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Building the ideal FSX machine

As I will detail in other posts, I have begun the training process to obtain my Private Pilot’s License, at a flight school here in Seattle. The training process consists of ground school (classroom time), independent study (reading, watching educational videos, etc), and flight time in a Cessna 172P with my Certificated Flight Instructor.

Thus far, I have been having a blast with the training process. I’ve been looking forward to my three weekly classroom sessions, and really looking forward to the time I get to spend piloting the plane. I’ve been fortunate to this point, and I have been able to take a few hours each week off of work in the middle of the day to hop down to Boeing Field, 4 miles south of Downtown where I work, and get my flight time in.  There is just one problem. It is mid November.. in Seattle. The hours of daylight are getting shorter by the day, and the weather is getting worse and worse. As we move into December and January, I’ll have less and less opportunity to get regular flight time in, so naturally I’ve been looking for other ways to supplement the time in the plane with another experience that can be beneficial to a student pilot, the flight simulator.

A Real Cessna 172P
A Real Cessna 172P

While I’ve had a computer setup to run Microsoft Flight Simulator in the past, I had never experienced the potential that it has as a training tool for someone learning to fly until now.  While there are a lot of factors involved in flying a real airplane that do not translate well to the simulator (e.g. control feedback, spatial orientation, etc) its advantages are many. After a real world flight with my instructor, I can come back to the simulator and recreate the scenario I had just flown with remarkable detail, and repeat the lesson.

The panel of a virtual Cessna 172P in FSX
The panel of a virtual Cessna 172P in FSX

With that in mind, I decided to build a dedicated ‘gaming’ machine for the purposes of running Microsoft Flight Simulator X, and/or X-Plane. I put in hours of research to familiarize myself with the latest and greatest hardware options (I’m an IT professional, but had long since lost touch with the hardware that the kids are using these days for gaming.)  More importantly I researched the specific hardware components that the most experienced and passionate flight simulator users are using on their machines at home. As with all technology hardware, you often get what you pay for, but there are almost always points of diminishing return that are reached when dealing with the latest and greatest. With that in mind, I have put together the following components, which achieve extremely high FSX benchmark results*, while maintaining a relatively reasonable price point.

 

Motherboard: 

 - $269

The all important Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 580 (Fermi) 015-P3-1580-AR Video Card - 

$499

Power supply: 

 - $169

Processor: 

 - $319

Processor Cooler: 

 - $94

Memory: 

 - $84

Hard Drive (SSD): 

 - $279

CD/DVD/Bluray drive:

 - $60

Finally, the Case: 

 - $139

Grand total: $1912 for a machine that will handle just about any high end graphics intensive game you throw at it. For my purposes, this will allow me to run Microsoft Flight Simulator with very high graphics settings, along with a number of third party addons toachieve greater visual and functional realism.

 

* For details about FSX Benchmarks, and to see real world results, click here.

 


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