There is one very uncomfortable truth to the subject of hardware for flight simulators. In the year 2018, just like when PC flight simulation began over 30 years ago, the answer to the question: “What hardware do I need and how much must I spend for my flight simulator?” – was always the same…
As much as you can possibly afford. It will never be enough!
To this day, there is no hardware on the planet (available to an individual, that is) capable of running modern flight simulator software to its maximum capability. Over the years, as PC hardware increased in power, so did the sophistication and capabilities of the software simulator programs, resulting in a never-ending catch-up scenario. Sure, if you are prepared to run obsolete simulator software (like MSFS-2004 or X-Plane 9) on state-of-the-art hardware, then you will be able to run the software to the max. But who wants to do that when the newest simulators offer so much more?
So, to answer the question in the headline above – it depends very much on:
- your budget,
- how serious you are about flight simulation and
- how much fun you want to have.
These days, flight simulator add-on manufacturers are becoming a little more realistic in their “recommended requirements” but to this day I cringe at the “minimum requirements” sometimes specified which, frankly, will give a truly horrible experience. You will need to clearly understand that the subject of simulator hardware will always be one of compromise. You just need to make the best possible decisions after evaluating just what is important to you.
For example, if airport “eye candy” is important to you, it will take both CPU and Graphics resources, but on the other hand if you are just interested in practising procedures and have no interest in an immersion experience, you may get away with a far less powerful system.
Another example: A multi-computer cockpit will need a very powerful multi-core CPU in the main controlling “master” PC, but not such a powerful graphics card, while a “slave” PC powering 3 external-view monitors will need a very high-end graphics card and only a fast quad-core CPU. It all depends on what features you are prepared to trade in exchange for better performance in other areas.
So , take a deep breath and click here to get an idea in general terms of what you will really need.
Unashamed personal plug:
If you are prepared to “grease my palm with a modest amount of silver” and hire me to do an hour or two’s research for you, I can certainly steer you towards making the right hardware decisions. To choose your hardware optimally really needs the assistance of a professional and will save you a huge bundle of money in avoiding the pitfalls.