TOGA Projects ENVTEX is a newly released texture enhancement package for Flight Simulator 9, Flight Simulator X, and Prepar3d. The goal of the product is to provide sky and ground textures, as well as special effects, to enhance your simulation experience. There has been some confusion about what this is, so I want to point out that this is more than just sky textures, but also includes some ground textures, special effects, water textures, and texture corrections to the sims default textures as well. This would be a competitor with products like REX or Cielosim texture enhancements, as well as FSFX PrecipitFX . TOGA Projects released this product on December 8, 2016. So, how does this product hold up against its competitors? Is it worth it? Let’s find out in this FSElite Review!
I’ve installed this product on my machine running Prepar3d v3.4. My system is running an i5-2500k OC to 4.5ghz, 8GB DDR3, a GTX 960 4GB SSC, and it is running off of my trusty old Corsair SSD. This system combined with my P3D settings and other addons is able to achieve 30 FPS in most situations (extremely dense places like San Francisco, New York, and London will give me fits). I want to stress that your experiences will differ depending on your simulator of choice, system specs, as well as sim and ENVTEX settings.
Installing ENVTEX isn’t too hard but an internet connection is required. The simmarket installer will take you through a couple steps that do require internet. Once you’ve completed the installation it is recommended you create a backup folder and also set the Envtex.exe to run as an administrator. I don’t really have any complaints about the installation, it is a fairly standard process. The next step here is to read through the documentation so we can prepare to install textures!
After you’ve installed ENVTEX you’ll want to check out the manual. To open the manual you can find it by selecting “Start” and then looking under the “simmarket” category. There should be a manual there you can click to open (it is in PDF format). If you have more than one simmarket product there may be more than one manual there so you’ll have to guess which one is which. If you’d like an alternative method you can simply browse to the directory where you installed the product. Look for a “Documentation” folder inside of the ENVTEX folder.
The current manual is about 28 pages long and details all of the different textures and effects ENVTEX has to offer. There is also information for using ENVTEX with Hifi Simulations Active Sky Cloud Art. Additionally, the manual also has information for tweaking FS9, FSX and P3D but those should be used at your own risk. Overall, the manual is very in depth and informative and will be very useful for getting everything setup correctly. Make sure you read through it before you proceed!
I’ve had this product since the day of release and I must say the provided GUI is probably the biggest issue this product has. It has had issues, like crashing on startup for some users (myself included), and has some clunky features. The good news is the team at TOGA Projects has worked very hard to correct all of the reported problems. They’ve released 4 hotfixes, and even fixed some unreported things I was going to report on. In my opinion the design and user experience of the GUI feels very clunky and dated. I was honestly a little shocked as I thought they’ve done very good designing everything else for ENVTEX.
The text fields on the left side of the program for defining paths to your simulator, backup folder, and ASCA were all terrible. When you clicked these fields you had to manually delete the text in them to input your path. This has since been fixed and I am pretty sure nobody said anything about it, so good for TOGA Projects! The next glaring issue was that the installation bar would hang at about 90%. No matter how long I’d wait, it just hung. This problem was also fixed in a recent hotfix.
The biggest issue for me was the crashing. I, and some other users, had an issue where you’d need to try and start the application multiple times just to get it to launch. It was a bit frustrating, but by sending TOGA Projects my error logs they were able to identify the problem and correct it.
Overall, the design and layout of the GUI could be much better and easier to use, and it hasn’t been without technical issues, however the team has been very responsive to feedback. They’ve worked very hard to correct technical issues and I think that will continue. The fact that this is a texture enhancement and not a program makes the bad design choices less than significant, but I do hope for a redesign one day.
ENVTEX allows you to select 8 different types of textures consisting of sky textures, inland, tropical, and ocean water textures, sun textures, cloud textures, grass textures, and wave effects. In addition to this, there are airport textures that can be installed, though you can’t select any sort of texture set, you get what you get. On the left you can control the resolution for each texture type. You can select a “low”, “normal”, or “high” configuration that will set the resolutions accordingly. I left everything at the native resolution, however I do like that you can control the resolution for each texture.
For my sky textures I went with Altitude – Low Flying. I enjoy the look of the dusk and dawn textures in this set, though I like the High Flying day texture better. Sadly you can’t mix and match, you have to select a set. There are 11 different sets to select from.
My inland water textures I used Set 1 as I liked that I was getting four different textures rather than the three in the photoreal sets. I used Set 1 Photoreal for the ocean textures and Set 1 for tropical water. All of the water categories come with 4 options, a Set 1 and 2, and then a Set 1 and 2 photoreal. I like the options I picked, though I wish I had more control over customization.
For the sun texture I went with Set 4 soft. I’m not too particular on sun textures, so I just picked one I thought looked ok and moved on. The sun textures have 12 options, 4 sets with regular, intense or soft.
For the clouds I went with sharp. The clouds only have two options, sharp or soft, and you can’t pick textures for the different cloud types like cumulus, cirrus, etc. I wasn’t very impressed with these textures and I feel like they need work. We need better textures, and more customization. Currently they look like cotton balls and are just not very pleasing at all.
For the grass textures I left it at normal. You only get two options here, normal or snow. I haven’t seen any issues using normal while flying to snowy airports. The textures look fine, but they’re grass textures so don’t expect to be blown away (unless you love grass).
Last but not least you can choose different wave types. I went with Set 3 and I feel it offers a good balance between calm waters and choppy nasty waves. I’m not the type of person that likes to change these things before every flight, so I like balance. You get 7 different wave options to pick from and there is something for everybody.
When you install your textures you can tick a box to Optimize old textures. This option will optimize old textures that are still in FSX/P3D but no longer used. I did this option and while I didn’t record VAS before and after I did it, it did seem like I had a slight reduction in VAS by a few MB as offered. Try it for yourself and see. There is also an option to add an envmap to textures that are missing them. Some old textures do not have an envmap, so I went with this option as well.
Overall I think the textures are very nice. They look very good, though they don’t blow you away. The cloud textures are probably the worst of the bunch and really need to be worked on. I’d also like to see more customization abilities for the texture sets and more texture options.
You’re not just getting textures with ENVTEX, you also get some effects. You’ll get the standard effects you have in FSX/P3D such as blowing snow, contrails, water spray for seaplanes, and wing tip vortices, as well as rain and snow (which is needed for ANY FSX/P3D install). In addition to these effects you will also get an Aurora Borealis effect in P3D, which is really awesome. I personally wasn’t able to get the Aurora Borealis to show up in my time reviewing the product, but you need certain conditions to make it work. I’ve seen the screenshots and I know people who have made it work, and it does look great.
The effects are really cool and add a new element to the product, however they don’t blow you away. I think the contrail could be better, it seems a bit too white right now. If you want an upgrade for your effects but don’t want to spend money on yet another add-on, then these will certainly do the trick. If you already have an effects package, in my opinion you should probably stick with it….for now anyway.
In addition to textures and effects they also offer shaders for PTA if you’re using P3D, and ASCA integration options. If you’re still running FS9, they will soon offer an ENB series profile for use with their textures as well.
The ASCA integration is a very cool feature in my opinion. It allows you to use the dynamic texture loading in ASCA with the textures you select from ENVTEX. If you aren’t using the dynamic sky feature in ASCA, you should be, especially if you have ENVTEX. This is the first product to integrate with ASCA and I’m really glad they did it.
Performance in P3D with ENVTEX was fantastic. I didn’t have any FPS drops, or VAS increases, though I did keep everything at native resolutions. Personally I find the native resolutions to be fine for my taste. The key here is freedom, which I give a lot of credit to TOGA Projects for providing with ENVTEX.
I don’t think FSX/P3D performance is a real secret anymore, the more HD textures you use the more work the GPU (or CPU in FSX’s case) has to do, and there will be more VAS use. The trade off is the beauty of the high res textures. The lower you go, the more FPS you will see and the less VAS you will use, however the textures will not look as good. With ENVTEX you can select the resolution you’d like for every texture, so you’re able to find your own balance between performance and looks.
In conclusion, I have to say this is a great product and I would recommend it. Although some things need work, and a lot of them will not blow you away, I have to keep the low price in mind. While other companies will charge over $30 just for their textures (that consist of mainly just sky related textures), TOGA Projects is charging roughly $22 USD for their product and you get a lot. You get sky, ground, and airport textures, effects, PTA shaders, texture corrections and optimizations, and good support (which goes a long way for me). While I think you can find better textures, and better effects, that doesn’t mean that this is a lesser product. In my opinion it is still right up there.
TOGA Projects is still a very young developer, and ENVTEX is still very much in its infancy. They’ve made promises to add features, textures, and more as times goes on. I think that could really bring this product to a new level. If you want to upgrade your sim textures and effects you can’t do so cheaper than just buying ENVTEX, which is great for the budget simmer. This is an excellent product for that reason alone. If you’re still on FS9, then this product is a must get for you in my opinion.
With a little work, ENVTEX has the potential to be the best. They may not be yet, but they are certainly close. This is a developer and a product I really believe in, so I think it deserves the support of the hobby to see what it can be.