Flight Simulation on a budget

I have read the development in another thread, started by puntacana1, with great interest, but essentially I want to go in the opposite direction. I want to ask you guys for helping me compose the best performing Flight Simulator system for a limited budget, while still getting a reasonable framerate and a pretty picture with enough detail and quality.

I have my ideas about what I think is good enough but I keep them to myself in order to give you room to breath. My financial ceiling is somewhere in the region of $ 1,000, if possible, less. Unless my current system that I use for everything like genealogy, graphics, video and word processing, website development, e-mail etc. this new system is meant for FS only.

It must at least outperform my current 4 year old system, containing:
Intel Core2duo 6600 2,40 GHz on Asus P5B mobo with 4 Gb ddr3-800 and nVidia 8800GTS with 640 Mb, 3x 250 Gb harddisks, DVD and DVD RW and finally 3 Iiyama 1900 monitors on a Matrox triplehead2go digital. This set will migrate with the new system, that will be dedicated to FS.

From a period 10 years ago, when I participated in an FS benchmark site run by Pierre Poirier on AVSIM I remember that when it comes to framerate, FS has always been and still is cpu-bound. Read more about that elsewhere on Tom's site. So get the fastest cpu you can afford. alance that off with the graphic card. A decent one will probably do. But what is decent these days?

The graphic card and especially the video memory size have not so much influence on the framerate but are more related to picture quality. As FS is a moving picture system, you can afford a few glitches, but it must not be as with my current system, that the textures pop up just when you are almost past the spot!

I think of 2 smaller harddisks rather then one large one to split the work over 2 mechanisms. I would also like to add an ssd, but I am afraid that it is still too expensive. Maybe add it next year, when the price has been cut in half or better? Or am I too optimistic?

I love my three monitor set-up with the Matrox 3H2Go and will migrate this to the new system, but then need another wide screen for my old system, that will still be used for the concurrent mix of other duties.

Well, this is most certainly enough. I hope I didn't scare you away. Maybe together we can find the right mix? Looking forward to your reactions.


BTW, I am not completely new to computers nor to FS, as you will see when you visit my website on FS History (http://fshistory.simflight.com/), but I haven't been able to keep up with all developments as most of you probably have. So please share you thoughts with me on how to configure the lowest end machine with good enough results to enjoy flying with FS. Maybe some other people can benefit from this too?
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More about flight simulation budget
  1. Look at the Tomshardware System Builder marathon $1000 build ... and find the March article which performed better .
  2. What is the resolution of those 3 displays 1280x1024 each? Do they have DVI connectivity?

    While the triple 3H2go is handy, Eyefinity could actually handle that now without it as long as the displays have DVI connectivity.
  3. Well here goes nothing, it's a bit more than a 1000 but there is plenty of 'tweaking' that can be done.

    CPU: i7 2600k $299.99
    MB: Gigabyte GA-Z68A-D3H-B3 $129.99
    MEM: Gskill Sniper 2x4GB $74.99
    PSU: Corsair HX750 $139.99 ( $119.99 after rebate )
    GPU: XFX 6950 2GB $279.99 ( $249.99 after rebate )
    HDD: Samsung F3 1TB x2 $64.99 each
    SSD: Intel 510 SataIII 120GB $284.88 ( $254.99 after rebate )
    Case: Antec 300 $59.99 ( $45.99 after rebate )
    DVD: Asus 24x DVD+/-RW $20.99

    Total: $1420.36 ( 1325.36 after rebates )

    The 6950 2GB should have enough juice to run your displays at a reasonable frame rate and with everything is set so that if you do need extra graphics horsepower just toss in a 2nd 6950. For overclocking the CPU an after market cooler would be needed, but then I'm not sure if you want to do that or not, Coolermaster Hyper 212+ for $30 gets you there if needed( from amazon.com).

    Now there is a lot that can be shaved from it and still be good and beat the crap out of your old system in performance. The SSD choice can be changed to a cheaper one, I generally went with reliability more than maximum speed ( possibly save about $80) . You might go with i5 2500k instead of the i7 2600k save almost $100, if the flight simulator can't use 8 threads. Lose one of the HDD's when you have the SSD and such. And after all that you might just hit the $1000.
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