Best Flight Simulator Setup 2020 (Flight Simulator Controls, VR Headsets)
It’s hard to believe it but we have nearly had 40 years of flight simulator games since Microsoft’s very first release back in 1982. The games have come on leaps and bounds, looking more realistic and immersive than ever before, with high levels of detail, real-world weather, and lifelike physics. It isn’t just the flight simulator games that have improved over this time, the equipment available has also never been better, leaving many asking – What is the best flight simulator setup?
Flying an aircraft with a mouse and keyboard can be frustrating, to say the least, it’s difficult to control the yaw and you lose that immersion from the beautiful graphics. To get more out of your experience we have put together some crucial peripherals and other bits and bobs to ensure you get the most out of your flight sim experience.
Things To Consider
Before building your perfect flight simulator setup, there are a few things to consider with your hardware specifications. The last thing you want to do is end up with a monitor that is too good for your current system. To ensure you don’t end up disappointed we are going to run over a few key areas.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Minimum System Requirements
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 1200 / Intel Core i5-4460
- RAM: 8 GB
- HDD: 150 GB of storage space
- GPU: AMD Radeon RX 570 / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770
- VRAM: 2 GB
- OS: 64-bit Windows 10 Nov 2019 update (1909)
- DirectX: Version 11
- Screen Resolution: 720p
- Network: Broadband Internet Connection – 5 Mbps bandwidth
The requirements above are merely the minimum specifications as listed by the game’s developer. While these specifications will enable you to play the game, if you are planning on a multi-monitor setup, playing the game in max settings, or going for an ultrawide display, you are going to want a more powerful CPU/GPU combination and try to aim for 16GB of RAM if you can afford it. Enhancing your system will enable you to play more than just the flight sim games too, so is well worth your investment.
Flight Sim Screen Resolution
Depending on the type of flight simulator setup you are going to go for, screen resolution is going to a key area for consideration. You may opt for three 4K gaming monitors on your desk to try and recreate that cockpit feel, whereas others may opt for an ultrawide display. In any case, both are going to cost a pretty penny but the results these types of setups can yield are truly unbelievable.
Flight Sim Monitor Size
Just like a monitor’s refresh rate, the size of a monitor can also have a huge impact on your system’s ability to output FPS. A triple monitor configuration or an ultrawide monitor is the ideal way to go for a flight simulator setup. Both types will create a wider field of vision, which is going to be a huge benefit for your flight simulator games.
Going for an ultrawide display will remove any bezels in the middle of the picture and generally be more convenient to set up and use. A triple monitor setup, however, will give you much more real estate and feel more immersive, mimicking a cockpit.
If you have a low-end PC you may have to opt for a 16:9 aspect ratio monitor that runs in 1080p Now, if you are serious about this and already have a decent gaming rig, it should be able to tackle max settings in 1080p or 1440p without a hitch on an ultrawide or triple monitor display.
Flight Simulator Controls
The flight simulator controls are one of the most important aspects when it comes to creating the perfect flight sim setup. There are many tiers of equipment catering for different budgets but it all starts with finding the best joystick. Flight simulator games have pushed the development of joysticks and we have made sure we recommend ones that come with a throttle too. The combination of a joystick and throttle is going to be superb for your immersion and the extra programmable buttons that both features can only serve you well in that digital cockpit.
The top choice is a rather expensive one but trust me nothing adds to the realism of flight simulator games than the Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog. This is a heavy-duty bundle designed to last.
Aside from the quality and performance being top-notch, this bundle is actually a replica of the same joystick and throttle used by the U.S Air Force’s A10C aircraft. The joystick and throttle don’t connect together so you will need separate USB ports for each component.
For a more affordable “beginner” joystick and throttle, the Thrustmaster FCS Hotas controller is the way to go. Not as robust and fewer buttons than the previous option but a great place to start for those on a budget or just getting into flight simulator games.
This set of flight simulator controls comes with an ambidextrous joystick and features H.E.A.R.T HallEffect AccuRate technology to ensure high-precision performance on the pitch and roll.
Flight Simulator Monitor
For your flight simulator setup, you’ll want to go as wide as you can afford. We have already discussed the benefits to ultrawide displays and triple monitors setups and below will outline different options for different budgets.
The first option is based on quality and convenience. The Samsung 49-inch CRG9 curved gaming monitor is the ultimate in widescreen panels. Not only does this give you an insane amount of screen real-estate, but it also does it with a 1440p resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, 4ms response time, and FreeSync. These specifications will give your flight simulator games incredible color accuracy no matter the angle and give you a completely bezel-free cockpit experience.
For an even wider, more immersive experience, there isn’t going to be a better option than a triple monitor setup. The best thing about multi-monitor setups for flight simulators is the fact the bezels can mimic the windows in an actual cockpit and you can essentially get closer to 100 inches of ultrawide beauty.
We have built and tested a triple monitor setup for our in-office racing sim and we went with the BenQ EX3203R curved gaming monitor (well three of them). This 31.5” display is 1440p resolution, features a 4ms response time, and also comes with a 144Hz refresh rate and FreeSync. When you combine three of these together you are instantly sucked into the flight simulator, making it feel like its just you and the open sky.
It is important to note that when going for either option above you are going to need a high-end PC, preferably with a multi-threaded CPU and a recent RTX GPU for the best performance out of your games in these large aspect ratios.
If you are a beginner or strapped for cash, we recommend starting with one of the BenQ monitors above. One of these is still pretty wide and will give you a great experience, plus you can add more over time when the cash is available.
VR Flight Simulator
It wasn’t that long ago that all flight simulator games were always played on screen. VR has taken off massively though over recent years and while monitors will feel immersive, there is nothing quite like a VR flight simulator.
VR will be less intensive on your PC than the more elaborate monitor options above and will still offer incredible immersion. Of course, if money was no object, we’d suggest going for both.
For the best VR flight sim experience, you are going to want to pick up the HP Reverb VR headset. The HP Reverb features a 114-degree view, slightly wider than the HTC Vive’s 110. With the Reverb headset, you can read the dials in your aircraft much easier thanks to the increased resolution. The colors are incredible on the HP Reverb and the immersion is heightened overall compared to the competition. Over-ear headphones are included and work well for what they are and the display runs at 90Hz as long as you use Display Port. The audio may not be as clear as the Oculus + but the comfort, colors, and detail are absolutely superb.
Flight Simulator Chair
When building the best flight simulator setup you could, in theory, use any chair you wanted. It is worth letting you know that manufacturers produce gaming chairs specifically for flight sim enthusiasts and can actually save a bit of desk space if you buy the right one.
The Playseat Air Force is out top pick for those looking to build out their perfect flight sim setup without the need for too much additional work. This flight sim seat is very comfortable and is designed to replicate a dynamic fighter plane seat. The seat caters for both left and right-handed pilots and has been developed in cooperation with professional pilots to bring the best to your flight experience.
The Playseat has space for your joystick and throttle for optimal positions when playing any flight simulator game. This Playseat is compatible with most flight sticks, throttles, and yoke sets on the market, so you are pretty much good to go with this option.
Whether you want to simulate a chartered commercial flight to South America or experience a WW2 dogfight, You are going to want the best flight simulator setup you can afford. All the recommended products in this roundup are tried and tested, quality pieces of equipment, and crucial to having a more immersive flying experience.