When talking about popular flight simulators, there are most likely two main ringleaders that come to mind; Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-plane 11. These, of course, are not the only flight simulators on the market, but they are undoubtedly the most popular and widely used on the market. Both programs have their ups and downs, and if you’re in a bit of a pickle trying to decide which one to go with, the following post should aid you in your decision. In 3 categories I will pinpoint the pros and cons of each program and which one is be the best option for you.
Microsoft Flight Simulator:
In recent months Microsoft Flight Simulator has taken off in popularity. With its platforms spanning across PC and Xbox, it has the ability to reach a very wide range of audiences. But how much of Microsoft Flight Simulator is a realistic flight simulator and how much of it is just a video game to pass the time? When it come to Microsoft Flight Simulator, it is undoubtedly the king when it comes to how its looks. Bear in mind, that’s not to say that X-plane looks bad at all! X-plane 11 can still look absolutely gorgeous, Microsoft Flight Simulator just looks better. In fact, Microsoft Flight Simulator models real world objects down to a stunning 3cm of accuracy! This gobsmacking graphics do however come with a cost. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a top of the line system, you are not going to get top of the line graphics. So if your number 1 priority is for your flight simulator to look as beautiful as it can be, but don’t have the system to run it, Microsoft Flight Simulator may not be the best option for you. If you’re wondering how you can get your hands on a system that can, check out my last post here! If you do happen to already have hefty computer and want insane photorealism out of your simulator, Microsoft Flight Simulator may just be your best bet.
Although Microsoft Flight Simulator is known for its insanely realistic graphics, X-Plane 11 can still hold its ground. If given enough computing power and optimized correctly, X-Plane 11 can still look quite stunning! This is however, more aimed at the graphics of the aircraft itself. X-Plane 11 still looks great but severely lacks in photorealist modeling of ground objects and ground textures. If doesn’t bother you however, X-Plane could still be a very serious contender.
Winner: Microsoft Flight Simulator
When it comes to how the simulator looks and how realistic its graphics are, Microsoft Flight Simulator easily takes the cake. With its insanely detailed ground modeling as well as its stunning graphics inside the cockpit, Microsoft Flight Simulator beats X-Plane 11 to the punch. Like I said before, That’s not to say the X-Plane 11 looks bad! Microsoft just looks better.
Microsoft Flight Simulator:
Although Microsoft Flight took the lead with the last category it does have its drawbacks. Microsoft Flight Sim might have very real looking graphics and very realistic system to model ground object, it’s not exactly the most realistic simulator out there. As a real life pilot, I am rather disappointed at how unrealistic Microsoft Flight Simulator’s flight models can tend to be. Not everything about them is bad, but there are small things that make the experience more unrealistic and feel more like a video game than a simulator. Some basic aerodynamic maneuvers that can be performed in real life are very difficult, if not impossible to do in the Microsoft flight sim. Aircraft react differently, or not at all to situations (such as stall and takeoff speeds) unlike their real life counterparts. The flight models feel good to fly, but aren’t exactly realistic. Keep in mind this varies from aircraft to aircraft as each model is different, but with my experience, I was left a little disappointed. With that being said, if you’re wanting a simulator you can use to practice for flying in real life, I cant exactly say I can recommend Microsoft Flight Simulator. If you are however, just wanting a gorgeous looking game you can use to take virtual joyrides, Microsoft Flight Simulator will do just fine.
What X-Plane lacks in graphics, it definitely makes up for in realism. Although it may not have the most realistic ground graphics, the flight models in most X-Plane 11 aircraft are arguably unmatched. It’s easy to see that realism was the primary goal of the X-Plane team as there are settings to optimize the flight modeling built directly into the program. In fact, X-Plane was seen as a game changer in the simulation world when it first came out as it uses what is called “Blade Element Modeling”, which is far more realistic than standard flight modeling. Like I had mentioned with Microsoft Flight Simulator, the flight models can vary between different aircraft modules, especially if they are community-made. But with my experience (especially with the aircraft the came with my copy of X-Plane), they were all quite realistic. If you are wanting a simulator you can realistically use to practice your flying skills, X-Plane 11 is probably your best option. This program is used by many pilots (including myself); which is probably why it has maintained its seniority in the flight simulator community.
Winner: X-Plane 11
When it comes to the realism of both simulators, X-Plane 11 is crowned king. The X-Plane team has done, and continues to do an incredible job providing a realistic flight simulation experience that is relatively unmatched in the simulation world. If you want a realistic flight simulator, I can easily recommend X-Plane 11.
Microsoft Flight Simulator:
At first glance, both Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane 11 appear to cost the same; but this is not so. Although both programs have the initial price tag of around 60 USD, if you want to get the full potential out of each program, you are going to want to dedicate a little extra money to purchasing extra aircraft modules. With the initial purchase, Microsoft Flight Simulator includes 20 aircraft modules. A list of these aircraft can be found with a simple google search, but the included aircraft generally is well rounded with a mix of large airliners, private jets, and small prop driven aircraft. Both Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane 11 have a community of developers pumping out plenty of freeware modules that you don’t have to pay for. Microsoft Flight Simulator has a very wide selection of freeware but also has plenty of extra aircraft that you can pay for. Are those modules worth the money? That’s for you to decide!
While Microsoft Flight Simulator has plenty of freeware, X-Plane 11 has a plethora of paid flight modules that are well worth the money. One of my favorites is the Pilatus PC-12 Module. I work on, and eventually will be flying this aircraft in real life and really enjoy the realism of the model. X-Plane still has plenty of freeware to offer, but I personally think your time is better spent spending a few extra bucks on some decent paid modules.
Winner: It’s A Tie!
Both X-Plane 11 and Microsoft Flight Simulator will work just fine without any financial investments other than the initial purchase. However, if there are certain aircraft you are wanting to fly in either simulator that are not included, you are going to have to spend some money. With that being said, the amount of money you need to put into each program for it to be a worthwhile experience is completely subjective, and is the reason I am calling it a tie in this category.
To sum things up, both Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane 11 are wonderful simulation programs. Depending on what you intend to get out of a simulator is where consideration between the two comes into play. This is precisely the reason I have written this article. I hope it was able to aid you in making a decision on which simulator you decide to go with. If it has, feel free to drop a comment below telling me what you chose, I really appreciate your feedback! Thanks for reading! 🙂