I’m trying to get really comfortable with the cockpit of a Cessna 172 before I do real flight training.
The 2 most popular products are: X-Plane 10 and Microsoft Flight Simulator X (aka FSX). I own both and have been going back and forth between them.
- Visuals: Better visualizations and scenery, and graphics engine
- OS Compatibility: Works on Windows, OSX and Linux
- Flight Characteristics: More realistic flight controls and flight models
- Networking: networking computers is integrated into X-Plane – can use 2nd computer as an instructor or display for other gauges or scenery (though a separate license is required per computer)
- GPS: Garmin 430 only – with limited, “direct to” functionality
- Lessons: Lack of flight training material integrated within X-Plane, though they have a website with lessons
- Start Up time: Slow start up – usually 90 seconds or so.
- ATC: VFR ATC doesnt work very well, IFR is suppsed to be OK.
- WideScreen – Multi Monitors: Multiple monitor layout is limited – requires more separate computers other monitors in most cases
- Price: More pricey ($69 per computer license)
Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX):
- Lessons: Included flight lessons for VFR, IFR and Commercial pilot are decent and a good way to get familiar with flying
- GPS: Both a Garmin 530 or G1000 equipped Cessna’s are included, Though they both have limited functionality. Flight Plan is entered via menus, not manual on the GPS, unless it is a “Direct to” point.
- Addons: Many more addons are available for FSX, since it have been around since 2006.
- Price: Cheap ($18 on amazon.com)
- Widescreen – multi monitor: Much easier to move around instruments and scenery to other screens attached to same computer, though 2D panel disappears when with triple monitor widescreen.
- Automated ATC: ATC works for both VFR and IFR, and gives you some exposure to the phraseology.
- ATC Addon: VATSIM seems to work better – via squawkbox
- Software Improvements: Microsoft has discontinued the product, so no more patches or updates
- More Addons Requires: FSUIPC4 required to connector most other apps, like Plan-G3, ForeFlight, etc.
Here is another persons comparison discussion:X-Plane 9 and 10 vs. Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX) Comparison Video