Community Questions: Building a Flight Simulator PC

2 x 4gb for dual channel goodness, if you only wanna go with 8gbs total. There's a 5-10% performance increase in gaming just by switching to dual channel. Performance in other tasks can be more.

edit: What about a RTX2060? very similar performance to the Vega 64, better in some games, worse in others, but cheaper. Stick the money saved to a dual channel 2 x 8 gb kit for a little headroom and for more demanding games, if your friend want to venture away from Flight sims. I get the monitor is freesync though, so get why the Vega is in there.
 

mihen

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Oct 11, 2017
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Main thing I would say for a flight/racing sim is that you should be going VR. You don't get the same motion disorientation since you are not physically moving in game.
 

Jsimenhoff

Community Manager
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Feb 28, 2016
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Sorry, there was actually an initial typo in the article, that has since been corrected. The kit in the parts list is 2 x 8 gb DDR4 3200.

You make a good point suggesting the Nvidia GTX 2060. Going with Vega 64 was a tough decision. Ultimately I decided that proper Freesync (versus possibly buggy Gsync on a Freesync monitor) would provide a better gaming experience. This is certainly up for debate!
 

Gadhar

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I forgot to mention, if his budget allows for it a 3 monitor set up makes the sim experience so much better. I currently play on 5760x1080 and with track hat it makes the experience so much more immersive. I know if he is going to go vr then that would not be as big of a deal, but i am not a fan of having all of those cables hanging off of my head.
 

AnimeMania

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How much storage space do flight simulators use? Maybe a hard drive is required to store all those planes, airports and cities that are being simulated.
 
Sep 1, 2018
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VR is the only way to play flight sims nowdays. Go with Pimax 5K+ if you can afford it, if not buy Samsung Odyssey+. I have triple screen setup, but play IL2, DCS and ED only on my Odyssey now. Resolutions isn't quite there yet, but immersion is just incredible. Flat screen sim gaming just isn't fun anymore once you experience it in VR.
 

abryant

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May 16, 2016
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This is being fixed. Thanks for letting us know. :)
 
The recent driver release from Nvidia makes the whole Gsync/freesync thing almost a complete non issue. I have adaptive sync working on my freesync monitor with a 1070 just fine. Also I'd make the comment that when buying a CPU and an aftermarket cooler (presumably to allow some overclocking and not just for better cooling?) it's always worth considering just stepping up to the next CPU and sticking with stock cooling/speeds. I have a 2700X with the stock cooler and honestly if I add an aftermarket cooler it won't be because there's any need for more performance.

Having said all that I see nothing wrong with the proposed system.
 

Jsimenhoff

Community Manager
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Feb 28, 2016
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This is good to know. Sure, Gsync/FreeSync issues may be on the way out, but nevertheless I think I have an obligation to only recommend builds that I know will be relatively bug free.

 

mikewinddale

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I'd think he'd prefer a triple monitor setup for greater immersion. Perhaps triple 27 inch instead of a single 34 inch?

And if the budget is constrained, I'd go for a larger SATA SSD over a smaller NVMe SSD. Compared to the 250 GB Samsung 970 EVO (for $84), a 500 GB Crucial MX500 or WD Blue is slightly cheaper (around $60) while a 1 TB of the same is slightly more expensive (about $120). I'd rather have a 500 GB or 1 TB SATA SSD than a 256 GB NVMe paired with a slow mechanical hard drive.

Also, since his goal is to play only this particular game, I'd optimize the build just for that game. His game - X Plane 11 - has a free demo with the same performance and system requirements as the full version. So before my friend bought parts to build the new system, I'd install the demo on my own system and benchmark it. https://www.x-plane.com/kb/x-plane-11-system-requirements/
 

shrapnel_indie

Distinguished
There are several links that seem to be way off in price. That said... here's an alternate build (sticking to Tom's preferred Amazon and NewEgg sources.) It's built on the $1200 PC + $500 for monitor budget, combined, excluding MiR, Amazon Tax collections, and dependent on location NewEgg taxes:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant

CPU: AMD - Ryzen 5 2600X 3.6 GHz 6-Core Processor ($199.99 @ Newegg)
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master - MasterLiquid ML240L RGB 66.7 CFM Liquid CPU Cooler ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Gigabyte - X470 AORUS ULTRA GAMING ATX AM4 Motherboard ($125.49 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill - Flare X 16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4-3200 Memory ($124.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Crucial - MX500 500 GB M.2-2280 Solid State Drive ($57.99 @ Amazon)
Video Card: Gigabyte - GeForce RTX 2060 6 GB OC Video Card ($359.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Thermaltake - View 22 Tempered Glass Edition ATX Mid Tower Case ($59.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: SeaSonic - FOCUS Gold 650 W 80+ Gold Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply ($78.20 @ Amazon)
Monitor: Acer - Predator Z1 31.5" 2560x1440 165 Hz Monitor ($609.99 @ Amazon)
Total: $1686.62
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2019-01-23 16:58 EST-0500
 
As a real world private pilot, I've been a Microsoft flight simmer and PC builder since FS98 in 1997 so I'll give my input on only the basics of demands related to FSX and Lockheed Martin's Prepar3D since it runs on the FSX engine (my avatar is a screenshot from FS2004 in an aftermarket F/A-18F Super Hornet). I am not familiar with X-Plane and how it reacts to hardware and resolutions so the below comments are not for that. I have never tried it because it has never had the aftermarket support that the various FS series have had over the years.

For FSX and P3D, you need a fast, VERY fast CPU on single and dual core mode. They do not use more than two cores even with aftermarket add-ons like weather, ground & airport scenery, and complex aircraft (like from Carenado). In fact most of both sims are run on only one core. The faster your CPU can run on a single or dual core, the better your FPS will be. And when you start adding on the aforementioned with a sub-4Ghz CPU wasting away on all cores, it really tanks. This is the primary reason I have strived for such high overclocks on my Intel CPUs. Getting close to or exceeding 5GHz still shows linear FPS increase results.

Regarding GPUs, my experience shows it matters little since these two sims run just about everything off the CPU. You will notice no difference between a GTX 2060 or a GTX 2080 in FPS. However, I did notice Nvidia GPUs ran smoother than AMD GPUs...not faster FPS, just smoother with less stuttering. That was with older generation AMD GPUs, so whether that still stands for their RX series I have no idea. But back to GPU and FSX/P3D performance, when I changed from 1080p to a 1440p resolution monitor the FPS didn't budge. That tells you all you need to know about FSX's engine.

Memory doesn't matter either between 8GB and 16+GB. So once you get the core CPU and speed figured out, the rest will fall in place like how many monitors, the resolution, VR, accessories, etc. Regarding accessories, if you really want to get realistic, dump the joystick and buy a nice flight yoke, rudder pedals, and side throttle quadrant. There are many good options like from Saitek.
 
Jan 23, 2019
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Fractal Design Define Mini C TG Black Tempered Glass Window Silent Compact MATX Mini Tower Computer Case $85.97


CORSAIR HXi Series HX750i 750W 80 PLUS PLATINUM Haswell Ready Full Modular ATX12V & EPS12V SLI and Crossfire Ready Power $129.99

Logitech MK120 Wired USB Keyboard and Mouse - Black

$14.40

G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 32GB (2 x 16GB) 288-Pin DDR4 SDRAM DDR4 2400 (PC4 19200) Intel Z170 Platform / Intel X99 ...

$194.99

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GIGABYTE Z390 M GAMING LGA 1151 (300 Series) Intel Z390 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
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Intel Core i7-8700K Coffee Lake 6-Core 3.7 GHz (4.7 GHz Turbo) LGA 1151 (300 Series) 95W BX80684I78700K Desktop ...


$369.99

Fractal Design Celsius S24 240mm Silent High Performance Slim Expandable All-In-One CPU Liquid / Water Cooler
$104.38

Crucial P1 1TB 3D NAND NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD - CT1000P1SSD8
$144.99


Acer Nitro Gaming Series VG220Q 21.5" Black IPS FreeSync 75Hz LED Monitor 1920 x 1080 Widescreen 16:9 1ms Response Time ...


$259.98
($129.99 ea.)

Subtotal: $1,445.69
Shipping: $13.86
 
Jan 23, 2019
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I have been simming all my life like many other posters here. The biggest issue here is the AMD GPU. They are great value but in FSX/P3D they have microstutter and performance dips compared to equivalent Nvidia cards. You would be better off with a 1080/1080Ti or even a 2060.

As far as CPU, max single core performance is king and will be the largest limiting factor in how smooth the sim runs, especially when scenery is loading in. VR is a huge bonus and great in sims but you need at least a Vive Pro to have a good experience with readable displays.
 
Jan 23, 2019
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Ugh, wish I could edit my post. Oh well. The above would be my build. The only thing missing is the Graphics card which will tack on another $300 on the lower end. I'd probably go for the new Nvidia 2080 with 8GB. Even the 1080 would be fine for more of a budgetary reason. Video ram makes a big difference especially if you want to load a lot of Scenery objects.

I personally don't like the issue i've been seeing with Xplane 11's AMD driver support, flickering textures and some other bugs. I've personally found to experience issues with AMD cards that I never had with NV.
 

dieboy

Honorable
May 18, 2013
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xplane .. opengl, better on NV.
xplane 10+ uses quite a bit of CPU

Flight sims in general, 3x monitors is the way to go. Period. Min in these kind of games are 2,, you can use one for extra instrument panels if nothing else.

Flight sim rigs have surprisingly high needs now days. Xplane 11 will push a 1080TI to near its limits, if you crank up the gfx.

Food for thought is all. Might be good for him to decide on which sim he wants to use more. flight sim x, an older game, is easier on specs than the newer sims. Also, in the next couple years, virtual pilot, etc, along with the current xplane. The newer, the more power your need for a quality experience.
 
Jan 23, 2019
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Tl;Dr - more cores, best graphics you can afford now. High resolution (4K) is nice

The latest high-end sims are 64-bit and are coded to use every resource you can throw at it, including cores. The old FSX is just 32-bit and hammers one core, making a fast clock Intel best if you are going to sim with old software.

Also, the more addons, such as real world weather, traffic, complex aircraft and high detail scenery add to the CPU burden and need for cores.

For simming, SMOOTHNESS is more important than frame rate, especially when landing. This is where more cores help.

My (now old and lowly) Ryzen 1700 at 3.4 GHz with GTX1080 at 4K resolution has seen up to 95% CPU load on all 16 threads. I set a max framerate of 30 fps and have non-existant stutter - for the record, with a clean install of P3Dv4.4 and no addons, I've seen 240+ fps at 4K at cruise height, stock aircraft.

I watched a YouTube of a guy using P3Dv4 and 8700K crowing about his 60 fps, but he ignored the stutter, sometimes dropping to a momentary low of just 4 fps. Fast CPU but not enough cores. Stutter sucks, smoothness brings smiles.

Every serious simmer I know has the sim installed on its own SSD, with only sim stuff (aftermarket aircraft, scenery, weather, traffic programs etc). A motherboard with a second M.2 slot is an advantage, even if budget means you can't fill it now. I use a M.2 Samsung 960 Pro as boot drive and M.2 Intel 1 TB as sim drive. All my sim stuff currently fills 750 Gb.

You can work up to better hardware with upgrades over time eg. my sim used to be on a shared HDD, then shared SSD, then M.2 for only P3Dv4.

I have tried multi screens, but settled on a high quality Samsung 65" 4K TV for a wonderfully immersive experience, with yoke, throttle quadrant and rudder pedals. YMMV.

Flight simming at 4K is my main use for a high-end PC. Since 1985, and Bruce Artwick's flight sim, simming has driven all my hardware and software upgrades, to try and get more resolution and realism. I am joining the line for a high core Ryzen 3 and will wait and see where the graphics cards sort out, then.
 
Jan 23, 2019
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Also worth pointing out, a good way to go about building yourself a nice system is not to try to cut corners on budget. Sure we get that it is expensive, but a little bit of patience, getting a few components at a time, really allows you to have something really nice in the long run. I know for one I can't afford to spend $1000 on a video card, so that's probably out but, I could buy a good one for $600 one week, then maybe in another week or two get a few of my other components and before I know it I got a kick ass rig.

I've been building systems for about 25 years now. There are about 4 components that really matter (which actually is all of it lol) You must have good power. You must have sufficient RAM - This takes some serious research as to what RAM you need. Faster "Entusiast" grade RAM isn't really worth the price tag, ultimately you are looking for tight timings. You want to have a full power processor not a "cheaper" model such as the Pentium or Celeron, or equivalent. And last but certainly not least, you need fast IO in storage. M2 PCIe SSD is the way to go now compared to SATA, and I'd opt for as much storage as I can reasonably afford. Then of course you put in your dedicated graphics card. In general, more VRAM the better but the more expensive. 8 GB is way to go today. naturally the more space it has, the better performance you get because the GPU can work with everything at it's finger tips so to speak - more high resolution textures can be cached, etc. I wouldn't stress too much about the 100Mhz difference in clock speed, to be honest you will never notice the difference. The vram is what you really need as long as you have that, your game will run like oil on butter with everything cranked to the max.
 
Jan 23, 2019
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Xplane 11 is known to run better on Nvidia gpus than AMD gpus. Other people in the replies have good suggestions for a GPU. Another thing about xplane is you will only get so many fps, say 30. You crank the graphics, and your fps does not go down. When fps finally starts dropping, you know you have the best settings you can use. The is also specific things to change in the Nvidia control panel to get a few more maximum for. If you look on the x-plane.org forum you can find more information about what I just talked about.
 

Diji1

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Oct 29, 2012
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>2 x 4gb for dual channel goodness

You might notice that 1% extra performance but you probably won't. OK you won't.

>Tl;Dr - more cores

A poster above you just pointed out that flight sims only use one or two cores so going for a mmany cored CPU with lower single core speed will makes the game slower.
 

Specter0420

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Apr 8, 2010
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You really screwed your buddy over here. AMD struggles in flight simulators in general vs Intel. VR is the future and AMD struggles extra in VR. DCS, P3D, FSX, and X-Plane 11 VR ALL want 4.7Ghz+ at Intel's current IPC on mainly just 2 cores, especially if you want to do multiplayer. All developers like to brag about their multi threaded ninja skills but the proof is in the testing.

The man didn't ask for a great workstation that does OK in modern gaming but struggles in flight sim VR.

He asked for a flight sim computer with a VR path...

If you went Intel and overclocked an i5 to 5.2Ghz he could do that now and AMD couldn't touch it in ANY VR flight sim... A max overclock Ryzen 1700X struggles to compete with an OCed i5 4570K in X-Plane 11 VR from benchmarks and forums. All those extra cores are worthless, nothing over 4 even matters and it is really down to 2 for the most part.


Hopefully R3 can deliver and save you here. Vulkan isn't expected to shift the balance of power, just improve the experience all around (Intel and AMD) so you did him a disservice regardless. Hopefully, Vulkan will bring flight sim multiplayer VR GHz requirements WAY down and you didn't blow his money.
 
Jan 23, 2019
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A poster above you just pointed out that flight sims only use one or two cores so going for a mmany cored CPU with lower single core speed will makes the game slower.[/quotemsg]

You are only correct for older 32-bit sims like FSX and FSX: SE. This is no longer true for recent 64-bit sims..

My 8 core 16 thread uses ALL 16 threads with Prepar3d V4.4. I have seen up to 95% CPU usage using ORBX TrueEarth, PMDG, REX loaded with all sliders maxed (except for vegetation autogen, which I think looks best at Dense rather than Ultra).

Also note my stock air Ryzen 1700 runs at just 3.4 GHz but produces STUTTER FREE performance with a fixed frame rate of 30fps. I have observed stutter on a 5 GHz water cooled 8700K, so it is not all about CPU speed with the 64-bit sims. Yeah, faster CPU helps but is not all.
 

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