A Few Settings Tricks to Try

For those who cannot wait to try to get X-Plane 10 to run fast, a few tips on how to 'break down' where a bottleneck might be:

  • Run with clouds vs. clear skies.  The clouds chew fill rate.  Are clouds the issue?
  • Turn down visibility - X-Plane 10 will run at 100 nm but some machines will die with this.  Does a low visibility help?
  • Turn off the AI planes.  Any better?  They take draw time when on screen and cores.
  • Turn down texture res if you haven't already.  (Well, most people try that by default.)  Start with low settings and work your way up.
  • Try areas away from KSEA.  Compare down-town to rural, and different airports.
  • If you have an nvidia card before the 400 series, try running with --no_instancing from the command-line.  This can particularly help Mac users.

In most cases there is only one setting killing your framerate - find it, fix it, and things get a lot better...fix it and you'll find those other settings you turned down can go up at least a bit.

The gotchas in v10 are definitely different from v9.  Shadows can kill your fps in a huge way - I'll be spending a bunch of time tuning them to look better and kill fps less.  Turn water reflections down if you don't need them - the "advanced" setting is frankly a bit pointless.  Turn off full screen anti-aliasing if you are going to run in HDR mode, then restart the sim.

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About Ben Supnik

Ben is a software engineer who works on X-Plane; he spends most of his days drinking coffee and swearing at the computer -- sometimes at the same time.
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56 Responses to A Few Settings Tricks to Try

  1. Keven says:

    1st: Thanks for the Sim
    2nd: Thanks for the Blog AND 2 previous posts (proves that you care about customers…)
    3rd: Where do I turn off the AI Traffic?
    4th: Is there a way I can turn on 3D shadows in the cockpit without having it globaly enabled?

    I'm the happiest man alive 🙂

    • Ben Supnik says:

      1 & 2. You're welcome!
      3. Aircraft and Situations - one of the tabs sets AI traffic - turn the number of planes down to 1 - just you!
      4. Not yet, but there will be. The shadow engine has a TON of parameters -- when you pick a shadow setting in the UI, it's loading a preset. So the sim is totally CAPABLE of cockpit-only shadows but we don't have a UI setting for it. I need to experiment a bit more and see if we can make that config work well...it's a good idea!

  2. Keven says:

    Sorry double post-

    Hacked the settings.txt file to make it work 😉

    Thanks for letting us freedom 😛

    • Ben Supnik says:

      yeah - um, settings.txt will set you free. If you mod settings.txt and your house catches on fire we do NOT want to hear about it!

      (But if you find settings you like and think other people will, send us a text clipping...)

  3. Michael says:

    Ditto....Thank you for the sim, your blog and the previous posts, as well as the FXAA post back in September 2011. Through some tweaking, I've finally been able to get in the 20s with HDR turned on and FXAA setting. I hope to get further iprovement with your tips. Updating my ATI drivers to the latest version also helped more than I suspected.

    Keep us in the loop as much as you have time to, your posts are always interesting and educational!

    By the way....the code listed in the splash screen of XP 10....is that code that creates the condensation cloud on the wings when generating lift?

  4. Steve says:

    Ben, it just keeps getting better. Thanks! As for shadow tuning, FYI "melt your GPU" doesn't seem to do anything better than the "low" setting. "High" is actually better. I'm trying to figure out how to get superior anti-aliasing on the aircraft self shadows. That new feature alone makes the jump worth it. And trees...casting shadows....and the frame rate smooth (CAVU, rural, 50nm vis). I can't wait to be able to fly for more than 10 minutes. You've got your work cut out for you, but a vast number of sim pilots are pretty happy right about now....thanks for taking time out from the holiday weekend to steady the ship.

  5. John says:


    I noticed a few more things that might have some impact;

    It seems possible to turn on FSAA (normal render setting) while HDR antialiasing is enabled. I think a sim-restart might be needed for FSAA to actually be turned off, but i am not sure.

    SSAA + clouds = huge framerate hit. FXAA with clouds seems to perform a lot better.

    There seems to be something inconsistent with the global illumination - sometimes I can have it on "melt GPU" to no ill effect, other times, it hits slideshow mode with that on (flying mostly around the airport, different times of day.)

    In general though, its actually pretty darn fast with a surprising number of options turned on.

    I have to say that this is the first version of x-plane that seems to get across the proper scale of things. Its really awesome.

    I don't remember which settings i had on (i know, useless) but there was an instance where the GI seems altitude dependent near sunset (ie, if you fly into where the sun hasn't set, the ground will get lit, but if you fly lower it gets dark) This is... locally correct 🙂 but obviously the ground should be dark if you are just barely lit at 20,000 ft for instance. Tiny Tiny nitpicks.

    I hope Austin is getting some sleep this weekend. I can totally see how something like this could have turned into a huge mess, but I think the correct metaphor for 10.0 is that video one of you guys posted where you forgot to flare at landing, and the plane landed hard, but stayed together.

    I am very happy!

    To everyone thinking "omg, how can i pay like part of a day's pay for this thing that rivals what any super computer on the planet could do 10 years ago"; pblthbthblth! Laminar Rocks!

  6. wotaskd says:

    I was able to get 10 fps back just by turning all clouds off - jumped from 18 to 28 fps while sitting at the runway with default settings and textures set to highest quality. wow!!! 🙂

    HDR costs about the same, 10 less fps on my machine.

    This is for a Core i7 3930k, 16GB quad-channel DDR3 & two ATI's 6970 with CrossfireX and Eyefinity (5760x1080) on an Asus Rampage IV Extreme (16x/16x).

    • Eric says:

      wow, i am amazed how much this chews the system. I am still struggling to get a frame rate vs graphics setting that is great. But i can fly for a bit and it will quit to the desktop saying 'unknown error' or something like that.

      I'm on a mac.

  7. alloycowboy says:

    Hey sounds like some one is planning an X-plane 10 release party. May I suggest holding it at one of the Smithsonian's Air and Space IMAX Theaters. Also make sure you invite the Bloggers from Aviation Week, Flight Global and AirInsight. Also see if you can get Richard Brawson and Elon Musk to show up. Never hurts to try. Also the month of January is a really slow month so if you wait till then you might get better media coverage for your dollar. Also consider writting an article for Aviation Week and Space Magazine, I am sure they would love an article.


    The Alloycowboy!

  8. Peter Cole says:

    This is the X-Plane I have dreamed about since I received v7. Wonderful work. I know it's small, but hill and in-cockpit shadows really increase the feeling of immersion. Any thoughts about white caps on steep waves in the future?

  9. Marcus says:

    Hi Ben,
    wouldn't it be possible to have two texture res settings independent of each other, one for the scenery and one for the aircraft?
    So one can turn down the scenery res to high or lower, but have the aircraft texture at very high. The aircraft have priority to me (maybe to some others too), I could live with a turned down scenery, but a nice looking plane until I get me a new PC.


  10. Jon Crane says:

    Hi. Sim looks great, acknowledging the current FPS issues.
    For me the issue is more limiting...

    The joystick does not control correctly with default settings. Calibrating or trying to change axes, etc causes a crash. A different joystick does not help.
    This is a win 7 64bit installation that works fine with Xplane v9. Thoughts?

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Can you email me a crash_log.txt when you get the crash? I have win 7-64 too!

      • Jerry says:

        Well same thing happens to me, same OS but I don't know if the crash log updates because x-plane stops responding and I need to close it from the task manager. even though where I can send you the crash log?

        Thanks and congrats for the great product!

        Jerry C.

  11. chris says:

    It's such a pity!
    I get 10 to 15 FPS on the lowest possible settings on my Mac Mini from 2009.

    What is killing my machine most is fill rate. This was also an issue with v9 with rain and clouds. I think you should still optimize more for fill.

    A question: When in the cockpit, almost all clouds are hidden by the panel, yet there is no FPS increase. Are you drawing sky and clouds first, panel/virtual cockpit last? I'm a bit surprised to see this, it is almost professional negligence these days!

    I would suggest to swap the drawing other so that the expensive pixels can be obscured by the panel, or the 3D cockpit.

    • Ben Supnik says:

      What GPU is in your 2009 Mca Mini?

      There is _not_ currently in-cockpit occlusion culling....it's on my todo list to look at, but there is a double-edged sword here.

      1. If we are bound on fill, it's a win!
      2. If we are bound on vertex/bus/transform (and we are) and the 3-d cockpit is a very complex environment, then another pre-Z drawing pass over it is a loss.
      So it's a trade-off, not a straight win. You have to know what you're bound on.

      In v9 we were never bound on fill, so the feature didn't exist. It may be a win now, although in some cases it will hurt.

  12. Eric says:

    Does anyone using a Mac have the game quit on them at random times? I've tried all different graphic settings and at times you go into say an area that has objects etc it pauses for a second and quits to the desktop. Asking if you want to send error to apple.

  13. AJ says:

    Could shadow settings be modified to show higher detail on the player aircraft than the rest of the world? I don't need maximum shadow detail on ground objects but global shadows (low) is really blurry on the plane.

  14. wotaskd says:

    I have to say Ben, couldn't be happier about this fps situation. At least now I think that we are using our hardware to its true limit. Optimizing will be the natural next step, and I'm sure you have some tricks up your sleeve to handle them. That's way better than the very recent past, when extra CPU cores would just sit idle, while one of them was carrying all the load. And when buying a fast GPU wouldn't really matter.

    I know that wishing that you'll be able to rest anytime soon would be pretty unrealistic, so I will be honest (and somewhat selfish): please make sure that you drink enough water and take a couple of breaks every now and then; breathing some fresh air also helps your mind 😉

  15. Julien says:

    I can't have a good rendering ( less than 20 FPS ) ! Here is my hardware configuration : i5 2500K @4.8Ghz ( X Plane uses 50% of it ), RAM 8 Go DDR3 1600Mhz ( XP uses 5Go ), GTX 570 Phantom 1.3Go VRAM ( XP uses 75% ) . That's for the main part.
    AA x8 AS x16 and everything at low settings ... I can't accept the fact that my PC can't run better than that XP ! I run all the recent game, such as BF3 or Crysis 2, at max settings ( max AA, max effects, everything on max ! )
    So I want to know, what the f*ck ?

    • Ben Supnik says:

      I can't accept that you dropped the F-bomb on my blog...what the f*ck?!? 🙂

      Seriously, I don't know why you aren't seeing better fps. I also don't know what you set. I also don't want to know _YET_. I am preparing some materials that we can use for _consistent_ fps-test metrics, and when they're up, it will be easy for you to send me metrics about your system that I can then analyze to see what's going on.

  16. Ernst Mulder says:

    Nothing wrong with frame rates so far (Original Mac Pro with 7 GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5870, full screen 2560x1900, mostly default settings plus HDR).

    I do however encounter other peculiarities. For instance:

    - The AI controlled planes are a wonderful addition. There taxiing is a bit erratic at times 🙂 Also, it would be nicer however if you could actually hear them, a big 747 landing in complete silence is a bit odd. Environmental noises in a future edition maybe?
    - When I turn everything off (battery, avionics) in the Cirrus all the displays are still lit.
    - The F22 canopy is not transparent at night, even when I turn all interior lights off.
    - The F22 is missing many controls (compared to the previous one). No GPS, no way to control the autopilot.
    - The F22 has a strange drawing artifact at the back of the plane.
    - Roads go nowhere or half disappear underground.
    - I am glad I found a way to transfer the settings of my input devices, using a text editor. It would be nice if there was a UI for that functionality.
    - The startup screen looks quite bad on a 30" screen!

  17. Ernst Mulder says:

    More peculiarities:

    - When an AI aircraft comes in hot (and they do) overruns and crashes they still taxy back to the airport!
    - For some reason the tire smoke is not scaled over distance and is even offset meters above the plane, see this screendump: http://twitpic.com/7kl0o9

  18. Nicola says:

    Hi Ben,
    I've been playing a LOT with demo rendering settings and I can report what I have learnt. First my config:
    MacBook Pro 15" early 2008
    2,5 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo
    4 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
    NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT 512 MB

    I started with all settings to the minimum possible, texture resolution to High, no clouds set:
    1) with these settings I comfortably get 20-30fps and 150MB of VRAM used
    2)adding clouds (with all cloud settings to 0%)I get still 30fps. Increasing cloud parameters on a 20% step I noticed a drop down in fps by 10 fps per time (almost 15-20fps with 40% clouds setting)
    3)Increasing object number up to "a lot" does not kill too much fps, they remain stable at 20fps unless you go too much close tho the houses. Side note, if you climb to 1000 or 2000 ft the frame rate will drop down to 15 🙁 It gets better at 5000 ft: 20fps.
    4) Increasing objects and roads does not overkill fps, I'd say it scales well.
    5) Increasing shadows does affect framerate too much, at least up to "3d on airplane"..I'd say 5 10fps?
    6) Moving to rural areas definitely increase frame rate but moving to an area with no scenery(all water) boosts it A LOT.
    These are my tests.
    I did a lot more but I don't know wether it would be effective to report here.

    I don't know if it is possible but some sort of scripted benchmark that we could download and run would surely simplify your performance collecting work.

    Anyway, good work guys, this sim promises to be great!

  19. Nicola says:

    One side note: in these experiments the cpu did not run at 200%(both core), but rather at 170%... is the GPU the actual bottleneck?

  20. Levi says:

    Great achievement with X-Plane 10. As someone who is simming since the mid-80s (Jumbo-Jet-Pilot...) I'm truly thankful for this release.
    Personally I'm experiencing low utilization of both GPU and CPU (25% and 40%). I'm using an older Q6600 build with a newer ATI 5890.
    Something else is the bottleneck in my case.. memory? bus?

  21. chris says:

    It's an Nvidia 9400 M.
    So not very pixel muscle.

    And v9 not being limited by fill is a lie! Depending on the screen resolution, just turning on the rain could bog down my frame rate into the single digits. I was not able to have rain in fullscreen. This is better now with the new rain in v10, but the clouds make up for that easily ;).

    But you are right that most of the time the bottleneck is vertex transform. The 9xxx series has a fixed portion of shader units allocated to either vertex or pixel. Moving calculations to the pixel by turning on per pixel lighting can sometimes improve frame rate.

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Right - for a fill-rate-impared enough card you CAN be fill-rate. A heavily cut-down on-board mobile GPU,yeah, you can be fill rate limited.

      My point with the 4870 is that it is the top card of -years- ago and we can't max it out. Clearly the GPU makers scale down their hw to the truly slow. V9 will saturated a GeForce 5200 FX, for example. 🙂 I am only trying to characterize where X-Plane 9 sits in the game ecosystem?

      • chris says:

        Youre right the 9400 is ridiculous. Just the sun lens flare will reduce FPS from 28 to 20 in v9, for example.

  22. chris says:

    Oh and also, the particles that fill the cockpit with black smoke after the plane is crashed, will also bog down my framerate to single digits. It seems like cards like the 9400 do not tolerate any overdraw.

  23. Flightime56 says:

    Chris could you give us a quick run through on the ATC, it won't accept anything, as I fill it in say KSEA in the left box and KRNT in the right and set the altitude, press go and then set my radio freq in Com 1 and Com 2, then when i press return it just says "file flight plan"?...I don't see the reason to file waypoints on a leg so short...

  24. francisco sedano says:

    Hi Chris - New ATC is great, but IMHO a couple of issues:

    - There's no way to cancel an action - i.e. I was directed to taxi to a particular RWY. my 10 min time window was close to end so I just took of from where I was - ATC went mad, just repeating every sec to taxi, and I couldn't just tell them - OK guys I'm in the air now.

    While on the topic - Any news on Datarefs for controlling ATC? I saw a data ref for disabling ATC text, but that's all...


  25. PingPong says:

    Hi Ben, I was doing some experiments and got some really good reults using SLI Antialiasing, I made a post about it here, it might be something you want to have a look at:


    You have to be registered to see the pics.


  26. Andrzej says:


    First of all , thank you for a great effort and the new code for X-Plane, it is a huge step forward.

    I know that is a tremendous workload at LR now but if you have a chance, please answer my questions.

    1. Is there any, very approximate date set for first version 10 update?
    I know, discs will be shipped on Dec 7th but there are already many things that you are working on so I just wondered.

    2. After installing Global Scenery, do we still need to update OpenX library or only when we start putting some custom scenery?

    3. Is the version 10 web page going to be modified and expanded like version 9?
    It is quite empty now.

    4. I have read ( or at least I think I have) that there will be no more empty airports without ANY buildings but exploring a bit demo ( until I changed the custom plane and it stopped working at all) I have seen airports all empty, just runways and taxiways.
    Does it mean we will have to populate all smaller airports with custom scenery?

    5. Related to 4, how do we know what major airports will be included in Global Scenery? Are they going to be in Custom Scenery Folder?

    Thank you again for a great job, I know it is just a matter of time when we will be all very happy with version 10.

    Cheers, Andrzej

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Hi Andrzej,
      1. The first update will be tonight! We are already fixing crashes with certain video cards, tuning performance, optimizing, etc. We want to get out fixes as fast as we can.
      2 .You only need OpenSceneryX for custom scenery.
      3. Probably - I'm not involved in that.
      4. I don't know who said that. We are going to work to expand lego brick building placements the same way we do taxiways - collect and distribute. LR may do some layouts and/or may autogen some layouts. I'll blog more about this once things settle down.
      5. I don't know if we will customize any more airports besides the demo area. I think we'd like to have all major airports represented with at least default buildings, but the plan is still fomenting.

      • Andrzej says:

        Thank you very much , Ben.
        I can hardly imagine how you can work and be able to answer all these questions we ask.... thank you again.
        Cheers, Andrzej

  27. Mickaël Guédon says:

    I presume lots of you have noticed the performance cost the 747 have, even on good machines, it can swallow up to 10 fps.

    So I have two points regarding this situation.

    First, I can imagine what was the goal in putting such a heavy model to fly by default. It is on the same purpose you have put the default settings to something that is too high on many common machines, you want to show off what's in there, fine. But I wonder if it's the right approach, because the users that test this have some bad first reaction, from "I'll loose time to set this thing right, too bad I just want to test it" to "The devs that have done this piece of *** should be ashamed, it's optimized like ***". Some negative first feelings, even though what you have done is just great, but not set up correctly in the first place. I think you want to show everyone how it's more beautiful than FSX, but the wrong thought is to asume everyone's hardware can take it as it is (that was my two cents).

    Two, the problem of the 747 frame rate have an even worse effect with ATC. Remember, ATC is supposed to pick up some planes to make them fly by the AI. To be honest, the price of ATC itself is quite low, a big majority of machines can take it as it is... But not when the 747 is chosen for the ATC ! Imagine what can do two AI 747, plus yours ! Right, you see my point. Regarding this, a simmer told me there was some studios that were specialized in AI models for FSX, especially light for the system to handle it right. Maybe a new category for planes ? I think this can be a win. For now, I just set myself what models the ATC loads up, and I choose everything but the 747 series.

    I hope you will take this in consideration, I wish you the best.

    • Ben Supnik says:

      We are still in the process of looking at perf in a number of ways, but some of what you're talking about is already going into 1.02b1 - setting of defaults according to category of machine. At least - it is a start in this direction. I don't know if we will do something other than the 747 as default plane...but here is one data point. I put my 8800 back in my machine. The 8800 was a champ in its day but there are now four generations of newer nvidia cards...it's not a new card. I then looked at the performance hit of AI planes. The new 747 was _less_ of a performance hit than the old v9 B200 as an AI plane!

      So will we work on this? Yes! But I think we need a lot of data to really come up with a comprehensive solution, and I don't know if a new category of airplanes or just careful LOD will be needed...we will see.

      (Remember the commotion about using "real" airplanes as AI planes...and yet now everyone wants to know why they don't see 8 cores at 100% with lots of AI planes...it is because....the real flight model was never _that_ heavy CPU wise. Heavy enough to need more than one core? Yes. To saturate 8? No, it's not that heavy...the drawing is more expensive. So ... you cannot know what will really be slow until you profile!)

      • Hi Ben,

        Since you already have the fps_test on the code, can't you just ask on first time startup if the user wants his machine profiled, then run the tests under the scenes and, based on that, get some appropiate defaults? You could even, asking for user's permission, send that perf data to yourself to have a good performance database..

        • Ben Supnik says:

          We may be able to get better diagnostics by running some tests and looking at fps. It is a bit tricky because the single result (low fps) can have multiple causes.

  28. chris says:

    how do we know what freq to turn to at any given apt or to switch from tower, clearance etc. I had no clue that 128 was it, or what to do

  29. Mathias says:

    i saw the ATC cleared an AI airplane to land while another one was still backtracking the same runway 😀

  30. wotaskd says:

    I remember that sometime ago Ben mentioned that a possible idea was to create a command-line tool to run automated tests (nightly for example) with different combinations of settings to profile our computers and help us to choose the one that best suited our needs (a compromise of features vs performance).

    Is that something you still plan on doing?

    Such a tool could potentially help LR as well, so you could have a better idea of what's the class of hardware that's out there, and where to focus your optimization efforts. Users could even opt-in to automatically upload the results to a server directly via the tool so you could do some automatic data mining.

    • Ben Supnik says:

      We'll get there eventually. We need to get the sim stabilized on a range of hw and get a bit more diagnostics in place before we can do broad fps testing.

  31. Jonathan says:

    Can anyone advise how to run X-Plane with "–no_instancing" from the command line?

    I'm running on a early 2008 iMac 3.06ghz Intel Core 2 Due, 4gb RAM and 512mb Nvidia 8800 graphics card. Is there anywhere I can get updated drivers?

    Finally, has anyone tried running X-Plane 10 in Windows via bootcamp? I recall I tried X-Plane 9 in Windows via bootcamp in the past and the fps were quite a bit better than in OS X. However, I decided I'd to just run though OS X as it was more convenient. I'd be keen to know if I'd get betters results if I used bootcamp instead.

    I was heard that the Nvida 8800 drivers for OS X are quite poor in comparison to Windows. Does anyone know if this is true?

    • Ben Supnik says:

      You don't need to do no-instancing ... X-Plane will do that for you in 10.0b2. The 8800 drivers are better in later OS versions, run 10.6 or 10.7. I don't know what the fps differential there is, it's not as bad as 10.5. Maybe someone can post fps test numbers once we've got v10 a little more stabilized.

      The 8800 does not support hardware instancing (it does support a version of it via UBOs but then the Mac doesn't support UBOs, so there we are 🙂 so it won't compete with Mac ATI hw (which is later-gen anyway).

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