Commercial Aircraft Review
Alabeo HD Series Diamond DA42 Twin Star G1000
|Add-on:||Realistic presentation of Diamond DA42 Twin Star|
|Publisher | Developer:||X-Plane.Org | Carenado|
|Description:||Accurate Reproduction of Diamond DA42 Twin Star|
|Software Source / Size:||Download / approx. 1.3Gb with Carenado DB (unzipped)|
|Reviewed by:||Rick Verhoog|
|Published:||November 19th 2016|
|Hardware specifications:||- Intel Core i7 3770K @ 3.5 GHz|
|- 16GB DDR3-1600 MHz RAM|
|- Gigabyte GeForce GTX 970 G1 Gaming|
|- Saitek Pro Flight X55 Rhino|
|Software specifications:||- Windows 10 Pro 64-bit|
|- X-Plane 10.50/51|
|- Real Terra Haze 4|
|- Ventura Sky|
|- Skymaxx Pro Version 3|
|- A variety of freeware airports|
Back when Aerobask had their DA42 Twin Star as the only DA42 on the market, I reviewed it. Being a fan of Diamond Aircraft’s creations, I got excited about Alabeo’s DA40 when that was released. As soon as Carenado, Alabeo’s sister company, released their G1000 GPS system, something told me a DA42 might be on its way. Fortunately, I was right and here we are, with the now second available DA42 on the X-Plane market.
At the time, I wasn’t sure how the G1000 would pan out; with performance issues in earlier G1000-equipped Carenado models, I was worried the DA42 might be affected too. However, a notice about performance increasements in an X-Plane.org newsletter got my hopes up. Since the real life DA42 has some impressive stats, including being the first diesel-powered fixed-wing aircraft to cross the North Atlantic, this is one product I’d love to spend some time in. Therefore, let’s dive right in!
Installation and Documentation
If you have never used an X-Plane Carenado aircraft with their G1000 system, you will need to download the database from their site. The link to it is in the lower right of every G1000-equipped aircraft’s product page. All you need to do then is unpack the database and place it into your X-Plane root folder. After that, the aircraft goes into the Aircraft folder of your choice.
Opening the documentation folder shows a healthy range of documentation. These range from relatively unimportant things like credits to much more important things, such as checklist and performance tables.
First off is a copyrights document, followed by a document outlining the workings of the KAP140 autopilot. Next up is the credits. Then, files with Emergency and Normal procedures, Performance Tables and References for airspeed restrictions. A separate manual is present for the G1000 system, and lastly a Recommended Settings overview is included. All in all, enough to get going and to be able to properly manage this airplane.
Since X-Plane uses an advanced flight modeling system, it’s difficult to really judge an aircraft. However, you can of course talk about whether or not what the plane does seem logical in terms of movement, acceleration, etc. In this case, I’m actually pretty pleasantly surprised. I’m not sure why, maybe because this aircraft both looks good and works well, but flying the DA42 is a dream.
It handles well, is smooth to fly and has a certain lightness to it that fits it really well. Usually, X-Plane aircraft are nice to fly, but don’t really make me feel like I’m truly flying them. This one, for some reason, does.
Taxiing out of the stand at a random airport, not much power is needed to get rolling, as is normal for aircraft. Turning this Twin Star is quick, smooth and easy, without it overturning. Braking is also quick, strong and smooth, but not too much so.
On the runway, I push my throttle levers forward and the aircraft starts to accelerate more and more. It’s pretty easy to keep it going straight, as it doesn’t tend to sway much and correcting sway is easy, if you don’t go too wild on the movements.
That, of course, goes for any aircraft. While rotating, I smoothly start ascending and the aircraft moves a little in the currently present winds. Those movements are relatively easy to counter as the joystick response is smooth and snappy.
Climbing goes similarly to the rates specified in the documentation, with cruise altitudes of 12,000 feet being reached relatively quickly. Some more severe turbulence can obviously get hard to control, but overall this is a pretty stable aircraft and the autopilot can also handle a beating.
Descending, speed drops fairly quickly when the throttle/power lever is at idle setting, allowing for a high rate of descent if wished. Watch out though, because once flaps get deployed and during final approach when you have fairly little maneuvering space, it’s a lot harder to lose speed and altitude well.
Make sure you reach the correct speed in time, or you’ll have to work to correct it. Floating a landing in this aircraft is pretty hard to do if you watch your airspeed; this is a forgiving aircraft when it comes to handling. However, flap behavior is less forgiving; it does tend to float up quite a bit when lowering them.
Something I’ve always loved Carenado for is their modeling work. The interior of this DA42 is very immersive, with great texturing and material work that I feel to be one of the most realistic looking cockpits for GA aircraft there is.
This goes for most of their aircraft, but this one stands out. Maybe that’s because the simplicity makes it easy to get it right, compared to some other aircraft that have wood elements, leather with stitching or other kinds of decorations.
Taking a closer look at specific elements, I can see a lot of detail to the modeling. Smooth edges along with relief in gauges, bezels, switches and levers make for a visually appealing cabin at any zoom level. Looking out over the wing provides a beautiful sense of realism, with the navigation and strobe lights shining and flashing.
I’m very curious to see what XP11 will bring to the table with this. Light and shadow shifts during turns are beautiful to witness on the very visible wings and engines. One of my favorite things to do is look out over the wings during turns, to see the landscape slide along and the sun and shadows move along in the cockpit and on the wings.
Comparing real life DA42 panels to the Alabeo model is actually quite surprising. It’s pleasantly close to what you see in real life. Where the C182 still had some alignment issues, this panel seems to be a lot closer in terms of dimensions and placements. The gauges are very accurate compared to the real thing and even fonts, screws and bezels look close. I can’t always verify the accuracy of every gauge though, as with the altimeter in this DA42. There are those with the same needles, but a different text and layout on the dial itself, and there are those with different needles and all the rest altogether.
Looking back, twisting the viewpoint beyond human limits while staying in the exact same spot, we can get a view of the rest of the ‘cabin’. The four-seater aircraft has not been neglected in any way when it comes to the interior modeling. With all the seats, panels and other details being cared for and about, this aircraft is a joy when it comes to ‘sitting in the back’. In fact, I would regularly put the view in a passenger seat and enjoy the scenery while looking out over the beautiful wings.
Seriously, I love the look of the DA42 and its wings. I like the DA40’s look a little more though, but that’s not very relevant for now. Taking a look around in the back reveals a number of things that are the reason I adore riding in the back of this plane. Details like very nice seat belts, handles, stickers, the backs of the seats and much more are very immersive. Sitting in the back, I’d almost think it’s a real-life video playing.
Putting this model next to a real-life picture is quite impressive; the dimensions seem to be very close indeed. That is to be expected from Carenado, however, so I’m more interested in the close-ups. I’ll start at the front, working my way back to look at the big picture and some details.
First off is the nose section. The sharp nose, that seems to curve a little more at the top than the bottom, looks like it would hurt to have ram against you. The same goes for the engine’s propeller cones, which are nicely modeled and round, with high polygon counts. Unfortunately, Carenado does not utilize a reflections plugin, which means the cones are just a reflective texture.
I very much do hope Carenado switches over to the use of such a plugin for XP10, since the most immersion-breaking thing by far about their current lineup is the plastic-looking reflections, that I find hideous. I do realize that X-Plane 11 will fix this with PBR (Physically Based Rendering), but I imagine not everyone will be switching over.
Moving back, we get to the engines and wings. There isn’t much to say here other than to just breathe and audible sigh of relief. All the inlets, outlets, lines, bolts and surfaces look very nice. They’re sharp, have very nice textures for XP10 standards and their colors are and vibrant and seem quite realistic.
Something that Carenado has always managed to capture well is depth between components and that seems to be reinforced again here. The air inlets/outlets and little ‘fins’ have a beautiful sense of depth that a lot of other planes, especially GA-level planes from low to mid-end devs, seem to miss. Details like antennas, handles and a bunch of other shapes and details on the fuselage are also beautiful; round corners and some great modeling make the fuselage look extremely good.
The big, sharp winglets are very present and seem closely matched to the shape, position and tilt/angles of the real-life variant. This is somewhat important to me, because they’re such a big eye-catcher on the DA42 that getting them wrong is a little off-putting to my eyes. Yes, I am very much an aesthetically aimed person!
Going back even further, we get to the most interesting part; the tail section. With the round fuselage tapering off into a flat tail, getting these shapes right would pose a challenge to many a developer. However, Carenado seems to have done it. The rounding fades off and into the flat tail section beautifully and it seems to be quite up to real-life standards as well. The quirky tail has always been somewhat of a needle in my eye, with the tail looking a little like a strange fish. The point in the lower section makes is a little better, but also worse. It’s hard to explain, but it does fit decently into the entirety of the plane.
A small extra section goes toward the gear, which is of course beautiful. The wheels themselves are very good, with colorings and shapes being, well, great. All the little pipes and parts fit together well; you can see they put attention into aligning everything properly. And yes, I am in fact pointing straight down in some of the pictures. Because why not?! Anyway, close up you can see the texture pixels, but nobody usually gets that close in the sim and even if they do, it’s not that bad at all.
All in all, this is a very, very good looking airplane.
It’s to be expected, but the sounds are good on this airplane. The engines have a satisfying noise to them and their pitch changes sound good and smooth. Flying out of an airport, with the powering up and then constant high RPM/power setting, sounds very nice indeed. Listening to it is nice, but because it’s a relatively repetitive sound it gets old pretty fast.
That’s not with Alabeo though, it is of course the power being at a constant setting that causes this. Going to an outside view is quite satisfying, as it does sound realistic and the 3D sound gives you a better sense of immersion when moving around the airplane.
Detailed sounds are also present, for instance when opening the little window to your left in the cockpit. Opening the cockpit door also changes the sound quite significantly, which is very good. Sounds for the G1000 rotaries and buttons are all the same, but that’s to be expected. I have a hunch that, in real life, those sounds would also be very similar. Apart from these things, there aren’t many very ‘in your face’ sounds, I would say.
Originally, I was going to list changes compared to the C182T version (and others, like the TBM850 version) here. However, the changes made with the DA42 are quite significant. Furthermore, the entire line of Carenado X-Plane aircraft has been updated to use an improved version of Carenado’s and Alabeo’s G1000 system.
The DA42’s G1000 was already vastly improved, with the load times cut significantly and response times/fluidity improved. Interestingly, they have now carried those changes over to the other aircraft with a G1000. In my TBM850 review I chewed Carenado out quite a bit for not updating them sooner, but now it’s finally here, the C182T should be vastly more interesting and less frustrating to fly. However, there are some interesting and fundamental differences between the G1000’s still.
Firstly, they are not completely the same. The C182T version still loads in the database with a popup window when loading the plane or, if cold and dark, when turning on the avionics. After this, framerates are quite good where once, they were frankly terrible. The TBM850 has seen a significant performance increase as well, not sticking at about 10 frames per second anymore due to the 3 screens in its G1000. However, we’re here to talk about the DA42.
The G1000 in the DA42 works well. It’s quite fast and works smoothly; clicking a button gives you the menu for it almost immediately. Making a flight plan works properly and the bugs with menu items just not working are gone. It feels pretty robust, has a lot of useful information and has many features and options.
The big problem though, is performance. This is now, by far, the worst performing G1000-equipped aircraft made by Carenado/Alabeo for X-Plane. This thing will get well below 20FPS where other aircraft, both TBM850/C182T and even airliners from other devs, get well above 20 frames per second. I’m not sure why this is, but man, is it frustrating.
The low performance makes everything so choppy, slow to respond in busy areas where performance gets seriously bad and prone to small freezes that flying it becomes significantly less fun. I don’t get how the DA42 underperforms so badly compared to the others; the TBM850 at least had 3 G1000 screens, which was a possibly valid reason. The thing is that now performs way better.
Maybe it’s because somehow it loads the database differently from the other two? Perhaps that doesn’t quite work out as it should, but it may well be something else. Regardless, it is how it is, unfortunately. Despite being so much fun when just looking at the aircraft itself, I find myself switching to a different aircraft regularly just to enjoy the performance that I know I can and should get out of my X-Plane and computer.
It was, at times, even hard to make time with the aircraft to write this review, because everything is so much slower with bad performance. Things hang a little and looking around the cockpit and aircraft is cumbersome and frustrating, because of the choppy panning and movement. Funnily enough, zooming out in external view beyond a certain point massively increases the performance. No idea what went wrong, but it’s annoying!
For anyone who likes GA aircraft that aren’t much bigger than the average Cessna, but carry more modern technology, along with sleeker and modern looks and powerful, fast engines, this DA42 is a treat. The very improved G1000 makes flying this a lot more enjoyable and smooth.
It works well and has a lot of features, but lacks features like SIDs/STARs and, most of all, lacks performance compared to some other current GA options.