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Road Warrior Simming?

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So let's suppose you're a die-hard simmer and work, family, or wanderlust takes you away from home for extended periods.  What ideas do you have about the best ways to take it on the road? 

I find myself pondering questions such as these:

- Is there a laptop made that's really capable of scratching the itch? 

- Anyone ever try a lan-party box kind of solution?  What sorts of builds can survive the pothole jungle?  Design considerations? 

- What sorts of flight controls lend themselves to mobility? 

- What kinds of travel cases work best?

- Separate software licenses, or a transportable build that you can take with you serving in both fixed and mobile use?  What base and add-on software lends itself to concurrent or transferable use on a fixed and a mobile PC?

- What add-on software won't work without an internet connection?

- What sort of compact audio solutions work best? 

- Wired or wifi peripherals?

- How to best make things fit on a mobile/portable monitor limited by size when you're used to the big screen at home base?

There's lots of potential material for a wide-ranging discussion, and I'm certain that there are a good number of folks that have at least thought about it, if not done it.

Regards


Bob Scott | AVSIM Forums Administrator | AVSIM Board of Directors

ATP Gulfstream II-III-IV-V

System: i7-8086K @ 5.3GHz on custom water loop, ASUS Maximus XI Hero, 16GB 3600MHz CAS15, eVGA 2080Ti XC Ultra, Samsung 55" JS8500 4K TV@30Hz, 2x1TB Samsung SSD 970Pro NVMe+850 Pro SATA 3, eVGA 1KW PSU

SB XFi Titanium, optical link to Yamaha RX-V467, Polk/Klipsch 6" bookshelf spkrs, Polk 12" subwoofer, 12.9" iPad Pro, PFC yoke/throttle quad/pedals with custom Hall sensors, Coolermaster HAF932 case, Stream Deck XL button box

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I flight simmed on a laptop for a many years, coupled to a MS Sidewinder Precision Pro 2 joystick. But you do have to spend quite a bit of money to get a laptop with a decent discrete graphics card (onboard/integrated graphics are a no-no) and mobile processors tend to be a slower clock than their desktop equivalents. Ultimately you'll be spending quite a bit more and the sim will run worse than on a desktop, but it's eminently possible. Also laptops are difficult to upgrade and storage space will be limited. Basically you should only take on all those compromises if you have to, if you can use a desktop PC then you should!

15.6" screen strikes a good compromise between usability and portability, but running 1080p on a screen that size makes everything tiny, 768p works better. The lower resolution helps compensate for the lesser power too.

17" 1080p works well but these machines are quite a bit bigger and bulkier. I thought of them as "desktop replacements"

Don't expect to game on battery, you will need a mains power connection and a desk/table of some sort to pop the laptop down on. I use to prop mine up with a small wedge to keep the laptop cool as it could get quite hot.

Lugging a yoke and pedals around is not really practical, so expect to use a twist joystick, or for more compactness, a gamepad (such as PS or Xbox controller). I never bothered with a mouse as my touchpad was good.

If you're staying in each place for longer periods and you're travelling in your own car (rather than train or flying) then it may be preferable to opt for a LAN box, 22"+ monitor and some rudder pedals. Such a "transportable build" will save a lot of cash (and time, it's soo annoying when you want something but it's on your PC at home) versus running two setups

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ckyliu, proud supporter of ViaIntercity.com. Find my spec and settings in "About me" on my profile.

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I would buy from this company

https://www.xoticpc.com/custom-gaming-laptops-notebooks-gaming-laptops-ct-118-96-98/ultimate-laptop-series.html

I worked with three people who bought gaming laptops from them and we're very satisfied.


|Ryan Butterworth|

| i7 4790K@4.4GHz | 32GB RAM | EVGA GTX 1080Ti | ASUS Z97-Pro | 1TB 860 Evo | 500GB 840 Evo Win10 Pro | 1TB Samsung 7200rpm | Seasonic X750W |

 

 

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Nice site, I ran up a $2000 bill though, laptop gaming comes at a price.

In terms of audio I think a comfortable headset is all you need. Decent speakers are going to be bulky and need a power supply of their own.


ckyliu, proud supporter of ViaIntercity.com. Find my spec and settings in "About me" on my profile.

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The last time I ran a flight sim on a laptop was FS9 on a 2005-vintage Dell XPS2 laptop.  It was certainly better than going completely without during a fairly long stretch without my desktops while moving from the US to South America.  I used a Saitek Cyborg 3D twist-grip stick that had a base which would fold up nicely.  Now I think I'd use the Thrustmaster T.16000M instead...it's a great budget twist-grip joystick with Hall sensors on the X-Y-Z axes.  Throttle control would still be something of a dilemma.  I know of no rudder pedals that are especially portable, so the twist-grip still looks like the de facto solution.

I very nearly bought one of the Alienware Area 51-M laptops around the first of the year, but they were still using 1070/1080 GPUs...you can get one now with a 9900K and a 2070/2080 GPU in it, but they still are only available with a 17" 1920x1080 G-Sync display.  For a $4000+ computer, you'd think a 4k, or at least a 2560x1440 display option would be on the table.  Of no minor concern is the fact that in the forums and reviews they are reported to run very hot (no surprise there), and they tout a sleeve bearing CPU fan design like that's some kind of great thing (sleeve bearing fans are the cheapest and most prone to wear and noise).

Interestingly, when I look into my main simming desktop (in a huge HAF-932 full tower case), there isn't that much there in the box any more.  If you put a couple of 1-2TB M.2 SSDs under the flat covers on the motherboard, you can get away with just about nothing connected to the board but the PSU, a couple DIMMs, a GPU, and the CPU cooler of choice.  In the right case, that could make for a pretty compact machine.

 


Bob Scott | AVSIM Forums Administrator | AVSIM Board of Directors

ATP Gulfstream II-III-IV-V

System: i7-8086K @ 5.3GHz on custom water loop, ASUS Maximus XI Hero, 16GB 3600MHz CAS15, eVGA 2080Ti XC Ultra, Samsung 55" JS8500 4K TV@30Hz, 2x1TB Samsung SSD 970Pro NVMe+850 Pro SATA 3, eVGA 1KW PSU

SB XFi Titanium, optical link to Yamaha RX-V467, Polk/Klipsch 6" bookshelf spkrs, Polk 12" subwoofer, 12.9" iPad Pro, PFC yoke/throttle quad/pedals with custom Hall sensors, Coolermaster HAF932 case, Stream Deck XL button box

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TIme to circle back to this topic.  Coming up with a portable sim and gaming solution has turned into one of the more interesting hardware projects I've undertaken in the last few years.

I threw caution to the wind and bought one of those Alienware Area 51-M laptops about a week after my post above...we had a trip to go see some of the grandkids coming up fast, and it was time to pull the trigger on some portable simming.  The A51M had a cutting-edge pedigree (and a whopping $4000 price tag)--a 9900K desktop CPU and a 2070 desktop GPU inside.  Ah, but it was a sad tale of woe...it ultimately ended up getting sent back due to a flaky video card (green dots all over the screen on about one of every five boots).  But it was interesting to get my hands on it for a few days.  Bottom line, it's distractingly noisy--like having a dustbuster on the desk.  The CPU runs *really* hot, even at stock speeds...like right up against the 100 deg C thermal limit hot, and well into the 90s on the GPU running benchmarks at stock speeds.  They used super-slow RAM (2666 MHz CAS 17 modules underclocked to 2400MHz), probably as a way to intentionally but surreptitiously bottleneck throughput to keep the temps down while still bragging about fast clock speeds on the processor.  I thought advertising it as "16GB of RAM at 2666 MHz" was deceptive and quite uncool (pun intended).  The 17.3 inch G-Sync IPS display was nice...but I forgot how small a 17 inch screen really is.  Between the issues above, and a really underwhelming experience with Dell/Alienware's offshore "guy-from-Calcutta-reading-a-script-from-4000-miles-away" support, I elected not to replace it after sending it back.

So...plan B was hatched.  A portable PC in a LAN box (Coolermaster HAF XB) with another ASUS Maximus XI Hero and a 9900K.  I used my spare GPU, a 1080Ti, and added a 24-inch Dell S2417DG G-Sync display.  I also dug the Noctua NH-D15 CPU cooler out of my spares closet, and with that built my first completely air-cooled box in the last ten years.  I mounted a couple Samsung 970-series M.2 SSDs on the mobo, and removed the drive cages from the lower bay of the case, as there isn't a single rack-mounted storage device in the machine.  It went together and overclocked fairly easily to 5.0 GHz, HT-off with no AVX offset, with Prime95 temps in the mid 80s.  And it's sooooo much quieter than that laptop (but not nearly as quiet as my water-cooled 8086K desktop).  The mobo sits horizontally, and the heavy NH-D15 sits squarely on top of the board rather than hanging off the side, which should make it ride safely on bumpy roads in the car or RV.

My original intention was to build up a second P3D configuration, but as I thought it through it occurred to me that I still have a small fortune in orphaned FSX add-ons sequestered to the digital home for misfit toys, including a couple favorite add-ons that never made the journey to P3D (like the PMDG MD-11).  I left FSX for P3D when v3 released in late 2014...at the time I was running a 4.6GHz quad-core Sandy Bridge 2600K and a GTX680 video card into a 30-inch 2560x1600 monitor.  So since then, I have upgraded through four generations of CPUs and GPUs.  What, I wondered, might FSX look like today on a 5GHz 8-core CPU and with a 1080Ti, and on a G-Sync monitor that dispenses with all the old V-Sync issues and probably won't need much, if any, AA at 1440p resolution on a 24-inch screen?

I had bought a license for FSX Steam Edition back when it first released for like 5 Eurogazinks, and never used it.  So I installed that.  Added in my trusty old GEX textures, Active Sky Next, Ultimate Terrain X and UT Alaska, a few old favorite aircraft, and a few airport sceneries.  At 5 GHz, with a handful of the old tricks, FSX is handily holding 30 fps, the GPU is barely spinning up the fans, and it's running way smoother than I ever remember it.  Whaddya know, brute force still works!  Does it compete with P3D running the latest add-on magic to a 55-inch display?  No, but it sure is nice to have when I'm away.  With the 24-inch display close to the table edge at about 18-inches viewing distance, I still can't make out the pixels at 2560x1440 resolution. 

I think it'll be a good travel solution.  And at home, it's allowing me to get back into some old favorites that I've missed, like the MD-11F, Citation X, VRS Superbug and B727 when the mood hits me.   The move to P3D and 4K displays had effectively forced me to leave those behind for years now.  Best of both worlds.  They say you can never go back, but hey, maybe sometimes...

Regards

 


Bob Scott | AVSIM Forums Administrator | AVSIM Board of Directors

ATP Gulfstream II-III-IV-V

System: i7-8086K @ 5.3GHz on custom water loop, ASUS Maximus XI Hero, 16GB 3600MHz CAS15, eVGA 2080Ti XC Ultra, Samsung 55" JS8500 4K TV@30Hz, 2x1TB Samsung SSD 970Pro NVMe+850 Pro SATA 3, eVGA 1KW PSU

SB XFi Titanium, optical link to Yamaha RX-V467, Polk/Klipsch 6" bookshelf spkrs, Polk 12" subwoofer, 12.9" iPad Pro, PFC yoke/throttle quad/pedals with custom Hall sensors, Coolermaster HAF932 case, Stream Deck XL button box

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Interesting writeup.  I miss the old ES Citation X.  Apparently they are slowly working on a P3D version.  The new MSFS will probably be out before that though.


|Ryan Butterworth|

| i7 4790K@4.4GHz | 32GB RAM | EVGA GTX 1080Ti | ASUS Z97-Pro | 1TB 860 Evo | 500GB 840 Evo Win10 Pro | 1TB Samsung 7200rpm | Seasonic X750W |

 

 

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