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.