Today we’re testing a cargo plane with graphics cards in the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. The game was released this week so we pre-ordered it for testing and when it was available we joined in … just to waste a lot of time on the game from 100 GB to download.
For some reason, Microsoft won’t be using Steam servers for at least the majority of the installation. Instead, you download a 500MB mini installer from Steam that is effortless to download, then download an inferior installer that doesn’t work as smoothly and continues to cause errors. Unfortunately, we are not alone as we have heard from many people who have reported problems downloading the game. Not a good start.
Fortunately, the installation pain was worth it as the game is amazing. Visually, the game is breathtaking and we’d say we’re really looking at next-generation stuff here. From a technical point of view, the game is very impressive, although there are some hardware limitations that we will discuss at the end of this article.
Flight Simulator 2020 is based on Asobo’s internal game engine and uses Microsoft Bing Maps to access more than two petabytes of data from the cloud, if necessary, to simulate the entire earth. Using Azure from Microsoft, the game analyzes the map data to create photorealistic 3D models of buildings, roads, trees, grass, water, terrain, and more.
There’s a lot more to it than that, but for this feature, we’d like to focus on the PC hardware’s performance, or rather what kind of GPU you’ll need for a smooth flight in Flight Simulator 2020.
To answer this question, we tested 28 graphics cards with a resolution of 1080p, 1440p and 4K with the quality settings “Ultra” and “Medium”.
We used the Sydney Australia landing challenge to benchmark the game. After loading, we need 30 seconds to fully load the game. For context, and you know it, Flight Simulator 2020 takes about a minute to load. Then it will take another 30 seconds before you no longer see massive peaks in the frame time. Then you can get started. In our case, we tested the benchmark pass for 60 seconds.
We dropped our Intel test system in favor of a Ryzen 9 3950X for this model. Going with the 16-core / 32-thread processor, we have 32GB of DDR4-3200 CL14 memory and the latest AMD and Nvidia drivers that claim proper support for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.
Before we get into the results, we should stress that you don’t need more than 30 fps to play this game. The game is certainly smoother at 60 fps, but 30 fps is okay to play and enjoy Flight Simulator 2020.