Flight Simulator Hardware Requirements 2016

State of the hardware art - as at December 2016 - Soon to be obsolete!

For some of the reasoning behind this recommendation, please see this post.

FSX, P3D and what about X-Plane?

Dovetail games’ Microsoft FSX is a 32-bit program, needs the fastest PC possible but cannot use more than 4 GB RAM.

Lockheed Martin’s P3D version 3 is similar but can better utilize a high-end Graphics card.

X-Plane Ver 10 or Ver 11 is a 64-bit program. This means that it is able to utilize all the RAM available. X-Plane is a modern program able to take proper advantage of modern technologies and graphics cards.

The watchword here is to build a balanced PC. If you have a top-of-the-range CPU, you will need a top-line Graphics card as well or the video output will be throttled.

If you are building a multi-PC cockpit, you will need a very powerful CPU in the main controlling “Master” PC, and a less powerful graphics card because the master screen would be showing the virtual cockpit and not the outside view. A “Slave” PC powering one or more external-view monitors will need a high-end graphics Card and the fastest dual-core CPU you can buy because it’s only job will be to render scenery, not compute flight characteristics.

P3D and FSX must be running on Windows 7 – 64-bit or Windows 10 – 64-bit even though they are themselves only 32-bit programs.
X-Plane can run on Windows 7 – 64-bit or Windows 10 – 64-bit; Apple’s IOS or on Linux.

The Minimal Solution (or a “slave” in a multi-PC cockpit):

You will need a desktop PC (or an unbelievably expensive laptop!)

  • CPU: – at least a 3GHz I3 (Dual Core) for FSX and P3D, a 3GHz I5 (Quad Core) for X-Plane
  • MOTHERBOARD: – budget board that will accommodate the CPU
  • RAM:- 4GB for FSX and P3D, 8GB for X-Plane
  • GRAPHICS CARD: – nVidia GeForce 1060 
  • MONITOR :- 21″
  • HARD DRIVE :- 500GB 7200RPM
  • CONTROL: Joystick, Mouse and Keyboard (You can’t just use a mouse)
  • HARDWARE: – Case, 600W PSU

This will get you started but please understand, it is a very low power system. 

Less powerful hardware than this will lead to a very disappointing experience. 

The Sensible Solution:

You will need a desktop PC (together with a low-power secondary machine, tablet or a laptop to have Google Earth and Flight Planner software on the other machine). For a multi-PC cockpit, this would be the “Master PC” in addition the the “slave PC(s)” as described above.

  • CPU:
    – For FSX and P3D:- Intel Skylake-s lga1151 i5-6600K
    – For X-Plane 10 and 11:- Intel Skylake-s lga1151 i7-6700K
  • MOTHERBOARD: – Good board that will allow overclocking
  • RAM:
    – For FSX and P3D: 8GB (FSX and P3D are only 32-bit applications, but with a 64-bit OS, the maximum possible RAM will be available to the simulator.)
    – For X-Plane 10 and 11: 16GB (32GB if you are using HD Mesh)
  • GRAPHICS CARD: – nVidia 1070/1080 alternatively AMD RX470 or RX 480. Click here for my article on Graphics Cards
  • MONITOR :- 27″
  • HARD DRIVE :- 1TB 7200RPM, or a 500GB-1TB  SSD
  • CONTROL: Joystick, Mouse and Keyboard (You can’t just use a mouse)
  • HARDWARE: – Case, 850W PSU, and water cooling if overclocking
  • NETWORK :- Cable and switch or WiFi

This will give you the best compromise of performance for cost. 

 

If  you are studying for your PPL or Air Transport license or just a avid hobbyist:

You will need a main desktop PC (for control and instruments – the “Master”), 3 Satellite PC’s (the “Slaves”) for external views and a low-power secondary machine or a laptop for Google Earth and Flight Planner software). You may also need an air conditioner!
If you really want immersion with a minimum of visual distortion, look at 5 or 6 slave PC’s each powering just one monitor arranged in a semicircle around you, the pilot. The “master” PC would also be fitted with a high-end graphics card  powering a 4K 32″ monitor to show the cockpit instruments.

This is called a cockpit setup. It may or may not be built into an actual housing resembling an actual aircraft cockpit. If you are serious about flying and want a lot of fun, this is definitely the way to go. The immersion and experience is amazing.

There are many other possibilities. Send me a message here