Product Review: E6B Pro
Ah…the E6B. The source of much frustration of many a student pilot (if anyone says “reverse ICE-T” I’m going to throw up!) Also known as the “Whiz Wheel” and “Slide Rule of Death”, the E6B – at least the original slide rule version – is rapidly going the way of the dinosaur. With flight planning websites galore (duats.com, skyvector.com, and navplan.com) there just seems to be so many other time saving options that are easier than going through the tedious motions of the slide rule.
One of those options is the latest arsenal of smartphone apps that bring a viable replacement to the flight computer of yore. In this product review we look at a paid E6B app for iPhone by Angell Development called “E6B Pro” ($4.99 from the App Store – tested on an iPhone 4S)
The menu bar at the bottom of the app gives you five simple options: Functions, Conversions, Timer, Settings, and About (the only screen that actually has a graphic!)
Pros: Lots of useful functions/conversions (especially the timer and weather functions), easy to use and reliable.
Cons: Lacks in visual appeal, could use some graphics!
E6B Pro truly covers the gamut of options provided by the standard slide rule. You can navigate through a menu of functions broken down by category (Airspeed, Altitude, Flight Leg, Fuel, Glide, Weather, and Wind) to find a host of different calculations available to you. The categories are intuitive and I found the formulas I was looking for on the first attempt to find each. The app makes it easy to set your preferences (e.g. calculations for fuel unit of measure can be defaulted to either gallons or pounds), and input of each of the variables is clean and easy.
The app includes a timer that also displays Zulu Time and Local Time side by side. (The time was off by one second according to the U.S. Naval Observatory master clock, but I think that’s a function of my phone and not the app.) The timer can count up or down (useful if flying an approach with timing) and has a vibrating alert once time has lapsed on a countdown timer.
Additionally, you can check METARs and TAFs with this app – pretty cool I think.
The app costs $4.99 in the Apple App Store. After purchasing the app I downloaded a couple different free E6B apps for purposes of comparison. I found that the other apps had mainly the same functions and conversions (E6B Pro had a few extra calculations that I will probably never use), but the big difference was the free apps did not offer a timer or weather capabilities. After thoroughly using and comparing the apps I found this to be the difference between free and not free. Other paid apps offer more functions, but at a price of $8.99 and up on average.
Ease of Use:
E6B Pro is a clean app that’s easy to use. I have yet to fly with it, but don’t anticipate it being difficult to use while airborne. The menus are easy to navigate. The only complaint I have is also a plus. If you leave a screen it auto-clears all the data you entered, which is great if you’re done with it. But if you need to make a conversion to finish your calculation anything that was entered previously will have to be reentered once you’ve done your conversion. A simple “clear” button would have helped this.
After some pretty heavy use I noticed no degradation in reliability. The app does not use up much battery either and I noticed no significant increase in power usage by leaving the app open.
This is the one area I would have thought a paid app would bring more to the table. One of the free apps I tested (iE6B by Brilliant Concept) was much more visibly pleasing than the simple no frills (and essentially no graphics) E6B Pro. Simplicity in this case gives it a little bit of a cheap feel, especially when compared to other apps.
Overall this is a great app. It has all the functions a pilot needs to plan a flight, its price tag is in the lower range of the paid apps, it’s easy to use, and reliable. Maybe someday Angell Development will add some nice graphics to make this app more fun to use!