The island of Lanzarote is part of the Canary Islands (Islas Canarias in Spanish), an archipelago of islands located off the North West African coast in the Atlantic Ocean. There are 7 major islands (as well as some smaller inlets), namely Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Furteventura, El Hierro, La Palma and La Gomera.
The islands belong to Spain in terms of Sovereignty but are ruled as an autonomous community. The islands are of Volcanic nature. The Teide volcano on Tenerife is the largest volcano across all of Spain and it’s territories.
As well as being home to the local people, a number of the Canary Islands are tourist and holiday hotspots, visited by people from an ever-widening area of the world. In the 1960s mass international tourism commenced, centered around the island of Tenerife, with sun seekers mainly from Britain and Germany taking advantage of the year round sunshine and fantastic beaches that the Canarys offer. The Scandinavians were the next to ‘catch on’ to the paradise-like environment that the Canarys can offer to holiday makers, and in latter years the islands have become very popular with vacationers from Russia and Turkey, as well as from most other countries across Europe. Of course, these international visitors are blended with the large number of domestic tourists from the Spanish mainland and Balearic Islands.
I don’t have hard stats, but I would place a guess that upward of 40-50% of adults in my home country of England will have been on holiday to one of the Canary Islands at some. The popularity of the Canarys in England comes second only to the (slightly nearer) Balearic Islands, also a Spanish territory, in the Mediterranean sea. Flight time to the Canaries from the UK and Germany is around 4 hours, making these islands far enough away to feel foreign and exotic, yet close enough to avoid a long-haul flight.
The number of times I have personally been to the Canarys is approaching double figures. I have experienced all of the larger islands but still need to add El Hierro, La Gomera and La Palma onto my ‘visited’ list.
Lanzarote is an elongated shaped island, the most Northerly of the major islands. In terms of the Canarys, it is medium sized, given that it’s the 4th largest in the Archipelago, at the same time as being the 4th smallest. It has a reputation for being the windiest of the Canary Islands, with year round sunshine. It is popular with surfers and water sports fans, as well as more traditional holiday makers.
So, back to flight simulation……. What do we have here then?
www.fly-wonderful-islands.com is a relatively new developer of high quality sceneries for FSX. Their website shows that the two currently available products are Lanzarote X (the subject of this review), and El Hierro X – both islands in the Canarys. They are also in the process of developing a Bermuda X add-on.
So, having recently completed an overhaul of my ‘FSX PC’, I was looking forward to the prospect of reviewing a scenery add-on that (a) appears to offer a high quality representation of a whole island, and (b) is representing an island that I know well in the real world.
Ladies and Gentlemen let me introduce; Lanzarote X, from “Fly Wonderful Islands”.
Installation and Documentation
Purchase and Installation of Lanzarote X is straightforward. The product can be bought from a number of on-line FS retailers, with links to these from the www.fly-wonderful-islands.com website. Regardless which vendor you choose to buy from, you’re given a direct download which supplies the fully automatic installer, in a Zip File.
You are then provided with a serial number by email. Run the Installer, enter your Serial Number and you’re done! No hassle, the way installing a product should be. I personally believe that installation methods that require customers to manually email serial numbers and have to wait to receive an activation key back from the vendor are just not good enough from a customer perspective. You’ll have no such issues with this product and you’ll be up and running in a minute or so.
The installer asks whether you want it to ‘add the scenery to the FSX Scenery Library’, unless there is a specific reason that you want to do this yourself, leave the tick in the box and the installer will do everything. You’ll be ready to fly as soon as you next fire up FSX.
Lanzarote in the default FSX world
Lanzarote in the default FSX world is certainly not the worst scenery area in the sim, but it is rather bland and ‘samey’. As you can see in the default screenshots below, the island is depicted as a random desert – light, clear sand from top to bottom.
While there is a lot of nice sand in Lanzarote, FSX has not considered that this is a volcanic island. From the sky, there are patchy black and dusty areas that reminder you of this. It is not simply a slice of the Sahara that has drifted off the west African coast, as FSX would have you think!
With the default representation we also see the usual lack of detail – the main road that links Arrecife Airport (GCRR) with the holiday resorts of the island is missing from the default scenery. The GCRR airport itself is also very sparsely represented, considering this is an airport that is handling close to 6 million passengers per year at the time of writing.
Lanzarote as presented by ‘Lanzarote X’
The improvements that Lanzarote X brings are visible from the second you load your flight from GCRR. For my screenshot capture flight, I started with the FSX default Ultralite Trike, on the runway at the airport. The first thing I noticed is that there is now a realistic looking perimeter fence to the left of the runway. I can also see a lot of detail over to my left, at the Western terminal area – an area that was a blank chunk of concrete in the default FSX scenery. To the right of the runway, I see very nice 3D taxi lights – I’m impressed.
I am 2 minutes in and I already feel like this is a true FSX scenery, not something that looks like it once lived in FS2004 and has been dragged – screaming and kicking – into FSX!
As I take off in the trike, I immediately spot THE ROAD ! …… the missing road linking Arrecife to the resorts is now represented as an accurate highway (if not a little wide – I don’t remember it as a six laner!).
The town of Arrecife, just North-East of the Airport, is now rendered in far more detail compared to the default FSX version. It is clear that new Landclass detail is included and I also immediately noticed that the coastline has been corrected. It is now representing a far more accurate depiction of the island’s east coast.
The best is yet to come. As I navigate North West from Arrecife, I see more of the wonderful new ground textures in the undeveloped regions of the island – the sand is now speckled with patches of blank volcanic rock. The effect is extremely realistic and very close to what you see from a Thomas Cook A321 when taking a Southerly visual approach over the island, then turn and land on Runway 03.
I completed a full circumnavigation of the island and on my return to GCRR I begin to fully appreciate how much extra detail has been added to the airport. The scenery and objects are original and highly detailed. Overall, the airport is now represented as a hive of activity, which is just what the real Arrecife Airport feels like.
Performance in FSX
As we’ve all become painfully aware, great looking FSX add-on scenery means nothing if it results in slow frame rates, stutters and something of a slide show. Although I have become happier with FSX over the last month or so and quite enjoy using it for off-line, VFR flight in the high quality aircraft add-ons from Flight 1, Dreamfleet, RealAir and Eaglesoft, I still spend 75% of my time on FS2004.
The reason? – the older sim is still superior for those who find smoothness and fluidity to be the most important aspects in their simming. I can get absolutely stunning fluidity and reliability in FS2004 while running Active Sky 6.5, Squawkbox 3 (for VATSIM flying), and all sliders set to maximum. On current hardware, FSX can’t compete with the performance and visual treats that the older sim can potentially offer in this regard. Anyway, I am digressing. Those are my experiences and many simmers have found otherwise.
The real question is; how does Lanzarote X perform in FSX. As you can see from my system specs, I am using a system that is reasonably powerful but nothing special by today’s standards. I am in the process of building a new PC for simming so I deliberately tested Lanzarote X on my older, existing system so I could see how it would cope. Not all simmers have the latest Core2Quad and 8800 GTX graphics card.
I’m delighted to report that I found Lanzarote performed EXCELLENTLY in FSX on my system. Flying around the vastly improved island textures, I noticed no drop in frame rates at all compared to default scenery. The only area where I experienced a small initial stutter, was when flying into the GCRR airport area.
This was a ‘once only’ initial stutter as the scenery rendered. Beyond this, I experienced only a small drop in FPS, that did not reduce fluidity and that was essentially not noticeable (unless you are flying with FPS displayed, for the purposes of testing, as I was). I had frame rates locked at 24 FPS.
When flying around the island, my frame rates did not budge from 23.9 FPS. On flying into the GCRR airport area, frame rates stuttered for around 1 second, and then settled fluidly at 22.4 for the remainder of my time in the airport ‘zone’ (including on the ground).
I should also note that I am using a TripleHead2Go device and 3 x 19” TFT monitors. This means that my graphics card is running a display resolution of 3840 x 1024. Considering how resource hungry FSX is, this is a fair load on the CPU and GPU. Single screen users are likely to get better performance than that quoted above.
I would summarize that in terms of performance in FSX, Lanzarote X performs well above any other scenery area of this level of detail that I’ve used in the more modern sim. Again, remember I am using an ‘older’ graphics card, albeit a fairly powerful one in it’s day.
FSX vs FSX SP1 vs FSX SP2
The ‘Fly-Wonderful-Islands’ website states that the Lanzarote X scenery requires FSX SP2 service pack, however I do not use this service pack and on my system the scenery performed excellently on FSX SP1 with no issues. Bear in mind however, that the developer is stating SP2 as a requirement so you may want to contact the developer before buying if you intend to run on FSX SP1. All I can repeat is that for me, I had no issues whatsoever and saw great performance from using Lanzarote X with FSX SP1.
Lanzarote X costs 17.79 Euros, which equates (at the time of writing) to £14.79 or $27.80. It is important to consider the cost when summarizing an add-on. For example; some detailed VFR photorealistic sceneries can cost 90 Euros, whereas in contrast, I recently bought a FSX scenery add-on (Central Florida GA Airfields, from FScene) that cost a little over 9 Euros.
Although cost is a key consideration, it ultimately comes down to whether you have an interest in flying in the area that is offered. Aerosoft offer some wonderfully detailed scenery add-ons for FSX, and while I own a number of them, others present small, specific areas of the world which I may not have an interest of flying in.
Lanzarote X puts the virtual pilot into an area that is large enough to explore, but small enough to enjoy in a 30 minute flight sim ‘window’. For the VFR GA pilot, the scenery is heavenly. It is realistic, looks just like the real thing, and performs superbly in FSX.
A VFR take-off from GCRR, and flight around the island while listening to Skyblue radio is a truly wonderful experience that will have the stresses of real life dissolving as you escape into the paradise that this island offers. If you prefer to fly the heavies on IFR, this is still great as the GCRR airport is worth the price alone. As you set off from your home airport, you have the knowledge that your approach and landing into Arrecife Airport is going to be a real visual treat.
In short, I heartily recommend Lanzarote X to all FSX simmers. I will personally be purchasing ‘El Hierro X’ later this week to allow cross island flights in this wonderful environment! Head on over to www.fly-wonderful-islands.com – your sim deserves it!
What I Like About Lanzarote
What I Don't Like About Lanzarote
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