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Seeking recommendations for new PC build for FSX


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Hi All,

 

I'm about to purchase components to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]emble a new flight sim PC, and I'm looking for input from pilots that fly FSX on high-end machines with graphics quality settings towards the upper end, with good frame rates. I define "good frame rates" as consistently 30 or higher, maybe dipping no lower than 20 in dense scenery areas such as an airport.

 

I plan to fly addons like the Eaglesoft CX and one of the upcoming Airbus 320 sims. I also have the Flight 1 Mustang. I intend to run REX. The OS will be Windows 7.

 

What kind of hardware specs should I consider in order to achieve this level of performance? I don't mind buying the latest multi-core CPU or the latest graphics card if that's what I'd need to do, but I don't want to waste money either.

 

Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

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MSI R5770-PM2D1G Radeon HD 5770 (Juniper XT) 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP

XCLIO GREATPOWER 1200W ATX12V / EPS12V

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666)

Intel Core i7-920 Bloomfield 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W (Overclocked, of course)

ASUS Rampage II Extreme LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard

 

+ A case I bought all this from Newegg for $1,862.36. With preliminary testing of my brand new system (got it just over a week ago) I get anywhere between 120 and 300FPS in the default planes with the majority of sliders maxed and it's tweaked according to NickN's guide.

Nicholas Taylor

vZAU INS

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I'd strongly consider a Lynnfield CPU and not worry about the Triple-channel memory; it seems to enhance bandwidth scores, little more, and might allow you to splurge in other areas.

 

One interesting thing to consider is an SSD; I suspect they're still about 6-18 months away from complete maturity but they're very intriguing right now.

 

Cheers!

 

Luke

... I spawn hundreds of children a day. They are daemons because they are easier to kill. The first four remain stubbornly alive despite my (and their) best efforts.

... Normal in my household makes you a member of a visible minority.

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Ross: if your planning to overclock the [email protected] is a pretty good. Most people can get it up to 3.2 or 3.4 ghz easily. Unfortunately to truly overclock these chips you need to get an Extreme edition as they're the only ones that allow you to change the secondary clock used for the internal memory controller.

 

I would definitely recommend win7 64 with 6 gigs of ram. I'm using 3 at the moment and do get the occasional OOM. However that's mainly due to me opening and closing other windows for charts while flying.

 

As for Video Ram I would highly recommend a card with at least 1gig. Besides the i7 chip itself the amount of VRAM is essential these days since the cards themselves are capable of quite a bit of AA/AF. This is really what's going to allow you to move the sliders to the right and increase object density.

 

Most people I know are really happy with their Nvidia GTX 285. I still run 2x8800GTS and Nvidia has recently done a fairly good job making sure FSX can take advantage of multiple GPUs. You'll want to probably also use the 182.50 driver versions as well. As far as ATI cards go, the Nvidia will always look better, though horsepower wise they're pretty evenly matched.

 

Other than that... if you want to wait a while next years Intel line up should include at least 2x the clock speed for the memory controller.. and if you're like me and want to fiddle with HPC on the GPU the Nvidia chips coming out at the beginning of the year should be a huge step forward. Where as the current models are ultimately based on the 8000 series.

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Ross: if your planning to overclock the [email protected] is a pretty good. Most people can get it up to 3.2 or 3.4 ghz easily. Unfortunately to truly overclock these chips you need to get an Extreme edition as they're the only ones that allow you to change the secondary clock used for the internal memory controller.

 

I would definitely recommend win7 64 with 6 gigs of ram. I'm using 3 at the moment and do get the occasional OOM. However that's mainly due to me opening and closing other windows for charts while flying.

 

As for Video Ram I would highly recommend a card with at least 1gig. Besides the i7 chip itself the amount of VRAM is essential these days since the cards themselves are capable of quite a bit of AA/AF. This is really what's going to allow you to move the sliders to the right and increase object density.

 

Most people I know are really happy with their Nvidia GTX 285. I still run 2x8800GTS and Nvidia has recently done a fairly good job making sure FSX can take advantage of multiple GPUs. You'll want to probably also use the 182.50 driver versions as well. As far as ATI cards go, the Nvidia will always look better, though horsepower wise they're pretty evenly matched.

 

Other than that... if you want to wait a while next years Intel line up should include at least 2x the clock speed for the memory controller.. and if you're like me and want to fiddle with HPC on the GPU the Nvidia chips coming out at the beginning of the year should be a huge step forward. Where as the current models are ultimately based on the 8000 series.

FSX CANNOT take advantage of two cards, you're fooling yourself. Also, the HD5870 is better than any Nvidia card currently on the market. I suspect the Nvidia 300 to be better, but as of now, HD5870 is the way to go.

Nicholas Taylor

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Ross

 

As anyone will tell you who have done their research FSX is really only interested in three things when doing a perfomance check on your PC to see which performance bucket it should be placed in.

 

chip

ram

gfx

 

So on that basis the bulk of your money should go on these three items. FSX isnt configured to use multi core cpu's but Windows 7 can take advantage of multi core machines meaning that you can have one core running the os, and one running FSX, so on this basis there is a strong argument against buying anything greater than dual core as nothing is written as yet in software to utilise all four cores.

 

My advice would be to get the fastest dual core chip you can, that said the i7's are truly awesome.

 

nVidia, ATI, its a discussion as old as Boeing, Airbus. VRC, Euroscope.

 

I have been an nvidia man for as long as I can remember but on the advice of a well known VATSIM UK member (Bill Casey) I have just upgraded to an ATI Radeon 5870, why? Well a number of reasons.

 

1) they work straight out of the box, no spending ages balancing the settings

2) no need for nhancer

3) direct x11 compatible already

4) catalyst drivers are updated almost each month apparently.

5) the black and red casing is just to sexy for words.

 

So there you have it, oh the ram, buy matched pairs stick 8gig in with your Win7 upgrade and you will be in FSX flying nirvana.

 

Wycliffe

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FSX isnt configured to use multi core cpu's but Windows 7 can take advantage of multi core machines meaning that you can have one core running the os, and one running FSX, so on this basis there is a strong argument against buying anything greater than dual core as nothing is written as yet in software to utilise all four cores.

 

This is completely incorrect. FSX post-SP1 will use multiple cores.

 

Cheers!

 

Luke

... I spawn hundreds of children a day. They are daemons because they are easier to kill. The first four remain stubbornly alive despite my (and their) best efforts.

... Normal in my household makes you a member of a visible minority.

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As anyone will tell you who have done their research FSX is really only interested in three things when doing a perfomance check on your PC to see which performance bucket it should be placed in.

 

chip

ram

gfx

 

Hehe ... what else is there?

 

So on that basis the bulk of your money should go on these three items. FSX isnt configured to use multi core cpu's but Windows 7 can take advantage of multi core machines meaning that you can have one core running the os, and one running FSX, so on this basis there is a strong argument against buying anything greater than dual core as nothing is written as yet in software to utilise all four cores.

 

That's [Mod - Happy Thoughts]uming I'm only running FSX ... I'll likely be running other stuff as well, so maybe more than 2 cores would be used at once, right? (I know it's not going to make a huge difference, but if the price difference going from 2 to 4 cores is small, then why not.)

 

nVidia, ATI, its a discussion as old as Boeing, Airbus. VRC, Euroscope.

 

I have been an nvidia man for as long as I can remember but on the advice of a well known VATSIM UK member (Bill Casey) I have just upgraded to an ATI Radeon 5870, why? Well a number of reasons.

 

I used to buy ATI, but I switched to nVidia right after I wrote VRC, and was pleasantly surprised when VRC worked on both outputs on both of the nVidia cards I had in the machine. The same was not true with the ATI cards I was running previously. I don't know if it was because of the particular cards I was using, or if the ATI driver just didn't support openGL across multiple cards like nVidia does, or what.

 

Does anyone know if ATI supports having two dual-head cards in the machine (driving four monitors) and using only one driver for both? I know the cards will need to have the same chipset. I think that using only one driver is the key for having OpenGL apps work across all four, but that's mostly a guess.

 

Anyway, thanks very much for the input everyone!

 

One more question ... does anyone have recommendations for cooling the chip? I'll probably get into a little bit of overclocking, but nothing extreme. Right now I have a Zalman CNPS9700 on my core 2 duo, and it seems to do a good job.

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

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Hehe ... what else is there?

 

The one that, paradoxically, makes the biggest difference in the perceived speed of the computer - disk.

 

You shouldn't underestimate the time it takes FS9 or FSX to load textures from disk. A fast (rather than large) disk can improve a lot of things on your PC, and not just for Flight Simulator. If you're doing a fair bit of software compilation, faster I/O means less time waiting to compile. I got a Velociraptor after reluctantly parting ways with Ultra-160 SCSI and haven't noticed the difference. It's probably the last rotational drive I'm going to buy - the next refresh for my PC in 2011 or so will have an SSD.

 

That's [Mod - Happy Thoughts]uming I'm only running FSX ... I'll likely be running other stuff as well, so maybe more than 2 cores would be used at once, right? (I know it's not going to make a huge difference, but if the price difference going from 2 to 4 cores is small, then why not.)

 

I cannot think of any reason why you'd want 2 cores instead of 4. Even if you're around 200Mhz slower on the core clock, I challenge anyone to notice the difference outside of a benchmark.

 

One more question ... does anyone have recommendations for cooling the chip? I'll probably get into a little bit of overclocking, but nothing extreme. Right now I have a Zalman CNPS9700 on my core 2 duo, and it seems to do a good job.

 

I'd start with the stock cooler that comes with the CPU, and see if it meets your need. Unless you're doing something radical it's likely to.

 

Cheers!

 

Luke

... I spawn hundreds of children a day. They are daemons because they are easier to kill. The first four remain stubbornly alive despite my (and their) best efforts.

... Normal in my household makes you a member of a visible minority.

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Does FSX do a performance check on your disk? (That's what the list was referring to.)

 

Good point, sorry. I don't know (or believe so), but it will make a difference in the performance.

 

Cheers!

 

Luke

... I spawn hundreds of children a day. They are daemons because they are easier to kill. The first four remain stubbornly alive despite my (and their) best efforts.

... Normal in my household makes you a member of a visible minority.

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Does anyone know if ATI supports having two dual-head cards in the machine (driving four monitors) and using only one driver for both? I know the cards will need to have the same chipset. I think that using only one driver is the key for having OpenGL apps work across all four, but that's mostly a guess.

If you're seeking a multi-monitor solution, I'd suggest a small investment spent researching the new ATI 5870 might result in savings.

 

AMD/ATI's Eyefinity technology, in essence, may save the opportunity cost of a second video card and/or a Matrox Triple-Head-2-Go.

 

The current batch of cards on the market have only 3 monitor capability, but the chip itself is future designed for up to six (not that you really need that many!)

http://www.amd.com/us/products/technologies/eyefinity/Pages/eyefinity.aspx

 

Let us know how the final build turns out!

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Hehe ... what else is there?

 

The one that, paradoxically, makes the biggest difference in the perceived speed of the computer - disk.

 

You shouldn't underestimate the time it takes FS9 or FSX to load textures from disk. A fast (rather than large) disk can improve a lot of things on your PC, and not just for Flight Simulator. If you're doing a fair bit of software compilation, faster I/O means less time waiting to compile. I got a Velociraptor after reluctantly parting ways with Ultra-160 SCSI and haven't noticed the difference. It's probably the last rotational drive I'm going to buy - the next refresh for my PC in 2011 or so will have an SSD.

 

You are still forgetting one important thing. The speed of the processor cannot be fully utilized unless you have an equal or greater Front Side Bus (FSB) speed. If a processor can run at full speed, but it can't send messages at the same speed, then the additional speed of the processor is useless.

Brian Beach

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You are still forgetting one important thing. The speed of the processor cannot be fully utilized unless you have an equal or greater Front Side Bus (FSB) speed. If a processor can run at full speed, but it can't send messages at the same speed, then the additional speed of the processor is useless.

 

Oddly enough, no CPU produced by AMD or Intel since the 486DX/50 has run at the same speed as its outside bus, and they seem to have sped up a fair bit since.

 

Cheers!

 

Luke

... I spawn hundreds of children a day. They are daemons because they are easier to kill. The first four remain stubbornly alive despite my (and their) best efforts.

... Normal in my household makes you a member of a visible minority.

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You are still forgetting one important thing. The speed of the processor cannot be fully utilized unless you have an equal or greater Front Side Bus (FSB) speed. If a processor can run at full speed, but it can't send messages at the same speed, then the additional speed of the processor is useless.

Isn't that the theory behind tiered-memory architecture with high-speed onboard cache and pre-fetch block operations? This is usually measured by the cache hit performance ratio. Also tri-channel memory opens up an additional i/o path for memory.

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Here's what I have my eye on at the moment:

 

Intel Core i7-920 Bloomfield 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80601920 - Retail

 

ASUS Rampage II Extreme LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

 

EVGA 017-P3-1296-AR GeForce GTX 295 Superclocked Edition 1792MB 896 (448 x 2)-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready SLI ... - Retail

 

Western Digital VelociRaptor WD3000HLFS 300GB 10000 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

 

CORSAIR XMS3 8GB (4 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) - Retail

 

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM

 

ZALMAN CNPS9900LED 120mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler - Retail

 

Just over $1700 shipped from Newegg. I already have a decent case and PSU. (Antec 900)

 

Some questions for you guys:

 

I'm not sure about the RAM speed. Will 1600 speed RAM work with the CPU and Mobo I've chosen, or do I need to use 1333? The price difference is tiny, so I figured I'd go with the faster RAM for future upgradability. No clue if that's applicable.

 

What's the deal with the operating system license "for system builders"? Can anyone buy those along with PC components, or do you have to provide proof that you're a PC reseller?

 

Thanks for any comments or suggestions on the above.

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

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Hi Ross

 

I did have an interesting conversation only the other day regarding quad and dual core processors. My friend, of Computer Finder Cardiff, who I would say is one of the better informed specialist shops in the city and I where discussing what would be the best gaming chip.

 

He was in no doubt at all when he said the dual core chips where by far the better, he was talking about the fastest dual core running at 3ghz being better than the quads.

 

Although the quads look bigger they actually run slower, he was saying that if your doing video editing (broadcast standard) then the quads are spot on or music compilation then your quads are what you need, but for gaming the dual's are far better, as they run faster.

 

Hmm interesting! I can upgrade my dual core to the fastest on the market at present for a paltry £100 thats what, $160 bargain.

 

Something to think about.

 

Finally have a look at the new Series 5 ATI cards which are Directx11 ready. Also the crossfire linking actually works whereas SLI is fraught with difficulties. I have been an nVidia man for more years than I can remember and have just change to ATI and I am mightily impressed.

 

Wycliffe

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"if god meant for us to fly, he would have given us tickets" Mel Brooks

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Thanks for the input Wycliffe. Maybe I'll try adding more RAM and a faster video card to my current rig, which is a core 2 duo at 3 ghz overclocked to 3.6.

 

As for ATI vs Nvidia, I'll probably stick with Nvidia. I've always had better luck with their drivers. I won't be doing crossfire or SLI, so that's not a consideration for me.

 

Thanks again.

 

Anyone else got any input on the dual versus quad core debate when it comes to FSX?

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

Senior Controller, Boston Virtual ARTCC

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Ross

 

Sounds like a plan going with the extra ram and new gfx card. You would certainly save a chunk of change doing that. It's getting harder and harder to future proof against Flight Sim especially as we don't really know whats happening in that direction.

 

In fact what is pushing the hardware limits at the moment is not so much the base platform (FSX) but the third party addons, with stuff like the Extreme Airports and Mega Sceneries that are about. Not to mention PMDG's last two offerings which really require 64bit OS's and at least 4gig of ram.

 

If you have a $1000 bucks burning a hole in your pocket why not invest in a solid state drive. They are awesome but unfortunately still not very big.

 

Wycliffe

Wycliffe Barrett: C3 Controller

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"if god meant for us to fly, he would have given us tickets" Mel Brooks

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Intel Core i7-920 Bloomfield 2.66GHz LGA 1366 130W Quad-Core Processor Model BX80601920 - Retail

 

ASUS Rampage II Extreme LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard - Retail

 

CORSAIR XMS3 8GB (4 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) - Retail

 

I'm not sure about the RAM speed. Will 1600 speed RAM work with the CPU and Mobo I've chosen, or do I need to use 1333? The price difference is tiny, so I figured I'd go with the faster RAM for future upgradability. No clue if that's applicable.

 

The Asus Rampage II Extreme is a perfect match for the performance enthusiast. The Bloomfield processor with onboard memory controller is optimized for configurations of 3-DIMMs or 6-DIMMS on this motherboard. It will run with 4-DIMMs, but this is unbalanced and has the potential to decrease memory bandwidth. I recommend sticking with 3x2GB kits. Go with the faster 1600Mhz and lower 8-8-8-24 CAS timings.

 

Corsair has a memory configurator here . . . just query ASUS, Motherboard & Rampage II Extreme for "guaranteed compatibility".

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I think the video card is a good choice... you can never have enough RAM. But I will say this there are serious diminishing returns with GPU power... you may only see a few extra frames with the double GPU setup versus the single 285 serious.

 

I'm not absolutely sure about this but my understanding of the graphics pipeline suggest the only performance gains are during the final rasterization phase. So if you have high resolution setup, such as in the case of dual monitors you will definitely benefit. I use a single monitor setup and there is only about a 10% improvement with dual gpu/sli mode, which is what leads me to this belief.

 

Just remember it's pretty much dependent on the drivers and the interception of DX/GL calls , which always allows for future improvements, but FSX optimization maybe not that high on Nvidia's list.

 

As far as the OEM/System builders you qualify for this purchase anytime you purchase a CPU. Although I've seen resellers sell it regardless

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He was in no doubt at all when he said the dual core chips where by far the better, he was talking about the fastest dual core running at 3ghz being better than the quads.

 

"By far"? The clock speed difference between a quad and a dual core is around 10% - and I'd challenge anyone to notice the difference with the naked eye. You may get an FPS or two.

 

However, if this is an important consideration, I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Lynnfield processors (the i5 series). When running one core much more than the others, they'll throttle the unused cores down and overclock the busy core, all the way up to 3.6Ghz in the highest-end models. I suspect that's going to be the ultimate FS chip, since it can give you excellent single core performance for FS9, and still have the multiple cores for FSX.

 

I also question whether the extra memory channel of the i7 versus the i5 is of benefit; I've yet to run into any consumer-grade apps on the PC that are memory bandwidth limited.

 

Cheers!

 

Luke

... I spawn hundreds of children a day. They are daemons because they are easier to kill. The first four remain stubbornly alive despite my (and their) best efforts.

... Normal in my household makes you a member of a visible minority.

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