Finding the Best Graphics Cards (GPUs) for Flight Simulator 2020
The king of flight simulators returns. No other game offers so much choice in such enormous quality, from sports aircraft to private jets, from Boeing 737s to the fully-grown Airbus A380. Including real-time weather, 40,000 airports and many dangers from storms, lightning, thunderstorms.
Ahhh, the Flight Simulator is back. At last. It’s been a long day. You come home, it’s cold outside. Close the door, take off your shoes, turn on the coffee machine, get into the comfortable armchair, start the PC – click – click – and we see the asphalt that means the world and take off in a small Cessna. Or a luxurious XO CJ4. Or a fat Airbus A380. They take off from provincial airports that are hard to find even on a digital map. And the big cities. As soon as you’re in the air, you can switch the perspective from the cockpit, surrounded by dials, gauges and instruments, to the third-person perspective. And here at the latest, this Flight Simulator 2020 just knocks us around. With its graphic splendor and love of detail.
In order for you to enjoy the game to its fullest you should think about upgrading your graphics card. Playing Flight Simulator 2020 on high to ultra graphics settings is an amazing experience. In this article we tested three top graphics cards which guarantee for a great Flight simulator 2020 experience. They offer different performance scores, but also different prices. Wether your criteria for a graphics card is top performance, best price-performance ratio (best bang for the buck), or cheapest price point, we can recommend you the righ graphics card.
Test Results: Best Graphics Cards (GPUs) for Flight Simulator 2020
Ranking First: ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2080TI
- Capable of 4K gaming at 60fps,
- Raytracing is looks amazing
- Absolute performance Beast
- Simple design
Best performing graphics card for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
As a test system for the Geforce RTX 2080 (Ti), we use a Z370 board with a Core i7-8700K with 16 GByte DDR4 memory. All applications and Windows 10 x64 v1803 are on a Samsung PM981. The Geforce 411.15 and Radeon software 18.9.1 with standard settings are used as drivers. The Nvidia driver wasn’t quite stable in our case, so Doom partly crashed at startup. Blender is not included, because a binary kernel for SM_7.5, i.e. Turing, is missing and the Cycles renderer doesn’t work – here we need a patch.
Despite a fast CPU, many readings of the two new Nvidia graphics cards are proportionally CPU-limited, only in 4K does the processor brake in the rarest cases. Therefore, we would like to point out that the Geforce RTX 2080 (Ti) is also very fast in 1440p and in 1080p, but can’t develop its potential performance – a heavily overclocked CPU is needed here. Especially if you use a display with a high frequency like 144 Hz, you should adjust the settings accordingly, apart from overclocking, in order to relieve the processor.
If we look purely at the 4K measurements, the Geforce RTX 2080 overtakes the Geforce GTX 1080 by an average of 45 percent and is thus on average 15 percent ahead of the Geforce GTX 1080 Ti, which is great for the performance in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. The Geforce RTX 2080 Ti in turn achieves 43 percent higher frame rates than its predecessor and is almost twice as fast as a Geforce GTX 1080; the Radeon RX Vega 64 – the current top model from AMD – performs ergo in about half. However, the performance increase of the Geforce RTX 2080 (Ti) compared to the Geforce GTX 1080 (Ti) turns out a bit less than its advantage over the Geforce GTX 980 (Ti), even though the cards are more expensive than their predecessors.
Nvidia sells the Founder’s Edition of the Geforce RTX 2080 (Ti) from September 20th, 2018 via its own online shop, the manufacturer gives a three year warranty. The smaller Turing card costs 850 Dollars, for the top model the manufacturer calls a whopping 1,260 Dollars. The partners are planning variants that clock slightly lower than the two Founder’s Editions, and there will also be overclocked counterparts that will overtake the FE accelerators from Nvidia in terms of performance. Top price for top performance for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.
Verdict: Best performing graphics card for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
The Geforce RTX 2080 and especially the Geforce GTX 2080 Ti are the fastest graphics cards that gamers can currently buy: The non-ti model beats the Geforce GTX 1080 by 45 percent, the Ti offshoot beats the Geforce GTX 1080 Ti by a similar margin. However, Nvidia has also increased the prices, which is why the Geforce RTX 2080 is more expensive with 850 Dollar than the somewhat slower Geforce GTX 1080 Ti for a good 700 Dollar. It was still common for previous generations to provide more performance at the same cost – this doesn’t apply to Turing.
Thus, buyers get additional speed for the extra price, but primarily new functions, which is great for games like Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Nvidia puts the Geforce RTX’s focus on raytracing and deep learning implementations like a new edge smoothing. However, we can only test this in a few weeks and then it remains to be seen if and how both will prevail. For now, the Turing graphics cards are simply unbeatably fast at corresponding prices and at the same time, as the first generation of their kind, an investment in an uncertain future.
We like Nvidia’s new Founder’s Editions because of the revised cooler, which is significantly quieter and reaches lower chip temperatures with two axial instead of one radial fan. On top of that, comparatively OC-friendly GPUs seem to be built in, which is why the Founder’s Editions are a stronger competition to custom designs than before. All in all the best performing graphics card for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.
Ranking Second: Gigabyte Radeon RX 5700 XT
- Great 1080p & 1440p graphics performance
- Top performance beats Nvidia competitor graphics cards
- Beautiful design
- Best price-performance ratio
- No real-time ray tracing
Best price-performance ratio graphics card for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
It first appeared on an AMD roadmap more than three and a half years ago, with “Nexgen Memory” and “Scalability” as core features. According to published and unrealized plans, it should be launched in 2018. The talk is of course of Navi, the latest and most advanced GPU from the Radeon Technologies Group (RTG). If you take a closer look at the current code names of AMD’s graphics division, you’ll see that they are all stars without exception. After the mid-range chips Polaris (2016) and Vega (2017), navigation now follows, with a long time lag. This multiple star system is better known as Gamma Cassiopeiae and ranks 64th on the list of the brightest stars. Don’t worry, that’s it for astronomy, the following is about the GPU Navi and the graphics cards Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT.
Navi 10, the exact name of the new chip, has some changes in the GPU internal structure, which is why AMD is talking about a new architecture. This can be excellently debated, but you have to venture down the rabbit hole around instruction sets, execution units & Co. If you’re interested in the subject, you’ll find a corresponding treatise on the next page of this article. This can be found to a large extent in the already published PCGH 08/2019, regular readers might recognize text passages. In the meantime we could answer or at least verify some open questions by means of navigation practice tests. Let’s start from the beginning. AMD summarizes navigation as follows:
The pillars of navigation are many. The chip is not only shrunk to 7-nm structure width, but also includes a modification of the shader core and support of new standards. HDMI 2.1 is expressly not meant by this, AMD only provides navigation systems with support for HDMI 2.0b. The Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT can handle the PCI Express 4 protocol for the first time and thus deliver twice the transfer rate of the old-established PCI Express 3.0. The necessary infrastructure for this also comes from AMD; without an X570 mainboard and a Ryzen 3000 processor, navigation GPUs work in PCIe 3 mode – as in our comparative benchmarks. The following analyses will show to what extent the PCIe transfer rate is limited in practical (gaming) scenarios.
GDDR6 memory for the first time
While the initially mentioned point “Scalability” still leaves room for speculation, at least “Nexgen Memory” (without t) is clear: Navi 10 is the first AMD chip to offer support for the GDDR6 memory standard, great for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Previous Radeon GPUs used either GDDR5 or High Bandwidth Memory (gen2). The switch to GDDR6 DRAM results in a lower transfer rate per clock and a slightly higher power consumption compared to HBM, but the wiring is much simpler. The equalization of the hotspots – HBM is placed directly next to the GPU, GDDR is placed at a distance around it – also makes cooling easier compared to Vega chips. And by the way, AMD’s use of GDDR6 allows interesting comparisons with Nvidia’s Turing line-up, which has partly the same raw data. More about this later.
Three graphics cards to start with
On July 7th 2019, three graphics cards based on Navi 10 were launched, two of which used the full version called Navi 10 XT, the third will have to make do with a slightly trimmed chip called Navi 10 XL. As AMD already announced a few weeks ago, the Radeon RX 5700 XT is aimed directly at the popular Geforce RTX 2070 and the Radeon RX 5700 at the Geforce RTX 2060, which is great for price competition. Nvidia has also noticed this and has launched “super” versions of these graphics cards at comparable prices (PCGH test of the RTX 2070 Super and RTX 2060 Super). We’ll immediately clarify which models will emerge from the ring as winners in the benchmarks. Let’s first take a look at the test persons’ theoretical raw performance:
Verdict: Best price-performance ratio graphics card for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
Smart, fast and groundbreaking for AMD, these are both the Radeon RX 5700 and the Radeon RX 5700 XT. It’s hard not to fall into slight euphoria in view of the performance for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Although AMD never climbs new performance spheres with the Navi-10 chip, the efficiency shown is impressive. If you compare Polaris, Vega and Navi on a per-unit basis, the old AMD chips look really old. Due to similar clock rates, the best comparison is possible with the Radeon VII. This Vega-based model has +50 percent FP32 ALUs and +128 percent memory throughput, but only achieves +9 percent overall performance in the modern PCGH index. And this despite the fact that the RX 5700 (XT) is still slightly held back by its beta driver in Vulcan-based games. If you roll over Navi and Turing per clock and unit, Nvidia is still slightly in the lead, whereby it’s unclear whether this would also be the case without the additional INT32-ALUs within Turing’s shader core.
The bottom line is that Navi catapults the Radeon Technologies Group back to the same level as Nvidia – at least for now. The Geforce makers still have the leap to 7nm manufacturing technology ahead of them and are doing it with a corresponding time lag: Instead of DUV exposure, EUV (extreme ultra-violet) is used directly to maximize the potential. This will probably take until mid-2020. In a similar time frame, rumours suggest that Navi 20, the big brother of our current test person, will also appear. Why AMD has not vigorously brought this project forward to the end of 2019 in order to be back at the top is unknown.
Back to the present. In the end, it’s not just what an architecture does per unit that counts, but whether the overall product is competitive. With Turing, Nvidia has a powerful architecture in all performance classes and just added “super” variants to it. The Radeon RX 5700 XT thus competes exactly with the RTX 2060 Super in terms of price, both are officially available from 419 Dollar. AMD wins this duel in most benchmarks, while Nvidia scores with higher energy efficiency and a quieter reference design. The Radeon RX 5700 XT lands in the new PCGH performance index just in front of Nvidia’s Geforce RTX 2070 Founders Edition (including its factory overclocking). The Radeon RX 5700 beats Nvidia’s chosen target, Nvidia’s RTX 2060, with bravura and, by the way, achieves a precision landing on the old Radeon RX Vega 64 – with considerably lower power consumption. Against the RTX 2060 super the Radeon RX 5700 doesn’t see any land altogether, costs 50 Dollar less for it. It looks similar in the comparison of the RX 5700 XT against the RTX 2070 Super, the Nvidia model is also clearly faster here, but also considerably more expensive.
Now you have to decide. The new AMD graphics cards are undoubtedly fast and represent a worthwhile upgrade, for example from a Geforce GTX 980 Ti. We can’t make up your mind whether it should be a Navi-Radeon or a Turing-Geforce. All of the models mentioned are attractive, with respective advantages and disadvantages for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Possibly the free gifts, which both AMD and Nvidia currently include, are the decisive factor: Buyers of a Geforce RTX get the games Control and Wolfenstein Youngblood as Geforce Experience Keys, Radeon-RX-5700 buyers on the other hand get a 3-month access to the Xbox Game Pass, within which countless games can be called up.
Ranking Third: MSI Gaming GeForce RTX 2060 Super
- Very good value for Nvidia
- Faster and significantly better than predecessor
- HDMI, Displayport & DVI port for legacy monitors
- RGB design
- Ray traced games make the 2060 Super work louder
Great graphics card at a fair price for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
Both the RTX 2070 Super and the RTX 2060 Super are based on existing products, the wheel is not reinvented. In both cases the basis is the Turing architecture introduced in late summer 2018; all technical details can be found in the linked article. Even nine months later, Turing proves to be very powerful, because new games and driver optimizations benefit from the modernized architecture. Nvidia still relies on a customized manufacturing process called “12FFN”, in which all Turing GPUs come off the assembly line at the Foundry TSMC. In the case of the RTX 2070S and RTX 2060S, everything revolves around the TU104 and TU106, the second and third largest offshoots after the giant TU102. Both cards differ quite clearly from their non-super predecessors, if one looks under the hood.
With the Geforce RTX 2060 Super it’s the other way around: The physically existing material around graphics chip, board and cooling corresponds as far as possible to the RTX 2060. The smallest raytracing-enabled chip, the TU106, is used both over and under the hood. With the RTX 2060 Nvidia made painful cuts in the memory interface, two of the eight 32-bit partitions fail, so that only 192 of the 256 existing data paths remain active (-25 percent). This has direct effects on the usable graphic memory and the transfer rate, so that the RTX 2060 has only 6 GiByte GDDR6 RAM and in some memory serious cases leaves clearly feathers in the air. Not so the Geforce RTX 2060 Super: Nvidia has heard the calls of the gamers, the press criticism and the approaching competition in the form of the Radeon RX 5700 and leaves the complete interface active. The RTX 2060S thus corresponds to an “RTX 2070 Light”, only a few calculators are missing in the comparison.
The additional power isn’t there for nothing, Nvidia also increases the energy budget of the newcomers. The RTX 2070S works with the 215 Watt TDP of the old RTX 2080 “reference” and the RTX 2060S with the 175 Watt of the old RTX 2070 (in each case Non-Founders-Edition). The bottom line is that no miracles are to be expected, because in terms of per clock performance the Turing processors do not differ. Stagnation also prevails in terms of memory and its speed, the newcomers all have 8 GiByte GDDR6 DRAM with a data rate of 14 gigatransfers per second (exactly 7.001 MHz). In theory the newcomers achieve low double-digit performance increases compared to their predecessors, only in the case of memory overflow of the RTX 2060 Non-Super larger gains can be expected, which is good for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. How it actually looks like, we’ll check right away with the brand-new PCGH graphics card course 2019+.
Since Turing, Nvidia doesn’t equip its in-house graphic card designs, called Founders Edition (FE for short), with weak-breasted cooling anymore, but installs a strong cooling design with double axial ventilation. The RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 in the respective Founders Editions also have a factory overclocking of 90 MHz. The Geforce RTX 2060 FE was the only model without the aforementioned clock rate increase. The Founders Editons of the RTX Super models follow this path and are also delivered without overclocking. Thus, it is made easier for the Nvidia board partners to exceed the performance of the reference card again. Nvidia doesn’t give reasons for this decision, but it is nevertheless welcome and good for the performance of new cards for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.
Verdict: Great graphics card at a fair price for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
One can only congratulate Nvidia: The Californians have not only successfully beaten themselves with the super new edition, but have also effectively taken the wind out of AMD’s sails. The Radeon makers aim their RX 5700 XT and RX 5700 directly at the old RTX 2070 and RTX 2060 models, which Nvidia has just upgraded. We’ll find out what the final balance of power and prices will look like on July 7th.
We can already say that both the Geforce RTX 2070 Super and the Geforce RTX 2060 Super are two successful graphics cards. This is no wonder, as they follow tried and tested paths without the slightest experiment. Nvidia doesn’t need the latter either, because the underlying Turing architecture is still as strong as a bear in mid-2019 and scores with the bonus function of hardware-accelerated raytracing, great for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. In order to put the latter into perspective, Nvidia has created a new action: Buyers of an RTX Super receive keys for the upcoming games Wolfenstein Youngblood and Control; both are upgraded with RTX/DXR effects. At the latest this will result in a good price-performance ratio of the new Geforce models. A good final and keyword: prices.
The Geforce RTX 2070 Super Founders Edition was available from July 9th for 529 Dollar, the RTX 2060 Super Founders Edition for 419 Dollar. Compared to the respective non-super versions, the pricing is quite attractive; the RTX 2070 FE still cost 629 Dollar and the RTX 2060 FE 369 Dollar. Those who don’t have a need wait for the release of the Radeon RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT and the following price development. From 9 July, custom designs based on the Geforce RTX 2070 Super and Geforce RTX 2060 Super will also be available, which is good for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Towards the end of July the RTX 2080 Super followed and by the beginning of August at the latest the first partner designs based on the Radeon RX 5700 (XT) arrived. The competition will give you more performance in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 for your money.
Preview for Flight Simulator 2020
With the way it stages snow, rain, hail, storms. The way it cuts lightning through the darkness of the night, with the elegance of the volumetric clouds breaking up, approaching New York. How it plunges the whole world beneath us into a white wonderland – not just forests and meadows, but everything – skyscrapers like the Chrysler Tower, Manhattan Bridge, Times Square. They are breathtakingly beautiful shots: of migratory birds flying south. Auratic and blood-red sunrises present themselves. These are moments that you normally only experience captains of Lufthansa & Co. Do yourself a favour and watch the videos here on this page – they show how magically beautiful our world actually is. From high up in the cockpit.
Now many simulator fans will ask themselves: Is this Flight Simulator really just a pastime and window dressing? Oooh no. Flight Simulator 2020 offers something for everyone, at least according to our first impression. Also for pilots and adventure hunters who are looking for that special kick. We think of the take-off from one of the most dangerous airports in the world, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Nepal. Our little Cessna dares to take off with a little bit of awe on the absurdly short runway here. Her end is approaching faster than we can pull up the joystick, but we have problems to get enough lift and get our nose up fast enough. But as soon as we manage to do so, we are rewarded with a wonderful view into the depths of the Himalayan valley. Breathtaking is probably the right word for these scenes that we get to experience. Games are our life and yet it feels a bit magical, because everything looks like we are really sitting in an airplane right now.
20 minutes later we fly over the Hudson Bay of New York City, shortly before we make a stop in Munich, the home of PC Welt and IDG Germany. Shortly after that we are over the Sahara, where there is just emptiness – emptiness, sand, here and there a camel or range rover dashing through the dunes. This looks incredibly good in 4K HDR, but will also require a monster from a PC. Flight Simulator 2020 is likely to be one of those games that will fill a complete winter. Or even a whole year, after all the whole world is travelable. We can go anywhere we have always wanted to go, but physically didn’t dare to: The Himalayas or the royal Fujisan mountain range in Japan.
And there is a special mode for this globetrotting – you fly, tap anywhere on a 3D globe and are instantly transferred. This works because this work generates its world using satellite data from Bing Maps. But you don’t just fly over a flat texture: the engine takes this map data and then intelligently fills it with trees, water, buildings and even small details like traffic on the streets. The altitude is also accurately reproduced, resulting in high mountain ranges and yawning valleys. All over the world, white dots are distributed, representing 40,000 real airports: JFK, London Heathrow, LAX, Charles De Gaulle, but also endless stations that would not be on the radar in this way – provincial airports, private airfields for jets and yes, even a few military bases, such as the RAF – the Royal Air Force.
Were you also one of those children who had a globe, turned it around and pointed their finger at any point, just to discover the world? Here you can do this from the cockpit in the most realistic world simulation ever. You also have precise control over the weather and time of day. So if you want to cross the Atlantic during a thunderstorm, fly over Seoul at night or glide along the Alps at sunset, all you have to do is adjust a few sliders. Interesting for meteorology fans: You can use live weather data, which means that in the game it will rain even if it rains in Hamburg in real life. And in New York it snows as heavily as when the author typed these lines. The weather simulation also adds to the realism, as storms and other meteorological phenomena not only look and behave just like in real life, but also influence the handling of your aircraft appropriately.
In addition, the far-sightedness is enormous: You can see for a full 600 kilometres, so you can see storms much earlier before they fly into them. If you are trapped in one of them, the dark, volumetric clouds around your aircraft are cut through by lightning strikes, which is just as nerve-racking as it sounds. Simulation can be pretty monotonous and lifeless, and developers have often confused realism with poor graphics in recent decades. We’re thinking of some military flight simulations. But not here, especially the animation of clouds is something the French developers are proud of. They are colossal, voluminous, three-dimensional figures that refract and capture the light, swell in the darkness when rain accumulates, drift across the landscape and cast realistic-looking shadows.
It’s these details that make Microsoft Flight Simulator jump straight into our most-wanted list for 2020. Sure, we’ll have to spend more time to evaluate it conclusively, but Asobo Studios and Microsoft deliver what hardcore sim fans want: Fully licensed airplane models (we don’t know how many yet, there might be a weakness here), with individually designed cockpits, realistic aerodynamics, simulated weather as well as weather calculated on real-time live data. There is a lot to consider: fuel economy, thermal updrafts. Loading capacity for cargo planes. The game does not only want to recreate the cold, mathematical reality of flying, but also the drama and romance. It stages flying as an experience, perhaps the last magic we have left in this high-tech age.
When you fly over the skyline of New York as the sun sets below the horizon and casts a golden glow over the city, or hover over Tokyo at night, this seemingly endless sea of lights and colors, then you understand why mankind loves flying so much. You can’t judge flight simulators after a session, but whether the avionics of each individual model are perfectly implemented remains to be seen. It is also not yet clear whether military jets will make it into the fleet and how many models per manufacturer. But just the photorealism with which Flight Simulator 2020 captures the world below – landscapes, forests, villages, metropolises – and combines it with live weather data is simply a pleasure.