DirectX 10 in Microsoft Flight Simulator (FSX) – Amazing graphics or a load of hot air?

Recently there has been a lot of controversy surrounding FSX and its graphics (although these days it seems like any new Microsoft product leaves at least several user groups up in arms). Browse any FSX related forum and you’ll likely see third-party developers expressing their frustrations with the FSX team over a variety of compatibly issues including, among many others, the introduction of DirectX 10 (DX10) to the Flight Simulator package via the recently released Acceleration Pack or SP2.

Just as a reminder it’s worth mentioning that, at the moment, DX10 is only available in Vista. To use DX10, you also need a DX10 compatible graphics card.

What we once thought we were getting…
The gaming community’s response to the introduction of DX10 to FSX has been, to put it lightly, a bit rough. It all started prior to the release of DX10 for FSX with two images that quickly spread around the Internet and, not surprising, had the FS community drooling with anticipation. It was said that these two images (seen below) demonstrated what we could expect from DX10 in FSX.

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Video Update of Home Cockpit (Simpit) Progress

The build on my home cockpit has gone really well in the last few weeks. At this point, everything is now up and running and I’m tweaking some of the different systems and settings. I’ve produced a brief video (below) showing the setup and highlighting the major design features. The video is quite general and in the future I will be posting much more detailed segments on specific aspects of the system and any future expansions.

The text below after the video is a transcript of the descriptions in the video:

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Adding Altitude Callouts to FSX (pmSounds)

I’ll be posting a major update really soon regarding my desktop simulator (I just need to get some pictures lined up); however, today I just wanted to add a quick post regarding a nice bit of add-on software called pmSounds.

One minor annoyance with FSX is the lack of automatic radar altitude callouts during landing. This is where the cockpit computer calls out 100, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 feet off the ground. Not only does it sound cool, but it helps with flaring at the right moment and you to keep your eyes on the runway without having to glance down at the radar gauge.

On a quick side note, I was once asked what the difference between ‘radar altitude’ and ‘altitude’ is. In short, the normal altimeter is based purely on air pressure and is set relative to sea level. This is why, for example, when sitting on the ground the altimeter isn’t at zero (unless the airport you’re at is at sea level). The air pressure based altitude is very accurate, although as minor pressure changes will cause fluctuations in the readings during takeoff and landing it helps to have an accurate, pressure independent, reading of the aircraft’s actual altitude.
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Review of the Saitek X52 Pro – Flightstick, Throttle and Multi-Function Display

Today at we’re going to take a look at the Saitek X52 Pro flightstick and throttle set and it’s use with Microsoft Flight Simulator version X. I’m not actually planning on using the X52 in my home cockpit build, but had an opportunity to check one out and though I’d review it for the site. I am, however, planning on using the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke system and associated throttles with my build and will be reviewing that kit in the near future so stay tuned.

The bulk of my review is contained in the video below, with a few follow up comments added afterwards.

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FSX Video Performance Testing – Quad-Core QX6850, 8800GTX SLI, 4GB RAM and Vista 64 bit

Progress on the overall project has been going well. I’ve been slowly building the base frame for the cockpit setup and have also started assembling the backlit panels. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures and just need some time to put together posts about the process and progress. However, this post focuses on the system that will be running the primary flight graphics for the simulator.

The video below highlights the performance achieved by my new custom system for FSX. This short flight was a departure from Harrisburg International (MDT) followed by a quick circular flight to land back on the same runway. The flight was filmed from many different angles and then spliced together to create a nice little movie. I’ve also added another video I found on YouTube of a real life approach into the same airport for comparison.


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Home (Desktop)Cockpit Construction Begins…

There has been progress in a number of areas with the project.   For one, I recently started building the desktop simulator cockpit.  I’m looking forward to not having to use the keyboard for most controls!  The goal of this build is to construct a ‘cockpit’ that can be moved onto my desktop for use with FSX.  It needs to be big enough to contain realistic looking displays and controls, but not so big that it’s obnoxious and can move it away when I use my desktop computer for other things. The general layout is based on the Boeing 737-800, although I’m not trying to make an exact replica and am making some changes as needed to suit the project as needed.  There will be a very abbreviated overhead panel (lights, seatbelts and basic engine controls) that will attach to the main structure although the layout of this is still being designed. 

Another major goal is to keep costs to a minimum and recycle old bits from around the house as much as possible.  I’m happy to incorporate some old computers I had lying around into running the display panels.  Those displays, by the way, will be running FsClient and FsXPand from Flyware Simulation.   
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FSX Computer Parts Arrived and Assembled…

The previously described parts have arrived and were assembled without too many problems.  When I powered it up for the first time all the LEDs and fans came on, but nothing else happened.  After taking it all apart and putting it back together again, I discovered that it was just a loose connection somewhere (it only takes one!).  A quick 3DMark06 run scored over 15,000 so I was happy with that for a first shot without any tweaking. I’ll post more comments and details of it’s specific performance with FSX in the near future.  Also, I’ve been working on laying out the design for my new (no keyboard) external cockpit control panel so stay tuned for more details soon.

Building a FSX Computer – The Parts Have Been Ordered

Well, after spending about two months off and on researching components for my system, I’ve place the orders and should have things set up in about a week or so. I came in slightly over my budget but not by much. To summarize, my goal was to build a high-end (although not necessarily crazy lets go overboard super-duper-high-end) system for running FSX.

These are my comments pre-build for why I selected the various components. In a few weeks, I’ll come back with some follow-up comments about each component once the system is up and running and I have a chance to test things out. I will, of course, also start reporting on the level of performance achieved by this new system with FSX.

Anyway, here’s the parts list:

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nVidia 8800 Ultra (SLI) or 8800 GTX (SLI) for FSX

As described in recent posts, I’ve now decided to go with the Intel QX6850 for my new FSX system (currently ~$989 on This is currently the most powerful processor on the market that will work with an SLI system. I’m planning on ordering all the parts in the next week or so and thus I also need to decide what SLI card to order.

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My plan for QX9650 Penryn + SLI issues…

Following on from some of my previous posts about the QX9650s not working with the motherboards required for SLI I’ve had to figure out what the plan should be for my upcoming FSX system build. At the moment there is still very little news regarding the status of 680i based boards and the QX9650s. There are lots of rumors that a BIOS update will be able to fix things, but then others who have said that even after such an update the 680i boards will only be compatible with 45 nm dual-core, not quad-core, chips. Furthermore, the now delayed 700 series boards should be fully compatible with all the new 45 nm chips, but there is no word yet on their official release.
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