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Can any MBP handle X-Plane 10

Introduction

A while ago I wrote an article about “Can any iMac handle X-Plane 10?”. Recently I’ve added another low performance iMac to my X-Plane hardware configuration, so soon article “Can any iMac handle X-Plane 10?” will be followed by another low performance iMac article. This article will discuss more or less the same as the first part, but then based on how this different iMac performs when it comes to X-Plane, but now it’s first time for this “Can any MBP handle X-Plane 10”.
For those who are new to Apple hardware or not familiar with abbreviations, MBP stands for Mac Book Pro and yes, I have to admit that my MBP is a heavy duty piece of hardware and perhaps you also have a MBP, but with less performance however, this article will offer a good idea of what a MBP in general is capable of.

One of our readers would like to know “what hardware do you need to run X-Plane 10 smoothly on a MBP?” It’s not so easy to answer due to all the different hardware configurations, but I’ll try to answer that as far as possible. I’ll try to answer this as far as possible how it is to run XP10.50+ on my MBP Retina 15 inch Late 2013. Additional hardware and software specifications are:
– 2.6 Ghz Intel Core i7
– Retina 15.4 inch with a resolution of 2880 x 1800
– 16GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
– NVidia GeForce GT 750M 2048 MB
– 500GB Flash Storage
– Running macOS Sierra 10.12

With these specifications you would suggest that this MBP can handle X-Plane without any problems, but you need to keep a couple of things in mind and remember, the same is also applicable for my iMac Late 2013. In other words, this high performance MBP isn’t unlimited in its X-Plane performance. In other words, it also has its limitations, logically!

Things to consider

The first thing to highlight is which Mac OSX, or in my case macOS Sierra, are you using. It has nothing to do with the hardware, but I started on this MBP with Mavericks which was a solid OSX in my humble opinion. The last Mavericks version was, if I recall correctly 10.9.5. It solved more or less the Apple Mail issues, especially when you’re using Gmail accounts. Further on, the Wi-Fi was relatively stable. Some liked Mavericks, some not. That’s a matter of taste, right?

After Mavericks, I upgrade to Yosemite, followed by El Capitan and finally to Sierra. Yosemite which was OK although I always had the idea it was a slower OSX then Mavericks and it had many problems with, important to me, Apple Mail and Wi-Fi. For my iMac I don’t need Wi-Fi since I’m using via a Thunderbolt Dock a wired UTP6 connection, but this isn’t applicable for my MBP. Recently I upgraded my OSX once more to Sierra. According to Apple it should be an OSX that runs smoother and faster then El Capitan besides a couple of new add-ons compared to El Capitan.

So, to be honest, I’m still a favorite of Mavericks since this works great, but at the same time I must admit also that Sierra is a very good upgrade from El Capitan. That said, on my iMac I still have, externally connected via Thunderbolt 2, Mavericks, El Capitan and Windows 10. I could do the same om my MBP since the MBP has also 2 Thunderbolt connections, but for the moment, my MBP have had a fresh Sierra installation.

Next item to think about is which Retina screen resolution you should go for. The default for this MBP display is “it will look like 1440 x 900 pixels”. This is for me perhaps the best resolution to keep the display readable. When you select under System Preferences – Displays, the scaled resolution to More Space, you’ll get a screen resolution that “looks like 1920 x 1200 pixels”. Wow, when you do that, it’s all very small and I need in that case glasses, or else the text is too small for me to read.

Another “hardware” MBP item, the USB3 ports.
Keep in mind that the MBP has only two USB3 ports. That said, it depends on your flight simulator flight hardware how many USB connections you need, but it could be that you need to work with a USB hub. In that respect the iMac comes with much more available USB ports. Anyway, so far about pre conditions to consider.

Although my MBP comes with a 500GB flash storage, I am a little limited in having different X-Plane configured folders on my desktop. For that reason, I only have an X-Plane 10.50 modified configuration added to my desktop. Basically, modified means for me no add-on aircraft and/or airports installed, but I do have the UHD and HD mesh scenery packages from Andras Fabian (alpilotx.net), SkyMAXX Pro 3.x and of course, OpenSceneryX. Added to this modified package I’ll add some GA (General Aviation) and/or commercial aircraft models. With this basic X-Plane configuration of approximately 200GB, I start testing my MBP with X-Plane.

One last word about this MBP hardware. Yes, I’m aware this MBP is quite heavy and also quite expensive. It has almost every hardware option I could get and I’m therefore aware that your MBP or perhaps even your MacBook Air or the recent release MacBook couldn’t perform in the same way. Thus, when reading this article, it could be that you need to reduce the X-Plane rendering settings.

Rendering Options “Set to Medium”

I could decide to test my MBP with different settings like “set to medium” or even “set to high”, but settings X-Plane rendering options to “high” is too much, eve3n with this MBP. Of course, you can set it too high and then reduce certain rendering settings, but I prefer to do it the other way around. That said, the very first thing I do is …. go to X-Plane “Rendering Options”, section Presets and tick (or select) “Set to Medium”. This “Set to Medium” should give X-Plane a fresh start with medium settings. From this starting point see what happens, see the actual frame rates in different situations and when you think your MBP can do more, then simple adjust some of the sliders of your preference. As long as changing a slider that doesn’t need an X-Plane restart, you will see the actual frame rates on-the-fly.

If some settings are then still too low for my or your MBP since it could perform better, then change this step-by-step. So don’t change immediately 3 or 4 or even more rendering settings. Do it one by one and see what happens after one change and check the frame rates.
For now, it’s a good start to check the X-Plane performance with my screen resolution of 1440 x 900. And what about my environmental settings, airports and aircraft?

– Departing Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport from MisterX6
– Using pre-configured weather or real weather with SkyMAXX Pro active
– 12:00 local time on June 30rd.
– Flight Factor A350 XWB and the SSG 747-8i (normal hi-resolution)
– Carenado C90 King Air (GA flights)

I think this is it, right?
 
Flight Factor A350 XWB | KPHX MisterX6
Starting from the cargo apron, I noticed immediately the 19.90 FPS from within the 3D cockpit. An external look offers slightly better frame rates namely somewhere between 24-26. It must be said that although within the cockpit I only have 19.90 frames, scrolling from left to right or doing some preparations on the overhead panel goes smooth. Again an example of seeing actual frames, and making a too quick judgment that this is too low. The reality is that it doesn’t feel like having only 19.90.
After I’ve done all the cockpit preparations, I noticed that while taxiing to the runway my MBP offers externally still over 20 FPS. Not much, but the same here, scrolling around the external A350 XWB goes smooth too. When approaching the runway holding point, I switch back to 3D cockpit view and immediately the frames drop down to 19.90. This 19.90 stays still I’m in the air and climbed out till at least 8000 feet. Ok, the altitude isn’t so important, but at a certain moment the frames go up to around 25 FPS within a fully functional 3D cockpit. Keeping the complexity of the simulated systems in mind, I’m satisfied. And while still climbing out to FL 240, the external frames go up to or vary between 35 and 50 FPS. This depends a little on the viewing angle of the aircraft and of course. You could ask yourself … isn’t it possible to get higher frames? Of course, but then you have to adjust some of the sliders and see what happens. As long as the sliders don’t need an X-Plane restart, you can test the actual improved settings on-the-fly.

Returning to Phoenix gives more or less the same reduction of frames deepening on the height, the complexity of the ground textures and finally, the complexity of the airport. Time for a second test with the SSG 747-8.
 
SSG 747-8i | KPHX MisterX6
Making the comparison in respect to the frames as for the A350 XWB, I started from the same cargo apron; Cargo North R1. From here I taxi the aircraft to runway 7R. The advantage is that there’s no passenger terminal but only hangars, and a lots of static aircraft. Either way, it will influence the frame rates. And the same for this SSG 747-8, scrolling around the external model while taxing tells me that the frames a slightly higher. Not that I should expect 25 or more FPS, no no, the frames are still somewhere around 20 to 22 FPS.
But high enough for a smooth scroll around the SSG 747. Close to the runway 7R holding point, I switch to 3D cockpit view and the same as experienced with the Flight Factor A350 XWB, 19.90 FPS. This doesn’t surprise me at all. The same I experience during the takeoff run and initial climb. While the 747-8 Series is climbing out to my initial altitude of FL140, I noticed that having a complete overview of the 3D cockpit, it still gives me 19.90 FPS. Scrolling from left to right or to the overhead panel goes without stutter and the moment you zoom in on the center or main instrument panel or overhead panel, frames go up to somewhere between 22 and 27 FPS. Visual checking the external model, it’s not a problem at all to get reasonable frame rates which is more or less the same as seem with the A350 XWB.

During the Phoenix approach, aiming for a landing on runway 7R, I have at a certain moment 19.90 FPS in the 3D cockpit, but I can’t say this enough; I’m still able to scroll within the 3D cockpit. It goes smooth and I hope you see and understand that too, the actual 19.90 FPS doesn’t say too much, in this test flight example of course. While the aircraft is still flying on the Auto Pilot, I’m able to check the external frames and the same as with the previous example, quite high; somewhere between 30-40 FPS. But the moment you come closer to the airport, the frame rates stuck at 19.90 for 3D cockpit and external view which is logically due to the complexity. This isn’t really different then the Flight Factor A350 XWB and at those moments I wanted to have slightly higher then the indicated 19.90 FPS. I think this is always the balance you need to find for reasonable frame rates and as good looking aircraft, scenery and airport.
 
Carenado C90 King Air | KPHX MisterX6
Although the Carenado Cessna C90 shouldn’t be parked at the same cargo apron as the previous two aircraft, it offers the best reference in respect to FPS. That said, from this apron I taxi via the same taxiway to runway 7R, takeoff, climb out and return to Phoenix.

Ok, nice, but what are the FPS?
Oops, that’s a bump! Parked at the cargo apron, ready to taxi, the 3D cockpit comes up with 19.90 FPS, but this is the same for the external view which wasn’t the case with the commercial jets. Ok, I can get it up to 20 to 21 FPS, but during my taxi to the same holding point, I must conclude that the Carenado C90 isn’t performing as well as the SSG and Flight Factor aircraft. Honestly, I expected the C90 to offer higher FPS on the ground. These lower internal and external FPS stay till I’m on the runway, even the stutter I see during the takeoff isn’t better than with the big jets. I have the impression that the overall performance so far is lower then with the Flight Factor and the SSG. Hopefully these lower FPS get better after takeoff and in flight. They do, and then there’s not so much to complain, but it is something I didn’t expect.

Summary

Although the article is longer than expected, I could ask myself the question if it was worth using/testing my MacBook Pro as a test bed for X-Plane 10 while having a high-end iMac in my office?

Looking from that perspective the answer is simple, NO!

The 16GB memory fitted in the MBP shouldn’t be a problem, but the moment you load many add-on sceneries and add-on aircraft the memory drains quickly and the remaining system memory that’s left for Mac OSX or in my case for macOS is not much.
The other issue to keep in mind is the fitted MBP NVidia GeForce GTX 750M versus the GTX 780M fitted in my iMac. I’m not sure if there’s a huge performance between these mobile GPU’s, but I know that my iMac graphics adapter has 4096 MB of memory while my MBP has only 2048MB and I can tell you, that’s makes a big difference. But there’s another big difference and that’s the CPU; 3.5 GHZ (iMac) Intel i7 versus 2.6GHZ Intel i7 (MBP).

With these differences, it’s not surprising that the MBP can’t perform in the same way as my high end Late 2013 iMac although it must say that even my iMac has its limitations.

Anyway, does it mean that the MBP isn’t a worthy X-Plane host? It is, no doubt about that, but rendering settings must be set in accordance with the hardware specifications. That said, I think a good starting point is to begin with “Set to Medium” in the rendering options window and from here, try to increase the rendering settings and see for yourself the actual FPS and judge what’s acceptable for you.

It was fun testing my MBP and I’m not surprised about the outcome. Not that I expected it this way, but that the MBP couldn’t perform as my iMac, that was clear too, and hopefully, this article is an eye-opener for other Mac users or those who are thinking or seeking for a new or secondhand iMac or MBP.

Good luck!

Feel free to contact me if you’ve got additional questions related to this impression. You can reach me via email Angelique.van.Campen@gmail.com.

With Greetings,
Angelique van Campen

 

 

Add-on: Article Can any MBP handle X-Plane 10
Publisher | Developer: Apple | Laminar Research
Software Source / Size: DVD or download / Depending on Regions
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen
Published: October 8th 2016
Hardware specifications: - MacBook Pro Retina 15" Late 2013
- Intel i7 2.6Ghz
- Intel Iris Pro 1536MB / GeForce GT 750M 2GB
- 16GB 1600Mhz DDR3
- Apple SSD 500GB (macOS Sierra 10.12)
- Saitek Pro Flight System
Software specifications: - macOS Sierra (10.12)
- X-Plane 10.50m

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