• Microsoft Flight Simulator Performance & Benchmark Analysis

    Flight Simulator 2020 GPU Scaling -- 1080p

    Examining GPU performance in Flight Simulator 2020 allows us to further explore the relationship between GPU power and CPU capability. It is often said that this game needs a very powerful GPU to run well but that can actually lead to significant performance issues if the underlying mechanisms aren’t understood. This is a sim where turning your graphics settings up can actually improve performance!

    In these tests we used the Ryzen 3600, 16b of Ram at 3600Mhz CL15, and the GPUs as described without overclock. We ran the game at 1080p, High settings with photogrammetry on. We flew our standard flight path over NYC and logged the data.

    MSFS Performance And Benchmark Analysis

    These results may look counter-intuitive at first but consider them in context of the CPU performance limits we discovered in the section above.

    The GTX 1660 Super performs well here with acceptable average frame rates and importantly for the playing experience relatively high 1% and 01.% lows. Of all the testing done these runs stood out as the most fluid. The secret? This set up is completely GPU bound. The GPU utilization sits at 95% or above, showing that it’s the GPU and not the CPU and thus game engine that is limiting the speed of the simulation. This results in smooth consistent frame rates.

    Moving to the EVGA RTX 2060 KO, a significantly more powerful GPU we see an increase in average and maximum frame rates but this is at the expense of the 1% lows and particularly the 0.1% lows which are sub 10FPS. This is embodied in gameplay as noticeable stutters and hangs that were not present when using the GTX 1660 Super.

    The trend continues as we step up to the big guns. Both the GTX 1080 Ti and RTX 2080 Ti show very low 0.1% rates of just 1 and 8 FPS respectively. So what is happening here?

    It comes down to the trade-off between CPU and GPU performance. Both the GTX 1080 Ti and RTX 2080 Ti are criminally underutilized at 1080p and this means that the CPU is working flat out and frequently hits peak capacity. The GPU is left waiting for data and the result is a frustrating and jerky experience at times. Note that despite the prodigious rendering power of the RTX 2080 Ti we cannot exceed the ultimate performance limiter: the CPU. When that happens it results in lag, stutter and an ugly playing experience.

    Flight Simulator 2020 GPU Scaling - 1440p

    MSFS Performance And Benchmark Analysis

    Here we’ve moved up to 1440p resolution which is a common resolution in Sim rigs owing to the need for an increased level of detail to view cockpit instrumentation. Of course, the virtual world build by Asobo comes alive at this resolution too, and the demands on the graphics processor increase greatly.

    The GTX 1660 Super struggles at 1440p. We don’t approach a CPU limit with utilization around 40%. The poor minimum, 1% Low and 0.1% low framerates are all the result of a GPU that’s incapable of keeping up. Stepping up to the RTX 2060 KO we see it come into its element at this resolution and settings, allowing the CPU to be near fully utilized but never smacking off of the performance ceiling and inducing stutters. This can be seen in the healthy 1% and 0.1% low numbers. This GPU gave slick playable results at these settings with a Ryzen 3600 much as the GTX 1660 Super excelled at 1080p high settings.

    Moving up to top tier GPUs again does little for performance: in fact it hurts the low end a little as we encounter occasional CPU limitations which bring smooth play to a halt. The RTX 2080 Ti sees the highest average and high FPS rates at 50 FPS and 60.7 FPS respectively but drops 0.1% lows to 13.3 FPS versus the RTX 2060 KO’s 17.8FPS in that metric. It still provides a smooth and playable experience but we actually benefit from a move up to ultra settings here, increasing the load and smoothing the framerate.

    These results highlight the delicate balance that needs to be struck when selecting a GPU for Flight Simulator 2020. You need to be sure of your target resolution and settings as well as the performance limitations of your CPU prior to deciding on the best GPU. The saving grace here, of course, is that settings can be tweaked to perfectly balance GPU load and take the heat off of the CPU. So as long as your GPU is in the correct performance bracket you can fine-tune it to your taste and to eliminate CPU bound situations.

    Our GPU Recommendations for Flight Simulator

    To conclude the GPU testing section here are our GPU Recommendations for Flight Simulator 2020: 

    • 1080P – The GTX 1660 Super provides excellent performance at 1080p high, whilst the Radeon RX 5600XT and RTX 2060 will perform well at Ultra settings. GPUs with more performance than this may actually induce worse playability unless you have a top tier CPU to support them. 
    • 1440p – We recommend an RTX 2060 Super, RTX 2070 Super, or the Radeon RX 5700XT for best performance and the ability to enjoy this sim at high or ultra settings.
    • 1440P Ultrawide: An RTX 2080 Super or RTX 2080 Ti provide excellent performance at this resolution on Ultra settings.
    • 4K: At 4K an RTX 2080 Super, RTX 2080 Ti, or one of the new Ampere GPUS is required for adequate performance on high settings.

    22 Comments
    1. SpookyDiver's Avatar
      SpookyDiver -
      My custom built system consists of an i9-9900k CPU all cores @5ghz (Liquid Cooled), MSI Pro Carbon with 64 Gig RAM Corsair RGB 3200 Dominators, MSI RTX 2070 OC +170/+750, Drive C: 970 Pro M.2 512Gigs , Drive D: 2TB 970 EVO Plus M.2 NVMe, two 960 EVO 1TB SSD, and an external Raid Box. 34440x1440P wide screen monitor. My internet is 1 Gig Fiber.
      The only thing I don't have that it is not "optimal" is my video card. But even then, my "worst case scenario", with EVERYTHING (I mean everything) in ULTRA, and at my monitor's native resolution is 24FPS. This only happens when I am flying over a very dense city, such as Tokyo or Buenos Aires at a very low altitude, like 1500Ft. which is very unrealistic to fly that low. If I keep my altitude at up of 2500 feet, I average 30-34 FPS. IMHO, 25-30 FPS is acceptable and anything beyond that is a plus. This morning I was in middle of the hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico with all the magnificent looking clouds, and I was able to look at my plane and clouds with the external CAM moving it as fast as I could without any hiccups, all at 28-30 FPS. And the most noticeable thing is that my CPU runs at maybe 40-55%, while my video card runs at 99-100%. Moral of my story, the CPU doesn't matter much, what matters is your video card and having at least 32 gigs of fast RAM and a very fast internet connection. A lot of the folks that are having problems will be able to solve it most likely with a new video card.
    1. zswobbie1's Avatar
      zswobbie1 -
      Great article.
      It does not take away the fact that, apart from mediocre GA aircraft, awesome eye candy scenery, the whole world to fly in, & a high performance PC with it's costs to get relativley decent performance...
      I'm not too sure if it is all that mind boggling & justifiable..

      To me, it seems to be a very different sim to any other. Maybe it compliments them, but certainly is not a replacement. Scenerywise, obviously it is all modern, with no regression available at this stage. There are many of us that fly in the classical/vintage world - 1950-1960, & MSFS, at this stage, does not give us that opportunity.

      So, who is this new sim for? obviously the Xbox generation, (rumour has it that MFFS will be released there. The high tech simmer? Us casual simmers will need a costly high end PC to run the sim smoothly.

      Gone are the days of the virtual clubs where we used to meet up with our PCs & laptops & do a Saturday morning flight together.

      However, time & technology moves on.. & I still think that the older sims still have their place.

      Godzilla rocks!
    1. falcon409's Avatar
      falcon409 -
      I agree as well. I knew there would come a time when my system (as good as it is) would fall short and MSFS2020 is that "wall". This is a Sim for a new generation or any old farts that have money to spare (most of us don't). FSX is where I will stay, but I am impressed with 2020, just no longer have the big bucks it would take to enjoy it.

      Rock On!!
    1. piet06273's Avatar
      piet06273 -
      Very informative, based on an ASUS Z390 MB , 32GB RAM DDR4 3000 mhz and SSD M2 1TB (and WIN10 2004) could the author please give some max $1.000,00 recommended combinations of CPU and GPU ? thanks in advance.
    1. richjb2's Avatar
      richjb2 -
      Can someone please translate this into English? I have an i9 9900K, 32 GB RAM, RTX 2060 card Build was last November. Yes, I didn't get the best video card; had to draw the line somewhere. The i9 is running at 4.7Mhz. I have not really pushed overclocking on the CPU or video card. In MSFS 2020, my frame rates with Ultra settings are around the 18-20 FPS range, sometimes better depending on scenery or weather. At LAX in the fog, it was down to 15 FPS at one time.

      In developer mode, from what I can tell I am GPU limited by the FPS meter, if anyone understand that display.

      What settings are needed to get the frame rates higher? That's all I need to know.

      Thanks,

      Rich Boll
      Wichita KS
    1. N069NT's Avatar
      N069NT -
      As a 20+ year overclocker builder for both games and FS, I found the 4.7GHz->4.9GHz overclock bump having an actual reduction in performance across Min/Avg/Max spectrum interesting (only showing gains in low FPS 1% & 0.1% spectrum). Previous FS versions always responded with higher FPS across the board the higher you overclocked, but they were one-threaded programs. My last FSX rig was an i5 4690K overclocked to 4.6GHz, the happy spot (good cooling, low Vcore). Had it up to 5.1GHz for a test in the cold of winter outside and the frames shot up significantly using aftermarket weather and complex weather and scenery, but that was unsustainable for a Noctua NH-D14 cooled rig indoors year round.

      It is also good to know that the current sim is no more than a 4-core user. For now anyway. One can only believe that MS will eventually patch it up to use DX12 for the PC as we now know that the new XBOX X will utilize DX12 (as will the PS5). One also has to wonder if future patches will unlock more core use as well. I remember when FSX SP2 (aka Acceleration) used as many cores as were on the processor. However, being a single core coded design, a single core still does most of the work. Other cores are used for loading textures and things I can't remember off the top of my head in testing. But it still helped in squeaking out the precious frames we needed, especially with aftermarket frame wrecking payware like aircraft from Carenado.

      It will be interesting to see if MS does anything more with more cores, at least for the PC version. No idea what their plan is for the upcoming 5th generation Xbox X on patches, but that will be interesting to watch too. In any event, it is good to know that the GPU now makes a big difference according to the tech review site Guru3D which now has MSFS in their game review benchmark reports for video cards. Even if you have a last generation Nvidia 2xxx GPU, you will benefit from a new 3000-series GPU as the sim currently is still severely CPU bound...especially at higher resolution. For example, going from an 8GB RTX 2080 to a 10GB 3080 makes a whopping difference from 29fps to 42fps at 4K!

      https://www.guru3d.com/articles_page...review,20.html
    1. Jon PB's Avatar
      Jon PB -
      Quote Originally Posted by piet06273 View Post
      Very informative, based on an ASUS Z390 MB , 32GB RAM DDR4 3000 mhz and SSD M2 1TB (and WIN10 2004) could the author please give some max $1.000,00 recommended combinations of CPU and GPU ? thanks in advance.
      Hi There!

      I'm Jon from PremiumBuilds.com, Author of the article.

      You have a basic great system there. FOr CPU I'd recommend either the i7-9700K or since prices are droppping the i9-9900K. Both are compatible with your motherboard and remain close to the highest performance CPU's you can get. I'd err towards the i9-9900K because whilst it can only use 4 threads, Performance really does seem to be helped by hyperthreading when the CPU is near peak demand - fewer stutters and frame drops.

      You don't say what monitor(s) you use and that's critical to match GPU power to the target resolution.

      At 1080p a GTX 1660 super or RTX 2060 does fine.

      At 1440p I'd recommend 8Gb VRAM, so look at RTX 2070 Super, RAdeon RX5700XT, RTX 2080 Super. There are used bargains to be had now that Ampere has been released. If you can find a RTX 3070 that will also be excellent.

      At 1440p ultrawide, 1440p multi-screen, or 4K, you just need as much GPU as you can afford. I'd look for used RTX 2080ti's, or RTX 3080.

      RTX 3080 at about $700 and an i7-9700K fills your budget and gets about as much performance as possible as a 'perfect pairing'. My own PC is a i7-9700K, 32Gb ram, RTX 2080ti and I run 1440p ultrawide. I can vouch for the performance of such a set up, with smooth framerates on ultra settings -but still the occasional stutter at airports or on take-off, even with the new update containing 'performance optimisations'!
    1. Jon PB's Avatar
      Jon PB -
      Quote Originally Posted by richjb2 View Post
      Can someone please translate this into English? I have an i9 9900K, 32 GB RAM, RTX 2060 card Build was last November. Yes, I didn't get the best video card; had to draw the line somewhere. The i9 is running at 4.7Mhz. I have not really pushed overclocking on the CPU or video card. In MSFS 2020, my frame rates with Ultra settings are around the 18-20 FPS range, sometimes better depending on scenery or weather. At LAX in the fog, it was down to 15 FPS at one time.

      In developer mode, from what I can tell I am GPU limited by the FPS meter, if anyone understand that display.

      What settings are needed to get the frame rates higher? That's all I need to know.

      Thanks,

      Rich Boll
      Wichita KS
      Hi Rich. Jon Stom PremiumBuilds here, I wrote the article.

      You don't say what monitor you're using and that's important to gauge the required GPU performance. Resolution dictates performance.

      Firstly, try global settings to medium and see if that lifts up performance. If it's still not good enough then you can try setting resolution scaling to 70-80% and see how that looks and feels. You'll trade some visial sharpness for better frame rates. Leave TAA on if you do this.

      As I say in the article, it's a fine balance of getting the most out of your CPU without actually hitting it's lmiits. If you start to encounter big frame drops and stutter once frame rates are higher that could be a CPU limit: Try a frame rate setting at 30 fps to eliminate it, or dial graphics settings back up a little.

      Hope that helps.

      Jon.
    1. Jon PB's Avatar
      Jon PB -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpookyDiver View Post
      And the most noticeable thing is that my CPU runs at maybe 40-55%, while my video card runs at 99-100%. Moral of my story, the CPU doesn't matter much, what matters is your video card and having at least 32 gigs of fast RAM and a very fast internet connection. .
      This is contrary to my findings!

      Your CPU reports 40-55% usage because the game can only occupy 4 threads in your 16 thread CPU. You can hit a single core performance limit, and be CPU limited, and your total CPU usage will still not show 100%. Ryzen 3950X rigs with 16 cores and 32 threads hit a CPU limit and show under 20% cpu usage! That's why I graphed per-core usage and also how I demonstrated that performance in this sim does not scale with core count, but with core speed.

      The actual findings are that CPU is critically important to performance: You need a fast single core speed and at least 6 cores, prefereably 8 with hyperthreading, which you have in your oiverclocked i9-9900K.

      GPU dictates what resolution and settings you can run comfortably, but only inside the confines of the potential CPU performance.
    1. SpookyDiver's Avatar
      SpookyDiver -
      Quote Originally Posted by richjb2 View Post
      Can someone please translate this into English? I have an i9 9900K, 32 GB RAM, RTX 2060 card Build was last November. Yes, I didn't get the best video card; had to draw the line somewhere. The i9 is running at 4.7Mhz. I have not really pushed overclocking on the CPU or video card. In MSFS 2020, my frame rates with Ultra settings are around the 18-20 FPS range, sometimes better depending on scenery or weather. At LAX in the fog, it was down to 15 FPS at one time.

      In developer mode, from what I can tell I am GPU limited by the FPS meter, if anyone understand that display.

      What settings are needed to get the frame rates higher? That's all I need to know.

      Thanks,

      Rich Boll
      Wichita KS
      Hi Rich. Read my previous post, I also have an i9-9900k but I OC to 5 ghz on all cores. Having your i9-9900k running at 4.7 is perfectly fine, because FS2020 only uses like 60 percent and less of my CPU power. I also have an RTX card, the model 2070. Depending on who built your video card, it should have a control panel that allows you to overclock it. My RTX 2070 was built by MSI and I manually overclocked it with their Afterburner utility to +170 on the clock and +750 on the video RAM. I was running it a little higher but it caused crashes. Now is rock solid and the temperature stays at 67c which is really good. With the RTX 2060, you will need to lower the graphics, no other way. I use a 3440x1440 monitor. If your monitor is also a wide screen and you have a spare monitor with less resolution, like a 1080p, use that one. The games today are more dependent of video cards than CPUs. Go to your graphics setting and try the setting FS2020 picked for your system and start bumping the options to ultra one at a time until you get to the point where the frames are not lower than 25/sec. The biggest frame drops are always below 2000 feet and over dense cities, like for example Tokyo or Buenos Aires. 25/30+ FPS is your goal. You can change the Graphics settings on the fly.
      Good luck.
    1. SpookyDiver's Avatar
      SpookyDiver -
      Quote Originally Posted by richjb2 View Post
      Can someone please translate this into English? I have an i9 9900K, 32 GB RAM, RTX 2060 card Build was last November. Yes, I didn't get the best video card; had to draw the line somewhere. The i9 is running at 4.7Mhz. I have not really pushed overclocking on the CPU or video card. In MSFS 2020, my frame rates with Ultra settings are around the 18-20 FPS range, sometimes better depending on scenery or weather. At LAX in the fog, it was down to 15 FPS at one time.

      In developer mode, from what I can tell I am GPU limited by the FPS meter, if anyone understand that display.

      What settings are needed to get the frame rates higher? That's all I need to know.

      Thanks,

      Rich Boll
      Wichita KS
      I forgot to say, make sure you close every application you have running in the background, in particular virus checkers. You can turn them back on after you are done flying.
    1. jeep9's Avatar
      jeep9 -
      try "jet boost" . a small app that may help in shutting off background programs.
      also in the guide by "SoFly" they have a very good chapter on setting-up , to wring out those extra fps.
    1. SpookyDiver's Avatar
      SpookyDiver -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jon PB View Post
      This is contrary to my findings!

      Your CPU reports 40-55% usage because the game can only occupy 4 threads in your 16 thread CPU. You can hit a single core performance limit, and be CPU limited, and your total CPU usage will still not show 100%. Ryzen 3950X rigs with 16 cores and 32 threads hit a CPU limit and show under 20% cpu usage! That's why I graphed per-core usage and also how I demonstrated that performance in this sim does not scale with core count, but with core speed.

      The actual findings are that CPU is critically important to performance: You need a fast single core speed and at least 6 cores, prefereably 8 with hyperthreading, which you have in your oiverclocked i9-9900K.

      GPU dictates what resolution and settings you can run comfortably, but only inside the confines of the potential CPU performance.
      You are absolutely correct! I was getting the info from the built in Windows xbox interface, which (now I know) was giving me a general usage information. I fired up HWinfo64 and check the CPU usage and darn I was wrong! Thank you for pointing it out to me.
    1. bstikkel's Avatar
      bstikkel -
      This is the most clear and informative article I have ever read about the cause of stutters and the way to reduce them.
      Thank you very much, Premium Builds.
    1. golson33's Avatar
      golson33 -
      Quote Originally Posted by zswobbie1 View Post
      Great article.
      It does not take away the fact that, apart from mediocre GA aircraft, awesome eye candy scenery, the whole world to fly in, & a high performance PC with it's costs to get relativley decent performance...
      I'm not too sure if it is all that mind boggling & justifiable..

      To me, it seems to be a very different sim to any other. Maybe it compliments them, but certainly is not a replacement. Scenerywise, obviously it is all modern, with no regression available at this stage. There are many of us that fly in the classical/vintage world - 1950-1960, & MSFS, at this stage, does not give us that opportunity.

      So, who is this new sim for? obviously the Xbox generation, (rumour has it that MFFS will be released there. The high tech simmer? Us casual simmers will need a costly high end PC to run the sim smoothly.

      Gone are the days of the virtual clubs where we used to meet up with our PCs & laptops & do a Saturday morning flight together.

      However, time & technology moves on.. & I still think that the older sims still have their place.

      Godzilla rocks!
    1. stevetag's Avatar
      stevetag -
      I purchased an AlienWare ryzen 3700 with the RTX2080 Super and 32 GB RAM I have all settings in MSFS at ultra and where there is no Ultra, I am using he highest setting allowed. Smooth as glass not a bit of hesitation anywhere and the eye candy is awesome although the weather, even though patched, is not that impressive as I have seen with AS16 in P3D. But I guess it just is a question of how much performance and budget you want and have. This is the first decent pc I have owned in all my years of struggling with low settings in flight sims and I have to say, I am enjoying this.
    1. piet06273's Avatar
      piet06273 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jon PB View Post
      Hi There!

      I'm Jon from PremiumBuilds.com, Author of the article.

      You have a basic great system there. FOr CPU I'd recommend either the i7-9700K or since prices are droppping the i9-9900K. Both are compatible with your motherboard and remain close to the highest performance CPU's you can get. I'd err towards the i9-9900K because whilst it can only use 4 threads, Performance really does seem to be helped by hyperthreading when the CPU is near peak demand - fewer stutters and frame drops.

      You don't say what monitor(s) you use and that's critical to match GPU power to the target resolution.

      At 1080p a GTX 1660 super or RTX 2060 does fine.

      At 1440p I'd recommend 8Gb VRAM, so look at RTX 2070 Super, RAdeon RX5700XT, RTX 2080 Super. There are used bargains to be had now that Ampere has been released. If you can find a RTX 3070 that will also be excellent.

      At 1440p ultrawide, 1440p multi-screen, or 4K, you just need as much GPU as you can afford. I'd look for used RTX 2080ti's, or RTX 3080.

      RTX 3080 at about $700 and an i7-9700K fills your budget and gets about as much performance as possible as a 'perfect pairing'. My own PC is a i7-9700K, 32Gb ram, RTX 2080ti and I run 1440p ultrawide. I can vouch for the performance of such a set up, with smooth framerates on ultra settings -but still the occasional stutter at airports or on take-off, even with the new update containing 'performance optimisations'!
      Thanks for yr appreciated reply, little more 'saving' now and wait what 'Year-end sales' may bring.
      thanks again, Peter
    1. stevetag's Avatar
      stevetag -
      Good points and i am happy with my performance. i have a 27" Samsung monitor but the resolution is high and crystal clear i'm in a night flight now so I will write later on the settings.
    1. milleron's Avatar
      milleron -
      I have a purpose-built PC for MSFS. I was completing the build in mid-August, not anticipating the release of MSFS until October or November. Thought I had plenty of time, but all the good GPUs vanished from the face of the Earth except for the ones going for 2-3 times MSRP. I therefore decided to install a cheap card, good enough to install the OS and the sim but not good enough to play it, and delay getting into the sim until I could procure a new 3080. That placeholder card is an RX 570, and it goes with a 6-core Ryzen 5 3600XT, 32 GB of 3600 RAM, and a 1TB PCIe Samsung Evo Plus SSD. I got the OS installed in 8 minutes and MSFS downloaded and installed rapidly. I launched it, hoping to get a couple of peripherals installed and look at the menus. To my utter surprise, though, the old, obsolete 570 allows smooth play at 1440 with "medium" settings, which is enough to immerse oneself in the sim and start to learn my way around. The frame rates are only about 17-19 fps, which I've always thought was utterly unplayable, but, lo and behold, in a flight sim, that is not only adequate (barely) but pretty smooth.
      The moral of the story seems to be that a good CPU, SSD, and RAM can compensate a little for a very, very underwhelming GPU . . . temporarily (although definitely not permanently).
    1. ecorry's Avatar
      ecorry -
      Excellent article.
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