Yesterday I discussed the summary of my findings for seeing what people had to say about SLI and multi-core processors and FSX; however, another very important fundamental point to consider when designing my new computer for FSX will be the choice of operating system. It has to be Windows, there’s no getting around that, but within the Windows platform there are a number of options.
Windows, and computing in general, are going through a major transition phase at the moment on two primary fronts. First, Vista was released within the last year and so many users are now slowly switching over to the newest generation of Windows. Furthermore, PC based computing is also slowly taking on 64-bit infrastructure. These two facts combined mean that anyone looking to build a new gaming system for FSX needs to decide what choice is best for them.
XP or Vista?
Vista and its whole catalogue of different versions (seriously, what’s wrong with just having one version with all the features like OSX?) represents, for better or worse, the future of PC based computing for at least the next several years. In regards to FSX, there are several advantages to running Vista over XP. The biggest advantage by far is the introduction of the graphics standard Direct X10. At the moment, only Vista utilizes Direct X10 although it’s possible that a later service pack may introduce it to XP. The soon to be released “FSX Acceleration Pack” contains the associated software upgrades for Direct X10 (note that you’re video hardware must also be capable of running Direct X10 or else you won’t see the associated enhancements).
There have also been many reports of people saying that FSX has been ‘designed to take advantage of Vista.’ I have not personally had the opportunity to perform side-by-side performance tests on identical hardware setups so it’s unclear exactly how much of a performance advantage (if any) is gained by Vista. However, with the introduction of Direct X10 to FSX it seems that choosing Vista is a no-brainer.
32-bit or 64-bit?
First off, what does this mean? For those who are not familiar with the difference here is a quick summary. In short, most personal computers currently on the market are ’32-bit’ systems. This means that the hardware, specifically the CPU, is looking at no more than 32 bits of data in a single processing cycle. However, a 64-bit system can look at 64-bits of data in a single cycle. The potential impact on computing power can be significant as the system can process much more data at once without physically running any faster (in terms of computing cycles, e.g. 3.0 GHz). A simple analogy would be to consider the ‘power’ of a lawnmower engine running a 2000 rpm vs. a sports car engine running at 2000 rpm. Both are running at the same ‘speed’ in terms of cycles per second, but the larger engine can output a lot more power in each cycle.