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The Flight 1 GNS530 had to by far be one of the hardest products to review I have ever seen. It’s not perfect no. But any problem I could find with it could be excused by simply saying “That’s how the real thing works.” Normally that’s a terrible excuse! But this time, given the way this particular addon works; Well it’s a perfectly viable counter argument. I could not decide how to approach this addon. Is it awesome, and all its problems excused by it being realistic. Or is it bad and all its problems are just that, Problems. That is until it occurred to me that my writers block was caused by a perfectly viable argument to make. It’s good and realistic, But has problems that consumers should be aware of before purchase. So that’s how this review is going to be written. There will be a score but I want to state right now that this is a good product. It has issues but the issues are excusable.
Now you might be thinking “Hold on. Why is the excuse of ‘that’s how the real thing works’, a terrible excuse. Surly since we are talking about a simulator then the more realistic the better right?” Well yes but to a point. Do not forget that Flight sim is a game so certain sacrifices have to be made for the sake of play-ability and convenience. You may scoff at that statement. You may think that full realism is the best approach at all times. But it’s not hard to imagine how badly that would go down if you made a game with that level of thinking. You quickly end up with a boring grind. The kind of thing Jim Sterling rips apart on youtube. But bring just a little bit of gamification in, and it makes a world of a difference. Instantly becoming a much better experience. The same logic can be applied to Flight sim, and addons a like.
The biggest problem I had with this addon was just how inconvenient it was to use. There are several things that make it a hassle to work with. Now fair enough given the way this addon works that is excusable. See this is not your normal gauge addon. Normally gauges in Flight sim are a collection of Bitmaps, and a file full of code that tells the simulator what data the gauge needs, and how to display the bitmaps. However this gauge is actually a display that uses a program to connect to an external bit of software running in the background. That software is the GNS530 trainer from Garmin. So what this means is this gauge is a pixel by pixel recreation of the real GNS530. Including most of its features. Now this does mean we get a highly realistic gauge. But we now have to contend with some cons of the real GNS530. Magnified by the fact we are in a sim, using a mouse to interact with the world, Not in the real airplane. So through this review i’m going to list of my biggest grievances with the GNS530.
Another big complaint has to be with the purchase and install process. It’s a Flight 1 addon and for some unknown reason Flight 1 uses a Ecommerce wrapper that looks and feels like it’s from the nineties. It’s not a very nice system to work with. But the focus of this review is on the product itself. By far my biggest complaint is that two notable features from the real 530 are absent. That is Crossfill and TIS. Now crossfill I can excuse. For those not in the know crossfill is a feature that allows you to share information among other Garmin units in a panel. In real life, for example, you would use it to transfer a flight plan from one unit to another so the magenta line can be displayed on both units. This way you don’t have to enter the same flight plan twice. I can see that being a difficult feature to implement on this addon; Given that, most likely, Flight 1 wants to integrate that with their other units. The GTN750/650, and the GNS430 counterpart to this addon.
However I cannot forgive TIS not being available! Now understandably on the real GNS530, TIS (Traffic Information System) was an option. And it required a Garmin GTX330 Mode-S Transponder. That limitation does not exist in Flight Sim. I find it a massive missing feature that this unit does not display traffic. Though the store page for this product tells me why. They plan on bringing crossfill and TIS to the unit in a separate PAID expansion. I guess the $40 spent on this addon already are not enough. Did EA buy Flight 1 when I wasn’t looking? Seriously though TIS and other systems like it, are such an integral part of modern avionics. It not being present in a $50 addon is a massive oversight on the part of Flight1. But then having the audacity to tell us to expect to pay for it in the future, well now you’re just being greedy!
It’s not like you could not get TIS to work with this gauge. It already sends information from the sim to the program running the gauge. The wind indications clearly show that, as they match the winds in the sim. Theres also another thing I want to point out about this addon. You see when you install it you must also download and install the GNS training software from Garmin. It’s required to make this gauge addon work. Brief reminder this addon is largely some software that, Way over simplified, allows the sim to communicate with the training software to deliver a highly realistic gauge. Now the GNS530 has a little sister, the GNS430. It’s a smaller counterpart meant to be a cheaper alternative to the 530. Flight 1 also offer this gauge for purchase. Separately, At the same price as the 530! That may sound like no big deal, after all it is a separate product. But, that training software you have to download. It includes the entire GNS500 and 400 line of GPS units. Including the 430. This leads me to believe that we are being charged twice for what is essentially the same software!
Other than that my complaints are largely convenience based. There’s no keyboard support. You have to use the knobs to enter in every character on the unit. Realistic, Yes. Pain in the ass? Oh god yes! But I think I’ve talked enough about the bad, there is some good to be had. I do appreciate that Flight 1 has made a GNS530. There are way more aircraft using the 530 than the GTN750; The other GPS addon from Flight 1. If you have the old Reality XP GNS530. Which was largely similar to this. But are tired of it and angry because reality XP fracked off with no warning for several years. Or if a addon airplane you have is configured to use a reality XP unit. Then don’t worry. This addon comes with a handy utility to swap the reality XP unit for the Flight 1 unit. And having all the features a real GPS has is nice in FS. The default GPS in FSX/P3D is the GNS500. Though it’s lacking in a lot of features. To its credit it does a decent job. But nothing beats having the features of the real thing.
I really can’t think of anything else to say about this addon. Yes it’s good but is a bit of a pain to use. Though that is excusable. One thing to be aware of is purchasing the GNS530 addon yields 2 GNS 530 units you can use in any plane. 1 for COM/NAV1 and another for COM/NAV2. There is another addon you may be interested in, the GNS430. The sister gauge to this one. It’s smaller but comes with basically the same features. If you want that gauge that is a separate purchase. Also note that its a separate purchase for the P3D and FSX versions to.
For this last bit I will talk about one other thing I think consumers should be aware of. A Lot of Flight Simmers tend to start with airliners and work down. I’m thinking some of you may be buying this addon to bring more realistic avionics with programmable routes to GA planes. One thing you should be aware of is the GNS530 does not support airways. I believe there were some aftermarket attachments you could get that added support for Airways. But the unit itself did not support them. And so neither does this add on. The common work around is to just enter the waypoints that define the airway. So instead of all the in between waypoints, only enter the VORs or waypoints where a course change is needed. Either way it is a bit time consuming so you may find yourself gravitating towards shorter routes when using this addon.
NOTE: I did not test the GNS430 since it is a seperate addon. But given that it uses the same training software as this one, I highly doubt it’s any different. Their store pages are almost identical to. I’m willing to bet they are the same in terms of functionality.