Initially, PMDG sent the community into a bit of a panic when they announced that the long-awaited and fabled NG3 would instead be heading to Microsoft Flight Simulator and not to Prepar3D. At the time, the product named NGXu was never known to the community until a few hours after the initial announcement. Whether you think it was PR suicide or genius, the fact remains that the community got a brand new 737 Next Generation aircraft almost out of the blue.
The 737NG remains on the most popular aircraft in the world. The aircraft developed by Boeing has always been a staple in the aviation industry thanks to its versatility, cost and overall passenger satisfaction. In recent years there have been a lot of hot topics surrounding the aircraft maker, but the 737 is still one of the most used aircraft in the world. As such, it’s a hugely popular aircraft for simmers to want to get their hands on. For many years, FSX/P3D users have had the PMDG 737NGX to get their fix of flying in the aircraft type. Despite how often it is still used, the aircraft released nearly 10 years ago for FSX. Technology has changed significantly since then. Despite a time where once PMDG vowed their products would never be in a Lockheed Martin simulator, the PMDG NGXu has been specifically built for Prepar3D v4, meaning that this is the first time one of their aircraft has been built exclusively with 64-bit technology in mind.
PMDG is known for its impressive quality, attention to detail and ability to produce innovative aircraft products that often push the boundaries of the simulators we use. Where other aircraft in the past certainly have always felt like a step up from their last, I feel the 737 NGXu is more of a simple evolution, rather than a revolution seen in other releases.
Installation of the NGXu is a straightforward task, only complicated by some strange e-mail activation code requirement before you can download the installer. It’s an inconvenience, especially compared to other installers out there which are far superior and easier. Once installed, the all-new PMDG Operations Center v2 will boot up. For all of the polish usually found in PMDG aircraft, this new version of the Ops Center really feels dated, clunky and old. In my opinion, I would say that the new version feels more primitive than the original – which at least had character, charm and functioned much easier. This new version makes even the most simple of tasks such as installing a livery much more complex than it needs to be. You have to navigate through multiple menus (via an old fashion tab / drop-down system) before then selecting the right aircraft. The actual installation of liveries is straight forward, but the overall process feels much less intuitive than before. You can also use the Ops Center to update any of your PMDG aircraft, along with other functionality. Whilst the Ops Center doesn’t impact the overall enjoyment of the aircraft itself, it feels really odd to feel like this element of the product design to take two steps back.
Modelling and Texture Work
Once installed, complete with a range of in-house designed liveries, you can opt to fly the 737-800, 737-900 or the 737-900ER. Unlike the original NGX, the 737-900ER actually has weights and fuel capacity to match its real-life counterpart. Each model also includes options to select variants with no winglets, blended winglets or – new to the NGXu – split scimitar winglets. All three options offer visual differences on the actual model of the aircraft, along with realistic flight modelling and fuel consumption changes due to the changes of the shape of the wing. Having the relatively new split scimitar winglets is a welcome addition – especially as more airlines start operating with the new retrofit.
The external modelling for the NGXu is one of the most impressive aspects of the aircraft. The new model has been done from scratch and offers a beautiful model of the prestigious aircraft. There is a huge number of animations on the aircraft, each of them as smooth as the other. In particular, I love how the flaps extend and retract. Yes, there is also great and accurate looking wingflex. It’s very fluid and less jittery compared to the original NGX. Furthermore, the new exterior modelling takes full advantage of Prepar3D v4.5’s PBR engine to excellent effect and the new dynamic lighting looks gorgeous at all times.
Upon loading, you’ll be put straight into the captain’s seat. Whether you owned the original NGX or not, you will notice the immediate quality in modelling and texture work. PMDG is no stranger to using high-resolution textures to create an immersive cockpit and the 737NGXu really excels in this department. By using thousands of captured images from the real-world aircraft, PMDG has crafted an impressive looking cockpit. The clarity on the dials, numbers and placards is unbelievable at almost any zoom level. It is sad to see that some of the wear and tear such as dirt, dust, grime and fingerprints are missing from the NGXu. Despite the aircraft being quite the workhorse, the cockpit this time is much cleaner with only a few signs of use here and there. This is just aesthetics, but a feature I do miss compared to the NGX.
Texturing inside the cockpit is really exceptional and a vast improvement over the older NGX series aircraft. The colours are a lot more accentuated than ever before. There is clear definition between various panels and materials used. One example of this is in the flight crew chairs. Although inconsequential to the enjoyment of the plane itself, the seats clearly look like wool – used to make the seat as comfortable as possible. Another example of where PMDG has excelled is the clarity on the displays themselves. Each letter, number and icon is very clear and the high refresh rate on the displays mean that information is given to the pilot quicker than ever before. The smoothness on elements such as the speed tape and altitude indicator makes things much easier.
One of the biggest complaints about the original NGX was the geometry of the cockpit windows. Whilst this was down to a limitation in the original aircraft (and the use of the HUD), PMDG has overcome this issue with the NGXu. Now the 737 looks cramped, small and totally in line with how the aircraft really looks. Pilots will tell you that the 737 is tiny compared to other aircraft and PMDG have nailed this feeling. This new cockpit fixes the biggest complaint from the NGX era, along with bringing in lots of other great modelling features. Everything is designed with high class throughout, from the dials on the MCP to the flap control lever. Furthermore, animations are improved with clear movement of dials, levers and even the additional crew seat just in front of the cockpit door.
Without a doubt, the night lighting for the NGXu is vastly superior to that of the original NGX. Unlike the original product released 10 years ago, the NGXu uses a dynamic lighting system for the flood or dome lights. This means shadows are 3D elements such as the knobs and control yoke in the cockpit and light now bleeds through where it should, making the cockpit feel incredibly atmospheric. Each light can be controlled individually within the cockpit meaning the pilot can set the light environment to their liking, along with conforming to SOP for their favourite airline. Another very nice touch is how the red light from the parking brake (when set) illuminates the throttle quadrant. The soft, red glow – despite being subtle – is very true to the real-world aircraft adding that extra layer of immersion.
Technology and Sound
Since it has been close to a decade between the original NGX and the NGXu, PMDG has refined and introduced a lot of new technology into their products. All of these new features (within the scope of the aircraft type) have been included. Fans of the PMDG rainmaker will be pleased to see water droplets hit the windows, along with condensation, bug splatters and also snow build-up also impairing your visibility in the right conditions. Another big addition taken from past aircraft is the inclusion of the onboard EFB.
Introduced back in the PMDG 747-8, the onboard EFB sits alongside you in the simulator, giving you access to a range of tools and applications to make flying easier and safer. Some of the functionality includes airport maps (which are imported directly from your scenery installed in the simulators), take-off and landing performance and also integration with Navigraph to import the latest charts directly into your simulator. All of these features are functional and add a degree of realism. There is a bit of a learning curve to get used to them, especially if this is your first time using said systems.
The EFB in the PMDG 737 NGXu Base Package has lots of functionality and features to play around with.
Continuing with functionality brought in from previous developments, the PMDG 737 NGXu series also features fuel density (from the 747 Queen of the Skies II release), interaction with the PMDG Ground Ops system and also auto step-climb. As usual, there are loads of configurable options, many of which are new with the NGXu, such as the new Boeing 737 LED landing lights. Another new feature that is unique to the NGXu is the ability to control your own push-back tug. It’s relatively easy to use and serves as a good tool for those who don’t own other software to perform that action. However,it doesn’t yield the best result. In my experience, it was temperamental, tough to control and the animations were often jittery and unpleasant. In situations like this, PMDG just needs to stick to what they do best and not try to dabble in other aspects of the simulator.
This does bring me onto an important point I’ve noticed with the NGXu. Unlike other add-on developers, there appears to be less of a collaboration effort from PMDG’s part when working with others. This, in particular, is seen with utilities such as GSX or other weather radars. As has been the case for many years, the weather engine within PMDG aircraft can only be used correctly when with HiFi Sim Tech’s Active Sky products. Nothing wrong with Active Sky, but after all these years of promised REX integration, along with other developers proving it can be done with default and a variety of other utilities, PMDG needs to deliver on some of these promises. And, where other developers are fully embracing GSX automated integration so that service equipment and SODE jetways work together, PMDG has their own system, which isn’t nearly as effective (nor does it add to the realism since they’re all plastered in the PMDG logo and no options to change it). Furthermore, from my experience, the PMDG ground ops stuff just doesn’t work well with any other integration.
In 2020, when we’ve seen a lot more developers take on this integrated approach to third parties, PMDG continues to stick to their ways and make it harder for simmers to enjoy their great aircraft with other important utility products that enhance the simulator experience.
When it comes to experience, sound is another important aspect to the overall quality of the plane. As usual, PMDG has done a great job on engineering some impressive new audio for the NGXu. A new change compared to that of the NGX is the inclusion of randomised sounds (first introduced in the 777X) for buttons, switches and levers. The new effects have been recorded to the highest quality and hearing a variation on each unique switch is very immersive. This is a nice improvement over the original NGX. From the metallic sounds of the flaps moving down to the way the trim wheel sounds as it moves quickly during the initial climb. Another noticeable improvement is how the gear has a great impact on the sound environment. Should you have to force the gear down with gravity in abnormal situations, the way it sounds is different and a lot heavier sounding. It’s these types of unique features that make a PMDG aircraft one of the top in their class. With that in mind, it’s a huge disappointment that the overall engine sounds appear no different to that of the original NGX aircraft. Perhaps we’ve been too spoilt by incredible third-party sound packages as of late, but the quality of the engines pale in comparison to other parts of the product.
Whilst the new technology and partially new sound effects are welcome additions, I was starting to get vibes that this felt more like an update rather than a new aircraft built from the “ground-up.” As with other releases, I was hoping to see something new and innovative come from PMDG. In previous releases, we saw the introduction to the EFB, new PBR materials, rainmaker and more – this product feels more like an amalgamation rather than a revolution – which is what I would expect when purchasing a $99.99 add-on.
Aircraft Handling and Systems
Make no mistake – I am not a 737 pilot. As such, I can’t comment too much on how the PMDG 737NGXu feels in comparison to the real aircraft. However, I certainly feel I can have an opinion on how it feels versus expectations.
It’s known that the aircraft is extremely versatile. It can travel pretty fast both short and medium-range with a variety of payloads. At light loads, the aircraft is incredibly nimble and quick to climb. This also means that slowing the 737 down for approach is a challenge. Many people have said that you can either slow down or descend, but not both at the same time. The PMDG NGXu certainly performs in this manner. At heavier loads, the plane uses the full might of the two CFM engines.
The aircraft itself handles nicely in the air and is incredibly responsive to controls. Compared to the original NGX, this new aircraft feels much nicer to fly. It feels much less on-rails in the air compared to the NGX and is a lot more attentive to your inputs. It seems to fly through the air much smoother than before and when making turns, it feels less robotic. In the air, it feels very nice and is a pleasure to hand-fly.
Just before publication of this review, PMDG released a new update to the Base Package of the 737 NGXu. Robert discussed how the ground handling in the aircraft had been updated based on findings he made a couple of weeks ago. Since the update, taxiing still feels out of place and the aircraft continues to skid around or feel sticky after making a turn. The new ground handling of the 737 NGXu, in general, is improved over that of the original NGX as the aircraft now rolls on idle, along with picking up nice momentum when travelling at lightweights. You can now also perform single-engine taxi, which helps those looking to save virtual fuel. The braking action on the aircraft also feels more responsive and in line with expectations – especially when moving on wet surfaces.
When it comes to systems, PMDG has used all of their talents to create an aircraft that feels alive. I won’t go into detail, but subsequently, following items in the QRH or the FCOM results in pin-point accurate responses from the aircraft. Everything from aircraft handling to the voltage running through the electric systems is dynamic to your input and actions. For those that want to simulate a challenge, you can set automatic failures or pre-program them for some real fun. Also, as with the original NGX, you can also have the aircraft simulate issues from a lack of maintenance or from simply being too much of a work-horse.
Pricing and Performance
Even more challenging is how to consider the price of the product. As a stand-alone product, it costs $99.99 USD. Not the cheapest aircraft, but not the most expensive in the PMDG range either. That said, for owners of the original NGX, there is no upgrade price nor discount for loyal customers. As such, it’s a big pill to swallow for what is essentially an upgrade. However PMDG may try to market this is built “from the ground-up”, to the typical simmer, this is the same plane but with prettier graphics and a handful of new features. At the same time, for newcomers, $99.99 is easily worth it for the quality of the product and the features you receive.
Some night lighting to showcase. You can see the PBR on the exterior nicely in these shots.
Whilst this review covers the original Base Package, it’s worth noting that an expansion pack for the 600/700 models are now available for an additional cost of $24.99 (before the end of February), before then going back to $34.99. There is also talk of a MAX expansion, too, which is currently on hold due to the sensitive nature of the aircraft’s real-world news.
It’s worth noting that the discount offered on the NG3 on Microsoft Flight Simulator for those that purchased the NGXu before December 31st 2019 has not been taken into account for the review as this won’t / can’t be applied to all people who may or may not purchase the NGXu. It simply wouldn’t be fair and is not truly reflective of the price or quality of the product.
Regarding performance, the PMDG NGXu is a bit more intense compared to the original. I think that’s reasonable considering the higher resolution texture work, additional features and numerous additional calculations ongoing within the EFB itself. Whilst there is a change in performance, it’s still well within acceptable norms for most simmers with a great balance between features and performance. Furthermore, PMDG is refining their codebase with improvements seen in the past few updates. Finally, for those that like extra control, there are a few adjustable options for the screen displays to make the aircraft less impactful on your machine at those larger airports.
Cheeky shot from the -600 expansion package.
The term “study-level” stems from those simmers looking to get an authentic experience with their aircraft. However, it’s never been defined exactly what a study-level plane is or should be. However, one thing is sure with the PMDG 737NGXu is that it holds as one of the best aircraft you can get for Prepar3D. Where it does lack is in innovation. Unlike other PMDG aircraft that have been released that always seemed to build on the last, the NGXu feels a bit stale in comparison. It’s mired with some unusual issues with controls and strange implementations, but is made up with truly incredible modelling and texture work.
- The all-new flightdeck is well modelled and much improved over the original
- Inclusion of other PMDG features such as rainmaker and the EFB.
- Improved flight dynamics over the original NGX
- Huge number of system functionality and failures for those wanting to dig deep
- Price point for original NGX users is not justified for the changes implemented
- PMDG Ops Center V2 feels like 2-steps back
- Ground handling still feels unstable, despite updates.
- No groundbreaking new features or technology as seen in other PMDG releases
Where are scores?
After listening to your feedback, we have decided that from February 5th 2020, we will no longer implement review scores. We will continue to provide high-quality reviews via our written, video and imagery to help you make an informed decision about a product. You can read more about it on our Review Guidelines Page.