Beta test: X-Plane 11


The beta for X-Plane 11 was released recently. I'll be testing it on LiquidSky and updating this post with what I find.
I just played around with it on the High configuration. Could not exceed 30 fps @ 1080p (I will only be testing 1920*1080 & 1600*900, since smaller resolutions tend to make 3D cockpits unusable), minimum settings. X-Plane 10 ran really poorly on the High configuration too, so I'll be using an ultra instance.

Disclaimer: if you're new to flight simulation, a few things to know about optimization:

  • Performance increases as altitude increases (wink).
  • Clouds are not your friend.
  • 30fps is pretty damn good around here.

Lowest settings at 1080p gave me 30-40 fps, this implies disabling HDR, so fully dynamic aircraft shadows (can't turn them off), basic reflections and no world objects. So you're looking at an endless sea of terrain and an occasional runway. Somehow the airport equipment is still rendered (carts, trucks and jetways). You still get the fancy fog, clouds and the game still looks a lot better than its predecessor.
Same settings at 1600*900 gave me about 5 extra fps, so 35-45 everywhere. This is a small bump but expected given only the basic effects, math and physics are in operation.

Now let's ramp up the settings.
When you slide the "visual effects" slider up to high, HDR kicks in. If you've used X-Plane 10 you know HDR can make a big difference. Especially since it lets you use some more modern AA (more on that later). Flipping that on cost me around 7 fps all other things unchanged. It looks quite a bit nicer, and in theory this slider controls a variety of other things... Except they didn't tell us what. Yeah, I know. You can expect it to be related to lighting, since that's the big new thing in this release.

Now lets add some objects!
So it seems objects are less of a hit in this version. I lost 10-12 fps between minimal (nothing) and maximum. I'm satisfied with medium, Which makes the game run at around 25fps. At these settings, resolution and HDR hurt me by less than 3 fps. Barely noticeable.

OK so let's talk reflections. These are a big selling point for this version and also an important point of criticism amongst FSX users. Planes in V10 were really flat and dark, really boring. In V11 you can crank reflections all the way up and you'll see the taxi line on the bottom of your fuselage. Pretty cool! Except it costs like 10fps to run that high. Personally I'll run it at minimal because that still provides solid dynamic lighting on the airframe and some cool glare. It makes it look like FSX, basically.

OK now for you IFR junkies out there, let's see some clouds.
Clouds in X-Plane have always been complicated. They look amazing, and this hasn't changed. But they have one awkward characteristic: they're cheap, but only if you don't mind jagged edges. Clouds at maximum will cost you like 10fps. But clouds with anti-aliasing will set your house on fire. So if you fly IMC, do yourself a favor and turn the AA off. Your cockpit won't look as good, but at least you'll be able to flip a switch on before you enter the stratosphere.

A quick note on texture quality, the only thing that matters when talking about textures nowadays is VRAM. An ultra instance has about 2GB, and the slider will tell you how much is loaded with current settings. Mine seemed stuck around 1.5GB even at minimal resolution but it might be a bug. I found that I could bump it up to High and get pretty good resolution on everything, no obvious blurring. Also no slider for filtering, which is no real loss since most GPUs do that for free nowadays, so I hope it's enabled by default.

And... Well it turns out that's it. They weren't kidding about simplifying the UI, you get 4 sliders and a couple of checkboxes. Which is great if you're coming from FSX, but is a bit lacking if you come from XP10.

I don't know if any of you have been expecting this release, but if you have, let me know what you want tested!