TDS GTNXi Review for Microsoft Flight Simulator

TDS GTNXi Review for Microsoft Flight Simulator

April 25, 2022
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Introduction

Although Microsoft Flight Simulator has been out for quite a while, properly simulated avionics are still a rarity. However, TDS Sim Software changed this with the introduction of their GTN750Xi and 650Xi, an incredibly in-depth simulation of the GTNXi units, based on the Garmin trainer. In reality, the GTN 750Xi and 650Xi are greatly improved versions of their predecessor, the GTN750 and GTN 650. Featuring a higher amount of pixels, greater processing power, better speed and performance, the GTN Xi series is an incredibly popular avionics option that can be suited for a plethora of aircraft in real life. Thankfully, these avionics have been recreated within Microsoft Flight Simulator to an exceptionally high standard providing a means to realistic instrument flying within Asobo’s simulator.

Installation

Installing the GTNXi was incredibly simple and I had no difficulty getting it set up and ready to go in the simulator. With the developer providing the “TDS GPS Manager” the installation was made seamless and simple. Firstly, I was required to enter my login information into the installer to confirm that I own the products. 

Following this step I simply had to click to install the Garmin Trainer, then the actual TDS GTNXi that allows the trainer to work in the simulator. The installation was automatic after this, and I wasn’t required to intervene anywhere. In general, I was incredibly happy to see the simple installation process of the TDS GTNXi, and I don’t see many people having trouble installing the product.

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Customization and External Use

Although the GTNXi is currently only available for a select few aircraft in the simulator, the avionics can be used externally with every aircraft that has a default autopilot (as this is required for autopilot control) in MSFS. Fortunately, the process is incredibly simple and worked flawlessly during my testing. Not only does this provide a great option for those looking to use the GTNXi in currently unsupported aircraft, but it also allows a larger version of the avionics to be displayed via a separate window, making it perfect for practicing the avionics without having to use it directly in the simulator. Moving on, TDS offers a plethora of customization options to suit the avionics to your needs. Although there are too many options to list, the settings range from changing the voice of the TAWS (terrain avoidance and warning system), to the colour and type of airplane. Furthermore, types of TAWS modes (TAWS B, TAWS A, Terrain Proximity, HTAWS, HTERRAINPROX), fuel types, audio options, and much more. In general, a plethora of options are available with the GTNXi’s, providing a sense of ownership and originality to your avionics. As well, if you own a GTNXi in real life, these options will potentially provide a pathway to bringing the avionics as close to real life as possible. As well, I had no issues with using the avionics externally in a wide variety of default GA aircraft. My only rather nitpicky complaint would be that the avionics cannot be used externally when they are also being used within the virtual cockpit, although this won’t be an issue for most people.

Systems 

I don’t have much to say about the depth of the GTNXi units, except the fact that they are incredibly accurate and a joy to use.  Of course, since they are based on the Garmin trainer this comes as no surprise, but scrolling through the various pages on the units I was thoroughly impressed seeing just how much works. To put it briefly, expect almost a 1:1 creation of the real GTNXi units with the usual limitations of the simulator affecting the more niche parts of the avionics, such as the SMS texting feature which did not work. Firstly, the main pages that most users will use such as the MAP, Flight Plan, and PROC pages worked flawlessly and I had no issues. It also must be noted that I was particularly impressed to see the approach charts for the airport I was landing at show up on the map. Delving into the avionics further, other popular pages such as the terrain and charts worked properly and I once again had no issues using them. Moving deeper into the avionics, the relatively obscure pages such as GPS status, RAIM prediction, and more were all simulated, providing an extra level of immersion for those looking into a deep dive into the avionics. One thing that I found particularly interesting was how easy it was to create custom waypoints, truly proving just how in-depth the avionics are. There are numerous other simulated areas of the GTNXi’s as well, such as VNAV, fuel planning, audio/alert options, and more, however, going through each page individually would cause this review to be incredibly long. To conclude, since the TDS GTNXi is based on the Garmin trainer, the avionics are just about a 1:1 rendition of the real suite, providing an incredibly immersive and enjoyable experience for real pilots and casual simmers alike. 

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Virtual Cockpit Integration 

Unfortunately, there is a rather limited list of aircraft currently supporting the TDS GTNXi, but this list will be sure to grow in the future. Currently, only a handful of aircraft are supported, and according to the developer’s website, these include the Flysimware Cessna 414A Chancellor, the JustFlight Piper Arrow and Warrior, the SimWorksStudios RV-14, the Hype Performance Group H145, and the upcoming Milviz C310R. As well, some default general aviation aircraft where the G1000 can be replaced. Thankfully, however, with the three aircraft I tested virtual cockpit integration with (Flysimware Cessna 414A Chancellor, JustFlight Warrior, and SimWorksStudios RV-14) all worked as expected, and I didn’t notice any major performance decrease. 

Issues

Moving on, with my time using the avionics I didn’t notice many bugs, in fact, I only encountered one major issue that somewhat impeded my use of the avionics. I’m unsure whether this is a limitation of Microsoft Flight Simulator, but the weather section on the TDS GTNXi currently doesn’t work at all and a weird bug occurs where it shows a distorted version of the map. Thankfully, however, according to the developer they are working on a fix for this, so time will tell if the weather radar within the GTNXi will be functional. EDIT: The weather bug has now been fixed. Unfortunately, a big limitation of the Garmin Trainer is that default or Navigraph navigation data do not work with the avionics suite, this causes the current AIRAC on the Garmins to be out of date, potentially causing issues with routing, especially when flying on online networks such as VATSIM. Although this can be circumvented by purchasing actual Garmin nav data, this can be incredibly expensive, costing hundreds of dollars, making this an unrealistic option for the vast majority of simmers. Thankfully, the navigation data provided with the units isn’t too out of date, with the avionics being shipped with AIRAC 2104, which dates back to the 20th of May 2021. This means that there shouldn’t be too much of a problem using the avionics on VATSIM, but there will certainly be moments where SIDS and STARS may not appear on the GTNXi due to the outdated AIRAC cycle.

Pricing

For those looking to elevate the realism and experience of Microsoft Flight Simulator, I would highly recommend the TDS GTNXi, especially at its regular price of 49.95 euros. If you’re able to look past the navigation data issues, I would certainly recommend the GTNXi over other products such as the PMS50 GTN which is not only not as in-depth but also costs more. However, if online flying is vital to your simulation experience and you can’t see yourself flying with a slightly outdated AIRAC cycle, then you may want to consider other options and disregard TDS Design’s avionics package.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to learn how to operate a GTN 750Xi or 750Xi and aren’t too phased about the predicament of outdated nav data, the TDS GTNXi will surely be a product you should consider. Even if you’re not a real pilot who wants to learn the intricacies of the GTNXi series, the avionics offering from TDS can still be a fun and enjoyable experience for all experience levels. As well, I can say with uttermost certainty that the GTNXi will be replacing the PMS50 GTN within my simulator, which I previously owned, due to its complexity and accuracy in replicating the real avionics. It must be said, however, that the PMS50 does contain some advantages over the TDS, such as its virtual cockpit compatibility being slightly larger, along with the fact that it uses default navigation data, allowing the AIRAC to be continuously updated. However, if those issues do not bother you in the slightest I can only recommend the TDS GTNXi for your flight simulation excursions, as it will truly enhance the experience of flying in Microsoft Flight Simulator, especially when operating under IFR.

If you're looking to purchase the GTNXi from TDS, it is available via the developer's website for 49.95 euros. However, it is currently on sale for ten euros cheaper, until April 29th.

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