Monday, December 6, 2010

Flight Simulator Update

Lately, I've been working on a compete update of my flight simulator. The new configuration is a setup of 4 machines. The server machine is an IBM Intellistation Z-pro (dual CPU)/ 2 x Xeon 3.8 GHz(2MB L2 Cache)/4GB RAM/1TB SATA disk/nVidia Geforce FX 8800 Ultra - it is the mainframe for the MS Flight Simulator X and the Wideview server software. There are 3 panoramic view render clients - each of them is an Intellistation M Pro, dual xeon/2GB RAM/72GB Ultra160 SCSI/nVidia Geforce 6800 Ultra. The clients render Left, Front and Right Panoramic cockpit views ( separate copy of FSX + Wideview clients). The panoramic view display is composed by 3 x 23" Widescreen LCDs (made by Accer) connected via DVI cables.
Currently only 2 render clients are online as the front view is rendered by flightsim server. In the final configuration, I'll have the server displaying the instruments panels, control panels and the GPS on two separate monitors and the front view will be rendered by a dedicated machine. The whole display setup in its final version will be composed of 3 monitors for the 135 degree panoramic cockpit view (top row) and 2 additional monitors for the instrument panels (bottom row).
For the radio stack, autopilot control panel and the switch panel I am using separate hardware panels (by Saitek). The flight controls are Pro Flight Yoke system and throttle quadrant and Pro Flight Rudder pedals by Saitek.
The major item left to be completed is the display setup. I have to figure out how to raise the panoramic view monitors so I can have the instrument panels on the bottom row. I'll post pictures once the whole setup is completed.
I've done some crude testing (using 3DMark06 ) to compare Quadro FX 4600 vs. GeForce 8800 Ultra. Both cards are based on the same G80 nVidia chip and are very similar - the Quadro is the "pro" version with a few extra hardware features enabled and using special drivers aiming at high accuracy rendering. The Geforce is the "Gamers" version where high FPS is the primary goal - the G80 nVidia chip is a bit overclocked in the "Ultra" version. The test was done in 1920 x 1080 dual monitor setup /w 2x2 AA enabled and bilinear filtering. As it turned out the Geforce 8800 Ultra is the faster card so I am using it in the main flight sim box.