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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.
I must admit, Lisbon has always been on my bucket list of places to visit. Both in the Flight Sim world and also in real life. The history of the city, the environment and the country have always been both exciting and thrilling for me. Completely unsure why, but the excitement I had when Aerosoft announced they would be revisiting Lisbon to bring it up-to-date and to current Flight Sim standards, was incredible. I would follow the previews religiously, always seeking the latest updates and trying to poach for a release date. Finally the day came and I downloaded without hesitation. The capital of Portugal is famous for its vibrant city and busy nightlife. It’s also a popular holiday destination, as well as a place where an increasing number of people travel to for business. As such, it has been hailed as one of the best equipped airports in Western Europe and has won many awards for it. In 2013, over 16 million people walked through the several terminal buildings of Lisbon. Airlines from all over the world fly to and from Lisbon, including TAP Portugal, Air France and Ryanair. Its diverse range of airlines makes it a gateway to many destinations. Installation was easy, and once installed, I immediately read through the nicely detailed manual. As expected, everything I needed to know was covered within the 20 or so pages. I set up my Flight Sim to the specified settings and adjusted my settings using the configuration tools included. Despite not being nearly as ‘configurable’ as other Aerosoft airports, there are enough options to satisfy the needs of the many and not of the few. One such option was to adjust the resolution of the textures. You have the choice of either 1024 or 2048. For the purposes of performance, I tested with both and was unable to spot significant differences. However, in today’s modern FSX world, I sacrificed pixels for performance and kept the lower resolution running. Filled with excitement, I loaded up the Airbus and decided to do a short hop from Faro to Lisbon. After take off, I prepared the approach and the landing. Everything was shaping up nicely: the weather was perfect, the nav data matched the charts and I had full Vatsim ATC coverage. Despite some issues on my end setting up the ILS (Whoops), everything was smooth and looked incredible. However, this is where the problems for me started. Turning onto final approach, I noticed my system began to struggle under the load. Was it the newly installed (at the time) FTX OpenLC package? Was it the fact I was online? Did I encounter a bug with the Airbus? Soon after, it was apparent that the newly installed V2 of Lisbon was causing me strange and sever micro-stutters. Enough so that I had to close FSX and start again. Not one to think Aerosoft released a product with these kinds of issues, I was taken back. Did the same flight….same thing again. Turning down all of the settings I could, I soon discovered that having the Mesh and Autogen setting turned up past 19m and Sparse, I suffered really, really bad spikes in my frame rates. This explains why this review has taken so long to come out. I explained my problems to Aerosoft and assured me nothing like this was seen in testing. As such, I performed a clean install of FSX, deleted all cached and temp files and ran a registry cleaning tool. I even dismantled my PC, ensured all my parts were good, and reinstalled all necessary drivers. Despite all my best efforts, I still had the same issues. I tested the product with every possible configuration I could think of. Ultimately, I figured that the scenery was causing these issues, as even the default airport with high mesh and autogen was causing me no issues. My suspicions were confirmed for me by a few LiveStreamers on Twitch. They had the exact same problem as me with similar spec’d computers. Since then, I’ve been waiting for Aerosoft to patch Lisbon, but sadly, nothing appears to be in the works. So why have I focused the first half on these micro-stutter problems? Well, quite simply, because everything else about the airport is nigh-on perfect. The initial impressions on the texture work left me in amazement. This is truly on-par with the best of the best in terms of detail. I could almost feel the aircraft shaking as it taxied over each bump, stone and piece of dirt. The weathered effect on the older sections of the airport are mesmerising and the cleanliness on the newer parts just demonstrates the attention to detail the developer has put into the project. As you approach the terminal and hanger buildings, you’ll again recognise the quality of the project. Everything from air vents to screws has been complete to ensure maximum realism. I was completely blown away by the detail – and you will be too. Despite my high praise for the texture work and modelling, Flight Simulation scenery has certainly come on leaps and bounds in recent times. Things such as volumetric grass, 3D passenger terminal interiors and even 3D people have been implemented in large international airports. Sadly, none of these features appear with Lisbon. Disappointing? Sure. Does it affect the overall quality of the product? Not at all. There was a lot of complaints during development that the lack of surrounding city would put them off from purchasing the airport. However, I can assure you, that despite this, the satellite imagery has been put to excellent use and provides an immersive approach, regardless of runway in use. You’ll recognise the red-roofed buildings, the swimming pools and surrounding tennis courts you should be so familiar with. I did, however, note some issues with it. Some of the mentioned tennis courts are hills and the terrain clearly wasn’t designed around the imagery. In such a competitive market, I believe being nitpicky is what is expected of me as a reviewer. Although I will miss some of the hand-placed buildings from V1, the extra detail in the airport itself is far more important to me. I’m in a tough situation. Aerosoft have done, as expected, an outstanding job on recreating an older product. It’s been updated to reflect the current Lisbon Airport as we know it and it simply looks stunning. However, those awful micro-stutters really hurt the overall enjoyment of the product. The frame rate is incredibly good for such a detailed airport, but something within the code seems to keep loading really badly. If you’re able to look past some small issues, Lisbon is an essential part of your collection. It is a fantastic location and hosts a great number of different airlines, giving you many reasons to re-visit this wonderful airport. 3/5 | Publisher: Aerosoft | Developer: Aerosoft | Price: 24.95EUR Yet another excellent airport from Aerosoft. Its fantastic texturing, modelling and building placement are all top quality and of a high standard. Despite all of the wonderful features of the airport, the micro-stutters drop the quality of the overall product. Maybe in the future we will see an update, and I still believe Mega Airport Lisbon V2 is worthy of a purchase. + Wonderful texture work - crystal clear, yet just enough weathering. + The night textures are some of the best I have ever seen. - Micro-stutters with Autogen and high mesh settings - Some odd placement of satellite imagery. 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 – Aerosoft Mega Airport Lisbon V2 (LPPT) Aircraft – Aerosoft’s Airbus A320 Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global, FTX Vector, ORBX's FTX Global openLC Europe.
Although being released on Saint Patrick’s day may have been sheer luck or done on purpose, many Flight Sim fans rejoiced at the fact Aerosoft’s long overdue Mega Airport Dublin was finally available to purchase. Whilst many of you jumped the bandwagon and downloaded and installed immediately, some of you have yet to plump down the cash. If you’re unsure, grab a Guiness, chill out and gouge over this mega review for this Mega Airport. The history of Dublin’s airport is pretty exciting. Opening in 1941, it is currently Ireland’s largest airport. 19.1 million people travelled through their doors in 2012, which was helped primarily from Irish carries Air Lingus and Ryanair. What makes the history of the airport so rich is the consistent conflict of these two giant airlines. Both have had contestant struggles in becoming the dominating force of the airport. Through sneaky tactics, creating strong advertising campaigns and taking matters into their own hands, Ryanair have tried and tried again to drive Air Lingus out of the airport. Although still bitter rivals, they both have a solid market share in Dublin – albeit using separate terminal buildings. Dublin is also home to one of two US boarder preclearance services. This has meant a lot of US traffic flies to and from the airport. Couple this with carriers from Asia and Europe frequently visiting the airport, Dublin is certainly a popular and diverse airport for real life and sim pilots alike. With AI traffic on, or even flying online, Dublin airport is full of life with aircraft from all over the Globe. Dublin has been sought after by Simmers for years. Aerosoft announced a little while ago one of its internal development teams would be crafting this international airport. Their forums were full of keen simmers eager to get their hands on their home airport. Due to troubles getting Satellite imagery, the project took a lot longer than most had hoped. However, the team have managed to create an airport that hits all the right notes. Let’s delve deeper. Before you even install the scenery, you have the option to install one of two texture packs. One that is hi-resolution (2048px) and one that is of a lower (NOT LOW) resolution (1024px). Although I have the graphical power to harness the hi-res textures, after sufficient testing, I found the lower resolution textures to not only provide much better performance, but also look equally as good. For the screenshots below, they are taken with a variety of resolutions and you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. This goes to show how creative art work and direction can take precedence over pure power. If you’re feeling brave, you can adjust to the higher resolution textures anytime you wish. However, it does involve copying and pasting files, as opposed to a small little installer. It’s functional, but does take away some of the professionalism and ease you would expect from Aerosoft. Once you have loaded the airport, you’ll instantly recognise that this is certainly a far cry from any other rendition of Dublin the world of Flight Sim has seen before. Grass is highly detailed. The runway has skid marks, gravel and cracks to show it’s age. The taxiway signs are accurate and clear. This is Mega Airport Dublin. Nothing feels out of place. The colour depth is what you would expect from a high quality add-on. The grass is nice and green and the ground markings are worn and faded just as you would expect from a busy international airport. Volumetric grass follows you as you taxi from runway to stand and you’ll be forever amazing yourself at the smaller details the team have put into the airport. As you find yourself just exploring the airport, you’ll notice at just how amazing the modelling work is. This is the most impressive model I have seen in a Flight Simulator airport. The old and new terminal buildings are brimming with detail. Every grill and air vent is detailed; the support beams are all there; and windows are placed as per their real-life counter parts. It’s evident the time spent waiting for satellite imagery was well spent creating these mesmerising buildings. Of course, the team didn’t stop at just a few terminal buildings. Air bridges, office blocks, hotels, fire stations and more are all rendered fantastically. Not a polygon was spared in ensuring that Dublin looks as realistic as possible. I spent hours needlessly driving around the perimeter, exploring every nook and cranny to see everything these guys had created. The level of detail in each is unbelievable. One of my favorite moments with using Dublin was approaching on runway 28 during a clear day to see the new terminal building out to my left. It was full of Air Lingus aircraft waiting to depart. I watched a couple of videos of the same approach on Youtube shortly after and was shocked to see just how true to life it’s represented here. Whilst the review, up to now, has been more than positive, there are a few areas of concern. Whilst taxiways, runways and ground markings have been textured wonderfully, it’s sad to see that not as much attention to detail has been put into the majority of the airport buildings. Whilst they’re all superbly modelled, looking at them it like looking into a time machine taking me back to texturing we were seeing in 2010. It’s not bad per se, but after seeing the staggering detail from developers such as Taxi2Gate and FlightBeam (considerably smaller teams than Aerosoft’s internal teams, I would imagine), it’s disappointing that the same couldn’t be reproduced here. This may have been to save on performance and VAS usage, but it begs the question why other developers can manage to do it with huge success. It’s also a shame that Mega Airport Dublin isn’t quite as feature packed as more recent releases from the same brand. Mega Airport Oslo 2.o came with a great NOTAM feature, lots of seasonal textures and also the ability to see through the terminal building. Whilst I appreciate some features are unique to specific projects, seasonal textures are deemed as a must by Flight Sim enthusiasts in 2014. It’s also a shame that some great features were missed out this time. It’s obviously of some interest in terms of how Mega Airport Dublin performs. It clearly depends on the specs of your system and what you’re going to throw at Flight Sim, but overall, the experience is good. It’s heavier in frames than smaller regional airports, but for the size, complexity and the detail, it’s considerably surprising. However, again, I can’t help but compare it to that of other developer’s work. There are some huge airports, all incredibly high in detail, yet their performance is never an issue. Perhaps this is the amount of satellite data used, or the number of rendered buildings, but either way, it still doesn’t fit in with other releases we’ve had this year. Don’t let these negative points throw you off. They’re a few, small, nit-picked issues. It doesn’t compare to all the positive and well thought-out design ideas the team have come up with. If anything, it’s the little touches that really sets Dublin apart from the rest. Cars, trucks and buses all drive around the airport and vicinity. All avoiding each other intelligently, and even indicating (visually) in the direction they will be turning into. Static objects near the runways, fire station and car parks, again, really make the airport come alive. You can spend hours just exploring to see everything Dublin has to offer. Of course, no airport would be complete without an impressive set of night textures. And does Dublin deliver. The apron, runways, terminal buildings and even the surrounding areas are all impressively lit up. Under the right conditions within the sim, it looks almost real. Just look at some of the screenshots in this review. Some of the most impressive night-lighting work I’ve seen. Fans have waited an age for Dublin to come along. It certainly was a reason to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day! It’s hard not to recommend Dublin, especially with all the attention to detail put into the airport. However, the approach and airport doesn’t create much of a challenge to those that have no reason to want to visit Dublin. It’s a solid release and a great addition to the Mega Airport brand – albeit with a few missing touches. So raise a glass, and let’s toast to another successful release from Aerosoft. Happy landings (unless you’re still tipsy from yesterday!) PURCHASE THE PRODUCT AT AEROSOFT 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 - Aerosoft Mega Airport Dublin (EIDW) Aircraft - PMDG 737-800NGX Utilities - REX4 Textures, Active Sky Next, SteveFX DX10 Fixer (Also tested with DX9), FTX Global