Which flight simulator is best right now? The answer is simple.
Microsoft Flight Simulator X is the best desktop flight simulator software right now.
There you have it. Simple enough right? No build up, no double talk, no caveats. Just a simple answer for you.
There are basically 3 top shelf flight simulator software platforms to choose from in 2010.
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9)
Each has a dedicated group of hobbyists that claim it as the best and favorite choice for the flight simulator experience. Sometimes their reasoning is emotional, but there are also a lot of practical differences that set these flight simulators apart in appearance, use, and functionality.
Flight Simulator X
Flight Simulator X (FSX) is the latest version of the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise. Although the future of the product has been in doubt over the last couple of years, it remains as the largest, most sophisticated, and most full featured flight simulator available for your desktop environment.
The community behind this product is massive, with several global flight simulation portals that cater to the needs of its users. The choices for 3rd part addon products for FSX are immense, and continues to grow.
Some downsides to the FSX platform are that it is very demanding on home computers, and if you do not have a fairly recent home computer, with good hardware specs for gaming, you may not achieve an enjoyable user experience from this software. This has probably been the number one impediment to its success over the last few years. Though it would seem that in the last 12 months that the tables have begun to turn, in that even mediocre hardware by today's standards are able to run the simulator well enough for a decent user experience. However, if you desire the full FSX experience, you will need to make sure to invest in a full featured computer, with up to date gaming hardware.
Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9)
FS9 continues to maintain a very strong foot hold in the flight simulation community. It is considered by many to be the best, most stable, and most widely used flight simulator in the Microsoft flight simulator history. For those that have had continuing problems achieving a satisfactory experience with FSX it remains very popular.
The choices for 3rd party addons are also immense. This simulator had a VERY long and successful run, and as such, there are a tremendous number of both commercial and free addons available for it. Some of which were incredibly popular amongst various niche user groups within the flight simulator community.
Many users within the community continue to list FS9 as the best flight simulator because it continues to meet their needs in ways that the other simulator can not. Most notable is that it can run very well on high end computers, providing a very smooth experience, with great visuals, and tons of specialized addons can be attained at ever more affordable prices.
FS9 itself can still be purchased for very low prices, because of its age. Users of FS9 are able to interact with users of FSX and X-Plane in various multiplayer environments. There is no doubt that FS9 could remain popular for several more years to come, with many users keeping installations of both FSX and FS9 on their systems.
This simulator enjoys a reputation for providing more physically accurate flight dynamics that represent a more true representation of physics. Although this point is debated heavily, it remains the primary differentiation between X-Plane and the Microsoft line of flight simulators.
X-Plane offers a substantially different user experience to flight simulator hobbyists, and is capable of running on a wide variety of computer hardware, including support for PCs, Macs, and Linux operating systems. Another strong selling point for those users who do not use Microsoft Windows.
This simulator also comes with baked in tools for helping users to develop their own aircraft and scenery addons. Although, it could be said that most users will never use the tools due to the complexity and time requirements for getting involved with this aspect of the flight simulator hobby.
The user interface for X-Plane is often cited as one of the weakest features of the software. Though long time users of the software will certainly feel more comfortable using the interface, many new users, and especially those that are already familiar with Microsoft Flight Simulator can experience frustration when attempting to configure the simulator and use its various features.
When it comes to the over all aesthetic immersion and visual flight environment, X-Plane is no doubt the weakest of the 3 flight simulators mentioned in this article. While it has made great strides in the past few versions, and does in fact incorporate some great visual effects, it does not compare to the capabilities of Microsoft Flight Simulator products.
If flight simulators have a fun side and a serious side, then it could be said that Microsoft Flight Simulator products attempt to strike a good balance between these two aspects of flight simulation. X-Plane tends to illuminate the serious side of flight simulation, but does not hold up when it comes to the over all fun factor.
The community behind the X-Plane flight simulator is far smaller than Microsoft Flight Simulator, and the availability of 3rd party addons can not begin to compare to the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise. The number of dedicated community websites for X-Plane is also far smaller than those dedicated to the Microsoft franchise.
X-Plane is often considered a more professional choice by those involved with commercial flight simulator development aimed at corporate customers. The reputation for X-Plane as being a true flight simulator, while Microsoft Flight Simulator is a game for flight simulator hobbyists remains. Right or wrong. The absence of game oriented features, and the fact that it is rarely marketed as a game is a major contributor to this impression.
To each their own.
Each of the flight simulator options discussed in this article are enjoyable. They are also all so reasonably priced, that a dedicated flight simulation enthusiast could probably try all three to decide what they liked best.
The flight simulator hobby is becoming more niche every day. This probably isn't going to change any time soon. So a new user to any of these flight simulators is good for the entire community. We hope that everyone finds something that they can sink their teeth into and enjoy.