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DazB

Newbie questions

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Hi people.

 

Just wondering if someone could help with a few questions to point me in the right direction as I’m seriously considering P3D. I called them Newbie questions in the topic title as I never bothered upgrading from FS9 so I’m definitely short on the knowledge which other people might take for granted if you've spent a few years tinkering with FSX. For instance there’s a few words and phrases such as “migration tool” and “orbx” which have never been anything to concern myself with previously but I’m getting the idea that I should now. So what should I be looking at and trying to educate myself about to enhance my new P3D experience do you think?

 

Possibly tied to the above, something I’ve done quite a lot of with FS9 is tweak airports with Afcad, make my own AI with Ttools and paint things utilising a DXTBmp editor. Is this kind of stuff still usable or are there alternatives I should be looking into now?

 

As to where I install P3D I’m considering two options the first being the PC below if people think it might do the job well enough. I really don’t understand the specs enough to work that out myself unfortunately or take a guess at how far to the right I could set the sliders.   

 

Intel® Core i7 CPU, 920 @ 2.67GHz 2.79GHz

 

6.00GB ram (3.25 usable)

 

32 bit operating system

 

ATI Radeon HD 5800 series.

 

Saitek X52 throttle, stick and pedals

 

Track IR

 

Alternatively for a PC I might be willing to say to myself that I’ll get years of pleasure out of it so I could justify spending the cash and buying myself a really good brand new rig. If I did go down that route what should I be looking at as current high end components?

 

Thanks in advance to anyone who can help out with anything plus if anyone has any further advice I haven’t thought of yet it will all very welcome.

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My system was almost the same as yours. I had an ATI HD5850 and (still have) an i7 860. This system could run FS9 pretty well but struggled A LOT with FSX + complex aircraft (PMDG 737 NGX was unflyable, the 777 was kinda flyable at 20 FPS). I'm using the same flight controls and TrackIR (PS, I once had the Saitek Yoke and didn't like the elevator feel at all, I stick to my X52)

 

I've done a lot of changes lately to my system and noticed a great improvement in performance on FSX (not using P3D yet), so my advice to you is:

 

0) First of all read Nick's guide, it's written for FSX but all system-related is still valid (in fact, it's valid for any PC, not just for flight-simming): http://www.simforums.com/forums/the-fsx-computer-system-the-bible-by-nickn_topic46211.html

 

1) Get a 120 GB SSD (I got the Samsung EVO 840), here you want to install the OS and minor programs (not P3D).

 

2) Get a 64bit OS, you'll get nowhere with W7 32bit. As of today I recommend Windows 7 64 bit and NOT Windows 8. Install this OS on your SSD.

 

3) Next you want to increase your RAM to 12 or 16 GB. I went from having 4GB to having 12 by adding an 8GB Kingston DDR3 at 1333 MHz. As you said your 6GB of RAM are pretty much useless on a 32bit OS. 

 

4) Get a 1TB dedicated HDD (or SSD if you can afford it) which you will use for your flight simulation ONLY. You must already have a HDD on your system, so use that for dead storage (documents, movies, music etc.).

 

5) Now you want to improve your CPU's performance, that is, overclocking. First you need a good CPU cooler, I got myself the Noctua NH-U9B SE2 and I'm pretty happy with it. I overclocked my i7 860 to 4.00 GHz and my temps are running always below 80ºC when using FSX (absolute max is 99, and a safe max is 85 so I'm happy with it).

 

6) Lastly you want to replace your ATI. For flight simulation Nvidia is the GPU to go, always. I went from the HD 5850 to the Nvidia GTX 770, and that's a different story. I put this as the last step since the other 5 are of higher "importance" and flight simulation is more CPU dependant in general. 

 

That's what "I" would do. I'm no expert on P3D so I might be completely off. If others consider my advice to be rubbish listen to them.

 

PS: This is an important mid-life "facelift" of your PC, 300 for the GPU, 100 for the RAM, 50 for the cooler, 100 for the SSD, 100 for the HDD, 150 for the OS: rougly 800€. Maybe you'd like to spend more, say 1500-2000 and get a new rig altogether instead of updating your current system.

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Ditto on the above.

 

I am running a very similar system to what Alpha Four describes. Except that I still have the ATI 5800 1GB card on my system (a brand new GTX 770 4GB is literally sitting on my desk waiting to be installed this weekend). Another difference is that I did not overclock my CPU. I manage to run FSX quite well, but P3D is motly unusable (running 2.1 at the moment).

 

P3D is (claimed to be) much better than FSX is using the GPU. So I am really hoping that the GTX 770 will make a big difference in P3D. Their official minimum GPU RAM is 2GB, and I must say that on my 1GB card it definitely shows. I am hoping that the new card will also make a difference on FSX. Maybe Alpha Four can tell us how much difference the GPU upgrade did for him.

 

While everybody says that CPU is the number one issue on FSX, I am not 100% sure whether this is accurate. Most of the people who report what their GPU is indicate a far better GPU than an ATI 5800. It could very well be that just a GPU upgrade can make a significant improvement. I will let you know after I make my upgrade. FSX and P3D under-utilize the CPU quite badly. For the most part they can use barely more than one core. They make that core work very hard, but for most of us that means less than 25% CPU utilization and having one core maxed out. My main point here is that CPU overclocking will get you at most linear acceleration. So if you're running a CPU at 3GHz and overclocking it 4GHz, you will get at most a 30% boost in FPS. That is not taking into account memory access bottlenecks that will limit your improvement. If your GPU is maxed out (which is hard for me to tell on an ATI card) then upgrading the card to something like a GTX 770 could *potentially* deliver far more than a 30% FPS boost. If you compare the ATI 5800 benchmarks to the GTX 770 benchmarks you will see a huge difference. So even though FSX does not take full advantage of the GPU capability it still relies on it a lot (and even more so if you run DX10 experimental). So there is a chance that an upgrade from a 5800 to a GTX 770 will make a very noticeable difference, whereas the difference between a GTX770 and a GTX 780Ti will certainly be nothing more than a hole in your pocket.

 

For P3D 2 (any of the versions) I would say that the GPU upgrade is an absolute must.

 

I will come back to this topic after my own upgrade. Maybe Alpha Four can make another comment regarding the results from his GPU upgrade. I'd be very interested.

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Maybe Alpha Four can make another comment regarding the results from his GPU upgrade. I'd be very interested.

 

Well to be honest, I first upgraded the GPU and then overclocked. But since overclocking is cheaper, I'd do that first.

 

Before changing the GPU I could run FSX well (say, 25 FPS) with most aircraft except the newest PMDG and with no add-on airports. I got the PMDG 777 and unhappy to be flying it at 20 FPS I bought the new GPU (Asus Nvidia GTX 770 2GB). While I noticed an improvement, I was kinda disappointed: I went from 15-20 to 25-30 FPS and without touching settings (see Nick's guide for the settings). As a side note, where I did notice a big improvement was on X-Plane 10. On an IVAO online event at Heathrow with lots of traffics my frames dropped to 15 on the 777. Seems like drawing other traffics is extremely CPU dependant.

 

After overclocking I noticed a BIG improvement on the 777 PMDG. I have my FPS capped at 30, and now I'm almost always topping it. I can now fly the 777 smoothly on most situations, haven't had a busy online event to try that out yet, but I hope it would stay above 20. I'm not using any addon scenery/airports, since I don't want to spoil the smoothness and flying is all about the aircraft to me, not so much the airport.

 

It's important to point out that PMDG's NGX and 777 are an "entity" on their own. Being unable to run them smoothly doesn't mean you can't have a great simulation experience with other aircraft. For instance, if you're all about GA, I'm sure the A2A Cessna 172 will be extremely FPS-friendly, and still be a top-notch aircraft. I just happened to want to fly the 777 at an acceptable frame rate (which is a hell of a lot more than just wanting to fly on FSX at an acceptable frame rate).

 

What you say about FSX under-utilizing the CPU is true and sad. To me it's depressing to see the first core struggling at 100% and the rest of them idling... but well, that's the way it was designed.

 

PS: This video shows how my 777 performed with the GTX770 but before overclocking. Recording a video in turn has an impact of FPS, but the way I see it in the video is roughly what I'd get.

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OK. Good news for you.

 

Yesterday I upgraded my GPU from the ATI 5800 1GB I had there before to  EVGA nvidia 770 4GB. No other tweaks or changes made. No CPU overclocking (actually my BIOS prevents me from overclocking anyway).

 

The results were nothing short of astounding. Both on FSX and on P3D.

 

The max FPS I was able to squeeze out of this box before, with any aircraft was maybe 26. Never even sustained 30. Immediately after upgrading the GPU, my FPS shot up to the 60s. More importantly, difficult combinations of weather and scenery that used to drop my FPS to an unfliable 7-8 FPS are now running quite comfortably at about 20FPS, which is not fast but totally usable.

 

So the prevailing wisdom that GPU upgrades don't do much is totally bunk. If you had an under-powered GPU before - specifically an ATI 5800 series, and you upgrade to a reasonably up to date nvidia GPU you get a huge boost in performance immediately. This is not to say that an upgrade from a 680 to a 770 would do the same. I wouldn't know. i am pretty sure that doubling my price to get 780ti would probably only marginally improve performance. But this particulat upgrade is just spectacular in FPS terms. The same (even better, actually) on P3D. Thre the performance improved even more than on FSX (which is to be expected, as they use the GPU better).

 

Now all of that said, and it's still early for me with less than a day with the new GPU, some add-ons in some sceneries (e.g. Carenado C210 with ORBX NCA near SFO) started displaying some weird behavior after the upgrade, and I don't quite understand yet what's going on there. I get really severely delayed response to stick input. I try to back, and it takes a couple of seconds before it responds. I did notice that this odd behavior is location specific, as it does not happen with the same aircraft in, say ORBX PNW, and I don't quite see why this would be related at all to the GPU upgrade. I guess I will have to tinker with things before I find out...

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