, but being near London also makes it prone to an increase in VAS usage. 500mb is a completely acceptable amount, and I’ve not experienced a single OOM with the scenery as a result (I am using DX10). As always, disable any unused scenery (it takes like 2 minutes) and be conscious of the number of AI you’re using, the resolution of your textures and other OOM-causing scenarios. It’s all about compromise. In terms of performance, this is single handily the most FPS friendly Heathrow for Flight Simulation (aside default…) Ground texturing and modelling is top class, however there have been some shortcomings, which I imagine is an attempt to reduce the impact on performance. For example, taxiway signs (and there are a lot of them), aren’t quite the same high quality you’re used to seeing. Also, despite the large amount of coverage, there is a distinct lack of draw distance on the satellite imagery used. Another compromise that you’ll have to deal with is the slow-loading textures of most of the buildings. Despite loading correctly and accurately, when you start to pan your view around, you will notice that buildings are textured jet-black, until eventually they load up again. If you pan around again, wait a few minutes and look back, you’ll have to go through the same process. I imagine this is totally intentional from the developers to help keep performance as high as possible. After all, if you’re in the Flight Deck, you can’t see what’s behind you so why have it niggling away in the memory. A clever developer trick, but may affect the immersion for some. So is Performance and VAS usage a cause of concern? No! -- CONCLUSION As you can see, even when splitting down the review, the conclusion is always the same. Without a doubt, this is the BEST version of Heathrow currently on the market. Everything from the accurately placed buildings, the updated models for the new terminals and structures and the impressive texturing and performance for the airport. Heathrow is an exciting airport and will always be relevant in aviation. With so much to see and do, it’ll make for a perfect hub for so many people. Aerosoft have done an excellent job at creating a well-balanced and fantastic looking scenery. It’s fairly priced and blends in well with other popular add-ons. Despite some issues with texture loading and a lack of snowy textures during winter, there’s very little stopping me from saying this is a near perfect example of how a large scale airport should be done. 5/5 | Developer: SimWings | Publisher: Aerosoft | Price: 27.95EUR PURCHASE AEROSOFT'S MEGA AIRPORT HEATHROW XTENDED AIRPORT HERE Heathrow is and always will be a tough airport to develop for Flight Simulator. Its location and size presents headaches for pilots and developers alike, but luckily, SimWings have created a well balanced and well performing scenery package. Whether you’re new to payware for Heathrow or upgrading from alterative products, this is the defining Heathrow for Flight Simulation currently available. + Very frame and VAS friendly package. + Wonderful modelling compares to the real thing. - Occasionally slow-Loading textures when panning views. - Pricier than alternative Heathrow packages.
London Heathrow Airport. One of the busiest, largest and most diverse airports on the planet. Being one of the most central hubs in Europe, it’s sprawling and ever expanding terminus is forever changing the face of the airport. Now on his third irritation of London Heathrow, Gary from UK2000 Scenery not only updates the package to reflect its real life counterpart, he also brings the modelling and texturing into the current era of Flight Simulation. Heathrow has always had a special place in my heart. I often drive by, marvelling at the sight of hundreds of departures and arrivals on its two long runways. Operating at nearly full capacity, you can always expect to see a departure or arrival into the airport every couple of minutes – regardless of time of day. It’s a sight to be seen and it’s a wonder how pilots, ground agents and air traffic control can keep up with the hustle and bustle of the airport. It’s a concrete jungle. Taxiways twist and turn everywhere, the aprons are far and wide and there are terminal buildings, aircraft hangers and office blocks as far as the eye can see. It certainly takes a skilled navigator to work their way around the maze that is Heathrow airport. With flights spreading all corners of the globe, a Simmer can take off from Heathrow with a huge range of airlines and end up anywhere in the world. It is this diversity and range that has inspired many to give developing Heathrow a shot. Hot off the heels of an announcement from Aerosoft that they would be reproducing Heathrow, UK2000 Scenery announced that they would be updating their Heathrow airport up to V3. Version 3 of their other airports have been a vast improvement of their older counterparts. Version 3 saw Gary use new rendering techniques, different and effective ways of texturing and also improving his modelling work. It’s little wonder that after the success of other ‘version 3’ projects such as Gatwick and Bristol, that we would be excited for this new version. Despite Aerosoft showing their hand first, Gary managed to outpace them and release his new baby first. Gary’s work is always distinguishable from that of any other developer in the Flight Sim world. The clear textures, the detailed models and efficient rendering all make a return in Heathrow V3. As with all UK Scenery airports, you’ll immediately notice the effort that has gone into creating a realistic portrayal of the airport. Buildings are accurately placed and all the aircraft stands and hangers have been faithfully reproduced. Each taxiway, runway and aircraft apron have been included to give you the most realistic representation of Heathrow yet. The sheer scale and size of the airport can mean aircraft taxis of up to 20 minutes. Although it may sound like every simmers nightmare, the beauty and diversity of the airport ensure it feels like a want as opposed to a need. Seeing the custom air-side traffic populate the airport and various weather radars do their magic, whilst taxing between buildings is something you’ll only ever experience at Heathrow. Approaching from the East gives you wonderful views of London and the specific SID and STAR procedures mean each arrival and departure will always be difference. Just be aware of what time you chose to land into Heathrow as during peak times, you may find yourself in the hold for up to 45 minutes (and I’ve done it in real life!) Satellite imagery is used effectively in combination with custom created ground textures and hand-placed auto-gen. I did notice, however, that the occasional default auto-gen snuck into places within the airport where it’s not supposed to be. It’s certainly not enough to off-put me from the scenery. Things such as the approach lights, the PAPI lights and pylons surrounding the airport are all rendered in wonderful 3D and really add to the immersion of the airport. I’ve flown into Heathrow with some of the most beautiful dusk approaches I have ever had. Despite Gary’s best attempt to make sure the airport is as frame-friendly as possible, Heathrow is and always will be a tough dragon to slain in the world of Flight Simulation. Not only is it located in the heart of London itself, but it has an incredibly high number of buildings within the airport vicinity. Add this to the number of taxiways, airport markings, airport equipment and the sheer volume of air-bridges, and Heathrow has become very polygon hungry. Even with my moderately powerful set-up and enhanced configuration, FSX struggles to maintain that sweet 30fps I can manage at most other locations within the sim. I tried to add some AI traffic to enhance my experience further, but this just bought the sim down to its knees. Whilst I can’t blame Gary for this short-coming, I can compare the difference between his previous version and version 3. Design techniques have certainly come a long way since his first attempt at Heathrow airport. The texturing and level of detail is greatly improved over version 2. There appears to be better satellite ground imagery and a massive improvement on how the buildings look. Whilst I am most certainly in favour of these advances, the performance bears not better or worse. Whilst some may argue that improved visuals and not a change in performance is something to praise, if you look at newer version of other airports, it begs the question if Gary’s techniques are becoming a little dated. Look at Mega Airport Oslo. Version 2 was much more detailed and sophisticated and yet performed exceptionally better than its previous incarnation. It goes to prove that it can be done. Continuing with comparisons to other developers who have improved their original designs - and I may be in the minority here - but I feel Gary’s artistic flare is beginning to pale in comparison to the competition. Whilst his work is clear, concise and looks good in the sim, the pallet of colouring is dull and unrealistic to the real world. The aircraft stands look yellow, buildings share similar shades of grey and the grass and taxiways seem to merge into one. It’s difficult to say as we all know Gary is a very talented guy, but standards from other single devs is ever increasing and it’s beginning to look like Gary is in a little bit of a lull. Even with all this in mind, nothing quite compares to his use of night lighting. Each terminal building has excellent custom lighting attached, taxiways light up organically and the aprons have just enough lighting to be both anaesthetically pleasing, but also true to life. It’s something most other developers trouble finding the balance with, but as per usual, Gary has hit the sweet spot. However, despite my somewhat harsh criticisms, Gary has done an exceptional job. He’s managed to design and develop a wonderful, energetic and firm representation of a busy UK airport, all whilst achieving a sharper and cleaner presentation over his past work on the airport. London Heathrow was and never will be easy to recreate, however, overall Gary has done a wonderful job. If you’re upgrading from his previous version, the cost to upgrade is so minimal for the extra treats you’ll be given. If, though, you’re on the fence, I would advise to put yourself in the holding pattern until Aerosoft releases theirs as it could just improve at Gary’s shortcomings. PURCHASE UK2000 SCENERY LONDON HEATHROW (EGLL) V3 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 - UK2000 Scenery London Heathrow Airport (EGLL) V3 Aircraft - PMDG 777-200LR/F Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global