Hardware and Controllers 
     

Sections
Introduction System Memory
Minimum System Requirements Graphics Cards
CPUs and FSBs DirectX 10
Multi-core Processors Game Controllers

Introduction

We design each version of Flight Simulator to give you a great experience on currently available hardware, and to give you a FANTASTIC experience on the next generation of hardware to come. Arguably, it's products like Flight Simulator that push hardware developers to keep innovating. In return, the capabilities of each new generation of hardware inspire us to innovate. Everybody wins! The downside is that there's no easy answer to the question:

"What hardware do I need to run Flight Simulator X?"

On this page you can learn more about the hardware components that Flight Simulator depends on the most. Generally speaking, the better your hardware is, the better your experience will be. Want to know more? Read on.

Minimum System Requirements

  • Microsoft Windows XP SP2 / Vista
  • PC with 1 GHz equivalent or higher processor
  • 256 MB of system RAM for Windows XP SP2 / 512 MB Vista
  • 14 GB available hard disk space
  • DVD-ROM drive - the faster, the better
  • 32 MB DirectX 9 compatible video card required
  • Sound card, speakers, or headphones required for audio
  • Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device
    56.6 Kbps or better modem for online play

You'll find some great articles about improving Flight Simulator's graphics and performance in the Performance and Support section of FSInsider. If you're interested in learning more, be sure to read:

CPUs and FSBs

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the main processor chip within your computer. The CPU is critical to the performance of any application. In Flight Simulator X, the CPU drives the game's artificial intelligence (AI), physics, terrain creation, and weather modeling, among other things. A fast CPU will increase the performance of those and other aspects of FSX.

There's more to the story though: the Front-Side Bus (FSB). The FSB resides on your system's motherboard, and serves as the communication path between the CPU, system memory (see below) and other components within your computer system.

So, for the best performance you want a fast CPU with a motherboard that has a fast FSB. For FSX, we see good performance on 2.4ghz or faster CPUs with 800Mhz or faster FSBs.

Multi-core Processors

The latest processors are now shipping with "multiple cores." This means there are more than one processor per chip. For example, a dual core processor has two processors in it. A quad core has four. You would think that with two cores the processing will go twice as fast, but not exactly. This performance increase isn't automatic. An application needs to be programmed specifically to take advantage of multiple cores. And even with that. you'll more than likely not get twice the performance.

In the case of FSX, we have an update we're calling "Service Pack 1 (SP1)." With the installation of that update, FSX will be enabled to take advantage of multi-core processors.

See Intel's Web site for more details about their multi-core processor chips.

See our Downloads page to download Service Pack 1.

To find out what processor your computer has:

In Windows Vista

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Right-click Computer.
  3. At the bottom of the pop-up menu, click Properties.

Your computer's processor will be listed in the "System" section of the window that pop-ups.

In Windows XP

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Right-click My Computer.
  3. At the bottom of the pop-up menu, click Properties.

Your computer's processor will be listed on the General tab of the System Properties window that pops up.

System Memory

System memory (RAM) is where the geographic-data, textures, airplanes, and other content in Flight Simulator X gets loaded and stored from your computer's hard drive. It provides your system with "fast access" to the content. If you don't have enough RAM, your hard drive (which is slower memory) will have to step in, and that will constrain overall system performance.

We've found that having two gigabytes of "fast" RAM is necessary to get the most out of FSX. What do we mean by fast? It gets complex, so rather than spend time here we'll refer you to the great explanation on Wikipedia.

For the ultimate system, you'll want memory that you can overclock. See the Corsair Memory Web site for an interesting discussion of overclocking.

Graphics Cards

You get what you pay for here. While the $99 and $199 low-end and mid-range cards are attractive, typically these cards give you 25% and 50% of the performance of the top-end cards ($399 or higher). The best value is typically found in the "second best" level of cards. These cards are usually very close to the highest-end cards, but come with less memory and perform at slower speeds. As a result, you can save over $100. Here's a comparison of Nvidia's 7950 family:

GeForce 7950 GX2 GeForce 7950 GT
Graphics Technology PCI Express PCI Express
Memory 1GB (512MB per GPU) 512MB
Memory Interface 512-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec) 76.8 44.8
Fill Rate (Billion pixels/sec) 24 13.2
Vertices/second (Billion) 2.0 1.1
Pixels per clock (peak) 48 24
RAMDACs (MHz) 400 400

The cost difference? The 7950 GX2 runs about $400, and the 7950 GT is about $275.

DirectX 10

The next generation of video technology comes with Windows Vista: DirectX 10. This is the "high performance 3D technology in Windows." Your games need to specifically be programmed to take advantage of the new features in DX10-capable video cards. A DX10 video card will give you both great DX9 performance and the ability to take advantage of the DX10 update that we'll be releasing for FSX, probably in the fall of 2007.

What does DX10 bring you? Much better performance, and the ability to crank up the graphics settings (improve visual quality) without sacrificing frame rate (performance).

To learn more anout Nvidia's graphic cards, see their Web site for gaming. Also, see the sidebar below for a link to Nvidia's FSX system analyzer, which will test your system and make upgrade recommendations.

Test Your System

Not sure if your computer is ready for FSX? Test your system on Nvidia's "nZone" to see how it stacks up for using FSX:

nZone

Benchmarks

Also, be sure to have a look at the Flight Simulator X benchmark tests on a wide range of cards at Tom's Hardware.

Game Controllers

When it comes to hardware to control your aircraft in Flight simulator X, there are many types of controllers to choose from: flight yokes, rudder pedals, simple joysticks, joysticks with throttle levers, game pads, and of course, your mouse and keyboard.

If you're not sure what type of controller you want to use, consider visiting a local computer store to try the different options. You will literally "feel" which controller is right for you. Think about button layout and quantity, grip fit, the type of controls the planes you like to fly have (yokes versus sticks), and so forth. If you have friends with several different controllers, try them in-game to get an even better idea. See the sidebar above for links to various controller providers.

Controllers

These partners produce high-quality products supported by FSX:

CH Products
Premium yokes, throttle quadrants and rudder pedals

Logitech
Great "all in one" joysticks

Saitek
Premium joysticks, throttles and rudder pedals

Precision Flight Controls
Commercial grade hardware applications

Microsoft Hardware
Premium Game pad for Windows

Track IR
Head tracking devices for greater immersion