donderdag 18 juli 2013

FSX on a modern laptop

For family-use we had to buy a new portable computer, a good one with a 17" screen. So I decided to spend some extra money to allow this portable computer to also run FSX. Which in turn allows me to bring my Simulator to FlightSim gatherings.
The problem with laptops is that you cannot put together a computer with individual parts best suited to FSX. You have to buy a ready made model.
So I bought an:     MSI GE70 OND-268BE Azerty

My choice was based on the following:
-processor: quad core i7  with a high clock speed
-a recent nVidea graphic card with 2 Gb memory
-a computer designed for gaming
-8 Gb RAM
-17" screen
-USB 3.0

My first concern was by all means the processor. The portable computers come with relatively low speed processors to allow the computers more available time on the battery, when not connected. High processor speed means high energy consumption.
In fact the new Intel processor, 4702MQ,  has a clock speed of  2.2 GHz, the older 3630QM 2.4 GHz.
With the gaming type computer the processors can use a turbo to reach  2.2 GHz and 2.4 GHz respectively. So I decided I wanted the older model, yielding 0.2 GHz extra speed.
I definitely wanted a quadcore. With some changes to the FSX.cfg file the workload can be spread over the remaining 3 cores, while the OS runs on the 0 core.

The regular laptops do not come with a good graphic card. All forums on FSX-performance agree that the nVidea card is best suited for FSX, from GeoForce 650  and above is considered more than adequate for running FSX/Prepar3D well.
The nVidea GeoForce GTX 660M is not the latest model but is a very good FSX performer. The version for a portable computer comes with an outlet for a VGA screen and another one for  HDMI.

Then looking at "gaming" computers I came across the  MSI GE70 OND-268BE Azerty:
-screen: 17.3 inch diagonal, pixels 1920 * 1080, anti-glare, full HD
-processor: Intel i7 quad Core, 3630QM, 2.4 GHz, turbo frequency 3.4 GHz
-RAM: 8 Gb, SO-DDR3 1600
-video card: nVidea GeoForce GTX 660M, 2048 Mb mem, HDMI, VGA
-other: 3 USB , USB 2 and 3, blue ray player

I purchased this computer at CoolBlue in Antwerpen, normal price  1249 Euro but probably because of the older model processor there was a 12% discount. Final price: 1099 Euro.
link:
http://www.laptopshop.be/category/56498/laptops.html?prijs=0-1210&6517=18540&821=9286

This computer comes with Windows 8!!
How FSX behaves in Windows 8 is a separate issue and commented elsewhere on this blog.

Results:
I installed FSX and then SP1 and SP2, then global mesh and Ultimate Terrain for Europe and the USA, then for testing purposes the Aerosoft scenery for Madeira LPMA) and Lisbon (LPPT) and the freeware scenery from David Maldonado for Venezuela's Santa Margarita airport (SVMG).
I started with the airport EGFA in Wales (I spent a week out there a month ago!).
The FSX display-settings were taken from Kosta's site:
http://kostasfsworld.wordpress.com/fsx-software-and-hardware-guide/

Framerate fixed at 30 fps, and the scenery with sliders pretty much all to the right (see the Kosta site for details).Also a used the settings for the FSX.cfg suggested by Kosta, notably the additional line to spread the processor work and the line that puts more load on the strong GPU.
When I took off from EGFA in a scenery full of autogen and traffic on the roads and nice cliffs by the seaside I was surprised to see that the framerate counter stayed on 30.1 all the time, even when looking around fast with the hatswitch, or when making a fast turn or coming close to the surface. Flawless on a simple airport.
Then Madeira, the Aerosoft version. This is a very well made scenery. With emphasis on framerates!
The counter remained at the 30 level, sometimes with some hesitation. The complex scenery doesnot affect the FPS. There were only few AI planes though.

Then Aerosoft's Lisbon airport. Her there is a lot of AI traffic and a nearby large city. The FPS dropped to about 20 when all the AI planes were in view, but when turning away from the airport the FPS mounts to the mid twenties. I took the Learjet for a a faster landing and there was no stuttering in the scenery, even with all the AI traffic
Again, FSX runs perfectly well on this portable computer when flying into a large airport with AI traffic.
Then a freeware airport: SVMG made by the Venezuelan scenery maker David Maldonado. This is a beautiful airport, with a lot of details, and it is free!!!!
This airport showed framerates in the mid twenties, no stuttering whatsoever when manoevering.

Conclusion: it is perfectly possible to use FSX on a portable computer. It is necessary, however, to choose the right processor and graphic card and to make adjustments to the FSX.cfg