Update 12nov12: I wrote this post shortly after the initial release of X-Plane. I didn’t have the best experience with the initial beta products. However, almost a year has gone by and X-Plane 10 has evolved into a mainstream offering. I am working on an update to this post and encourage everyone reading this to take these comments with a grain of salt. If you just downloaded/installed X-Plane 10, grab the updated installer from the website and run the update as there are a lot fixes available. Cheers!
–begin original post–
Let me start by saying that my experience with X-Plane 10 was one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had with a piece of software in my entire life.
Customer Experience Failure
I’ll skip the blow by blow, but the simple task of downloading X-Plane 10 web demo was a Thanksgiving nightmare, followed by the inability to even start the program, and finishing with such low frame rates, that I thought my monitor was showing me an old 8mm film. Then came a number of web updates and the requirement to download an installer from the website to install the DVDs.
The overall experience was a far cry from a smooth roll out of a new product. Clearly Laminar Research was not prepared for the release of software that still needed more testing and fixes prior to release.
X-Plane Eye Candy
With the full version of X-Plane 10 installed and about 20 hours dickering around with the rendering options, I have finally reached a point of content with X-Plane 10. So, I thought I would post some screenshots of my initial testing.
The settings for my ’08 iMac
The trick to getting decent frame rates from X-Plane 10 is to turn EVERYTHING off and then start turning options back on and up. It is a frustrating and lloooonnnngggg task. Austin should design a little program that can set rendering options based on computer settings. But then again, Austin is not that cool.
Challenger 300 at Sunset over Puget Sound
But after spending a lloooonnnngggg and frustrating time dickering with the rendering options, I was able to install one of my favorite X-Plane aircraft, the Challenger 300 by Ddenn Design, and fly from KPAE to KSEA and experience a few of the new X-Plane features.
The Stinson L5S, a very close cousin to the Piper Cub in FSX
I also realized that Laminar Research has clearly marketed X-Plane 10 as a direct alternative to FSX or Flight. Included in the web demo are the Baron, a King Air C90B, and the Stinson L5S. Similar aircraft in my default FSX hanger. I was sad to see the Piper Malibu missing.
My initial thoughts on X-Plane 10 are mixed. While it represents a revolutionary step forward in simulation software, the customer experience of downloading the demo, installing it, and configuring it is down right atrocious. As an customer advocate, Laminar Research might have an awesome product, but the experience to use it is the pits.
To Buy or Not To Buy?
Is X-Plane 10 a “do not buy” product, as I stated in my tweet? At this time, I will say that if you are willing to invest countless frustrating hours getting it configured and you own a powerful computer, buy it!
If you are an FSX user, I recommend waiting for Microsoft Flight, which will offer a far superior customer experience and better support. Since Microsoft has killed off Flight (rightfully so), the best alternative to X-Plane 10 is Prepar3D, despite its steep price tag.
For me, I paid $80 for this thing, so it will sit on my computer along side X-Plane 9.7, taunting me to mortgage my house so I can buy a super computer to properly run it. Until then, X-Plane 9.7 wins.