My first look at Microsoft Flight Simulator was back in 1984 with Version 2. This ran in DOS on a PC and even though graphics really didn’t exist back then, the software pushed the PC to it’s limit all the time. If you had 4mb of RAM in a PC you were ahead of the pack back then!
The sim was clunky, very basic as can be seen above, and it crashed an awful lot, usually due to running out of memory in the PC. It was still fun though and allowed basic virtual flight, takeoffs and landings, sort of 🙂
Move forward 38 years to 2022 and we are now accustomed to far better things, that’s progress.
A choice needed to be made between a PC or a console system to run the software. In 2022 there is a worldwide supply issue with electronic components for one reason or another; this has pushed parts for PC’s to extreme prices and very long wait times.
To get any sort of performance out of a PC you are looking at a custom built unit as off-the-shelf PC’s are still aimed at a bit of web-surfing, emails and the odd game etc. To purchase even just the graphics card for a half-decent gaming PC would be well over £1000 today, then you need the main board, a pile of fast RAM, power supply, a processor, case, maybe some cooling, and storage with either a hard disk or more likely an SSD drive or two. At a guess, a good system would likely top out around £3500 to £5000, with high-end or ‘extreme’ builds going even further.
I was not prepared to invest that sort of money on a PC, but there is an option – the gaming console. Again, a few choices to be made but for what I needed, the X-Box Series X was the winner for me.
Sadly even these are in short supply at present but luckily the second-hand market is buoyant with them, however, they do fetch very high prices still: 2nd hand units fetch more than a new one did a year before in many cases, simply because you cannot get a new one!
I got the X-Box (my first ever gaming console!) from a local “cash-converter” style shop, better than risking direct purchase as you do at least get some warranty on it.
The choice between a PC or console was not just a financial one – there is a big difference in what you can do with the flight simulator software on each unit. On the console you are restricted to a few add-on controllers plus a keyboard and mouse for operating all the cockpit controls etc. On the PC you can (with additional software) add and build whole ‘virtual cockpits’ with real buttons, knobs, switches, digital displays and more – you can literally build a complete flight-sim cockpit, including wrap-around screens to give a totally immersive experience. The only major limit is of course cost, it’s not unheard of for serious builders to spend upwards of £20k on building a cockpit simulator.
Next I needed a monitor – using the main TV was not an option. Looking at available desk space, seat-to-screen distance etc. showed me that something like 32″ was a good size – you can view the whole picture without having to move your head, a much bigger screen at close distance means having to head-shift to see the sides which can cause headaches.
I found the Samsung U32R590 32″ 4K curved monitor matched the console output reasonably well, it had the correct ratio format (16:9) and had a good refresh rate. Being curved is good for this type of use as the image better matches the natural radius of the eyes without forcing them to re-focus all the time as a flat panel screen can do. The 4K picture is nothing short of amazing!
As I mentioned above, this was my first gaming console, never having been a big fan of gaming before, however I have since made one concession here and got a copy of “Grand Theft Auto 5” just for fun, watching some videos of it, it did look appealing to say the least 🙂 but that’s a story for another day.
Although not essential, I threw in a cheap keyboard and mouse just to make setting things up a little easier, typing with the up-left-down-right buttons is a real pain. I cleared off the office desk and I was set for flight, or so I thought…
After some 11 months of flying on the X-Box, I decided to upgrade to a full gaming PC, it opens up many more options and the display is smoother as well, you can see what I built here.