One of my favorite must have addons for Flight Simulator is a weather / sky clouds theme enhancement, and having tried a lot of freeware and payware it all boils down to two products that fight over my hard drive space and of course your money.
REX 3 Essential + Overdrive HD packacge goes for about $35.00 usd
AS2016 + Cloud Art goes for about $ 60.00 usd.
Active Sky and REX: Be advised this is not a side by side comparison or walk-through of features, just my observations of using both products as basic weather and sky/cloud themes and of course paying for the many upgrades over the years.
If you are or have been an Active Sky user or currently thinking about moving to the AS 2016 + kicking in the extra funds for some nice cloud art textures. This is my opinion so please take is as such! Personally I dont see the big advantage of moving from AS Next to AS2016, I made the switch and quite frankly I dont see too much difference in the "weather" system. However, if you add the AS Cloud Art to the mix you will visually notice a big improvement, visually and performance wise, but this comes at an additional cost. Really! why is cloud art an extra purchase and simply not part of the AS package? Sounds kind of lame for a company to go this route, just follows suit of other vendors trying to separately package their products to extend what I consider core features that should be included. This tactic is kind of lame. In the world I live clouds are all part of a weather event to some extent, anyway enough whining about that.
Overall I feel AS 2016 and the Cloud Art add-on falls within what REX 3 - Essential Plus Overdrive package delivers at a much cheaper price, but hang on.
Weather vs Better looking global textures.
AS2016 has a more efficient and superior weather system: this is the main advantage of AS2016 over the REX 3 package. Although REX has a perfectly adequate weather system it is not as fluid as AS2016.
What REX 3 Essential Plus Overdrive offers texture wise is far superior to AS2016 + Cloud Art package. REX has one heck of a set of textures to make any flight sim pilot happy, something that AS2016 does not have even offer + you pay extra for the Cloud Art addon just for some sky themes.
A common ground between the two packages is, both require internet connection to function and feed weather data into the simulator environment, and this is where AS2016 has the edge over REX. AS2016 is simply superior in this area, with smooth weather transitions as you fly and less of the “cloud popping”.
Both products load their own.dll into your flight simulator for communicating with the weather, and both DLLs seem to be reasonably light weight at avoiding sucking up your precious VAS, which by comparison AS2016 was consuming less VAS and providing better FPS, but both packages have given back a few FPS as opposed to the earlier versions so, that is a big plus.
A nice touch to REX-3 offering is they include a weather radar which runs outside of Flight Simulator, forgoing any FPS hits or memory usage within the simulator environment – this is a nice touch and adds an extra level of enjoyment as you fly keeping track of weather fronts.
Loading Textures: Unless you have the AS Cloud Art Module installed you have no options to load various cloud/sky themes. While REX provides at least two ways to customize the cloud/sky theme within their application. In REX you can do it directly from the "weather" interface "wx textures" or from the texture Tab.
Great Things About REX: What makes REX so appealing is it is a 90% solution for adding awesome airport ground, water textures and sky, themes to your Flight Simulator but lacks the smooth weather injection that AS2016 has, and this is too bad because REX overall is the good all-around product. Also to note as mentioned earlier, is with the REX package you get an external Weather Radar that runs outside of Flight Simulator but is updated by REX as you fly - Great especially bonus, especially if you have multiple monitors, and finally, REX has a community of users who share their themes - like a crowd source Flight Simulator Theme park of your choosing.
Great Things about AS2016 + CloudArt: Best of class weather injection and smooth weather transitions as you fly, I have never found a better weather solution for Flight Simulator than Active Sky. AS is simple and fast to get up and running, and now with the integration of + AS Cloud Art Sky Themes – it is the “Best Package” for weather and sky. Also to note concerning AS2016 is it's fast frame rates and minimal VAS usage - THANK YOU!!!
But don’t throw out REX just yet, like I said – the other 90% of what the REX package offers, like textures which are not available in the AS packages, and this is what makes REX so appealing.
In closing, I am not being critical of either product they both have a solid place on your hard drive but if you are really tight budgeted I would buy the REX package, if you have the extra room in finances go with AS2016 + Cloud Art.
I am still flying with both packages and will update this article in a week or so.