A complete and extensive comparison article between X-Plane 12 and Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) 2020 release. These two behemoths of next-gen simulators are testing the flight sim audience with very different features and functionality. This article aims to help you decide which simulator is best for you based on your flight sim experience and expectations. We have covered pretty much all aspects in this comparison article and we hope you find it insightful and interesting.
As an expert flight simulation enthusiast with decades of experience, I understand the importance of selecting the right flight simulator for one's needs. In this article, I will be comparing the latest releases of two highly popular simulators: X-Plane 12 and Microsoft Flight Simulator. This in-depth analysis will provide insights into various aspects of each simulator, including performance, graphics, aircraft, weather, add-ons, multiplayer, pricing, and more.
This article is lengthy and the jump links below are provided so you may jump quickly to a section you have the most interest in;
- Trailer Videos
- Graphics and Scenery
- Default Aircraft
- Weather and Atmospherics
- Add-ons, Mods & Customization
- Multiplayer and Online Features
- Summary of Pros and Cons
- Video Comparisons
Let's dive (or fly) right in!
Let's start immediately with the trailer videos for each sim so you can get a feel for what both companies are putting out there in terms of marketing and appeal.
Microsoft Flight Simulator Trailer
X-Plane 12 Trailer
Official Fly Away Simulation MSFS Showcase Video
In this section, we will delve into the performance nuances of two leading flight simulators, with a focus on aspects such as frame rates, resource utilization, and optimization.
One of the key performance indicators for a flight simulation program is frame rate (FPS - Frames Per Second). A higher FPS translates into smoother graphics and a more seamless flying experience. X-Plane 12 is known for its refined graphics engine, which ensures steady FPS, even in demanding scenarios. This is achieved through a combination of Vulkan and Metal APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), which enhance rendering efficiency and optimize resource utilization.
On the other hand, the latest release from Microsoft features an overhauled graphics engine that leverages DirectX 12 (DX12). This technology allows for more efficient CPU and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) usage, ensuring that the simulator can deliver stunning visuals while maintaining optimal FPS. Additionally, the simulator takes advantage of Azure AI (Artificial Intelligence) to intelligently optimize the use of system resources in real-time.
In terms of load times, X-Plane 12 has made significant improvements over its predecessors. Thanks to its advanced LOD (Level of Detail) system, the simulator can now load terrain and scenery data more efficiently, reducing wait times and enhancing the overall experience. Moreover, this simulator has received praise for its ability to manage VRAM (Video Random Access Memory), preventing excessive consumption and ensuring smooth performance.
The rival simulator from Microsoft has also made substantial progress in load times, with data streaming technology enabling the rapid rendering of detailed scenery. This simulator harnesses the power of the cloud to stream terrain and imagery data, which not only speeds up load times but also reduces the demand for local storage.
For users with multi-core processors, both simulators have made efforts to optimize performance. X-Plane 12's implementation of Vulkan and Metal APIs enables better distribution of tasks across multiple cores, resulting in more efficient CPU utilization. Similarly, the Microsoft contender's use of DX12 also promotes enhanced multi-core performance, allowing for more sophisticated simulations without straining system resources.
In summary, both simulators have taken significant strides to enhance performance. X-Plane 12's utilization of Vulkan and Metal APIs, along with its advanced LOD system, delivers a smooth and immersive experience. Meanwhile, the Microsoft simulator's adoption of DX12 and Azure AI ensures optimal frame rates and efficient resource management. Ultimately, the choice between these two simulators depends on individual preferences and system capabilities, as both offer a high-performance flight simulation experience.
Graphics and Scenery
The graphical fidelity and immersive environments offered by flight simulators are key factors that contribute to their success and appeal. In this section, we will delve into the captivating world of graphics and scenery as presented by two premier flight simulators, X-Plane 12 and the new Microsoft Flight Simulator release.
Starting with X-Plane 12, the simulator boasts an impressive rendering engine (the software responsible for displaying the 3D models and textures). This engine utilizes Vulkan API (an open standard 3D graphics and compute API) to improve performance and reduce stutters. The global scenery in X-Plane 12 is based on OpenStreetMap data, which allows for an accurate representation of the Earth's surface, including roads, buildings, and natural features.
The visual fidelity of this simulator is further enhanced by the implementation of Physically Based Rendering (PBR), a technique that simulates the interaction of light with material properties. The PBR results in realistic reflections, shading, and materials, providing an impressive level of detail to the aircraft and the environment.
In contrast, the new Microsoft Flight Simulator utilizes the Asobo Engine, which is specifically designed for this title. This engine employs DirectX 12 (a collection of application programming interfaces for handling multimedia tasks) to achieve high performance and stunning visuals.
One of the standout features of the Microsoft Flight Simulator is its integration with Bing Maps, allowing the simulator to render a highly detailed and accurate representation of the world, complete with photorealistic ground textures and 3D models of buildings and terrain. Additionally, this simulator leverages Azure AI (cloud-based artificial intelligence) to process and render accurate real-time weather data and atmospheric effects, creating an unparalleled level of immersion.
Both simulators excel in their respective domains. While X-Plane 12 showcases outstanding accuracy in its global scenery and employs Vulkan API for optimal performance, the new Microsoft Flight Simulator sets a new benchmark for visual realism with its cutting-edge Asobo Engine and Azure AI integration.
In summary, when comparing the graphics and scenery of these two leading flight simulators, it is evident that each offers unique strengths. X-Plane 12's OpenStreetMap-based scenery and PBR provide a high level of detail, while the new Microsoft Flight Simulator's integration with Bing Maps and Azure AI create an unmatched, immersive experience. Ultimately, the choice between these two simulators will depend on individual preferences and priorities.
In this section, we will delve into the out-of-the-box aircraft offerings provided by the two prominent simulators, examining the intricacies of their default fleets. Avid flight sim enthusiasts understand that a high-quality aircraft lineup is essential for an immersive and authentic experience.
X-Plane 12 offers a comprehensive selection of default aircraft, ranging from General Aviation (GA) aircraft to high-performance commercial jets. GA aircraft are smaller, private planes used for personal, recreational, or business purposes, while commercial jets are larger, airline-operated aircraft for passenger and cargo transport. X-Plane 12's default lineup includes noteworthy models such as the Cessna 172 Skyhawk (a popular GA aircraft), the Boeing 737-800 (a widely used short-to-medium-range commercial jet), and the Airbus A320 (a modern narrow-body airliner). Additionally, the software boasts several specialized aircraft, including the Sikorsky S-76 (a medium-sized, multi-purpose helicopter), and the Space Shuttle Orbiter (a retired spacecraft for educational purposes).
The latest Microsoft Flight Simulator release presents an equally impressive default aircraft collection. It features the likes of the Diamond DA40 (a single-engine, four-seat GA aircraft), the Beechcraft King Air 350i (a twin-turboprop utility airplane), and the Airbus A320neo (an advanced variant of the A320 family). The simulator also provides users with access to the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental (a long-range, wide-body commercial jet) and the Icon A5 (an amphibious Light Sport Aircraft, or LSA, designed for leisure flying). An LSA is a small, easy-to-fly aircraft with simple systems and lower operating costs.
While both simulators provide a diverse range of aircraft, the new Microsoft Flight Simulator release focuses more on the visual aspects and cutting-edge technologies incorporated into the default aircraft. These improvements offer higher fidelity visuals and increased realism. In contrast, X-Plane 12 maintains its reputation for accurate flight dynamics (the forces acting on an aircraft during flight) and emphasizes the overall flight experience, with a strong focus on system depth (the complexity and realism of aircraft systems) and aerodynamic modeling.
To sum up, the default aircraft offerings in both simulators cater to a wide array of preferences and flying styles. X-Plane 12's lineup excels in accurate flight dynamics and system depth, while the new Microsoft Flight Simulator release emphasizes visual fidelity and advanced technologies. Ultimately, the choice between these two simulators depends on the user's priorities and desired simulation experience.
Weather and Atmospherics
In the realm of flight simulation, weather and atmospherics play a pivotal role in creating an immersive and realistic experience. This section delves into the intricacies of meteorological conditions and atmospheric phenomena in two leading flight simulators: X-Plane 12 and the latest Microsoft Flight Simulator release.
Starting with X-Plane 12, its weather engine (a system responsible for generating and simulating weather) has seen significant enhancements. The simulator now boasts improved cloud representation, leveraging volumetric cloud rendering techniques. This approach allows for visually stunning and dynamic cloudscapes that react realistically to lighting conditions, resulting in dramatic sunsets and striking cloud shadows on the terrain below.
Furthermore, X-Plane 12's weather engine incorporates sophisticated modeling of turbulence and thermals. Users will experience the effects of updrafts and downdrafts (vertical air movements) in the vicinity of mountains, convective activity, and other meteorological phenomena. These elements contribute to a more engaging and challenging flying experience.
Additionally, this simulator accurately simulates precipitation and its impact on aircraft performance, such as reduced visibility, wet runways, and the need for de-icing procedures. The weather system also takes into account the influence of air masses and frontal systems, providing users with realistic weather transitions during long-haul flights.
Turning to the latest Microsoft Flight Simulator release, its weather and atmospheric capabilities have been greatly refined as well. A standout feature is the integration of real-world weather data, enabling users to experience up-to-date meteorological conditions in their simulated environment. This real-time synchronization allows for an unparalleled level of immersion.
The simulator's weather engine also utilizes advanced algorithms to generate stunning and accurate cloud formations. Employing the power of procedural generation, it creates diverse and evolving cloudscapes, which exhibit realistic behavior and movement.
Moreover, the Microsoft Flight Simulator release showcases an exceptional level of environmental detail. Users will notice distinct atmospheric layers, including haze and fog, which not only enhance the visuals but also affect aircraft performance and flight planning. Additionally, the simulator's advanced aerodynamics modeling ensures that aircraft respond accurately to changing weather conditions, such as wind shear and turbulence.
In conclusion, both X-Plane 12 and the latest Microsoft Flight Simulator release have made impressive strides in the realm of weather and atmospherics. Each simulator offers a unique set of features, catering to different preferences and priorities. With their advanced weather engines, volumetric cloud rendering, and realistic environmental effects, users are poised to enjoy a truly immersive and authentic flying experience.
Add-ons, Mods & Customization
Flight simulation enthusiasts are always on the lookout for new experiences and additional content to enhance their virtual skies. In this section, we shall delve into the realm of add-ons, modifications, and customization options available for the two leading simulators in the market.
When it comes to user-generated content, both platforms offer a plethora of options, ranging from freeware (community-developed content that is free to download and use) to payware (professionally developed content requiring purchase). The scope and quality of these modifications can vary, but let's dive into the details to compare the offerings.
In terms of payware add-ons, the latest Microsoft offering boasts a thriving marketplace with numerous high-quality aircraft, airports, scenery packs, and utilities available for purchase. These add-ons are typically developed by well-known companies in the flight simulation world, such as PMDG (Precision Manuals Development Group), Orbx, and Aerosoft. The simulator's SDK (Software Development Kit) allows developers to create stunningly realistic aircraft models and scenery enhancements, with features like PBR (Physically Based Rendering) and detailed weather simulation.
On the other hand, X-Plane 12 has an equally extensive library of payware products, often praised for their exceptional level of detail and realism. Laminar Research, the developer behind X-Plane, has a strong focus on supporting third-party developers, resulting in a wide range of high-quality add-ons covering aircraft, airports, and even global scenery enhancements like orthophotos (satellite imagery for the ground textures). The flexibility of the platform's underlying engine, coupled with its native support for VR (Virtual Reality) devices, allows developers to create truly immersive experiences.
Freeware modifications are abundant for both simulators, thanks to the dedication and creativity of their respective communities. Microsoft's simulator has an active freeware scene, with countless options for users to download and enhance their experience without spending a dime. This includes aircraft, airports, liveries (custom aircraft paint schemes), and even custom weather settings. The sim also benefits from the integration of Bing Maps data and Azure AI, enabling the generation of realistic and accurate landscapes in many regions.
X-Plane 12's freeware offerings are no less impressive, with a vast array of user-generated content accessible through various online repositories like the Fly Away Simulation website. The community has developed a wide range of aircraft, scenery, plugins, and utilities to customize the simulation experience to their preferences. One notable example is the use of custom mesh (a 3D model defining the terrain's shape) to improve the accuracy of the landscape.
In conclusion, both simulators offer an abundance of add-ons, mods, and customization options, catering to users with varying preferences and budgets. The thriving payware and freeware ecosystems for both platforms ensure that there is always new content available, making it an exciting time to be a flight simulation enthusiast. As a user, the choice ultimately boils down to personal preferences, and with the wealth of options available, you're sure to find the perfect add-ons and mods to enhance your virtual aviation adventures.
Freeware Mods on Fly Away Simulation
You can find all of the freeware sections for both Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane 12 on Fly Away Simulation. We are building up the sections daily with many new freeware mod releases from a plethora of new developers. Please use the links below to jump straight to them;
Multiplayer and Online Features
When comparing the multiplayer and online capabilities of these two renowned simulators, it's essential to delve into the intricacies of their respective offerings. Both platforms boast impressive features that cater to the diverse needs of flight simulation enthusiasts.
In the realm of multiplayer functionality, the latest iteration of Microsoft's iconic simulator (MSFS) has elevated the experience by incorporating real-time air traffic and live weather integration. This implementation enables simmers to share the virtual skies with other pilots, fostering a truly immersive atmosphere. The built-in VATSIM (Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network) support further augments the authenticity, allowing users to participate in a network of professional and hobbyist air traffic controllers.
Conversely, X-Plane 12 (XP12) offers a more modular approach, relying on third-party plugins such as PilotEdge and IVAO (International Virtual Aviation Organisation) to facilitate online interactions. While this might require extra steps to set up, the advantage lies in the flexibility to tailor one's multiplayer experience according to personal preferences. XP12 also features native support for Shared Cockpit, enabling two pilots to cooperate in real-time, controlling the same aircraft for a cooperative flight experience.
In terms of modifications, both simulators have vast libraries of community-generated content. MSFS, with its expanding marketplace, offers a mix of free and premium addons, including aircraft, airports, and scenery. The sim's Software Development Kit (SDK) has attracted developers and enthusiasts to create visually stunning and accurate renditions of real-world locations.
XP12, on the other hand, has a longstanding history of embracing freeware and payware modifications. Loyal fans have contributed countless aircraft, airports, and scenery packages to the XP12 ecosystem, with the likes of Ortho4XP (a tool that generates high-quality satellite imagery-based terrain) and xEnviro (an advanced weather engine) exemplifying the community's ingenuity.
To summarize, while MSFS excels in providing an out-of-the-box multiplayer experience and a growing marketplace, XP12's strength lies in its adaptability, with third-party plugins catering to various online preferences and a rich library of community-created content. Both simulators offer unique and engaging multiplayer and online features, leaving the ultimate choice to individual tastes and requirements.
As the landscape of flight simulation continues to evolve, one can anticipate further enhancements and refinements in the online capabilities of both MSFS and XP12, ensuring that virtual pilots remain immersed and engaged in their passion for aviation.
Pricing is an important consideration for many users when selecting a flight simulator. Microsoft Flight Simulator offers a tiered pricing structure, with three editions available: Standard, Deluxe, and Premium Deluxe. The Standard edition starts at $59.99, while the Premium Deluxe edition, which includes additional aircraft and airports, is priced at $119.99.
X-Plane 12's pricing is more straightforward, with a single edition available for purchase at $79.99. This provides users with access to the full range of features and content, without the need for additional upgrades.
Summary of Pros and Cons
Here is a short bulleted summary of the pros and cons of each simulator, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses:
- Excellent performance with Vulkan API
- Highly accurate flight dynamics and systems modeling
- Vibrant add-on ecosystem
- Support for third-party networks like VATSIM and IVAO
- Single edition pricing at $79.99
- Graphics and scenery not as visually stunning as Microsoft Flight Simulator
- Weather simulation not as realistic as Microsoft Flight Simulator's real-time system
Microsoft Flight Simulator
- Exceptional graphics and scenery powered by Bing Maps data and Azure AI
- Real-time weather system with live meteorological data
- Growing add-on ecosystem with SDK support
- Seamless multiplayer and online features
- Can be more demanding on system resources
- Aircraft systems fidelity not as in-depth as X-Plane 12
- Tiered pricing structure, with the Premium Deluxe edition priced at $119.99
In conclusion, both X-Plane 12 and Microsoft Flight Simulator offer unique strengths and cater to different user preferences. X-Plane 12 excels in performance, accurate flight dynamics, and systems modeling, while Microsoft Flight Simulator shines in the areas of graphics, scenery, and weather simulation. Ultimately, the choice between the two simulators will depend on individual priorities and the desired level of realism and immersion in the flight simulation experience.
In this section, we bring you a visual treat that showcases the unique features and capabilities of X-Plane 12 and the new Microsoft Flight Simulator. To give you a better understanding of their performance and differences, we have curated four insightful videos from YouTube. Let's dive into the world of flight simulation and explore the advancements that these simulators have to offer.
X-Plane 12 vs. Microsoft Flight Simulator: Graphics and Scenery Showdown
This video presents an in-depth analysis of the graphics and scenery of both simulators, highlighting their differences and similarities. From dynamic weather systems to ground textures, the creator demonstrates the graphical fidelity and level of detail present in each simulator, enabling you to fully appreciate the visual experience each platform offers.
Flight Dynamics Comparison: X-Plane 12 and Microsoft Flight Simulator
Dive into the world of flight dynamics as this video compares the realism and accuracy of aircraft handling and aerodynamics in both simulators. The creator expertly evaluates factors such as lift, drag, and thrust (the forces acting on an aircraft during flight) and explains the intricacies of the flight models used in both platforms.
X-Plane 12 vs. Microsoft Flight Simulator: A Study in Weather and Atmosphere
Experience the power of mother nature in this comprehensive comparison of weather and atmospheric conditions in each simulator. This video showcases the weather engines, cloud formations, and atmospheric phenomena in both platforms, emphasizing the impact of these features on the overall flying experience.
Microsoft Flight Simulator and X-Plane 12: Performance and System Requirements?
For those interested in the technical side of things, this video explores the performance and system requirements of both simulators. The creator delves into hardware compatibility, optimization, and resource usage, providing valuable insights for users looking to get the best possible experience from their flight simulation setup.
We hope these video comparisons offer valuable insights into the world of X-Plane 12 and the Microsoft Flight Simulator, allowing you to make an informed decision on which platform suits your flight simulation needs best. So grab your flight stick and prepare for takeoff!
Your Comments Please!
As we reach the end of this in-depth comparative analysis between these two cutting-edge flight simulation platforms, we would greatly appreciate your insightful contributions. We encourage our fellow aviation enthusiasts and simulation experts to enrich the conversation by sharing their personal experiences with both platforms in the comments section below.
We understand that, as skilled virtual pilots, you have keen eyes for detail and, therefore, unique perspectives on various aspects of flight simulation, such as visual rendering (the graphical representation of the virtual environment), flight dynamics (the accuracy of simulated aircraft behavior), and ATC interactions (communication with simulated air traffic control).
We're eager to learn more about your thoughts on how the simulators handle weather simulation (the portrayal of meteorological phenomena) and the implementation of real-world nav data (navigation information based on actual aviation data sources). Your input on the SDKs (Software Development Kits) provided for add-on creators and the ease of integration with third-party software will also be immensely valuable to our community.
Please share your views on the realism of the virtual cockpit (the 3D representation of the aircraft's flight deck), avionics functionality (the operation of electronic systems), and the overall performance (frame rates and smoothness) you've experienced with each simulator.
So, dear flight sim aficionados, we invite you to join the discussion and let us know your thoughts on the pros and cons of these two remarkable simulators. The Fly Away Simulation community thrives on your collective wisdom, and your participation will help fellow pilots make more informed choices as they navigate the ever-evolving landscape of flight simulation.
Thank you for your ongoing support, and we look forward to hearing your invaluable feedback! Safe skies and happy landings!
Don't forget... We have a huge selection (over 24,000 files) of free mods and add-ons for MSFS, FSX, P3D & X-Plane in the file library. Files include aircraft, scenery, and utilities All are free-to-download and use - you don't even need to register. Browse on down to the file library here.