Just got home from my first serious session with the X3 14.
This is what I found; (I'll try and be unbiased).
This kite is more than 90% the same as the X2. While it has been refined, it certainly is not a departure from the qualities of the X2. If you don't like the way the X2 flies, you won't like the X3 either.
If you do like the X2, you will find that the X3 is a more balanced, smoother flying version, with more range, more rigidity (in parts) and some nice (but subtle) construction and design refinements.
When the wind is smooth, this kite feels more balanced and flies cleaner and crisper than the X2, and probably any other kite I have flown. But it is a fast technical kite and needs to be 'flown' in order to get the benefits. It has a light feel and the power delivery does feel slightly more consistent. But only slightly... It is still a 'peaky' kite with the power unlike lower AR kites.
Today was VERY gusty at times and up and down. When I arrived people were hardly moving and staying up wind on 12m Rhino II's. The wind had been stronger earlier, so a 12m Rhino was the biggest kite in the Air. I hit the water with the 14 X3 (on my 137 Stonker) and had no problem with power. I did have to work the kite at times, but I could rock upwind and jumP. Most people came in because they couldn't keep planning. The 12m Rhino II stayed out, and I think the 14m X3 has similar low end to this. Probably more when you work the kite, becasue you can work the X3 MUCH more easily than the Rhino II. Later on when the wind kicked in, most people (even with smaller kites) where way overpowered. According to the wind graph, the wind got to about 26 knots with gusts over 30. One guy on a Rhino II 12 was getting spanked like you wouldn't believe. Incredibly, I was Ok on the 14m X3. It has huge top-end range. More than X2 I think for sure, and WAY more than the Rhino II. With my 14m Rhino II I would be overpowered in 20 knots, and cactus in 25.
In the gusts every kite is a bitch, but I feel that the X2 and X3 are worse than most due to their AR. I found that the X3's tips wobble more than the X2 in the gusts. Like the X2, the X3 is very sensitive to changes to pitch from sheeting. In gusty wind and chop this is extreme. This kite is very high AR, so this is to be expected. As a result it distorts much more than a lower AR kite when the wind is gusty. The kites' benefits over other kites is apparent when the wind is smoother. I am sure the X10 is an even more extreme version of this.
I think the trick with the X3 is to minimise sheeting as much as possible. Use the main loop - the kite will then maintain perfect trim and fly perfectly.
Having used the X2 for 9 months, and then the Rhino for 3 months I a good feel for the differences.
Differences to X2 14:
- More top end range, slightly more low end (I think?).
- Just feels more balanced and refined
- Turns faster
- Slightly less 'peaky' with the power
Differences of X3 14 to the Rhino II 14 (most of this applies to the X2 also).
- Much faster turning, and much more responsive
- Cleaner flying, Rhino II feels dull and 'draggy' in comparison
- Much better upwind
- MUCH more top-end range
- You can dump the power
- Faster flying kite, which allows you to kite faster in control
- Will shoot you higher in jumps
- Suits fast boards (mutant, shallow rocker TT's)
- Rhino II still has much more grunt
- Rhino II has a streadier pull
- Rhino II is 'floatier' and makes for softer landings
- Rhino II more suited to (and needs) slower boards, TT's with more rocker and fins.
- Rhino II more stable in gusts.
My view is that an X3 will give you much more height in a Jump than a kite like the Rhino II. But I woudn't be surprised if you can get more hang time from a Rhino II. The X3 has a cleaner flying and precise feel, but lacks grunt. If you use a fast board, this may suit you. Floaty transistions are much easier on a Rhino II. Big, fast high jumps are easier on on X3. It's horses for courses...
The Naish marketing machine says that this is the most technically advanced kite on the market. I tend to agree. That being said, many people may not like it at all. It is a technical kite, and needs lots of skill to get the most from it. A lower AR kite will instill much more rider confidence than the high AR X3. For example, the Rhino II just sits aboive your head in a jump and you just hang there. If you want to more it suddenly it is rather un-responsive and heavy. The X3 goes where you point it, and you fly much faster. There is more less room for error.
I must admit that today, I had much less confidence than when riding the Rhino II. I was getting seriously spanked going for doubles and triple forwards with grab that are easy hanging under the floaty Rhino. I think the best riders in the world could get more out of the X3, but you need excellent kite control.
It really is horses for courses... If you want the most technical and responsive kite then the X3 is for you. If you want easy kitesurfing and easy floaty jumps with a kite that flies itself, then you are better going for a lower AR kite like the Aero II.
Any beginner or intermediate out there thinking that they should get an X3 is mistaken. Get a lower AR kite and you will progress faster with more confidence. Unless - you are not interested in technical tricks in the air, in which case the X3 is an easier kite to depower and handle in strong wind tha most...
On the water, this is a bloody fast kite. A sailboarder with slalom board and race sail chattered past me today (in about 20 knots) and I decided to see if I could get up some speed. I bore away and worked the kite a little, and cranked past him no problem on my 137 Stonker (a very small, bust fast board). then I cranked upwind and increased my lead even pointing higher than him. It was kind of scary, I was going bloody fast and thought I would face plant any second. There is no way that a kite like the Rhino II would get you going this fast.
Finally, I have been thinking about the qualities of the X3 and Rhino II. I am guessing that the X3 has a much higher lift:drag ratio. But this doesn't necessarily mean that it has more lift. Infact I think the Rhino II generates much more lift for it's size than the X3, but has way, way more drag. As a result it is a slower and steadier kite that sits back in the window. This would explain the floaty jumps of the Rhino, and the fast, peaky high jumps of the X3.
But a higher lift:drag ratio doesn't suit everybody. it's improtant if you want to fly a plane fast on less fuel, or win a race on a sailboard. But when it comes to jumps many people will want more lift, even if it means more drag. Like a Bi-plane, A kite like the Rhino II has lots of lift at slow speeds (and drag) but compromises manouverability and speed. For floaty technical tricks at low altitude I think more lift (even with more drag) is better.
(I think this is right - I am no engineer...)
I reckon the X3 is the highest 'technically' performing kite there is.
BUT 80% of people out there would probably enjoy a kite with less technical performance, and more user friendliness. A kite that is a dulled down version.
Personally, my ideal kite would be somewhere between the X3 and Rhino II. For example and X3 with slightly less AR would be a great balance.
It also depends on the board you use, and your style of riding. The X3 and fast 137 Stonker or Mutant type board is a great combo. If you have a 'slower' TT with more rocker (like a Slingshot) you might want a lower aspect kite like a Fuel or Rhino. If you want to go big and fast you will like the X3, if you want steady boat like pull and smooth (but lower) floaty jumps then you will want lower AR.
This is my view, after only 1 session with X3, but hundred of sessions with the X2 and Rhino II.