X-Plane 10 Benchmarked

Klaus Hinum, 02/15/2014

Serious. After Microsoft more or less abandoned the flight simulator market following the release of their Flight Simulator X, Laminar Research has the only viable and constantly updated alternative with their X-Plane Flight Simulator. Our review will focus on the hardware requirements and show which notebooks and desktops handle the simulator smoothly.

Benchmark

For the original German article, see here.

For this review we'll use the integrated benchmark functionality in X-Plane 10, which can be started via the parameter --fps_test. For the most basic functionality, the user simply inputs the numbers from 1 to 4 to specify the quality settings from low to ultra-high. In addition, we'll also specify the resolution (1024x768, 1366x768, and 1920x1080) and the color depth (32-bit). We decided to use the time demo test_flight_c4 as our sequence, which is included in the 64-bit web demo version 10.25 as used for this review.

Update: We received a mail from an X-Plane developer that test 4 is not intended for benchmarking: 

However, test 4 is _not_ an actual test of the product - it is a specialized "CPU-only" test that was put in so that driver developers could look at changes in performance between driver versions.  The test intentionally ignores the GPU to "focus" on CPU driver time.  (Similarly test 5 is a GPU only test to focus on shader compilation.

Here are the 4 commands to execute the benchmark:

X-Plane.exe --fps_test=1 --load_smo=Output/replays/test_flight_c4.fdr --pref:_is_full_ALL=1 --pref:_x_res_full_ALL=1024 --pref:_y_res_full_ALL=768 --pref:_bpp_full_ALL=32
X-Plane.exe --fps_test=2 --load_smo=Output/replays/test_flight_c4.fdr --pref:_is_full_ALL=1 --pref:_x_res_full_ALL=1366 --pref:_y_res_full_ALL=768 --pref:_bpp_full_ALL=32
X-Plane.exe --fps_test=3 --load_smo=Output/replays/test_flight_c4.fdr --pref:_is_full_ALL=1 --pref:_x_res_full_ALL=1366 --pref:_y_res_full_ALL=768 --pref:_bpp_full_ALL=32
X-Plane.exe --fps_test=4 --load_smo=Output/replays/test_flight_c4.fdr --pref:_is_full_ALL=1 --pref:_x_res_full_ALL=1920 --pref:_y_res_full_ALL=1080 --pref:_bpp_full_ALL=32
1024x768 fps_test=1 ... low
1024x768 fps_test=1 ... low
1366x768 fps_test=2 ... medium
1366x768 fps_test=2 ... medium
1366x768 fps_test=3 ... high
1366x768 fps_test=3 ... high
1920x1080 fps_test=4 ... ultra
1920x1080 fps_test=4 ... ultra
1024x768 fps_test=1 ... low
1024x768 fps_test=1 ... low
1366x768 fps_test=2 ... medium
1366x768 fps_test=2 ... medium
1366x768 fps_test=3 ... high
1366x768 fps_test=3 ... high
1920x1080 fps_test=4 ... ultra
1920x1080 fps_test=4 ... ultra

Results

The screenshots depicting the various settings show that even the lowest preset is not necessarily the lowest setting since "texture resolution" and "world detail distance" are still set to high and very high, respectively. Though these settings are comparatively high, an Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU is already a workable solution.

The next setting reveals far more graphical details than the first. Medium details (fps_test=2) require at least a middle-class graphics card like a GeForce GT 640M to ensure smooth operation. Even so, we advise users to scale back some settings for improved frame rates. Some slower cards like the GT 720M proved to be an acceptable alternative at times with decently high frame rates. It appears that the X-Plane benchmark can really take advantage of the high clock speeds that the dual-core Haswell CPUs offer.

The next higher setting (fps_test=3) requires a high-end graphics card like the desktop GPU NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M to ensure stutter-free performance. Additionally, a high-end CPU is also required.

Update: Our ultra settings are not suitable for benchmarking, see quote above.

The highest setting is most likely reserved for top-of-the-line desktop graphics cards like the Radeon R9 290X or the Nvidia GeForce 780 Ti in combination with a fast CPU. In the benchmarks we conducted, none of the test systems reached frame rates above 25 fps, although the Schenker W503 with GTX 780M and Core i7-4700MQ came quite close.

Of utmost importance is a powerful CPU. The GTX 780M paired with a Haswell Core i7-4700MQ, for example, posted the highest test scores and beat out a GTX 680 desktop GPU with a Core i7-2600K CPU at the highest settings. A detailed analysis of how the processor can impact performance is shown below.

X-Plane 10.25
    1024x768 low (fps_test=1) test_flight_c4     1366x768 med (fps_test=2) test_flight_c4     1366x768 high (fps_test=3) test_flight_c4     1920x1080 ultra (fps_test=4) test_flight_c4
Show Restrictions
Pos      Model                                     X-Plane 10.25
 X-Plane 10.25 (2013)
low
1024x768
low (fps_test=1) test_flight_c4
med.
1366x768
med (fps_test=2) test_flight_c4
high
1366x768
high (fps_test=3) test_flight_c4
ultra
1920x1080
ultra (fps_test=4) test_flight_c4
 2NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M SLI
115.6
54.2
27.9
22.3
 4AMD Radeon R9 M290X Crossfire
70.8
43.1
21.5
17
 9AMD Radeon R9 280X
89.1
47.8
24.8
18.6
 11NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
95
43.1
24.1
20.1
 16NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M
108.9
52
28.5
22.4
 17NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
105.7
46.8
26.4
21.7
 19NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
101.9
50.8
27.1
22.1
 23AMD Radeon R9 M290X
71.7
41.4
22
16.4
 24AMD Radeon HD 8970M
81.7
46.3
23.7
17.2
 25NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M
100.4
49
25.22
19.652
 29NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M
82.2
39.2
21.5
17.1
 30NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M SLI
103.4
49.4
26.4
14.5
 32AMD Radeon HD 7970M
67.9
38.8
20.2
14.7
 38NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
104.1
48.8
25.8
17.1
 39NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
94.752
46.752
26.93
17.23
 47NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX
83.1
39
21.3
13.7
 49NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
79.95
40.25
24.36
14.96
 52AMD Radeon HD 6870
69
35.7
18.4
14.3
 54NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
104.3
50.6
26.1
14.9
Pos      Model                                     X-Plane 10.25
lowmed.highultra
 72NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX
82.5
38.9
22.3
13.7
 93NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
82.2
38.4
18.7
10
 95AMD Radeon HD 8850M
56.4
27.2
13.5
11.7
 104NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
79.7
38.1
19.8
10.5
 106NVIDIA GeForce 840M
76.42
36.82
18.32
10.5
 108NVIDIA GeForce GT 745M
71.1
33.7
16.7
 111AMD Radeon R7 in A10-7850K APU (Kaveri)
54.5
23.2
11.3
8.5
 112Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
62
29.8
13.5
11.1
 113AMD Radeon R7 in A10-7700K APU (Kaveri)
51.8
22.2
10.9
8.2
 115NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
89.1
41.9
16.7
9.9
 119NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
73.4
33.9
12.9
 121NVIDIA GeForce 825M
43.1
25.4
11.3
 133NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M
84.9
41.1
18.3
14.2
 137AMD Radeon HD 8750M
61.652
31.852
13.552
11.7
 139AMD Radeon R7 M265
53.62
26.32
11.252
4.2
 143NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
65
27.6
13.1
6.4
 162AMD Radeon HD 8670D
60.1
29.4
12.1
8.5
 184AMD Radeon HD 8570D
54.5
26
11.3
7.6
 186AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8570M Dual Graphics
37.5
19.2
8.6
 189AMD Radeon HD 8670M
51.2
24.8
Pos      Model                                     X-Plane 10.25
lowmed.highultra
 208AMD Radeon HD 8650G
39.32
19.052
8.7
6.5
 213NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M
46.6
15.5
6.9
4.5
 218NVIDIA GeForce 820M
68.2
29.2
12
 220NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
80.2
33.9
12.3
 222Intel Iris Graphics 5100
41.1
21.8
10.3
8.5
 223AMD Radeon R5 M230
53.32
27.252
10.62
9.12
 234Intel HD Graphics 4600
43.352
24.92
10.12
9.4
 239AMD Radeon HD 7660G
42.8
19.2
8.7
5.8
 270Intel HD Graphics 4400
30.2
18.4
8.8
 306AMD Radeon HD 7480D
43.7
17.6
7.6
5.1
 307Intel HD Graphics 4000
41.852
16.352
72
4.552
 310AMD Radeon R5 (Beema)
27.4
16.7
6.3
2.7
 311*AMD Radeon R4 (Beema)
21.3
11.1
4.8
4.3
 312Intel HD Graphics 4200
26.2
13.9
 320AMD Radeon HD 8450G
38.6
17.5
7.5
5.4
 324AMD Radeon HD 8400
21.4
10.9
4.9
3.4
 335AMD Radeon HD 8350G
36.7
15.5
 336AMD Radeon HD 8330
17.7
9
 361Intel HD Graphics (Haswell)
22.1
13
 381AMD Radeon HD 8280
15.8
7.8
Pos      Model                                     X-Plane 10.25
lowmed.highultra
 398Intel HD Graphics 3000
18.052
9.652
4.852
3.42
 417AMD Radeon HD 8210
11.2
5.5
 421Intel HD Graphics (Ivy Bridge)
15
7.6
 455*Intel HD Graphics (Sandy Bridge)
11.8
6.9
3.4
2.5
 459Intel HD Graphics (Bay Trail)
12.8
6
* Smaller values are better. / * Approximate position

 

Legend
5Stutters – This game is very likely to stutter and have poor frame rates. Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, average frame rates are expected to fall below 25fps
May Stutter – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, stutters and poor frame rates are expected.
30Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 25fps
40Fluent – Based on all known benchmarks using the specified graphical settings, this game should run at or above 35fps
May Run Fluently – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game. Based on interpolated information from surrounding graphics cards of similar performance levels, fluent frame rates are expected.
123Uncertain – This graphics card experienced unexpected performance issues during testing for this game. A slower card may be able to achieve better and more consistent frame rates than this particular GPU running the same benchmark scene.
Uncertain – This graphics card has not been explicitly tested on this game and no reliable interpolation can be made based on the performances of surrounding cards of the same class or family.
The value in the fields displays the average frame rate of all values in the database. Move your cursor over the value to see individual results.

Processor Performance

As far as the impact of the CPU performance is concerned, our tests clearly indicate that the demanding simulations of the X-Plane 10 flight simulator benefit from a powerful processor. Stepping up from the inexpensive Trinity A4-5300 dual-core (1 module) to the Intel Core i7-2600K doubles the performance. AMD's high-end FX-8350 can't take advantage of its 8 cores, since performance doesn't increase significantly after 3 of the 8 cores are active. The result: the older Sandy Bridge Core i7-2600K with only 4 cores but better performance per MHz pulls ahead of AMD's flagship.

Benchmarks with NVidia GTX 680 and different CPUs (CPU dependency)
Benchmarks with NVidia GTX 680 and different CPUs (CPU dependency)

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > X-Plane 10 Benchmarked
Author: Klaus Hinum, 2014-02-15 (Update: 2014-07-14)