First, for the plugin authors: I am hoping to start a 10.20 beta for 64-bit in weeks, not months.  I don’t know how many weeks it will be – there’s a huge potential for variation, but if you maintain a plugin, be aware that you’ll be able to actually test your plugin against a 64-bit X-Plane this year.

At this point we have launched X-Plane, 64-bit-style on all three operating systems.  That doesn’t make it beta-ready but we have a heartbeat.

X-Plane 10.10 is final, and we may cut a small bug-fix patch (10.11) before we go into 64-bit.  We have a handful of lower-priority bug fixes that we kept out of 10.10 for stability that we need to release at some point; the plan hasn’t been finalized.

Mac and 64-Bit: Not That Fast

So once I had a 64-bit X-Plane running on my machine, I did the obvious thing: crank the settings through the roof and see what happens.  And I can now report the results:

Very low framerate.

The problem is: my machine was very close to maxed out with 32-bits.  When I was able to crank the settings beyond where I could before, I simply overloaded it.  Too many objects, too many textures, too many vertices, too much stuff.  It’s a 2008 Mac Pro with a 4870 – not a spring chicken.

I mention this now because:

  • The overwhelming majority of users telling us they want 64 bits are Mac users.  On 64-bit Windows OSes, X-Plane has significantly more address space headroom, so you have to push the sim a lot farther to run out of memory.
  • Macs just aren’t that fast.  You either have a laptop (highly constrained by the need to be power-efficient) or an iMac (power constraints and no update for over a year) or a Mac Pro (with the best graphics card two generations old and no real CPU update in a while).

In other words, my Mac may be older and slower, but the very fastest ones aren’t that fast.  There is no Mac equivalent right now to an Ivy Bridge i5 or i7 with a GeForce 680.

So while you may be hitting address space limits and crashing on your Mac right now, you may not have that much hardware budget left over, and it may be a short trip from 64-bits to finding you’ve simply maxed out your hardware.

It’s All About the Watts

One last thought on Macs falling behind Windows gaming machines: while this used to be a function of technology it’s really become a race with only two factors: watts and time.

  • The older a model gets, the farther behind the curve it is. So the Mac Pro is really behind due to being age constrained; if they update it with a current-gen desktop GPU and an Ivy-Bridge based Xeon CPU it won’t be cheap, but it will be competitive.  For desktops the big issue is one of cost: you can get the latest mobo at any time for Windows and a game machine is significantly less than a Mac Pro.
  • Watts: how much GPU power you get is a function of the power budget of the card, and both the iMac and laptops are constrained relative to desktop machines.  The new Retina-Book MacBook Pros are nice, new, top of the line laptops, but they are also using the GeForce 650M, a decision to trade off some GPU power for battery life, heat dissipation, etc.  There will inevitably be an AlienWare laptop that ways 12 lbs, burns through its battery in five minutes, but ships with a bigger mobile GPU for better performance.  I’d rather use the lighter laptop, but my concern is traveling with my work, not flying.

My point here is: these two factors (revision time for models and power use profile) are unlikely to change any time soon – they are fundamental to Apple’s business model.  So Mac users, on average you are never going to have the same performance options as your Windows brethren.

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.

36 comments on “64-Bit: Time Frames and Performance

  1. I’m talking “50fps and memory crash” since I own my 2010 Mac Pro with 27” display. That was with X-Plane 9. X-Plane 10 is a memory nightmare with 3.82GB memory usage while on textures high compressed and pretty much everything turned down, flying to Aerosofts Nice (that’s with 50% water in view). Boy, was X-Plane 8 a beauty! 😉

    So please stop belittleling 64-bit. It’s about beeing able to use X-plane again. Looking at my flight logs it’s fair to say that I essantially stopped using X-Plane (= also stopped purchasing complex payware – why would I want to finance the next crash to desktop? I can have it for free! Textures normal, Cologne, …and boooom!). And I’m not alone. (That’s not a guess. I know.)

    I don’t really understand that maximum need to tell people what 64-bit isn’t, and this and that. I can only understand it as justifying the wrong decision of not making it 64-bit in the first place. The motto: “it’s really not THAT important” is what you tell since your first post on the issue on your old blog.

    Wrong. It is. Even for Mac like mine that is 2 years old now.

    And I keep all my fingers + toes crossed that you succeed with making 64-bit work for us.

    1. Markus, you have completely misunderstood the point of my post, and you are arguing against a point I have not made.

      To belittle it I would have to say: “64-bit is not that important in the priority of X-Plane features.” I have not said that and our current plan of action is exactly the opposite of that. 64-bit is literally the ONLY feature I am working on right now.

      I feel the need to tell users what 64-bit will not do because I have seen too many forum comments, blog comments, and posts where users mistakenly believe that 64 bits will fix a problem other than memory exhaustion. It will not, and I wanted to state that clearly in a single place.

      “64-bits won’t fix framerate” is _not_ the same as “64-bits is not THAT important.”

      It is possible that these two facts to all be true at the same time:
      * 64-bits is necessary for users in your situation to fly X-Plane on today’s hardware.
      * 64-bits is necessary for the entire community to further push the envelope of what the sim can do.
      * 64-bits is more important for Mac users than win7-64 users.
      * A two year old Mac cannot do what a current PC can do, hardware wise, and 64 bits will not fix that.

      I reiterate: the _only_ thing I am working on is the 64 bit port. I really can’t make it any simpler than that.

        1. I think we can agree that if 64 Bits fix the memory issue and only the memory issue, it’s a winner. I’ve been testing heavily with Ted’s brand new NYC/PHL/IAD scenery today and while I settled with modest settings long ago and enjoy 20+ frames always, as soon as clouds come into the mix (25% of them) the sim crashes after a few minutes even if the frames hold up. Meaning that IFR flights with live WXR (my main use for the sim) are like gambling. It might work, or it might just crash on final. Reminds me of FSX…. // 2.8 i7 iMac 8GB 4850 512MB (and using every byte of that)

  2. 10.20 is going to be somewhat of a funny redeemer. Everyone is waiting for him and no one actually needs him. Most Windows user run on 64-bit OS and have no trouble with 32-bit XP (I never ever had any mem-problem with X-Plane10), Mac-Users can’t crank up settings anyway.
    Well, anyway- I’m looking forward to enhanced autogen that was announced to ship with 10.20.

    Best regards

    By the way: Latest Aerosoft-release (EHAM) brings down an oc’ i7+GTX680 with ease.

    1. Yes! Absolutely! Couldn’t possibly agree more with you. And personally, I’ve never ever even used more than 640K when it comes to storage. I think we should settle and feel satisfied with today’s technology as it is more than enough for almost anything one would EVER want to do with a computer. I mean come on, we got i7’s, 680’s. We’ve NEVER EVER had such powerful machines. Stop upgrading, folks! Ben, do we really need 64 bit?

  3. Well said Ben, I totally agree with you, I think the first thing that X-Plane uses need to do is understand the purpose and functions of 64-bit, I hear this all the time in my office, so what I do is give them an annology of code transaction and processing and how it works.. but still fundermentally they still get it wrong, so I just say JFGI!

  4. As a hackintosh user I’m looking forward to trying out the 64-bit X-Plane. I’m currently running a GTX 480 (1.5GB VRAM) (but intend to upgrade to a 6xx series card later this year).

    1. If you manage to put a high-end 6xx (e.g. 670 or 680) in, I’d like to hear the fps numbers – the drivers seem pretty solid for the 650M, but the chip itself is of course cut down for wattage. If you are dual boot, it’d be interesting to see hackintosh vs the Windows or Linux driver stack too.

      1. I too have a hack, i7 with 5870, tried 570, 670, but frame rate better with the 5870. Native drivers I am sure. I have a 680 comimg since 10.8.2 update. Don’t be to concerned about frame rate, true flight simmers will do what ever it takes to get their fix. Mine has been crashing alot so I havn’t been getting to high…..Now stop reading these silly post and get to work that 64 bit..I’m gettin trichee

      2. I have a hackintosh with dual GTX 480s currently and have X-Plane on both Mac OS 10.8 and Windows 7 if you want any performance comparisons. I’ll be upgrading to the GTX 780 or equivalent when they are released.

      3. A couple of days ago I upgraded the stock Apple 10.8.2 nvidia driver with the recent beta that was released from nvidia. I hope to get to fly a bit this weekend and see how the frame rates are with my current GTX 480.

        It appears there are a few of us hackintoshers here. I bet you can get a lot of good information from all of us.

        1. Puffy, does HDR work for you on Mac OS? It crashes for me on 10.8.2 I believe. I sent in a bug report. I was planning on trying the Nvidia drivers to see if they work.

  5. I’m working on MacPro with ATI HD5870 graphic card. I’m on high rendering and lovered all and have reserve for FPS. Only my problem is – every time when flying on airplanes uses SASL – expect with far crash. Then 64 will be solution, correct?

    1. Not necessarily — if the airplanes do not crash due to memory exhaustion, then 64 bit will not help. I do not know why they crash, so I do not know if 64 bits will help.

    2. I’m on a MacPro 4,1 dual quad-core 2.93 GHz with 12GB memory and just upgraded from the ATI HD Radeon 4870 to the 5870 for a 33% improvement in fps (perceived). I only fly sasl acf, and sasl only experience crashes when there’s an error in the code. That said, log.txt returns an “inability to load cockpit.obj” message on quite a few Vs9 aircraft launched in Vs10.

      I have cranked up my rendering settings too, and yet to have a memory crash that’s not due to a combination of over-the-top scenery and settings.

  6. You note Ben that you cranked up your Mac, but was there any improvement at your normal settings?
    Like speed in loading or other items.

    I feeling I get from your notes is that 32bit and 64bit are exactly the same on a Mac…

  7. As one of those people with the aforementioned i7 and 680 (with 4GB VRAM), I can’t can’t can’t wait for 64 bit. 😀

  8. Is there a plan to release assets in the first beta or so, wait until RC or do staggered releases before benefiting for visual enhancements?

    – Cheers

    1. There is no plan. But I can tell you the guiding principle: we will not delay 10.20 beta 1 until we have art assets, because 10.20 beta 1 is _immediately_ useful to plugin developers, who can benefit from the longest beta we can stand, as the beta interval is the time between when they can start the port to 64 bits and when users really get antsy about why they aren’t done yet. (I do not expect anyone to ‘ship 64 bits by the end of beta’, but being in beta does give developers a bit of an out.)

      1. Ok Ben thanks, that is good news. Unless new visuals are held for the whole beta run, in terms of user satisfaction and testing purposes for end users setups 64 bit code vs art assets performance, ie long beta run of many weeks or months without access to compare.


  9. Totally agree with you Ben, but I love quiet, one plug, plus it just looks lovely.

    For image manipulation and classical music all at once, you can’t beat it.

    A slow X-Plane……I can live with it, LOL.

  10. I use Ubuntu 12.04 64 bit with 3 GB RAM / ATI Radeon HD 5450 1GB PCI-Express 2.1

    Intel Core 2 Q6600 – Quad Core Proc @ 2.4 GhZ

    I will soon upgrade RAM to 8GB in the future after this update but I am anxious to see this update will be available for us Linux users. Thanks for making this update available for all the operating systems and keep up the great dev work. : )

  11. That’s painful to read but undoubtably true. It is a funny contrast though to a front page I recall from a few years ago titled something like, “Our Secret Weapon”. The header goes on to admit existance of the secret weapon but doesn’t specifically state it. It does however point to a photograph above as a “hint”. In the photo are Austin and a conference table full of developers all with their macbooks open and the logo facing the camera. “Pretty” has since championed over “power” at Apple.

    1. Well, the q is whether there is a productivity boost from developing code on OS X. I don’t know the answer to that, unless you’re using X-Code 4, in which case the answer is “certainly not”. 🙂

      I think ‘pretty’ is a little bit unfair – size, weight and battery life are important aspects of a portable computer, and I think it’d be tough to argue that, armed with a Sandy Bridge i7, what laptop users really need is an even _faster_ CPU. Flight sim isn’t the majority use of computers (sadly) and you just don’t need a big CPU or GPU to write email and surf the web.

    1. You have to port your 32-bit W7 plugin to 64 bits to have it work with the 64-bit version of 10.20.
      You do not have to port your 32-bit W7 plugin to 64 bits to have it work with the 32-bit version of 10.20.

      So if you do not port it, some users will run your plugin in 32 bits, and some will run the 64-bit sim (causing your plugin to not load), and some of those users will complain.

      1. Thanks Ben. Will the 64-bit version of the SDK come out with 10.20 or is it around somewhere and I just haven’t found it?

    1. Nope – we don’t benefit. Here’s why:
      1. We basically don’t use 64-bit integer math at all. We just don’t have a use for it. So having native 64-bit integer ops isn’t a win. (If it was, we’d use mmx/sse more. 🙂
      2. For floating point math, we assume we have SSE, so we get the same API no matter what. Most of the flight model is 32-bit floating point though – back in the day that’s all that was fast on x86 machines. It’s still that way because we don’t need 64 bits (except in the places we already use them) and going in and changing everything would be a lot of regression testing for no benefit.
      3. The real key is what we spend time on. X-Plane is not bound on math – we are bound on L2 cache performance. Simply put, the CPU can do the ‘thinking’ we want it to do faster than the memory controller can feed it the next piece of data to think about. So having faster thinking is of literally no benefit — it means the CPU is bored more of the time.

      The reason for this is: the work that the sim does is:
      90% rendering engine – all of the ALU specific stuff is in the driver or sent to the GPU.
      10% flight model – and of that, it’s 20% floating point, and 80% searching the scene graph for collisions.

      Just not a lot of ALU bound stuff.

  12. Team,

    As no new posts have been made lately, progress surely is going on. Would it be a safe idea to purchase more RAM / install prior to beta or not, ie time frame and performance wise regarding new shipment of art assets?


    1. I mean — it’s safe — it won’t hurt anything except your wallet. But…I do not have guidance as to how much RAM you _should_ have, for any given system.

      Unfortunately all of my systems tend to be a bit RAM-heavy…a developer system needs extra RAM to run the debugger and other code tools simultaneous to X-Plane, and the render farm needs memory per core for DSF generation, so I’ve had 12 GB in my Mac for a few years.

Comments are closed.