These hardware recommendations for FlightGear are based on community feedback, be sure to consult other sources before making serious decisions regarding computer hardware.
You may also want to check out the following article on building your own FlightGear box based on decommissioned and refurbished server at Howto: Build a cheap FlightGear box, and also learn about how the FlightGear project handles old hardware support at FlightGear and old Hardware.
Also see: FlightGear Benchmark
Recommended hardware for FlightGear 2.10+
- A screen with a resolution of at least 1024x768 @32bpp (most GUI dialogs cannot be used otherwise currently)
- A 3D video card (with AMD or Nvidia chipset) with support for OpenGL 2.1 or better and at least 1 Gb of dedicated DDR3+ (DDR5 preferred) VRAM (i.e. 512 Mb VRAM minimum). Flightgear requires a OpenGL 2.1-compliant hardware accelerated 3D video card to run at reasonable frame-rates. Most modern PCs have hardware accelerated 3D cards. If your FlightGear video is not running smoothly, see Graphics drivers configuration. See Supported Video Cards) for a list of video cards known to work with FlightGear. Note that cards with working shader support will enable FlightGear to run with more visual effects. If you are serious about running FlightGear, you should avoid Intel HD/GMA cards at all costs - these are integrated chipsets that provide only basic OpenGL/GLSL support.
- At least 1-2 Gb free RAM (and more is better). FlightGear uses more than 500 Mb of RAM by default. If less free RAM is available, FlightGear would be slowed down significantly due to OS swapping. When buying a new computer, you shouldn't buy computers with less than 4-6 Gb of total RAM these days.
- CPU: At least a dual/quad core processor with ~2 GHz each, 64bit architecture (and operating system) recommended (multi-core processors have benefits for some FlightGear components such as the threaded tile loader). When buying a new computer, buying at least a quad core computer (i.e. i7) is a good idea these days.
- 2 Gb HD space for a minimum installation (the installer download itself is about 800MB), approx. 10 Gb if you want to compile it yourself, plus up to 8 Gb for optional world-wide scenery (much more disk space and RAM for scenery 2.0). More space is required for people wanting to check out the latest base package from Git. People using Scripted Compilation on Linux Debian/Ubuntu, will approximately need 30 gb of disk space in total.
- A 3 button mouse or 2 button mouse with scroll wheel
- An optional sound card, Soundblaster compatible, preferably with EAX support
- An optional joystick/yoke and/or pedals - Gameport or USB (HID compatible), see $FG_ROOT/Input for a list of input hardware known to work with FlightGear.
Stay away from nVidia GPUs with a low second digit (x20, x40). Higher 2nd digit means more CUDA cores.
The number of CUDA cores matters much more than a few Mhz in frequency, since you can process more, in parallel. Also watch out for bus width, as that has a big impact on data throughput. The more CUDA cores it has, the better. A GTX680 is lots and lots and lots more important than a CPU with a zillion cores.
In case of doubt, go for an older generation x60 (460, or 560), even a 260 would be much more of an improvement than the 620. Basically, Nvidia cards compile GLSL shaders and OpenCL kernels into CUDA kernels (sort of), so more CUDA kernels = more shader power.
Whatever GPU (and other hardware) you get, first of all make sure that it is fully supported by your OS of choice. Thorsten mentioned in another thread that he purchased a computer with an NVIDIA GTX670 that ended up not being fully supported under Linux, so I'd suggest to be really careful here.
If you are interested in running FlightGear on a notebook, you may also want to check out Notebooks known to run FlightGear.
A list of video cards that may not properly run FlightGear can be found at Problematic Video Cards.