Before we get to the juicy stuff, I’d like to start with what I believe to be a much-needed intro.
I know this will not be a peaceful review. But I suspect most MSFS-related helicopter reviews won’t be for some time.
Ever since the release of helicopters for MSFS, we have been seeing conflicting opinions. Some folks say a specific helicopter is good. Others say it’s really bad. Or, sometimes, that is a bit more of a general idea: helicopters in general are bad for some, good for others.
Or bad for everyone if you can’t fly them. That was a bad joke, sorry.
It’s odd, isn’t it?
Actually, this has been happening even since before the 40th-anniversary edition of MSFS, which brought native helicopter support to the sim.
I’ve seen some folks complaining that controls are sluggish in a specific helicopter, for example. I never found that issue myself and I have talked to other folks that didn’t either. The developer was alerted about this, and I know they looked at it but, without replicating the issue, it was pretty much impossible for them to act upon it.
I started suspecting something was off and it seems like this is happening once again, with the S300Cbi. Not in its entirety, but to some extent.
Quite a big intro, right? Yeah, I know. But I think it was necessary so we can all understand what we’re talking about regarding helicopters, issues, and reviews. Unfortunately, we are not all getting the same experience, so keep that in mind.
The S300Cbi was developed by the same folks that made the default Bell 407 for MSFS, and that has made a few folks out there immediately discard it since, well, let’s face it, the 407 is not exactly the best helicopter out there. So, when people realized the S300 was made by the same team, that scared them away.
But I think we need context, here.
You see, Nemeth Designs developed the Bell 407 at the same time Asobo was developing helicopter flight dynamics. In fact, Asobo made the Cabri G2 themselves, so they had a platform to test with as they developed the helicopter features.
So, whenever something was wrong, they fixed it on both ends: either the helicopter itself or the sim’s base code.
Nemeth Designs, on the other hand, didn’t have this luxury. Quite the opposite. They worked on a moving target, doing their best without a proper SDK and with little information that was not always true. What was true yesterday could not be true today.
Asobo was also more focused on the piston engine side of things than on the turbine engine one, which made things a bit harder for everyone involved in the development of the 407.
Now, I am not pointing fingers, throwing blame, or anything like that. As I said, I just want to add some context to all this, because I feel like Nemeth Designs may be suffering from repercussions of something they didn’t control.
We know the team from the FSX/P3D times, and they have always delivered quite decent products. The quality of their work was solid at the time, and I am hoping they can, at least, continue to deliver at the same level.
And that seemed like part 2 of the intro. I’m done now, I promise. But I hope you better understand all that I just wrote above.
Let’s dive into the actual review, which, I may add, was finished after the release of version 1.0.2, which means I have the luxury of talking about an evolutionary step over the initial product.
3D model and textures
One of the strong points of the Nemeth Designs team has always been the visuals and the S300 is a nice example of it. The 3D model is quite nice, with some cool details. The cockpit is well done and very smooth. The panel looks fantastic.
It’s pretty much eye candy everywhere you look in both the 3D and the 2D front with some very nice, well-made textures that bring the helicopter to life, visually, of course.
The S300 is not exactly a hugely complex machine. There are no major fancy electronics to start with. It’s pretty much a DIY helicopter where you need to do things yourself. Start her up, fly her up, shut her down.
That is, of course, reflected in Nemeth Designs’ model and everything seems to work as it should. No surprises here – good or bad. Business as usual, which is not a bad thing. It works, that’s what we need.
Except for the weird clutch. And yes, I am adding that to the systems mix because, well, it’s a system. The clutch does work but feels a bit weird. Don’t expect to do a startup with it like with the real deal but, instead, just turn it on and wait for the RPM needles to join.
Granted, this is how it has worked on pretty much any other S300 I tried over the years but we could nudge Nemeth to perhaps try to improve it. That would be cool.
I need to spend a couple of minutes talking about this. The documentation, or manual, or whatever you want to call it is… Sparse. It’s a pdf, which you can download here, with 2 pages of content, talking about the helicopter in general, specifications, and the cockpit layout.
There’s not a lot. We are not even provided with a checklist, which is a shame. She’s not a hard one to start up but it would be nice if we could do it by the book, according to the list. I hope Nemeth Designs updates the manual to include this.
This is not the strongest point of this model and, although is not too bad, Nemeth Designs are not 100% happy with how it turned out and they are the first ones to admit it.
While talking to them, they told me that they are having issues sourcing an S300 that they can use to record sounds or even sounds recorded by someone else with good quality. Most of them seem to be in the US. I’ve tried to find one in Portugal but found out that none is flying over here anymore, and this little fella seems to be very rare even in the rest of Europe.
Not being able to source good files or a helicopter to record will prevent you from doing a great job.
Like I said, it’s not terrible but it’s not brilliant either, so that’s the major downside of the helicopter.
If you do know of an S300Cbi in Europe, please let me know as there’s always the chance we might help Nemeth Designs with it.
Ah yes. The huge elephant in the room. The thing that some folks swear by and others loathe.
There’s a pilot in our Facebook group (Ryan van Dell) that flies this bird in real life and he is super-happy about the work developed by Nemeth Designs.
On the other extreme opposite side of the equation, we have the folks that seem to be having issues with the helicopter, left and right. Some seem to have the cyclic suffering from some sort of gyroscopic precession as they report that moving the cyclic forward or backward makes the helicopter go sideways and vice-versa.
I have not found anything like this. But other folks are reporting other issues. Nonetheless, like I said at the beginning of this article, unfortunately, this is not something that is unheard of with MSFS and it’s not exclusive to Nemeth Design’s S300 either.
You will always find someone using some helicopter that has weird issues. Pinpointing them, and replicating the problem is a nightmare or just straight out impossible, so these folks have no way of fixing it.
Speaking of fixes, do note that the Nemeth Designs folks were able to replicate and fix an issue with the flight dynamics that plagued some users (again, not all) and that had to do with some realism settings being set up in a certain way. They did not provide any details, but they did update the S300 so that it would be solved.
Right, now for my opinion on the flight dynamics.
This is not an easy bird to fly. Being a small, meaning light, helicopter, this means that it’s more prone to be squirrely. Challenging, even, so you will need to exercise some caution as you give her a try.
I confess it took me a minute (or two, or five, or more but I will deny it) to get used to it and start flying her around with some degree of confidence.
I enjoy it quite a lot and the challenge is very much welcome. I like old-school helicopters without electronic aids, and this is just it, plus the fact that it’s a mosquito trying to go around like crazy.
It’s, definitely, not for the faint of heart or the easily frustrated.
As I said in the (quite large intro) at the beginning of this article, I am releasing this review after 1.0.2 came out so I do have the luxury of talking about more mature and evolved flight dynamics.
After listening to feedback Nemeth Designs decided to make some changes and make the helicopter a bit tamer. No, it’s not easy now. It’s easier. They didn’t “dumb it down” like a lot of you love to put it, but made it more controllable, especially for those with regular joysticks with springs (meaning: the majority of folks out there).
If you tried the S300 before and had issues controlling it, give it a try now and see how it behaves. I did notice quite a difference so I am hoping you will too.
Before wrapping this section up, I’ve also asked Ryan (the pilot I mentioned above) if he had anything he would like to point out and he said the he generally finds “the flying characteristics extremely accurate and enjoyable”.
He also said that it “can be flown using the correct power settings (manifold pressure) probably moreso than anything else released yet. It's performance data, and the airspeeds and climbs/descents you get from it are spot on to the real one.”
But he was a bit disappointed with the tail rotor since he feels it’s overpowered: “the 300 should always feel more eager to yaw right than this one does when below ETL (Effective Translational Lift). And the tail rotor should feel much more uncertain and weak.”.
Ryan ended up our exchange of ideas by saying the Nemeth Designs “definitely captured the essence of 300 flying” and that he hasn’t “flown anything else since it came out.”
Thanks for the input, Ryan.
While trying autorotations, before the 1.0.2 update, I found out that she was a handful if you closed the throttle and pushed the collective down, but a community member (Steve Gladden) started talking about how impossible it was for him to autorotate with the engine off and I realized that all my testing was done with the throttle closed, so the engine was always running.
I shut the engine down and yeah… It was just crazy. The S300 becomes pretty much uncontrollable, and I couldn’t perform a single autorotation where the helicopter wouldn’t be severely damaged or my virtual self killed. Not cool. BUT…
That went away with 1.0.2. After reaching out to Nemeth Designs, they did take a look at it and I can say that, although not perfect, it’s more manageable and I could autorotate easier. But don’t expect her to be gentle with you.
A final note: our reader Huw reminded me that there is an issue with flight dynamics (legacy/modern) that we covered some time ago and could eventually help some of you that are having problems, especially if you don't fly helicopters a lot so you may not have noticed it yet. Check it out on this article. Thank you for the reminder, Huw!
There’s not a lot that I would like to add here. I know Nemeth Designs have been having feedback from folks wanting the doors to open (they are listening – and were the ones mentioning it to me) and I would also like to have the ability to remove them.
I would like to see some more customization options. Yeah, I know, there’s not a lot to customize as the helicopter is quite small and simple but I would still like to see some agricultural spraying system, for example. Those are nice details to have.
There was an issue with the pilot positioning before this update (which my good friend, Bel Geode talked about a couple of times already) but everything seems to work fine.
I started this review by saying it wouldn’t be a peaceful one. Not because I don’t like the Nemeth Designs S300Cbi but because I know some of you love it, and others hate it. Some will agree with my assessment and others will probably try to insult me just because I have a different opinion. Business as usual.
I don’t expect all my reviews to be accepted by everyone and everyone to agree with them. After all, this is my opinion and people are free to disagree with it – in fact, I like it when they do because, very often, they politely present their perspective and I get to learn a bit more about people’s points of view, what they pay attention to, and even the person that is presenting it. We all gain from learning with each other.
But, this review in particular, I think will be received with a lot of mixed feelings, especially by the Xbox crowd as they seem to be the ones having more problems right now.
I would even go as far as saying other MSFS reviews as well, at least until either Microsoft, Asobo or the community finds what is happening with the sim that is causing so many different results.
I love the real S300Cbi and have been waiting for a nice one for MSFS. I think I found it although I would like Nemeth Designs to fix the few quirks the helicopter has – which has nothing to do with the more generic issues I mentioned – and offer us a manual with, at least, some checklists. Considering the amount of time these guys have been in the market, I was expecting a bit more from them in this area, to be honest.
But I can’t say I am not enjoying the S300. I am! She is fun to fly, and I can look past the issues until they get fixed.
It’s a $15 product, which is a nice price for a not-so-complex helicopter. I think it’s well worth the money. Quite a deal, really and I hope you don’t find the quirks some folks have been reporting.
If you’re looking for a small helicopter that will take you through some challenging flights, this could be just it. You can grab it at the Microsoft Marketplace right now or at the official Nemeth Designs website.