Build date: march 2008
Earlier this year I realised that my PC was making FSX work nigh on impossible due to the limitations of its hardware. The problem wasn't that it couldn't run FSX, it just struggled to run well at the higher levels of detail I needed to produce good quality images. I knew a completely new system was the only way to go because sadly the motherboard on that PC had reached it's limit, AGP graphics were out of date and no faster CPU's were compatible.
Having not kept up with current technology, once I'd made the decision to purchase a new system I found myself drowning in the world of PC technology and it's associated jargon. "Glazed eyes" would best describe my state while trying to understand all the information out there and find a suitable machine. After bouncing from one website to another, one review to another, I stumbled upon a company called Alpine Computers who were advertising in PC Pilot.
Alpine Computers professed to build rigs specifically for Flight Simulation, and amongst other projects Alpine had provided three computers to RAF Linton-on-Ouse to allow air cadets stationed there the use of a simulator (I guess to stop them breaking real planes). I decided if Alpine were good enough for the RAF, they were good enough for me!
A phone call to Alpine introduced me to Paul Fryer, the "big cheese". Paul listened to my needs and after a day or so gave me a quote for a system within my budget. However after mulling things over for a few days, talking with Paul again and Ted over at SOH, I decided to increase my budget a little to ensure I was getting maximum "longevity" of hardware and the fastest memory, graphics card and chipset that I could afford.
Having agreed on the components, Paul ordered the parts and I ordered my bank to pay for them. It took around two weeks for the PC to be built and dispatched. I should mention that Paul and his team give all PC's a thorough performance test with FSX (or your chosen sim) in several situations to make sure it's stable and my PC arrived with 3DMark installed, evidence that further benchmarking had been carried out.
The PC arrived the day following dispatch, perfectly wrapped with spare cables, manuals and installation discs. As Microsoft is dropping support for XP soon I'd decided now was a good time to purchase Vista. Paul had installed this on the machine (to allow him to test FSX) and I'm happy to say that the original Vista DVD was included. I've often heard of customers buying PC's that didn't come with the windows disc, a big problem if your main hard drive fails and you need to re-install windows.
Returning home on the day of arrival I firstly took a good look at the PC. It was very well built with a solid no nonsense case and very neat cabling inside. After making sure no components had worked their way loose in transit, I plugged in my multitude of peripherals and spent a little time making sure all drivers were up to date for use with Vista. Surprisingly everything seemed to work first time, despite the negative comments I'd had from various friends who took every chance to tell me that the world would implode if I used it.
And now the big question, how did it run? Bloody amazing, in fact it runs FSX far better than I've ever seen FS9 running. In most situations it runs very smoothly, but turn all sliders up to max, with bloom turned on and AI maxed and you do notice a drop in performance around dense cities and detailed airports. However I'm certain that I'd have to spend a lot more money on components to achieve complete fluidity at this level. Certainly for everyday flying I lock the FPS at 30 and the PC will happily hover around this number in all but the most detailed of surroundings, such as a detailed scenery add-on which is buzzing with AI.
So it just remains for me to offer my thanks to Paul Fryer and his team for putting together this wonderful system which performs better than machines friends have bought, which cost twice the price!
Intel E8400 Duo 2 Core 3Ghz 1333 Mhz 6Mb CPU
MSI X38 Motherboard
Corsair 4Gb DDR3 1333 (2 x Matched pairs)
Samsung/Seagate 500Gb 16Mb Cache HDD SATA
20x DVD Re-Writer ( + & - ) (Lightscribe)
Ge-Force 9800 GTX PCie 512Mb Graphics
Creative X-Fi Extreme Audio Card
Dual Gigabit Lan
Deluxe Midi Tower Case with Superior Tagan 900w PSU
USB 2.0 x 8 (2 on front)
Windows Vista Home Premium