Community Questions: Building a Flight Simulator PC

Each week we tap into the collective knowledge of the Tom's Hardware community to find the answers to our most pressing questions. This week we want to know what parts you would buy for a flight simulator PC.

Earlier this week my friend asked for help building a PC. Little did he know what a pandora’s box he was opening. I immediately bombarded him with a whole host of questions: “What’s it for?” “What’s your budget?” “Is it for gaming?” “What kinda games do you play?” “Can I build it for you?” “Of course,” he responded enthusiastically.

My friend, normally a console gamer, wanted what he could never have: an awesome PC built to play flight simulators, and more specifically, a mainstream build that can play X Plane 11 with a future upgrade path to VR. He mentioned that he was looking at prebuilt desktops, but I nipped that idea in the bud before he could finish his sentence. The prebuilt companies want to charge $1,000 or more for a rig that had a Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti, an Intel Core i5-8400 and only 8GB of brandless DDR4 RAM. I wasn’t going to have any of that price gouging nonsense. I assured him we would build a better PC together.

My friend has a few considerations in budgeting out his build. Since VR was not a priority, I recommended a budget of $1,200 for the PC and to save at least $500 for the monitor. The other main considerations we have are the resolution he would play at, whether to use an Intel or AMD CPU, and if he would use an Nvidia or AMD GPU.

I recommended aiming for a PC that would play well at 1440p, and going AMD all the way through. My reasoning ultimately comes down to the monitor. Getting a 1440p monitor with GSync is just too expensive, but getting a display with equivalent specs and AMD Freesync would be more than affordable. Here’s what I came up with:

Case
NZXT H500 (Black) ATX Mid-Tower
$70
Cooling
Cryorig H7 49 CFM
$38
CPU
AMD Ryzen 5 2600
$165
Graphics
Sapphire Radeon RX Vega 64 8GB
$400
Memory
G.Skill Trident Z RGB 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-3200
$140
Motherboard
MSI B450 Gaming Pro Carbon AC ATX AM4
$140
PSU
SeaSonic Focus Plus Gold 650W
$90
Storage
Samsung 970 EVO 250GB
$84
Monitor
LG 34UM88C-P 34-inch 60 Hz
$475

Total Build Cost
$1,602

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Since this is still early stages in the build process, I wanted to get some of the expertise our community is known for. What do you think of the build? What would you build with a $1,200 budget? What monitor would you recommend? Sound off in the comments below!

47 comments
    Your comment
  • keith12
    2 x 4gb for dual channel goodness, if you only wanna go with 8gbs total. There's a 5-10% performance increase in gaming just by switching to dual channel. Performance in other tasks can be more.

    edit: What about a RTX2060? very similar performance to the Vega 64, better in some games, worse in others, but cheaper. Stick the money saved to a dual channel 2 x 8 gb kit for a little headroom and for more demanding games, if your friend want to venture away from Flight sims. I get the monitor is freesync though, so get why the Vega is in there.
  • mihen
    Main thing I would say for a flight/racing sim is that you should be going VR. You don't get the same motion disorientation since you are not physically moving in game.
  • Johnny5
    182540 said:
    2 x 4gb for dual channel goodness, if you only wanna go with 8gbs total. There's a 5-10% performance increase in gaming just by switching to dual channel. Performance in other tasks can be more. edit: What about a RTX2060? very similar performance to the Vega 64, better in some games, worse in others, but cheaper. Stick the money saved to a dual channel 2 x 8 gb kit for a little headroom and for more demanding games, if your friend want to venture away from Flight sims. I get the monitor is freesync though, so get why the Vega is in there.

    Sorry, there was actually an initial typo in the article, that has since been corrected. The kit in the parts list is 2 x 8 gb DDR4 3200.

    You make a good point suggesting the Nvidia GTX 2060. Going with Vega 64 was a tough decision. Ultimately I decided that proper Freesync (versus possibly buggy Gsync on a Freesync monitor) would provide a better gaming experience. This is certainly up for debate!