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xEnviro, the X-Plane Environment

Introduction to ….

I planned to start as usual with the introduction, and so on, but again, my xEnviro impression became longer and longer. With some inputs from friends and before you know, the impression has reached over 6000 words. Anyway, due to the length of the xEnviro impressions, I decided to include a table of contents to offer you a better idea what sections I’ve included and what to expect.
So here we go ….

Table of Contents

Introduction
Clean Install and ….
– Installation
– And then …….

xEnviro Settings (plugin) menu
– Introduction
– General
– Weather Settings Highlights (page 9)
– Clouds Settings Highlights (page 10)
– Atmosphere Settings Highlights (page 11)
– Sound Settings Highlights (page 12)

A Couple of Tests
– Comparison xEnviro versus SkyMAXX Pro
– FPS Comparison xEnviro, CAVOK, Default XP Weather

xEnviro versus SkyMAXX Pro 4.x
– Product prices and additions
– Performance
– Others
– Control Panels and Manuals
– Are there any differences?

Summary

Introduction

xEnviro is a scenery add-on that replaces the X-Plane default environment. It can be used with X-Plane 10 and X-Plane 11 although – as of this writing January 2017 – X-Plane 11 is still beta and therefore, not considered for testing. The product is the result of multi-years effort from high-level engineers and programmers of Commercial Simulation Systems LLC.

Ok, that’s said!
xEnviro replaces the default X-Plane environment, making it more realistic and yes, we all know that the default X-Plane environment isn’t spectacular.

What features does this product offer?
For that we need to look at the dedicated X-Plane.Org store page or at the xEnvrio website and see what you and I can expect of this add-on.

xEnviro comes with the following features:

Load real-time meteorological data with download interval from 5 up to 60 minutes taking into account following factors:

  • Wind direction and speed on ground and aloft, temperature, turbulence areas, icing areas and dangerous phenomena (thunderstorm& windshear),
  • Simulate visual effects of different types of precipitations and phenomena: rain showers, snow, fog,
  • Simulate visual raindrops effects on windshields both in 2D and 3D cockpits (if it’s loaded in aircraft model),
  • Simulate in-cloud visual effects,
  • Simulate visual effects of shades and aircraft lightning in clouds (strobe lights, beacon lights, navigation lights, landing lights),
  • Simulate landing lights screen effect during in-cloud and foggy flight;
  • Volumetric lights effect,
  • Simulate lightning on clouds surface from cities lights,
  • High-detailed cloud shades,
  • Custom cloud density and range,
  • Simulate realistic breaking action effect,
  • Display saturation, color gamma and cloud density, depending on weather conditions and time of day with real-time changing (automatically) or manually.

xEnviro has a user-friendly interface with flexible settings for each component.
xEnviro uses its own cloud and sky textures along with its own sound library.
xEnviro does NOT require installations of 3rd party products or libraries and is fully ready to use after installation.

xEnviro software is constantly being updated
xEnviro software is designed by simmers for simmers!

Looks good, but is it all good news? Let’s check out the recommended software list as well as the compatibility with other plugins:

  • X-Plane 10.45+ or
  • X-Plane 11 + (although still beta)
  • Stable Internet Connection with data Speed no less than 51 Mbps
  • Windows 7/Vista/ 8/8.1/ 10
  • 2Gb+ of available VRAM
  • Not compatible with Mac OSX / macOS (at this time)

Software Compatibility with other plugins
xEnviro software is incompatible with 3rd party software which is used for weather loading, visual effects and other products which can modify environmental or graphical components.
Correct operation of Enviro software is incompatible with the following products:

  • SkyMaxx Pro
  • RealWX Pro
  • MaxxFx
  • Real Weather Connector
  • SoundMaxx
  • FS GLOBAL REAL WEATHER
  • xNoaaWather
  • FlyWithLua RTH script
  • VenturaSky
  • Blu_fx
  • Any other scripts simulating weather conditions

Prior to install xEnviro software it is recommended to deactivate these applications in Plugins menu in simulator or delete them (up to X-Plane user).

I think that the above speaks for themselves although a quick remark from me. Not being compatible with Mac OS means that Mac simmers need either to create a Windows boot camp partition or wait till xEnviro is also available for Mac. Using X-Plane with xEnviro via Parallels for Desktop, isn’t a good foundation.

Further on, I sincerely hope that, reading their last sentence about deactivating plugins before installing xEnviro, that there’s no reason to delete them afterwards, but I assume that was mend differently. Time to check out xEnviro, right?

As you can see on the above “xEnviro Road Map” screenshot, as of this writing, xEnviro is at version 1.06, while the dedicated xEnviro web page shows us many improvements and other features, including a Mac OS X or macOS compatible package and that, as informed to me by xEnviro, all updates as indicated on the road map with no extra charge!

Clean Install and ….

Installation
A clean install, in this case, refers to a clean X-Plane 10 installation. Although the product is compatible with X-Plane 11, on purpose I decide to install xEnviro under X-Plane 10. As we all know, as of this writing January 2017, Laminar Research new flight simulator is still beta so it’s not yet a good idea to use it as a platform for writing my impression.

The installation in this impression is based on product version 1.06 while for X-Plane, I use version 10.51. The installation wizard guides you thru the different screens – language, license agreement, information, installation location, followed by the actual installation of all the files, but, some words about the location.

As can be seen on the second screenshot, it points to a “default” directory, namely “C:\X-Plane 10\Resources\plugins\xEnviro”. Perhaps you’re aware that this time not the root X-Plane directory is indicated, but the X-Plane plugins folder. And as in most cases, it points to the wrong location, so keep in mind that you select your own location, and that you don’t select the root, but the X-Plane plugins folder!

The installation is done before you know. At the end, you’re presented with viewing the readme file as well as visiting the product web site. The readme file is actually the xEnviro user software manual which, in case you want to read it all before you buy it , available via this link. By the way, funny to see that the overall contents of the xEnviro folder within the plugins directory isn’t more then 108MB. Either somewhere else files are installed, but this isn’t much. Looking forward to the rest.

And then …….
Next step is to activate the product which has to be done from within X-Plane thus time to start X-Plane.
Oops, almost forgotten .. other plugins … disabling or not?
Within this test X-Plane 10 environment, I only have installed for testing one plugin namely SlewMode. This isn’t a complex plugin, but I didn’t disable or removed it temperately from my X-Plane configuration before installing xEnviro. Did the installation fail or …. No, not at all, but perhaps the warning is more a precaution in case you do have lots of plugins installed.

Activating xEnviro goes via X-Plane menu Plugins – xEnviro – Activate xEnviro.

When you have entered your email address and serial number from X-Plane.Org, you click the activate button, and as a result, the window disappears without a warning that the activation is OK or not OK. On the other hand, when you go again to X-Plane menu “Plugins – xEnviro”, you’ll see a small popup window that looks different then before. It shows you:

  • On
  • CAVOK
  • Settings
  • About xEnviro (self-explanatory)

Let me see what happens when I click On.
I had before clouds so I had a certain weather condition, but the moment I click “On”, it seems the sim freezes but before you start thinking “oops, something is wrong, a xEnviro window popup appears and telling me that it is “updating database files”. After that, xEnviro is ON and weather conditions are changed, perhaps as arranged in the Settings section. Although not much seems to have changed in the sim in respect to my weather and haze control, it has changed. Look to the following screenshots. The first one shows you xEnviro On while the 2nd screenshot is with xEnviro OFF.

An important note from the User Manual; “After software activation, you should make sure that there is a “tick” in front of “On” item in settings menu (see the previous screenshot). Without this “tick” the software will not operate!”

Next item is CAVOK.
As you all know, CAVOK stands for Ceiling and Visibility are OK; specifically, there are no clouds below 5000 feet above aerodrome level (AAL) or minimum sector altitude (whichever is higher) and no cumulonimbus or towering cumulus; visibility is at least 10 kilometers (6 statute miles) or more; and no current or forecast significant weather such as precipitation, thunderstorms, shallow fog or low drifting snow (Source Wiktionary). As I see it, the horizontal visibility should be at least 6 SM, which is, with mountains in the background further away then 6SM, and hazy.

Adding the following which is extracted from the User Manual; “By activation CAVOK, the xEnviro software deletes the cloudiness and displays coverage distance of 16 km until new update of the software on server starts.”

A very nice detail to bring up is the way xEnviro implements the haze. Let me explain this. I hover at a certain altitude, looking to mountains. Via the default X-Plane Environment weather I select CAVOK which means automatically 25SM. Then I go to the xEnviro CAVOK and click this, provided the xEnviro is ticked On! Slowly the horizontal visibility is reduced to what it is in real and that approximately 9.9SM (checked the x SM CAVOK slider). That the visibility is lower, fine to me, but I’m very happy with the CAVOK smoothness this is implemented in the sim.

And finally, xEnviro Settings popup window.

xEnviro Settings (plugin) menu

Introduction
This popup window is divided in 4 sections:
– Weather Settings
– Clouds Settings
– Atmosphere Settings
– Sound Settings

The popup window may look easy to use, it may look structured, but my goodness, which or what should I do and how far should I move sliders to the right and will it have influence on my FPS (Frames Per Second). Many questions and many thoughts! I can imagine, and yes, I could check the forum and see how others have done it, that others have faced these thoughts/questions too, or not?

So … what should you chose or try?
At the bottom of each section you find “easy to go or try out” buttons.

General
First a general remark in respect to the buttons at the bottom of each section.
I’m aware that when you click one of these buttons, the sliders change accordingly or options are toggled. Only problem is that you don’t see which of what you’ve selected is active. When I click, for example, the Real mode (weather settings), I do see changes in the weather settings, but I could imagine that this button will be highlighted in e.g. green, indicating that the real mode is active. Perhaps with a future update?

Explaining every item in each column and each sub-setting is, what I normally would do, but in this case with xEnviro, it’s useless since the xEnviro User Manual explains this from page 9 till and including 12 thoroughly however, there’s something with this.

When checking the user manual that’s delivered together with product version 1.06, it turns out that there’s a difference between the pages 9 till and including 12 versus the software settings menu. Ok, let me correct myself a bit; the Clouds Settings- and Sound Settings pages of the User Manual are the same as the software so that’s good news.

But the Atmosphere Settings- and Weather Settings pages are different or, applicable to the Weather Settings page, the “Maximum wind speed slider is not explained in the manual. Ok … wind speeds speak for themselves, but what is the meaning of 0 to 50%? I don’t know. An explanation would be helpful? xEnviro informed me as follows; “Our server constantly calculates and sets all the parameters and values for the world atmosphere. Our xEnviro plugin downloads a snapshot of the latest atmosphere data with all the values as turbulence amount, wind speeds, visibility etc., pre-calculates and implements this. Weather settings sliders just amend those values proportionally at the application step, i.e. if you have Maximum wind speed slider set to 100 percent then the wind acting at the aircraft will be exactly the same speed as calculated by the server, at 50 percent wind speed, it will be half the speed, at 25 percent a quarter and so on. So, for example if you have your slider at 70 percent, and the wind for your area reported to be 10kts, then in X-Plane you will get wind speeds with peaks as much as 7kts at your location. Please note that you still get variability and proportional gusts at any position of the Maximum wind slider. The same logic is applicable to the turbulence slider.”

The Atmosphere Settings User Manual description is different although some items are the same, but others aren’t explained or changed in a way that it’s guessing what belongs to what.

The xEnviro team told me that they are aware of this, due to the holiday period, that the manual must be updated as soon as possible.

Weather Settings Highlights (page 9)

As said before, the weather settings page 9 equals the software weather settings. It has an easy and real mode. For sure that the Real Mode implements all the options as in real, but I also believe that this will affect computer performance. The Easy Mode mains less accurate versus real time conditions and some items aren’t implemented like the braking action, windshear and thunderstorms. These three items, when in Easy Mode, won’t affect the aircraft conditions which can also be interpreted as less PC performance is needed.

Clouds Settings Highlights (page 10)

It’s good to see that in the User Guide the developers have added for this section information for low-, medium- or high performance PC’s like. However, one thing feels odd, or I don’t understand it. The following values (for these three different PC performances) “Maximum Visible Range” and “Minimum Visible Range” are accordingly:
Low performance PC:
– Maximum Visible Range 100 km.
– Minimum Visible Range 15 km.

Medium performance PC:
– Maximum Visible Range 160 km.
– Minimum Visible Range 30 km.

High performance PC:
– Maximum Visible Range 200 km.
– Minimum Visible Range 200 km.

The maximum range is how far clouds are drawn thus the further they are covering the sky, the more power it cost for the PC. The minimum range is the minimum distance from your point of view that clouds are drawn/covering the sky. That the Max Visible Range for a high performance PC extends to 200 km, sounds OK, but what I don’t understand is that the Minimum Visible Range is also 200 km. Typo error or do I really not understand this. Time to contact xEnviro support.

According to xEnviro “The xEnviro software divides all cloud coverages into two layers: a basic layer and a detailed layer.
Within the basic layer some sort of LOD (Level Of Detail) has been implemented. Maximum Visible Range is self-explanatory, but Minimum Visible Range is the range at which the first LOD change occurs. To make it simple – xEnviro draws less and less clouds starting from Minimum range distance to Maximum distance. Therefore, if you have fast memory, and a powerful CPU and GPU, they are capable of handling high filling rates. Then you can keep minimum and maximum ranges both at 200km meaning (for High Performance Range) that no clouds from the basic layer will be omitted and you get 100 percent of the intended clouds to be drawn in your environment.”

Another item on the same page (Clouds Settings) that I don’t understand is the Clouds Crossfade Speed. According to page 10 of the manual:
– Low performance PC | 200%
– Medium performance PC | 100%
– High performance PC | 50%

The thing I don’t understand is this; for the low performance PCs the cloudiness transfer is 200% while the slider doesn’t go any further then 100%. The other thing that’s unclear to me is that Clouds Crossfade Speed is the speed of continuously changing meteorological conditions and cloudiness transfer. Thus the higher the value, the lower the PC performance. Shouldn’t that be the other way around or ….? I could be totally wrong, but perhaps it’s a good moment to contact xEnviro support for this too.

According to xEnviro “Clouds Crossfade Speed is simply the speed at which the clouds interchange between the old form into the new form if a weather change occurs. This crossfade speed actually depends, more or less, on the frequency/speed of your CP. Users with a fast and powerful PC may feel the need of keeping this slider lower than 100% while the low end PC simmers may require this crossfade setting to be set for a bit faster value due to the slowness of the filter processing. In that way both simmers will get roughly the same crossfade speed.”

All the other possible settings on page 10 for the different PC’s speak for themselves. Perhaps an idea for the developers; just a thought … changing the “Light”, “Optimum” and “Maximum” button text with “Light PC”, Medium PC” and “Maximum PC”.

I’m realizing that I didn’t discuss every item on this page, but the others are basically self-explaining and not always directly visible with a movie and/or screenshots.

Atmosphere Settings Highlights (page 11)

As seen in the previous section, page 11 also comes with two possible preselection’s namely for low- and high performance PCs. There’s for sure a good reason why no “medium performance PC” is included. The only problem is that the User Manual page 11 has a different layout then can be seen on the software version 1.06. That said, the software shows at the top of this section “Upper” and “Lower atmosphere”. The manual doesn’t, but I must admit that checking out these two atmosphere options speak for themselves while the description stays the same …. the effect of visual display haze, fog, sky and sun however, I don’t know where the lower atmosphere stops and/or the upper atmosphere start/ends. One thing I know is that when you have both atmosphere options disabled, as well as all other options in that section and the X-Plane scattering at 0%, you have a certain visibility or hazy if you want to call it. By the way, if you really want to start “clean”, select from the xEnviro OFF (no tick in front of the ON), select it ON, and start playing around within this section (atmosphere settings). When you tick “lower atmosphere”, you see immediately the result in the scenery as well as when I add “Upper atmosphere” to it. If you like the screenshots below or the way the upper atmosphere looks like, is a matter of taste, right?

The “Remove scenery shadows under overcast” is not explained in the User Manual, but this is not to difficult; when you have overcast cloudy conditions, you can remove the shadow on the ground else it looks all so dark.

The only new item for this section is “X-Plane scattering”. A percentage slider that runs from 0 to 100 percent. The following screenshots show you – from top to bottom – all atmosphere settings OFF, followed by settings X-Plane scattering to 100% and finally, adding to this lower atmosphere.
You can clearly see that with only X-Plane scattering set to 100%, a blueish haze appears, quite realistic, isn’t it? When you add to this lower atmosphere, it’s all complete I think?
So once more …. first screenshot nothing selected in the atmosphere settings, 2nd screenshot X-Plane scattering set to 100% (blueish haze) and 3rd screenshot added lower atmosphere ticked.

Some visual signs, although described in the manual about light- and post scattering. The description in the manual is quite clear, is it?
Light scattering is the visual effect of scattering and absorption of light by the atmosphere is ON while post scattering is the effect of light and colour correction is ON.

Ok, first some example of light scattering, but keep in mind, the lower atmosphere must be ticked else you don’t see anything happening. On the following screenshots you can clearly see the effect with lower atmosphere ON and, at the next screenshot, added to this light scattering.

Post scattering is not so easy to see, but when you look closely to the following screenshots, you can see the difference. Initial situation; no item ticked in the section atmosphere settings (upper screenshot). The overall landscape in this screenshot looks very green. Although it’s full with trees, it is, we must be honest to ourselves, a little too green. When you tick post scattering (lower screenshot), you’ll see a slight, not much, haze over the whole scenery.

Some final words about not having a “medium” or “Optimum” button as was applicable on the cloud settings page/software. As we’ve seen with the clouds settings, having three different PC performance buttons, I can imagine that also with atmosphere settings, you could have also low, medium and high performance PC buttons. Just a thought!

Sound Settings Highlights (page 12)

There’s not so much to add to this page or software. Disable button is clear what it does. The only difference I can see between the “Optimum” and “Maximum” buttons is the sound level, either 60 or 100 percent. And this also means that making screenshots has no affect and I even have my thoughts if a movie is useful with this. Besides that, I wonder why it’s called “Optimum”?

A Couple of Tests

Comparison xEnviro versus SkyMAXX Pro
Is it useful for me to make a test flight with screenshots with xEnviro active? Perhaps it is, but on the other hand, you’ll find so many movies on the Internet that I wonder if my screenshots will add something to what’s already available on the Internet, but let me give it a try without shooting you with dozens of xEnviro screenshots. That said, I tried to make a couple of tests at KLAX (Los Angeles International), KJFK (John F. Kennedy International) and EHAM (Amsterdam Schiphol International).

Before I start with the comparison screenshots, I would like to share the following with you.
iMac One
(left hand part of the screenshot) I run xEnviro with specific xEnviro settings. From left to right; Easy – Light – Simple (but unticked Upper Atmosphere) – Optimum (see screenshot below).
iMac Two
(right hand part of the screenshot) I run SkyMAXX Pro, loading real weather via default X-Plane loader and settings as can be found on the screenshot below.

Even with this, it stays difficult, but at a certain moment I must admit that the clouds with xEnviro look more realistic and the ones seen with SkyMAXX Pro. Even the mixture of different cloud layers including the cirrus layer look to me more real with xEnviro as I can remember from the many flights I did as ground engineer on-board of the Martinair Airbus A310-200. Enough, time to do some tests, right? By the way … iMac One is running an Apple boot camp Windows 10 Professional while iMac Two is running macOS Sierra.

Test One: KLAX (parked at US Air maintenance Pos 1) same day/time.
From this position, I moved myself to a different altitude to see how each product creates the real environment. I also checked the METAR and must say that the overcast with xEnviro looks very nice as well as, when going higher, above the overcast clouds. I never expected this to be honest, but I’m very happy with these comparisons. The settings of both products should give you a good impression. And yes, the default X-Plane weather loader does it only once an hour which isn’t the best, but I have no X-Aviation RWC and no intension to buy it.

Test Two: KJFK (parked at North Cargo 1) January 30rd/12:00.
If you like the sky colours is a matter of taste. As far as I know, you can’t change the sky with xEnviro while you can with SkyMAXX Pro, but as you can see before in the SkyMAXX Pro screenshot, SkyMAXX Pro uses the default sky colors. The same with these New York KJFK screenshots, I personally like the xEnviro ones. No no, not because I review it, but because it feels better, it feels more real.

Test Three: EHAM (situated at runway 09) January 1st/12:00.
Near my home town and knowing the weather conditions because I can literally look out of my window, I was positively surprised about the outcome. It was not that cloudy, it was broken, perhaps near EHAM even scattered, so I don’t understand the right hand first screenshot (which represents SkyMAXX Pro) with a thick cloud layer. The higher I come, the more confused I become. Oh yes, others who don’t like xEnviro will say that this is the result of not having X-Aviation RWC installed. Could be, but it’s not only that, assuming they could be right. It’s also the way the different cloud layers look like and even scattered clouds at higher altitudes still look realistic with xEnviro.

FPS Comparison CAVOK, xEnviro and default XP Weather
On request of a good friend of mine, I decided to give it a shot and to find if it is/was worth the try. Lucky it was! But first a screenshot of my Windows 10 Apple boot camp X-Plane 10 settings.

Ok, what does this section offer?
Tested with X-Plane 10.51 some additional installed add-on aircraft, some airport sceneries (which I by the way didn’t need for the test) and Alpilotx mesh packages and of course, xEnviro version 1.06. What you see in sets of 3 Frames Per Second screenshots from the left to right is:
– First screenshot (left hand) default X-Plane CAVOK
– Second screenshot (middle) the actual frame rates of xEnviro
– Third screenshot (right hand) default X-Plane real weather

Of course, all the sets of these 3 screenshots are taken immediately after each other and at the same spot/altitude. I believe the first two sets are taken near KLAX, the others near KJFK, but honestly, that doesn’t make much difference. The whole idea of these screenshots and their FPS comparison is the impact of xEnviro versus default X-plane real weather loading. As reference of each set I used the CAVOK condition. Judge for yourself!

xEnviro versus SkyMAXX Pro 4.x

This could be tricky although being open minded, why isn’t it possible to compare these two programs with each other, as far as possible?

Product prices and additions
Ok, first things first. Correct me if I’m wrong, but xEnviro is currently only available via X-Plane.Org for the price of 69.90 USD.

X-Aviation is, as it is already since the release of the product, home and only distributor of SkyMAXX Pro. SkyMAXX Pro 4.x cost you 39.95 USD, but this is without the possibility to have real weather connections besides that SkyMAXX Pro can use the X-Plane default real weather. But to retrieve “correct” real weather information, you can add to SkyMAXX Pro add-on program Real Weather Connection (RWC) which cost another 19.95 USD. Further on, X-Aviation also offers SoundMAXX and MAXX FX although I ask myself if these two last products add something to SkyMAXX Pro or that they can just work alone. And yes, when you look into the SoundMAXX settings, you see a couple of settings that are also available within the xEnviro product.

Let’s compare:
– SkyMAXX Pro 4.x plus RWC which is in total 59.90 USD
– xEnviro 1.x comes with a price of 69.90 USD (includes own real weather loading).

As it looks now, SkyMAXX Pro is with their real weather connector slightly cheaper, but you and I are – I hope – for something else, right?

Performance
You and I are – I think – more interested in how easy is it to adjust/control/manipulate these programs, or how useful are the provided manuals and do you understand what’s written in the manuals. Further on, how real does the environment looks like although this is also a personal taste.

Others
Further on, SkyMAXX Pro is installed, controlled and monitored via X-Aviation’s “Gizmo” while xEnviro uses no specific software besides your email address and serial number, which is also the case when registering SkyMAXX Pro. Some love Gizmo while others hate it. I leave that discussion out of this impression.

What said before (did I mention this before?), I own both products, but as we all know, xEnviro is for the moment only available for Windows while SkyMAXX Pro is available for Windows and Mac. Both products can be used with X-Plane 11 although still, as of this writing, X-Plane 11 is still in beta.

Control Panels and Manuals
xEnviro has one large control window which is divided into four sections. No need to go thru these since I’ve explained them before. The xEnviro manual offers enough information of each page in relation to the software settings but sometimes, in my humble opinion, too technical. This makes it even for me difficult to understand what they mean and thus what’s the best choice for you to do. On the other hand, depending on which section of the settings, examples in the manual are given in relation to what kind of PC you have; a low, medium or high end and thus what the best solution could be. One problem … what’s the xEnviro team qualification of a low, medium or high end PC?

The SkyMAXX Pro 4.x software has two control windows. One for controlling the clouds, and one for the precipitation. By default, SkyMAXX Pro has no online weather link to retrieve real data but, as far as my knowledge goes, the default X-Plane weather option can be used instead. The SkyMAXX Pro manual explains and offers for each section (clouds and precipitation) enough information to know what to adjust although you don’t have the options in respect to select a setting that fits the best for a low, medium or high end PC.

Are there any differences?
Oh yes, there are and at the same time, complex to figure out, to compare and to find the right answer so that won’t be easy, but I’ll give it a try.

xEnviro offers real time weather by default provided you’ve selected it “On”. This means, correct me if I’m wrong, that the sky colors are as they are! Realistic or not, SkyMAXX Pro allows you to change the sky colors. According to xEnviro “Sky colour changes with the help of xEnviro, but xEnviro doesn’t replace/allows you to change the default sky colour!”

Another item that I’m not sure if this is implemented in xEnviro, is the presentation of Crepuscular rays (god rays). If you like those god rays or not a matter of taste, but they can appear in real, so that’s for sure reality and when xEnviro doesn’t have this option, perhaps something to think about for future upgrades?

UPDATE:
Found this in the road map list. This feature is planned to be included with a feature update.

It’s also worth to mention that I’m not sure if xEnviro is able to offer cloud shadows with adjustable intensity as is with SkyMAXX Pro. Since I’m not sure about these things, it’s worth to contact the xEnviro team and ask them to help me out. Per xEnviro “Not yet, but it will be in the next update(s).”

I did ask the xEnviro team about what all kind of data is loaded from their servers. The reason for this question is that the xEnviro package (/Resources/plugins/xEnviro) is approximately 108MB including the manuals while SkyMAXX Pro 4.x (/Resources/plugins/SilverLining) is almost 800MB including the manual besides that there’s also an X-Aviation root folder of 6MB, but as far as I know, that’s only for uninstalling the product. Hope to get an answer on that one too. In respect to this question, the xEnviro team answers with “Active Internet only downloads data to create the real weather in sim. That said, all the necessary textures are in main xEnviro folder.” Still I haven’t got an answer on why the SkyMAXX Pro folder is almost 7 to 8 times bigger then xEnviro!

Summary

I never thought I will make it. This was really a complex review/impression because it’s not always something that can be compared or can be seen. I don’t matter that I highlighted some comparisons between xEnviro and SkyMAXX Pro. I won’t and don’t say “this and this program” is the best. Even with xEnviro things are still missing, but looking to their road map, many things will be implemented like for example the connections with IVAO and VATSIM. Besides the comparison screenshots taken at KLAX, KJFK and EHAM, I’m impressed by how xEnviro looks like compared to the same screenshots taken at the same location and altitude with SkyMAXX Pro. For me as Mac user, when I don’t want to fly too often with my X-Plane for Windows, I need to wait till the xEnviro team brings out the Mac version.

Oh yeah, one other item and time will learn; right now the product is at version 1.06 and looking to the road map, we can expect version updates 1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.5 and so on. I may hope that there’s no additional charge for each of these updates. This is confirmed by xEnviro. Their answer regarding free 1.x updates is “simmers don’t need to buy new updates! Buy only once!”

One thing got my attention when I searched the xEnviro website and that is the following sentence … “Real time meteorological data with a smooth refresh interval from 5 up to 60 minutes.” I was already wondering how this works compared to the test with SkyMAXX Pro and using default X-Plane real weather loading which is every 60 minutes.
That said, I’m wondering why the refresh rate is between 5 and 60 minutes? I can imagine that when nothing has changed, then there’s no reason to update xEnviro, but I can imagine that weather conditions don’t stay still for 5 minutes or longer. The environment is always changing, right? Worth to ask the xEnviro team about this refresh rate. Their answer is “Well, it depends on the user’s computer power and its hardware). Further on, the user’s wish in what weather conditions he or she prefers to fly suppose it is the only explanation.”

Overall a very interesting product that can beat SkyMAXX Pro however, some additional functions must be implemented first before it can do the same as its competitor. At the same time it must be said that what I’ve seen, I have a strong preference for xEnviro, keeping in mind my real cockpit experience during the many flights I did as ground engineer on-board of the Martinair Airbus. The output of the actual X-Plane 10 environment I’ve seen with a couple of static comparison tests are stunning. Let’s be honest with that.

Of all the xEnviro versus SkyMAXX Pro screenshots, the xEnviro offer in my humble opinion a more realistic look and feel of clouds, layers, haze and others. Besides that, I’m also pleased with the FPS screenshots although I couldn’t compare it on the same Mac Windows bootcamp since I’m only able to run one X-Plane version at the time.

Ok, what else?
I think I covered most of it, but for sure not everything. There’s always something that slipped thru my fingers, but overall, I think this impression offers a good view of what’s behind xEnviro. No no, this impression doesn’t offer a bunch of screenshots made during a typical flight. When you want to see screenshots or movies, you’ll find plenty of them by searching for “xEnviro” on YouTube or have a look at the xEnviro website.

You can buy xEnviro via this dedicated X-Plane.Org store page. It cost, as of this writing, 69.90 USD which is a lot of money. Let’s be honest with that, but with the promises ahead, when all features are available including Mac support, it has a lot of potential.

Feel free to contact me if you’ve got additional questions related to this impression. You can reach me via email Angelique.van.Campen@gmail.com or via Angelique@X-Plained.com.

With Greetings,
Angelique van Campen

 

 

Add-on: Payware xEnviro Ultimate Environment Engine
Publisher | Developer: X-Plane.Org | xEnviro
Description: Realistic rendition of the environment
Software Source / Size: Download / Approximately 54MB (exe file)
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen
Published: January 11th 2017
Hardware specifications: - iMac 27″ 3.5Ghz Late 2013
- Intel i7 3.5Ghz / 3.9Ghz during Boost Mode
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4096 MB
- 32 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
- 1 internal 1TB SSD (macOS Sierra 10.12.2)
- 2 external 1TB SSDs
- Saitek Pro Flight System
Software specifications: - macOS Sierra (10.12.2) | El Capitan (10.11.4)
- Windows 10 Professional
- X-Plane 10.51c | X-Plane 10.51m | X-Plane 11pb5

10 Comments

  1. dean robinson

    taking the trouble to make comparison screens side by side makes the review very interesting reading, thank you. i have xenviro with xp11 and am equally impressed. in terms of roadmap i await Historical Weather functionality a la FSGRW + RWC since in the UK (or belgium) VFR flying is.. well you know 🙂 Interesting that xenviro have ‘Crepuscular rays’ before historical weather/IVAO/Vatsim in their roadmap ? http://www.xenviro.net/work.php

    Reply
    • Angelique van Campen

      Hi Dean.

      Thank you for taking the time of reading the review.
      As I mentioned in the impression, it was more complex to write then expected, but I think that I’m pleased with the product too although there’s still some work to do. In particular for me a Mac user although I have boot camp running which goes quite well.

      Reply
  2. Jean-Francois Rivest

    Dear Angelique
    Thanks for taking the time to write this very informative and detailed review (as always!). I do own both product as well and I agree with you on all. I have one question that has been burning my tongue since I got xEnviro and perhaps you might have the answer (through your communications with their team?) : will it be possible in a near future to use the xEnviro engine with a non-real weather but rather one that we wish (for fun)? For example, if one wants to practice ILS landings in fog and the real weather of that day is fair, there is no way to impose the weather one wishes to xEnviro… This is very possible with X-Plane and/or Skymaxx (one only has to fiddle with the weather settings within XP as we all know…and untick real weather option). But I would wish so much to be able to make the weather of my choice but with the beauty of the xEnviro engine? Do you know if this is something they are thinking of or planning?

    thanks so much

    Jean-François (JEFX)

    Reply
    • Angelique van Campen

      Hi Jean-François,

      Thanks for your reply, time and comment.
      I’ve passed your request forward to the xEnviro team. Either they reply to me and then I’ll add their answers right here or they reply directly to this post. I’ll keep it in the loop and let you know ASAP.

      Reply
    • Angelique van Campen

      Hi Jean-François, I’ve received the following from the xEnviro team “At this moment weather customization is not planned, but we are planning to add historical weather.”

      I hope this answers your question. If not, feel free to reply.

      Reply
  3. Jean-Francois Rivest

    Hello dear Angelique
    Thanks for asking them… perhaps pass along to them (or they may read here directly) that I am surely not the only one out here who would love a customization fonction for the xEnviro weather… plus, it is a VERY costly plugin (about the same price as the WHOLE X-Plane program…) I really think that it would be a must have and a normal set of function for such a deep and expensive program to offer 1) realtime weather 2) historical 3) custom, it is a must and I am sure I am expressing the wish of a lot of people!
    Thanks

    Jean-Francois

    Reply
  4. Michael Paustian

    Only an add-on comment: To set “own weather”, go to badbadweather.com and search for the weather u would like to fly. Ok, thats not your “HomeAirport”,but who cares, you r desided to do a training session and not a sightseeing trip ;_)

    Reply
  5. Stefaan Cappelle

    Great review Angelique !
    I’ve been using xEnviro since it came out and it impresses me every flight again.
    With the support and roadmap that the publisher has it can only get even better.

    Reply
    • Angelique van Campen

      Hi Stefaan,

      Thank you for your reply. Although it’s yet only available for Windows (I’m a Mac user), I used it yesterday the whole day for making screenshots for the A.T.S. MD82, and I loved it again. For some reason I switched for a moment to a XP configuration with SkyMAXX Pro, but there’s a huge difference in how the sky looks like with xEnviro. Perhaps that SkyMAXX Pro with the RWC makes it much better, but I don’t have that additional product, so difficult to judge.

      Reply
  6. Barry Dowell

    Angelique,
    Thank you for a very informative review. I’m a “veteran” flight simmer but new to X-Plane and have only experienced XP11 (which impresses) but the default clouds in the beta versions were a disappointment to say the least. This improved with the RC1 but still left the door open for a good add-on. I’m yet to make a decision on which to purchase and have been hoping for some update news. In the meantime I’m trying to find out if there’s a limit to the number of cloud layers xEnviro can replicate? Flying through successive layers, for me, adds to the feeling of realism

    Reply

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