It’s hard to believe, but since Microsoft’s very first release in 1982, we’ve had almost 40 years of flight simulator games. The games have made leaps and bounds and look more realistic and haunting than ever, with a high level of detail and real world weather and lifelike physics. It’s not just the flight simulator games that have improved during this time, the equipment available has never been better. Many wondered: what is the best flight simulator setup?
Flying an airplane with a mouse and keyboard can be frustrating to say the least. It is difficult to control yaw and you lose immersion in the beautiful graphics. To get more out of your experience, we’ve put together a few key peripherals and other little things to make sure you get the most out of your flight simulation experience.
Things to watch out for
Before you create your perfect flight simulator setup, there are a few things to consider in your hardware specifications. The last thing you want to do is get a monitor that is too good for your current system. To make sure you won’t be disappointed, we’ll go through a few key areas.
Minimum system requirements for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 1200 / Intel Core i5-4460
- RAM: 8 GB
- Hard disk: 150 GB storage space
- GPU: AMD Radeon RX 570 / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770
- VRAM: 2 GB
- Operating system: 64-bit update for Windows 10 Nov 2019 (1909)
- DirectX: Version 11
- Screen resolution: 720p
- Network: broadband internet connection – 5 Mbit / s bandwidth
The above requirements are just the minimum requirements that the game developer lists. With these specifications you can play the game. However, if you are planning a multi-monitor setup, want to play the game at maximum settings, or want to use an ultra-wide display, you should use a more powerful CPU / GPU combination and try 16GB RAM if you can afford it. By expanding your system, you can play more than just flight simulation games. So your investment is worth it.
Flight simulator screen resolution
Depending on the type of flight simulator setup you choose, the screen resolution is considered in an important area. You can choose three 4K gaming monitors on your desk to restore the cockpit feeling, while others choose an ultra-wide display. Either way, they’ll both cost a pretty penny, but the results that these types of setups can deliver are truly incredible.
Flight Sim monitor size
Just like the refresh rate of a monitor, the size of a monitor can have a big impact on your system’s ability to output FPS. A triple monitor configuration or an ultrawide monitor is the ideal way for a flight simulator setup. Both types create a wider field of view, which will be of great advantage for your flight simulator games.
If you choose an Ultrawide display, all the frames in the center of the picture will be removed, and setup and use is generally more convenient. However, a triple monitor setup gives you much more space and feels more immersive because it mimics a cockpit.
If you have a low-end PC, you may need to choose a 16: 9 aspect ratio monitor with 1080p. If you are serious about this and already have a decent gaming rig, it should be able to handle the maximum settings of 1080p or 1440p without any problems on an Ultrawide or triple monitor display.
Flight simulator controls
Controlling the flight simulator is one of the most important aspects in creating the perfect flight simulation setup. There are many levels of devices for different budgets, but it all starts with finding the best joystick. Flight simulator games have driven the development of joysticks and we have made sure that we also recommend those that are also equipped with gas. The combination of joystick and gas is excellent for your immersion and the additional programmable buttons with which both functions can only serve well in this digital cockpit.
The first choice is pretty expensive, but believe me, nothing adds to the realism of flight simulator games than the Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog. This is a high-performance package that is designed for a long service life.
Aside from the premium quality and performance, this package is actually a replica of the same joystick and throttle used for the U.S. Air Force A10C aircraft. The joystick and throttle are not connected, so you need separate USB ports for each component.
For a cheaper joystick and throttle for beginners, the Thrustmaster FCS Hotas controller is the way to go. Not as robust and with fewer buttons than the previous option, but a great place to start for price-conscious players or just for flight simulator games.
This set of flight simulator controls comes with an ambidextrous joystick and features HallEffect AccuRate technology from H.E.A.R.T. to ensure high-precision pitch and roll performance.
Flight simulator monitor
For your flight simulator setup, you want to go as far as you can afford. We have already discussed the benefits of ultrawide displays and triple monitors. Different options for different budgets are described below.
The first option is based on quality and comfort. The curved 49-inch CRG9 gaming monitor from Samsung is the ultimate widescreen panel. This not only offers you an incredible amount of screen space, but also a resolution of 1440p, a refresh rate of 120 Hz, a response time of 4 ms and FreeSync. These specifications give your flight simulator games incredible color accuracy regardless of the angle, and offer you a completely bezel-free cockpit experience.
For an even more complete and comprehensive experience, there is no better option than a triple monitor setup. The best thing about multi-monitor setups for flight simulators is the fact that the bezels can mimic the windows in an actual cockpit, and you can essentially get closer to 100 inches of ultra-wide beauty.
We built and tested a triple monitor setup for our in-office racing simulation and chose the curved BenQ EX3203R gaming monitor (three of them). This 31.5-inch display has a resolution of 1440p, a response time of 4 ms and a refresh rate of 144 Hz and FreeSync. If you combine three of them, you will immediately be drawn into the flight simulator so that it feels like you and the open sky.
It is important to note that for one of the options above, you need a high-end PC, preferably with a multithreaded CPU and a current RTX GPU, to get the best performance from your games in these large aspect ratios.
If you are a beginner or have little money, we recommend starting with one of the BenQ monitors mentioned above. One of them is still quite wide and gives you a great experience. You can also add more over time as the money becomes available.
VR flight simulator
It wasn’t long ago that all flight simulator games were always played on the screen. VR has grown massively in recent years, and while monitors feel immersive, there’s nothing like a VR flight simulator.
VR is less intensive on your PC than the more elaborate monitor options described above and still offers an incredible immersion. If money is not an issue, we naturally recommend choosing both.
For the best VR flight simulation experience, pick up the HP Reverb VR headset. The HP Reverb offers a 114-degree view that is slightly wider than that of the HTC Vive 110. The Reverb headset makes it much easier to read the dials on your plane thanks to the increased resolution. The colors of the HP Reverb are incredible and the immersion is increased compared to the competition overall. Over-ear headphones are included and work perfectly. The display runs at 90 Hz as long as you use the display connection. The audio may not be as clear as the Oculus +, but the comfort, colors, and details are absolutely superb.
Flight simulator chair
If you create the best flight simulator setup, you can theoretically use any chair you want. It’s worth letting you know that manufacturers make gaming chairs specifically for flight simulation enthusiasts and can actually save a little desk space if you buy the right one.
The Playseat Air Force is the first choice for those who want to build their perfect flight simulation without too much extra work. This flight simulation seat is very comfortable and was developed to simulate a dynamic fighter aircraft seat. The seat is suitable for both left-handed and right-handed people and was developed in collaboration with professional pilots to get the best out of their flight experience.
The Playseat provides space for your joystick and throttle for optimal positions when playing a flight simulator game. This playseat is compatible with most of the flight sticks, throttles, and yoke sets on the market, so you’ll get along pretty well with this option.
Whether you want to simulate a chartered commercial flight to South America or experience a dogfight in World War II, you will want the best flight simulator setup you can afford. All of the recommended products in this summary are proven, high-quality items of equipment and are essential for an even more intense flight experience.