Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Banner Plane flying over ground terrain

Introduction

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (also in the Microsoft Store) was just released on August 18th, 2020.  It has been no less than fourteen years since the last Microsoft Flight Simulator X game was released.  This highly detailed new version has been a long time coming, and now that it is here is really, just simply, one of the best flight simulators in existence.  This new version takes real-world realism to new heights and utilizes so many new and unique features to bring you real-world terrain, airport, and world detail that is true to life using Satellite Imagery from Bing Maps Data.  All of those graphics don’t come without the need for the proper hardware to push it, however. 

Microsoft’s Flight Simulators have always pushed the boundaries of CPU and GPU performance.  This one is now only different in the fact it also pushes your Internet connection to new heights as it can utilize online streaming of data to keep everything accurate.  We are using the Steam version of Flight Sim 2020 specifically the Microsoft Flight Simulator Premium Deluxe Edition Bundle.  This article today is not about the technology (though impressive) but more-so the kind of performance you can expect in a very specific scenario. 

We are going to take the fastest video card you can buy today, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, pair it up with a Ryzen 9 3900X, and see what Microsoft Flight Simulator 4K performance is like with maximum graphics settings!  Can it muster it? Will it be playable? What will it take to make it playable?  We want to find out.  One of the new features of this game is its official support for 4K resolution, and let tell you, this game is breathtaking at 4K with maximum graphics settings.  This would surely be the preferred gameplay experience.  But we got to find out if it can do it!

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is a massive game in scope, I mean it takes up the entire world and you go anywhere on the planet.  As such, evaluating this game could take months if you wanted to cover all aspects of graphics and how weather affects performance, and different airports and terrains.  Therefore, we have to be very specific and test this game in parts.  It’s the only way we can even cover it in a decent amount of time.  So that is why this part today, focused on this one aspect of 4K playability with a high-end GPU and CPU.  It’s a good starting place.  In the future, if we have time, we may put together other smaller parts of testing performance in this game similar to this article, focusing on one aspect.  So, let’s hop to it.

The Graphics Options

Firstly, this is a DX11 game, yeah that one caught us by surprise as well.  We would have thought that this being a premier Microsoft title, and pushing Windows 10 that DX12 would have been a given.  We’ve seen other games follow this pattern. 

We would also think this game would benefit highly from DX12 features like driver multi-threading, and other performance-enhancing or visually enhancing features.  It is what it is I guess, perhaps in the future DX12 will be patched in.  Which brings up another topic, there are no unique 3D features like NVIDIA Ray Tracing here, and that is actually kind of a let-down.  This game would be a perfect showcase for Ray Traced Global Illumination.

Anyway, back to the graphics settings.  This game does have pre-set global graphics options that set a pre-defined option of graphics quality.  It has “Low-End”, “Medium” then “High-End” then “Ultra.” However, while you may think “Ultra” uses the highest possible settings, it actually does not.  There are 2 leftover settings you can manually increase.  The options are called Texture Supersampling which you can manually increase from 6×6 to 8×8.  Then, there is another option called Terrain Shadows which you can manually increase from 1024 to 2048.  Once you set those two options higher, then you have the game set at what we will call Maximum Settings in this article.

Maximum

You can see the maximum settings we have enabled above.  We basically set the Global Setting to “Ultra” then just turned up those two graphics settings we talked about above. 

Ultra

Here is what Ultra settings looks like, you can see those two settings we talked about are at a lower value.

High-End

Here is what the “High-End” global settings look like.

Medium

Here is what “Medium” graphics settings look like.

In our testing today we are going to focus mainly on “Maximum Settings” as we want to see how well this game plays at the best possible gameplay experience.

Drivers

Both AMD and NVIDIA have dropped new drivers for this game, so make sure to pick them up before even trying to play. GeForce 452.06 is the driver to grab for NVIDIA GPUs. Adrenalin 2020 Edition 20.8.2 Optional is the one to grab for AMD GPUs. It is nice to see day 1 support from both for this game.

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Brent Justice

Brent Justice has been reviewing computer components for 20+ years, educated in the art and method of the computer hardware review he brings experience, knowledge, and hands-on testing with a gamer oriented...

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12 Comments

  1. I was impressed by the promo videos, but not by the actual product. It doesn’t look nearly as good. My biggest disappointment is the ai generated terrain. It’s awful. I loaded up a city I know, I expected much better, most buildings doesn’t have the right shape or even their height I’ve seen a lot of multi storey buildings that were just one level here. And they didn’t even try to use real world textures. All the buildings in the entire city use the same brownish grey canned texture, which makes it look a kind of north korea, zero variation, zero color. Then there are rivers flowing over bridges. And cars drive underwater, where there is no bridge, cars that seem giant compared to everything else. And the bing aerial imagery is just very lowres and misaligned for the most part. Google earth’s ai generated 3D terrain is 100 times closer to reality. I’d actually prefer to fly over that to this. I was struggling to get my bearings things are so off. Plus I noticed a lot of fake light sources just floating in the air, not attached to a building or a light pole.

    As for the performance it seemed good enough for me, I definitely didn’t notice drops to 10 fps, I played at 3840×1600, but also have 32GB of ram.
    But this is the type of game where low fps is not that big of an issue to me.

  2. I do agree with you on the terrain, I have noticed it can look low quality at times when it really shouldn’t.

    I also wish they had used Google Maps, but it’s Microsoft, they have to try and make it look like Bing is worth it.

  3. I do agree with you on the terrain, I have noticed it can look low quality at times when it really shouldn’t.

    I also wish they had used Google Maps, but it’s Microsoft, they have to try and make it look like Bing is worth it.

    Have you tried the game with 32GB to see how it affects performance?

  4. I do agree with you on the terrain, I have noticed it can look low quality at times when it really shouldn’t.

    I also wish they had used Google Maps, but it’s Microsoft, they have to try and make it look like Bing is worth it.

    How long before someone makes a mod that uses Google Maps instead of Bing though?

  5. I’d guess: Never? You can’t extract actual raw data from google earth. Only map tiles as 2D images.
  6. I’d guess: Never? You can’t extract actual raw data from google earth. Only map tiles as 2D images.

    Oh I did not know that. I definitely assumed that data was available for download. Seems if Microsoft allows or has that ability they got something on Google Maps/Earth.

  7. Oh I did not know that. I definitely assumed that data was available for download. Seems if Microsoft allows or has that ability they got something on Google Maps/Earth.

    Well, there are things you can do when you own the service that aren’t necessarily offered to everyone…

  8. Well, there are things you can do when you own the service that aren’t necessarily offered to everyone…

    I thought about that, too. Though, it seems a lot of the data is entered by a third party person. I seen an article that had a 212 story building in the Sim that was only supposed to be 2 stories tall. Turns out, someone who was entering data for a University project had a typo and entered 212 instead of 2.

    While that doesn’t mean anyone can, it does seem to lean towards it being more open than Google Earth possibly.

  9. I thought about that, too. Though, it seems a lot of the data is entered by a third party person. I seen an article that had a 212 story building in the Sim that was only supposed to be 2 stories tall. Turns out, someone who was entering data for a University project had a typo and entered 212 instead of 2.

    While that doesn’t mean anyone can, it does seem to lean towards it being more open than Google Earth possibly.

    MS used an outside contractor to do the world terrain: blackshark.ai. I bet they used various databases and the kitchen sink to fill in all the blanks, and then used ai to fill what was still missing. It is safe to say they didn’t use the best data available, just what they could get their hands on for cheap or free. So university project falls right into that.

  10. Seen over 20gb of system ram usage on TR 3760x system with 64gb and 1080 Ti. 1080 Ti was using around 9.8gb average. 1440p Ultra settings

    For 16gb Ryzen 2700x system with Radeon FE, 11gb-12gb for system ram and over 15gb at times on the Radeon FE. Looks like the game can use the vram if you have it if the system memory is restrictive. 3440x1440p Ultra settings.

    The 5700 XT AE system with 32gb of ram, Ryzen 3900x, 19gb-20gb system ram and up to 7.8gb vram. Radeon 5700 XT AE has issues flying around the San Francisco/Oakland area with frame time spikes going up to close to 200ns. Other areas or locations so far are OK. 1440p Ultra settings.

    Brent please compare 32gb to 16gb system memory if you can update your computer.

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