Even in 2021 Microsoft Flight simulator 2020 remains to be a title that shocks and awe's in various ways, both good and bad. Performance remains wretched and bottlenecked for numerous reasons. The game engine, world, and scene complexity are the main ones. We do sense somehow that DirectX 12 can bring more performance to the title. That remains to be seen though. Performance-wise the game will stutter and offer varying framerates depending on grounds level, airport, and even airplane. We sometimes measured an average 10 FPS difference in favor of flying a Cessna Citation Longitude as opposed to a Boeing 747-8. Also, sometimes when traffic control will report to you, the game can stutter on simple stuff like that. Still, I wanted to update our review for our flight-sim fans on this title based on a Ryzen 9 5950X platform as well as adding all recently released graphics cards tested on that platform. In the end, though, it brought us only mild FPS increases with solely the premium graphics cards at lower resolutions. As it's all bottlenecked and the same regardlessly comparing to the previously used Intel Core i9 9900K platform. So yes, in 2021 performance sits at give or take the very same level.
Flight Simulator 2020, despite the analysis and results on performance, is still an astonishing product from a graphics point of view, as well as that oh so important simulation point of view. Applying a recommendation as to how precise the sim is, we'll happily leave to the experts. The graphics can be both normal and sometimes exceptional. The focus on more detailed cities and airports is a crucial factor here, which also influences performance.
A cardinal rule with flight sims is that 30 fps (as repulsive as that sounds to many of our readers) is enough for a simulated experience that is satisfactory. We're not stating that 30 FPS is a good thing though, but the scenery in flight is slow-pacing and slow-moving; it really does not need 100+ FPS. So you target FPS at 30 to 60 FPS, 40~50 FPS on average is what you should be aiming for when making a choice in GPU versus monitor resolution. If you want to run at Ultra quality in ultra HD, we'd recommend a beefy setup, of course. I'd recommend an enthusiast-class graphics card for the highest resolutions, 16GB is okay, but 32GB on the System memory would have my preference. And obviously, an SSD is mandatory as there is a lot of storage IO happing in-game. Processor wise four cores work, but my recommendation sits at an eight-core configuration for the best experience, our updated results with 16 cores hardly made a difference and in fact, a faster clocked 8-core processors with nice IPC would be the sweet-spot.
However, there's far more to say here, as reviewing and benchmarking this title is complicated. We use a one-screen setup. Surely many flight-simmers will use multiple screens. Do you measure cockpit mode, or measure externally. If you use multiple monitors, how much will be used for actual flight views, as opposed to a dashboard or window view. So many variables come into play.
Graphically speaking, while not perfect graphics-wise and with some stutters on low FPS scenery, this remains to be among the best and most realistic flight-sims to date. The landscape looks very genuine, though not everywhere. But especially the cities and airports that have been modified by hand are breathtaking. The one thing I am left baffled by is the fact that this title is DirectX 11 only, A Microsoft title, developer of DirectX, not using or even offering DirectX 12. Yeah, that's just fascinating when you think about it longer than 2 seconds. One last remark towards Microsoft, we don't 'hate' having to pay so much money for a simulator, the Deluxe edition even runs 129 EUR. However, if you want some hot commodity airports or scenery, you again have to pay for in-game DLCs easily costing 20 bucks per airport, plain, or scenery. We do wish that would normalize a bit more. Other than that, hardly anything could beat MS Flight Simulator 2020.
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