Rules of the game are simple. Both of these manufacturers charge us a lot of money for these models based on the premise they are providing accurate reproductions. Gemini charged £34 ($52US) including UK taxes. Phoenix charged £29 ($44US). If they are not 100% accurate, which in this day and age of millions of online images and video, never mind easy access to the airlines own information, if you choose to take the initiative and look for it, then we as buyers/collectors/consumers are not being given what we are paying for. Therefore if the model is not 100% accurate and fault free we have a problem. Of course the differences can vary by degree but glaring mistakes are unacceptable. It’s time these manufacturers were held accountable for their failings – and their success.
1) The Box
Both boxes are OK in principle, neither is a success, the Gemini one suffers from overprint, lacks any details on the aircraft – even the model number or manufacturer code and the Phoenix one is just a bit nicer in terms of quality, but not much. The bigger complaint is that the plastic cradles Gemini have started to skimp on to save money again. The classic blue plastic is now so thin as to be almost useless and the nose of each model used to have a protector cover. Now only the top sheet cover is in place to stop the top clear cradle rubbing the model. Phoenix’s cradle is a better quality and more robust. Both models took some careful extraction.
2) First impact
You only have to look at the two together and immediately you see the startling fuselage colour difference. They are HUGELY different, it’s almost staggering. Yet oddly enough while the reds are different they are so close as to be almost indiscernible, you really have to look to see it and in several types of light.
Honest opinion: If you see them without any other knowledge or in depth consideration you would pick the Gemini out as the best straight away, but it really isn’t that straightforward on a colour scheme this complex.
Both are excellent moulds – lets leave the cradle on the Gemini for now. They both look pretty similar in almost every way – as they should after all. Gemini have missed out the rear most aerial that Phoenix included. Gemini missed out moulding in the rear (and standard fit) small dome, choosing to print it on. Phoenix moulded it in. The optional comms dome chosen by the airline both painted a different white, which is accurate and they both got the teardrop shape right. Gemini’s is installed into the fuselage far better than the one on the Phoenix.
One big issue that Gemini have succeeded with and Phoenix have failed is the way the red paint curves back over door 4 at the tail. For some reason this is straight on the Phoenix. I hadn’t noticed this before which is remiss of me, but its a poor show. However Gemini have also made a major mistake with the Virgin Atlantic logo – the writing is metallic aubergine on the Phoenix and on the real thing – the Gemini is just black, they don’t seem to have made any effort with the colour at all.
Gemini have excellent shape to the flight deck windows, as do Phoenix, but only Phoenix got the right size. Gemini’s look less detailed and are too small.
Both have a good representation of the new “Birthday Girl” on the nose.
And the big issue – body colour: If you just glance you would say Gemini has it, not just has it but walks away with it. That would be too simple. One of the big things with the Virgin scheme and why it’s caused so much grief for so many modellers, is that it is highly iridescent and reflects and absorbs neighbouring colours and responds differently in daylight, overcast, artificial and especially gaseous diffusion lighting used in some of those large airport floods.
The fact is that the Gemini is a consistent pearl white metallic, it’s really rather lovely and just about does what most people would want, looks great all of the time. Yet that isn’t what this paint scheme does in reality. It isn’t what Virgin Atlantic chose and it was never intended to look consistently one colour. Part of the brand is to reflect its values and those of the places it flies, that’s why the paint is so special. This is why Phoenix have this completely in their court and why I praise it so much.
I’m sitting here typing with both in front of me on an opaque glass desk. The light grey-green of the glass is noticeably affecting the colour of the Phoenix version, it does nothing to the Gemini. Put them in direct sunlight as I did this morning, and the Phoenix looks bright white. The Gemini does nothing. Put the Phoenix on the airport in artificial lights and it looks everything from slightly gold to silver, to grey, to white. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do. The Gemini does nothing. The gemini paint particles are also quite large and don’t look so good under close examination, lacking real refinement.
Honest opinion: I can really see the appeal of the Gemini colour. It’s consistency may appeal to many. However if you want the reality of the paint, for it to be what it’s supposed to be, I’m afraid the Phoenix simply wins hands down. The same goes for the red, in the end it’s that bit more lustrous, that bit more eye catching, though both have done an excellent job with it.
Overall when it comes to the Fuselage, Phoenix win.
Both have excellent moulds, no question of that. Not the wonderful see through HBE’s we see on the new A350’s (not that Gemini have even released one yet), but they are superb. Gemini quality control goes to pot when it comes to engines. One has dust in it the nacelles red paint, the silver is so thinned the red leaks through, but worst of all the Rolls Royce logo is missing! None of those issues from Phoenix. The Gemini engine pylons are also horribly painted with wishy-washy blurred white paint full of brush strokes.
Honest opinion: No question who won this one, Phoenix walk away with the award by a mile.
5) Landing Gear
Gemini have improved the look of their gear considerably, but it still looks plastic, there is more detail and this is welcome. The Phoenix has silver painted wheels and they look very neat and classy, seriously enhancing the overall look and feel of the model. This is no surprise – name one thing from cars to bikes where wheels can make or break the appearance and impression you get from the object in question. Gemini’s look cheap (ironic as it was the most expensive model) and the Phoenix ones look the dogs wot nots – namely top notch, first class or whatever other vernacular you choose.
The main issue is that Gemini have not put much effort into the nose gear. Its the equivalent of 15″ or 400mm too short and makes the nose tilt downward, the tail sticks up as a result and this is compounded by the fact the main gear doors are not angled or shaped properly and the main gear height is also too low. The whole effect makes the engines look like they are dragging on the ground and the aircraft looks way to low.
Phoenix have shaped their gear, doors and sizes correctly. No problems. It’s also a lot more finely detailed and less heavily painted.
Honest opinion: while not quite one size fits all from Gemini, it may as well be. They’ve made the 787 look like a 737 in height terms. Overall Phoenix wins this one by a mile.
6) Wings and underbody
That god damned Gemini cradle is a no hope old school piece of junk and no mistake. For gods sake you can see through from one side to the other!!! Never mind the poor paint on the leading edge and the Grand Canyon of a gap at the rear edge. The only place it looks good from is above, because the Gemini wings have that much more detail on the upper surface.
Phoenix lack the upper wing detail and neither of them have much below though both have the red wing tips spot on. Phoenix wings fit neatly and look superb. From the side or below the Gemini looks like a mess; gaps, the appallingly bad graphic which is oversized and the wording distorted by the ridiculous cradle. Really Gemini, its time to ditch this way of doing things. It’s rubbish.
Honest opinion: The Gemini wings have more upper detail. The cradle is pants. Phoenix may lack some of the printed upper wing detail but win by a mile on quality. The fact that the Gemini one doesn’t even fit their own stands is a joke, the hole is way too small – without damaging paint it’s almost unusable. The Phoenix one fits easily. Phoenix wins.
7) Tail and stabilisers
Colour wise, it’s a draw, both have the red lustre and reflectivity and it’s so nuanced that telling them apart except in strong light is almost impossible. The Gemini is slightly lighter than the Phoenix, but only by one shade. Personally I think the Phoenix is the better colour against the real thing and I have spent a lot of time with the real thing to make the comparison.
The detail of the tail fin leading edge is a Gemini victory. It’s simply better, sharper, brighter. The tail fin shape is also better, the Gemini has a downward straight at the top of the fin and Phoenix have curved theirs slightly too much, which isn’t right. The Gemini stabilisers are also more precise and detailed.
Honest opinion: Gemini win this segment, no question. It’ just better all round, though the colour is a tad off.
Gemini are getting better – much better. Phoenix however have the edge. They have a consistent high quality finish with paint, print detail and colour that Gemini haven’t quite reached. Both have redeeming qualities. The body colour is one many will appreciate from both view points. Gemini have to do something with that cradle though. It is just unacceptably poor these days to have such a low quality process for building models that gaps and light show through.
Phoenix are masters of engines and painting them these days, an area that yet again Gemini just hasn’t mastered on this model. Phoenix need to pick up on detail like the tail curve paint on the fuselage – getting that wrong is very poor. Then Gemini missed off the RR logos on the engines – these matter – its Virgin Atlantic who are proud of their Britishness and RR is as British a brand as it gets which is as much why they chose them. Also the aubergine logos – come on Gemini its not like you to screw up so badly on colours, thats normally a Phoenix issue.
I’ve made my choice. And it’s the Phoenix. The detail, overall quality and value for money sing out, the paint is sophisticated and does what it should. I see the attraction of the Gemini but it is not anywhere near good enough for the money. Off to eBay it will go.
If that doesn’t convince you I had all my current livery Virgin Atlantic on terminals at RLSI last night. 2 744’s, an A346, an A343, 2 A330, 2 A320 and the two 789’s plus the old 787-9 Phoenix fantasy model. My other half walked in, looked about, then in a surprised voice said, “bloody hell how many colours do Virgin have exactly?” I pointed out a full size screen shot of the real thing on the iMac monitor – 27″ of ultra hi res colour – and asked “which one looks best compared to that?” The Phoenix 787-9 was picked first then the Apollo 744. I rest my case.
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