Goodbye, Beamer

Since I built the simulator (nearly five years ago) I’ve used a 100-inch projection screen and an ultra-short-throw 1080p LCD projector for the front display. I went with the beamer because at the time LCD / LED flat panel TVs large enough to provide a full field of view for both the left and right seats were many thousands of dollars. While the ultra-short-throw projector wasn’t inexpensive, it did the job and fit in the space in which the simulator sits.

A lot has changed in the past four years, though, including the quality of X-Plane (and now FS 2020) images and the price of flat panel displays. I have increasingly been less than pleased with the “screen-door” effect of the projector (being able to easily see individual pixels) and was longing for an image as crisp as those on the side window displays. Last week I finally saw a 75-inch flat panel TV at a price point I was willing to accept. It arrived two days ago, and yesterday I was able to mount it on the wall of the simulator room. I’m happy to say it works great, and my 1080ti GPU has enough headroom that I’m able to run the front display in 4K with no significant performance impact compared to before (the side TVs are 1080p). It’s like a brand new simulator, and I could not be happier.

For those interested in the technical details, I picked a 75-inch display because I want to be able to see only the sim image and not the borders of the TV from both the left and right seats. The screen sits about six inches from the front of the cabin, and tilts slightly forward. It works, but a 70-inch display would be too small for my setup. For my cabin 75 inches is the smallest I’d go.

MSFS 2020

I expect folks have some interest in whether I’ve downloaded MSFS 2020, and if so what my reaction is. The answer is, “I have,” and my reaction is, “It’s very impressive but for someone with a home cockpit it’s still very much an early beta.”

I’m getting good performance on my rig at Ultra settings, but that’s with only one screen running as the sim does not yet support multiple monitors. I did learn yesterday, though, that you can pop out the PFD and MFD displays, and I’ve done so as you can see by the photo below.

The Yoko yokes and Saitek rudders work fine, as does the Saitek trim wheel, and I was able to bind the hat switch on the yoke to custom camera views that make up (poorly) for the lack of side windows (being able to look over each wing, 45 degrees behind, etc.). The Saitek FIPs work via SPAD.next but the current simconnect problems (as documented at AVSIM and elsewhere) kill frames so those are off. I was also able to get the FlightIllusion radio stack to connect to the sim via their FSX plugin, but that too relies on simconnect and FSUIPC. There’s a set of five rotary encoders from Desktop Aviator that the sim is seeing as sending keyboard inputs that I’ve been able to bind to heading bug, altitude bug, OBS etc. although FS2020 seems to read them as sending inconsistent keystrokes, so more troubleshooting to do there.

But the bottom line is that, at least for my setup, the sim is two updates away from being a significant leap forward: multi-monitor support for camera views and simconnect that doesn’t crater frames. Updates from RealSimGear and Air Manager will help immensely as I’ll be able to bind the buttons and rotary encoders on the 430 and 530 to make flight plan entry much easier. All this is to say that I actually got farther setting this up than I expected to, and while I’ll be using X-Plane to practice IFR work today on PilotEdge, for me at least I’m enjoying FS2020 and am hopeful about its future in my sim. It will be interesting to see how committed MSFT is to home cockpit builders as the future unfolds.

Finally, I find the flight model on the default aircraft reasonably good, and a significant improvement over FSX and much closer to X-Plane and its feeling of atmospheric fluidity. The real world weather engine is simply awesome, and the visuals are indeed stunning. Those are amazing leaps forward. If I only had them on all three screens (but I am patient).