Jetline Systems Vertigo X10
By Nels Anderson (20 July 2007)
Jetline Systems -- Another OpinionI reviewed / test flew the Jetline Systems Vertigo X10 on Friday, June 8.
I brought along my Hall sensor and "Uber"-gimbal equipped Thrustmaster Cougar HOTAS - as well as a dual-Masterpilot MFD "control panel" - as I have both pre-programmed with configurations for both MSFS - as well as Falcon 4 - which makes simming so much more enjoyable.
The first thing I noticed was the enormous cooling fan mounted on the clear side panel. Also visible was a Zalman copper CPU cooling fan - and last but certainly not least - a GeForce 8800 GTX! At last I would see one of these beasts first hand! The Vertigo's large fan spins much slower than typical 80 mm case fans - and produced only a hushed, subtle noise.
The Vertigo X10 powered up VERY quickly - probably @ 30 seconds from power on to desktop! We were greeted with a beautiful FSX screenshot of a Learjet banking gently away into a colorful, picturesque cloud filled sunset...foreshadowing things to come!
After a quick installation of the Cougar drivers - we fired up Falcon 4 - Allied Force - which was already installed - along with FS2004, FSX and a handful of additional sims and games.
Falcon 4's graphics - while very sharp and crisp in external views once the anti-aliasing had been dialed in - did not appear substantially different than my own, more modest PC at home. But I did not realistically expect any miracles from the 8800 GTX here - as Falcon 4 has been around for over eight years in various forms (remarkable in its own right!) - it is not known to top many "eye candy" lists...
As my home PC - (Athlon 4000+ X2 / 1 GB DDR2 800 MHz / 2x 7600 GT - SLI) runs FS2004 quite nicely - we started off there. The X10 launched FS2004 quickly (perhaps 20-30 seconds from Flight Planner to cockpit! My home PC takes @ 45 - 60 seconds) - and after a quick stop on the graphics settings page (setting EVERYTHING to "Ultra High" - frame rate target set for 60 fps) - we took off from our local, Fitchburg Municipal (KFIT) on runway 2.
The Vertigo / GeForce 8800 had no problems with our local, non-so-exciting scenery - and frame rates stayed up at 58-60 fps - even during sharp, steeply-banked turns. With default scenery - there was not much eye candy in our area - so we switched to one of my favorite FS2004 flights - under "Easy" adventures - there is a Mt. McKinley tour in a Cessna Caravan.
Since you start off approaching the mountain from 20-30 miles out - we slewed in closer to save some time - and then "cranked and banked" around the majestic mountain - again the Vertigo X10 didn't break a sweat. We also switched into a Boeing 737 (I forget the livery - but it was a 3rd party add-on because the cockpit was instantly recognizable as being far more detailed than the default FS2004. Switching to external view - I was particularly impressed by the realistic reflections of the mountain and clouds on the shiny aluminum belly skin of the 737 as we rolled back and forth out of sweeping turns.
Again - FS2004 - while a huge step up from FS2002 in scenery / dynamic weather, etc. (but still my favorite non-combat sim) - I did not notice anything truly spectacular beyond my own PCs capabilities (I probably run the same FS2004 flights at @ 40-50 fps for reference) - but again I did not expect any miracles here.
OK - it's showtime!
I purchase FSX Standard over the winter - and while impressed with the underlying potential - I have honestly not flown it too much: my home PC manages only "mid-teens" frame rates - and this is with perhaps "medium" graphic settings. At those settings - the landscape / scenery seems approximately equal to FS2004 in "high" graphics settings - so I stick with FS2004 since I get higher fps and the sim is therefore more responsive.
Again - the Vertigo X10 loaded into FSX's Flight Planner MUCH faster than my home PC (@ 45 seconds - I probably have to wait more than 1 minute at home) - and after again setting all graphic options to "Ultra High" (target set to 60 fps again) - we again set off from Fitchburg Municipal Airport...
WOW! While the default scenery itself may still not be 100% photorealistic / accurate - the details / textures were stunning! The trees look 3D for starters - and you can easily differentiate the species. Once we'd climbed up to 3-4,000 feet another thing became apparent: there is a very clever mixture of actual, 3D buildings - and the 2D "outlines" of others - so that you have to really focus to differentiate them. Other than the usual default scenery oddities (example: a high-school football field surrounded by a racing track - complete with stripes....only it was half on a gentle downhill slope - the DEFAULT scenery simply looked great!
We switched to one of the new floatplanes - and I made an awful approach - but still managed to make a comfortable landing on a small lake. From the air - the water effects are beautiful - you can see the gentle ripples / swells from the wind (didn't think to check if they were aligned with actual winds aloft...) running over the waters' surface. Once I landed - the external views showed a strange FSX oddity: the water had the proper "dappled" reflections of the plane like an impressionistic painting - but then there was also the very "crisp" shadow of the plane on top of the water as well - as if still sitting on a runway....something for MS to work on I suppose.
So with all this beautiful default scenery looking very nice - I feel we are finally getting to the "suspension of disbelief" that we simmers have dreamt of for so long - we were getting @ 25-28 fps with the 8800 GTX equipped Vertigo X10. Quite enjoyable and playable - but it proved that FSX still requires a MONSTER of a PC to play at maximum settings.
As a control - while still airborne around Fitchburg - we switched from "Ultra High" to "Medium High" graphic settings - the frame rate instantly pegged at 60 fps - but the "luster" was gone: the scenery went back to looking like "drab" FS2004....I can't quite put my finger on it - but the "richness" was lost. Also on the outside - from the exterior "float cam" view - you could see much of the planes' exterior detailing was lost - like the subtle "waviness" of reflections in the aluminum skin.
As a final test - we moved to an area likely to have much higher level of detail / scenery textures - so I selected New York's JFK International Airport. Again at "Ultra High" settings - we were only able to get @ 17 - 22 fps - with even an occasional stutter - so the views of the world around us - while still detailed and crisp - were not a breathtaking - and the "illusion of flight" was broken...
Overall I was very impressed with the Vertigo X10 - the first truly high-end, dual-core - not to mention GeForce 8800 GTX equipped PC I have had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand. The case looked great - ran quietly - and had huge amounts of available expansion space and / or cooling airflow.
I think the Vertigo X10 offers a glimpse of what commonplace PC flight simulation will be like in 2-3 years...today - and I think everyone will like what they see!
This situation was quite the topic for discussion, and still is. Is there any PC out there that will run FSX well? Well, I am happy to report that the answer is yes.
Throughout the review I have scattered screen shot that I took while testing, each showing a different plane and widely different flying locations. I've highlighted the frame rate. As you surely know, frame rates do jump around while flying, but the captured images show rates that were typical for the situation shown.
Jetline SystemsThere are a couple big names in PC's that everyone has heard of, but Jetline Systems isn't one of them. However, this is a name that flightsimmers need to become familiar with as Jetline is designing computer systems specifically for gaming and flightsim use (note the "Jet" part of their name). To quote their own design goals:
We engineer each high performance PC system specifically for flight simulation games. Each system is designed to run flight simulation programs with smooth graphics and high frame rates. Only the best performance proven components make it into our systems. We don't hold back when it comes to performance parts.
Well heck, that sounds like just what we're all looking for, right? Total computer (and thus flightsim frame rate) performance is made up of a number of parts, and Jetline has tried to use the best for each area. The main areas are:
Processor: Systems use either AMD Athlon or Intel Core 2 Extreme processors that are factory overclocked; that is, run at speeds even higher than originally designed for.
Graphics: Good flightsimming is all about frame rates, and a lot of the image processing actually takes place in the graphics card. Jetline uses the high end nVidia GeForce 8800 GTX card.
Memory: For the processor to run fast, it must be able to access memory fast. Jetline uses Corsair HyperX Gaming Memory, again overclocked for performance.
Disk Storage: No doubt you've noticed how much disk space the new highly detailed scenery and aircraft add-ons take. Much of that is images that must be quickly transferred from storage to screen, and the speed of the disk drive system plays a large part in how well that works. Jetline uses RAID 0 for the primary hard drive, offering higher performance than single non-RAID drives.
Combine all this together and you have the highest performance that is available in a PC at a reasonable price.
TestingSo, my Jetline System PC arrived for testing. Setting it up was quick, as the various things that needed to be plugged in were installed easily into sockets that are clearly marked. Within a short time I was up and running. The system came with FSX pre-installed so I did not even have to wait for that (though I don't think it normally would come that way).
With everything running, the puzzle was how exactly to test a PC, and specifically answer the question that flightsimmers want to know, how well does it run FSX. While some reviewers would probably delve into performance charts, create graphs of speeds running test applications and so on, I can't really say I have the background for doing that and frankly I haven't found that sort of review all that useful. So instead, I jumped in and started flying.
The copy of FSX installed did not include the service pack which potentially could have improved performance. So that anyone could compare what I tried with their own setup, I stuck to just the default aircraft and scenery. But I tried a wide variety of aircraft and flew in many parts of the world, just to try FSX as thoroughly as I could.
Quite quickly I found that this system worked...and worked quite well in fact! I find I'm quite happy with frame rates in the mid-20's (movies, afterall, run at only 24 fps and no one complains). I eventually ended up setting the configuration to lock at 28 fps and ended up sticking with that through most of my test flying.
In trying the various default aircraft I found that frame rates were not affected all that much by which plane I was flying. I would have expected the jetliners to be different from the light planes and the Garmin 1000 glass cockpit planes to be different from the "steam gauge" equipped planes, but the frame rate changes were not great.
What I found instead was that scenery, and especially AI scenery, had a greater effect. While high in the air or at small, simple airports providing high frame rates seemed to be no challenge, but moving to a busy international airport like Atlanta or JFK could quickly slow things down. So, here was where I could test what the Jetline system could do.
I set AI traffic to "Ultra High", but even at that setting jetliner AI traffic was only set to 20% and I really did not see much activity at major airports. So, I changed that one setting up to 50% and flew that way. This gave enough activity so airports appeared to be used (view my exact settings here.)
I tried a number of flights this way into various large airports. For the most part, frame rates still remained good, not quite to the 28 fps where I had them locked but mostly in the 20's. However, depending on where and what I was looking at, rates would drop into the teens and on occasion even into the single digits. As expected, this seemed to be mostly caused by how much AI traffic was being viewed. Even so, this did not really cause much of a problem with my actual flying. The only times I saw stutters that were enough to even be noticeable was when making turns.
So, even though the frame rates were not always as fast as I was requesting, most of the time they were good enough to provide a smooth image and it never became such a problem that it affected my control of the planes.
ConclusionsOverall, I'm quite pleased with the results. With the Jetline Systems PC I am finally able to fly FSX and even run it with the settings fairly high up, so that I can actually take advantage of the features like all the AI. No, it may not be perfect, but then no matter what sim you are running more computer speed would always be useful. If you want to be flying and enjoyed FSX right now, the Jetline Systems PC will let you do just that.
Test System Specs
Processor: Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 Overclocked 3.2 GHz 1066 MHz FSB
Memory: 2 GB (2x 1 GB) Corsair XMS2 PC2-6400 Xtreme at 800 MHz EPP
Graphics: 768 MB eVGA e-GeForce 8800 GTX Superclocked GDDR3 PCIe x16
Audio: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio 7.1 Channel PCI
HDD: 500 GB (2x 250 GB) Western Digital Caviar SE16 7200 RPM 16 MB cache
RAID Array: RAID 0 Striping (performance)
Power Supply: 750 watt Thermaltake PSU SLI ready
Optical Drive: 20x DVD Burner Multi Drive with Lightscribe Technology
Media Drive: 1.44 MB floppy plus 6-in-1 media card reader
Chassis: Aerocool ZeroDegree Mid-Tower ATX steel chassis - black
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP Professional Edition SP2b