Palma De Mallorca is one of the most popular summer destinations in Europe. With all kinds of airlines from all over the world visiting, it makes for an exciting destination for simmers. From low-cost carriers to charters and premium airlines, Palma De Mallorca is a very popular airport. So popular it seems, that three different developers found it worthwhile to create the airport in our flight simulators. Those three developers are Aerosoft (developed by SimWings), JustSim (developed together with Digital Design) and most recently, MK-Studios.
In this head-to-head article, we’re going to look at various aspects of the airports and its surrounding area to see which developer offers the best value for money, which is the most detailed and whether it would be worth buying a second or third copy of the same airport. Or, if you don’t own a copy already, hopefully, this will help you make the most informed decision possible for your purchase.
Let’s run down some of the basics for each version.
|Aerosoft (developed by SimWings)*||€24,33 via Aerosoft||16 May 2018||Prepar3D v4|
|JustSim (developed together with Digital Design)||€21,90 via SimMarket||16 May 2019||Prepar3D v4 (update to Prepar3D v5 coming soon)|
|MK-Studios||€24,00 via SimMarket||14 April 2020||Prepar3D v4 and Prepar3D v5|
*Note: This is a “Professional” release of an original FSX product, which was released in 2015), The professional version included dynamic lighting and Prepar3D v4 compatibility.
(All copies of the product was provided by simMarket with no input from the developers in question)
I used the exact same settings in Prepar3D v4.5 HF2 for each product, using the same date and time. I am using REX Environment Force, but I have removed all other shader programs and switched off HDR. We’ll be going through the products, guided by screenshots from each airport taken at the same positions for the best comparison.
From this perspective we can see an overview of the airport itself, along with the blending with the included scenery. One thing I did notice is that if you are flying above the airport at this altitude, the buildings on the airport in the JustSim and MK-Studios version disappear and as you get a bit closer, start to flicker. This was not present in the Aerosoft version. My understanding that this is done for performance purposes.
Getting a bit closer to the airport overview, we can see the terminal buildings and other buildings much better. The Aerosoft version certainly looks a lot more washed out in comparison, with MK-Studios’ version having much more variety in terms of colouring around the airport. The brown looking fields towards the right (MK-Studios) of the image are much more representative of the airport’s real-world surroundings.
Google Maps – Image source 2020. Source: Google Maps
A slightly different look of the airport and we can see that each version has pretty much all the same buildings modelled in 3D with very similar imagery. However, you can distinctly see the quality of imagery improving from the Aerosoft version up to the MK-Studios version. In terms of 3D modelling, there isn’t much to differentiate each version here. One thing that the Aerosoft version holds over the other two is that it includes animated traffic. Neither the JustSim nor the MK-Studios version included animated traffic.
Looking much closer at the terminal, where most sim pilots will be, we can really start to see differences in each version here. The Aerosoft version holds a lot more ground clutter and airport vehicles over the other two. JustSim’s version does feature transparent glass, but the MK-Studios one appears to be much more realistic with more of a realistic reflection rather than a blue glass tint. It’s worth pointing out that all three versions use SODE, but the Aerosoft version does include CTRL+J jetways for those who still use that method.
(Note that the static aircraft was UT Live and not from the scenery itself)
From a different angle, we see some stark comparisons between each version. Aerosoft’s version looks a lot more blocky and dated compared to the others. This comes down to the environmental textures applied to the buildings such as dirt, grime and weathering effects. Looking at the roof, you can see that both the JustSim and MK-Studios versions have transparent glass panelling, unlike the Aerosoft version. The JustSim version is very transparent, unlike the MK-Studios version which uses PBR material to create the reflective surface.
All of these shots are from outside of the airport near the front entrance to the airport. There is a clear improvement in quality with the MK-Studios version over the others, in particular Aerosoft’s version. The coach park homes accurate companies in the MK-Studios version and the overall texture quality and modelling is much better. The circular shape on the roof of the terminal is much more round with less jagged edges. The Aerosoft model is just a solid object, not representative at all. JustSim does edge out Aerosoft’s version in this comparison with more accurate modelling and signage, but loses to the MK-Studios version as that one has a few more details that make it stand out.
A few more shots of various areas within the airport include the air traffic control tower, cargo areas and other shots of the terminal. I prefer JustSim’s version of the air traffic control tower, with more attention paid to the roof of some of the buildings. However, MK-Studios yet again includes more details including the eco-car parking charging dock.
Source: Google Maps
Ground textures are an important aspect of any airport product. In the top images, we can see the various taxiways to enter runway 24R. Since the Aerosoft version was released, various changes at the airport have been made, which are accurate within the JustSim and MK-Studios version. The placard for entering 06L/24R is most accurate with the MK-Studios version (the darkness in the screenshot is due to a cloud shadow).
Perhaps the most distinctive and noticeable difference is with the extra details on the ground. Both the MK-Studios and JustSim versions have environmental effects such as dirt and tyre markings. There are a few on the Aerosoft version, but not very realistic nor visually pleasing.
It’s worth noting that both the JustSim and MK-Studios airports include PBR materials on both the ground texturing and also parts of the terminal buildings also. This gives a much more true-to-life look and feel especially during rain and moments of low-level sunshine.
Another key difference is the information on the ground. At stand 88, there are 3 variations of the ground markings from each developer. Yet none of them is accurate according to Google. Despite the quality, you can see that there are 6 aircraft labels. The closest one to reality is Aerosoft’s with 5 labels. JustSim doesn’t even bother, with MK-Studio showing only a handful.
Source: Google Maps
I felt as though the MK-Studios version comes out strongest here. There’s clearly a lot more ground clutter and airport environment to find and explore to make the airport feel alive. However, the Aerosoft version does do well as it does include animated traffic.
This is where the JustSim version starts to show where it is a rush-job. Many smaller details are missing such as the air vents, airport vehicles and other ground markings. It does redeem itself by including some cargo pallets at the various cargo areas within the airport.
Easy win for MK-Studios here since it is the only airport to feature any kind of internal modelling. Whilst not super high-quality, it offers more than the other two versions.
Outside of Airport
All three versions include buildings, hotels and the harbour within Ca’n Pastilla. The Aerosoft version does pale in comparison here with only a handful of buildings included and less attention to detail on the modelling. Along Ca’n Pastilla Beach, both JustSim and MK-Studios have included a variety of hotels and buildings that populate the beach front. One key difference between the JustSim and MK-Studios version is the water masking. JustSim does not include any photoreal water, however, this means that waves do crash against the beach. However, if you prefer the more accurate colouring, then the MK-Studios version includes wonderful turquoise water for those picturesque views.
Island of Majorca
To be clear, JustSim does not include any photoreal scenery with their package. Instead, they have created a custom landclass that blends in with the surrounding terrain. I am using Orbx openLC in these screenshots, along with Orbx Global BASE pack. The MK-Studios and Aerosoft versions appear to use the same satellite imagery, but MK-Studios has done some colouring changes to the imagery making it less washed out and more vibrant.
Based on this, I very much prefer the MK-Studios representation of the island.
Night lighting did not stand-out to me on any version. However, I think JustSim strikes a good balance between subtle lighting and making it suitable for the simulator. MK-Studios’ version seems too dim for my liking and the runway lights were not bright enough to distinguish in the simulator. Also, Aerosoft and JustSim’s versions included street lighting on the roads leading to the airport, which was disappointing to not see in the MK-Studios version.
The Aerosoft version performed best on my system. This could be because of the fact it features fewer details and modelling compared to the others. That said, all three performed well and above expectations. Performance is not distinct enough between versions to warrant a preference over a version compared to another.
Comparing all three versions side-by-side, I feel that MK-Studios comes out on top, with JustSim following second. Aerosoft’s version, despite still being somewhat relevant, comes in last place.
From a pricing standpoint, MK-Studios offers a number of extra details and features over the JustSim version for only a handful of Euros more. From the included island scenery and interior modelling, MK-Studios outdoes the JustSim version. It is also cheaper than the Aerosoft version (but only by a fraction).
It’s worth mentioning here that the Aerosoft version was originally developed 5 years ago for FSX. Since then there have been lots of changes and improvements to the simulator and the available SDK, so it comes as no surprise that both the JustSim and MK-Studios versions offer a much more compelling purchase in 2020. With that in mind, it’s surprising how strongly the Aerosoft version still holds up, but the cracks do show when compared.
If you already own the JustSim version, I do not feel the upgrade to the MK-Studios version is worthwhile, but if you already own Aerosoft’s and you’re deciding which version to get, my recommendation would be for the MK-Studios version. I think it’s a worthwhile upgrade for the fact that it includes both the P3D v4 and v5 installers, along with updated ground markings and airport layout.