These hardware recommendations for FlightGear are based on community feedback, be sure to consult other sources before making serious decisions regarding computer hardware.
The performance of FlightGear depends on three main components in your computer: the CPU (processor), which makes all the computations; the graphics card, which renders the visual aspect of FlightGear, and RAM (also known as memory) which generally allows FlightGear to have more information running (for the lack of a more technical phrase).
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 3.20+
Generally, if you want to see frame rates in the 20's and above and medium/high graphical settings, which is typically preferred, you should have a budget of at least $1000. The following list is recommended hardware. It is not required to any degree; however, if you're purchasing a new computer dedicated to FlightGear, it is highly recommended that you get a computer with at least these requirements.
- A screen with a resolution of at least 1024x768 @32bpp (most GUI dialogs cannot be used otherwise currently)
- Graphics processing unit
- A 3D video card (with AMD or NVIDIA chipset) with support for OpenGL 2.1 or better and at least 1024-2048MB of dedicated DDR3+ (DDR5 preferred) VRAM (i.e. 512 Mb VRAM minimum). FlightGear requires an 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.
- Cards with working GLSL/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. See problematic video cards for a list of video cards that may not properly run.
- At least 2-4 Gb free RAM (and more is better: when building/buying a new system, consider 6-8gb total the absolute minimum these days). 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.
- At least a quad core processor with ~ 2 GHz each, 64 bit 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.
- Storage disk
- 5 Gb HD space for a minimum installation, approx. 10 Gb if you want to compile it yourself, plus up to 80 Gb for optional world-wide scenery. 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.
- Input devices
- A three button mouse or two button mouse with scroll wheel
- 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.
- Sound card
- An optional sound card, Soundblaster compatible, preferably with EAX support.
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 regular notebook is not recommended if you plan to fly often on FlightGear.
Your overall experience on FlightGear generally depends on these components:
- Your CPU, which makes all the calculations. This component isn't as important as your graphics card. However, you should keep in mind that your CPU is the brain of your computer. As stated above, it's recommended that you purchase a CPU that has at least 4 cores.
- Your graphics card, which renders the visuals of FlightGear. This component is extremely important. If you have an amazing CPU but a lackluster graphics card, your framerate will be low. Also, it's recommended that you purchase a relatively new graphics card, as old ones (even if very powerful) have been known to cause rendering glitches.
- Your RAM (memory), which allows temporary storage of information. Memory is probably least important of the three when it comes to framerate; however, any less than 4 GB memory has been known to cause crashes in FlightGear.
Should I purchase a computer or build my own?
It is generally recommended that you build your own computer. Your money will get you much farther. However, it is also recommended that if you build your own computer, you know someone who knows their way around computers. Buying parts that you think may be powerful but truthfully are not, or worse case, not compatible, can lead to disappointment.