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Introduction

A while back, ohhh my goodness, almost 1,5 half years ago, I wrote an article, read column about “Can my (your) iMac handle XP10 – Part I”. Today is finally that day to offer you an inside in part II which is called “Can my (your) MBP handle XP10” although due to the length of this article, it has become an impression. Ah, whatever is in the name. It’s the contents that makes it! For those who are new to Apple hardware or not familiar with abbreviations, MBP stands for Mac Book Pro.

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One of our readers requests during that time was, “what hardware do you need to run X-Plane 10 smoothly?” I’ll try to answer that as far as possible, but it will only be applicable to those who have a Mac machine. In part II, I’ll try to answer this as far as possible how it is to run XP10.40+ on my MBP Retina 15 inch Late 2013. Further 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 El Captain 10.11.1, updated from Yosemite

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

Things to consider

The first thing to highlight is which Mac OSX 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 and the Wi-Fi was relatively stable. Some liked Mavericks, some not. That’s a matter of taste, right?

After Mavericks, I upgrade to Yosemite which was OK although I always had the idea it was a slower OSX and it had many problems with, important to me, Apple Mail and Wi-Fi. Ok, I don’t need Wi-Fi for my iMac since I’m using via a Thunderbolt Dock a wired UTP5 connection, but this isn’t applicable for my MBP. Recently I upgraded my OSX once more to El Capitan. According to Apple it should be an OSX that runs smoother and faster then Yosemite besides a couple of new add-ons. The downside is, still, problems with Apple Mail “On My Mac” or if you like “Local Folders” and importing Apple Mail or mbox folders.

So, to be honest, I’m still a favorite of Mavericks since this works great. That said, on my iMac I still have, externally connected via Thunderbolt 2, Mavericks and Yosemite. I could do the same om my MBP since the MBP has also 2 Thunderbolt connections. For the moment, my MBP has an updated El Capitan.

Next item to worry about is the screen resolution you want to give your Retina display. The default for this display, when you’ve so, is 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 19230 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.

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One last “hardware” MBP item: keep in mind that the MBP has only 2 USB3 ports. That said, it depends on your flight simulator hardware how many USB connections you need, but it could be that you need to work with a USB hub. In that respect comes the iMac with much more 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 10.41 modified configuration added to my desktop. Basically, modified means no add-on aircraft, but it will have the UHD and HD mesh scenery packages from Andras Fabian, SkyMAXX Pro 3 and of course, OpenSceneryX. Added to this modified package I’ll add some GA (General Aviation) and commercial aircraft models. With this basic X-Plane configuration of approximately 200GB, I start testing my MBP.

One last word, yes, I’m aware this MBP is quite heavy. It has almost every hardware option I could get and I’m therefore aware that your MBP or perhaps even a 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”

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.

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If some settings are too low for my MBP since it could perform better, or that I don’t like for example the X-Plane scenery, is another issue. For now, it’s a good start to check the X-Plane performance with a screen resolution of 1440 x 900.

Initial settings.
Ok, but what are the first environmental conditions for these test flights?

– Departing default Vancouver International Airport (CYVR) | option I
– Departing Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport from MisterX | option II
– CAVOK weather conditions
– 12:00 local time on June 30rd.

I think this is it, right?
Just to clarify …. these first two test flights are performed with the default XP 747-400 and the QPAC Airbus A320.

Default XP 747-400 |CYVR – CAVOK | Option I
During the first test flight while climbing out in an Eastern direction, my XP 747-400 performed quite well namely it offered medium to high frames. Naturally, you would say since the actual frame rates (Frames Per Second) depends on the complexity of the airport … is it complex or just a regular representation of the airport, the landscape …. is it flat, do you find villages, cities or perhaps only mountains? All that influences the actual FPS! While moving around the aircraft with keyboard keys “Ctrl+4”, my FPS vary between 19.90 and 30.00. While in this external viewing mode, using the UP and DOWN arrow keys do influence the FPS. Moving in an UP or DOWN, the FPS increase much more and yes, moving up to the sky the FPS go out of the roof. But I’m not disappointed in how the FPS increase while moving DOWN.

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QPAC Q320 |CYVR – CAVOK | Option I
Under the same environmental conditions as above, I switch to start my second test flight with the QPAC Airbus A320. Some will say that the QPAC isn’t complex enough or they don’t like the aircraft or whatever other reason is applicable. I think that this has nothing to do with what type of aircraft I use, it all deals with the question “Can my (your) MBP handle XP10”.

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I’m impressed to be honest. The FPS results with this QPAC A320 model are quite high. Minimum frame rates I’ve seen was somewhere between 25-30, and higher. What said before, higher frame rates could be due to the viewing angle or while zooming in onto the aircraft.

Default XP 747-400 |KPHX MisterX – CAVOK | Option II
Let’s take a chance, we’ll depart with the same environmental conditions from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport from MisterX. The planned takeoff is from runway 8 and while taking off, I move around the default X-Plane 747-400 in Delta livery and noticed that the average frame rates are around 30 which is, keeping the complexity of this airport in mind, not bad at all. This moving around is not only while outside the aircraft, it’s also from the 3D cockpit. With a departure in a North East direction and climbing out, I see roughly the same FPS figures are before during my Vancouver departure, perhaps slightly higher. I think it’s time to switch over to the QPAC A320 and see what happens.

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QPAC Q320 |KPHX MisterX – CAVOK | Option II
Overall,I must conclude that the performances of the QPAC A320 are slightly higher then from the default 747-400. Yes, I’m aware that the QPAC doesn’t come with a 3D cockpit, but still not bad. I could decide to make some additional test flights with other payware add-on aircraft, but personally I prefer to set my rendering options to “Set to High”. I’m curious how much impact this will have on my MBP and X-Plane. Perhaps my MBP has no problems at all with it. Let’s got for it.

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Rendering Options “Set to High”

When you click the “Set to High” button, it takes some time to implement all the rendering changes, but what it doesn’t say is that a restart is required. Why? The “texture resolution” goes from HIGH to VERY HIGH and this effect only takes place on a re-start thus time to restart X-Plane.

Therefore, I start X-Plane with the same conditions as in the previous section.
Just to remind you:

– Departing Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport from MisterX | option II
– CAVOK weather conditions
– 12:00 local time on June 30rd.

As you can see, I removed option I, departing from default Vancouver International Airport (CYVR). Since there’s not much to see, I found it more realistic to continue FPS testing by using the freeware scenery from MisterX. And yes, I could install many other freeware or payware airports, but I can never fulfil the wishes of every X-Plane simmer. Besides, the overall idea of using predefined rendering setting configurations for this article should trigger your mind.

Default XP 747-400 |KPHX MisterX – CAVOK | Option II
Although the default 747-400 shouldn’t reduce my FPS as much as with a complex add-on aircraft as for example the FlightFactor 777, SSG 747-8 Series or the JARDsign Airbus A330, the freeware Phoenix airport from MisterX isn’t the biggest problem. The problem is the higher X-Plane setting from “medium” to “high”. Perhaps using this “high” setting isn’t such a good solution, but let me give it a try before doing something else.

While taking off, the FPS stays for a long time 19.90, but at a certain moment while in the air, the FPS slightly move up. Not sky high, but to somewhere between 30-35 FPS.

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QPAC Q320 |KPHX MisterX – CAVOK | Option II
Ready for takeoff from runway 8 Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with the QPAC A320 and guess what, FPS dropped to 19.90. It seems, no, it’s quite logical that the FPS has dropped so dramatically because of the changes it made in the rendering settings. In my opinion, it’s sometimes better not to see the actual frame rates because the moment you see the value, we immediately think “oops, that’s low … that’s not good”. It’s not fair! I am aware that 19.90 FPS isn’t high, but it doesn’t mean it’s too low. It depends on the external conditions and how complex these are.

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Rendering Options “Set to Medium” and …..
In the previous section you read that “Set to Medium” was not a bad option, but it must be said that I didn’t use any complex payware aircraft nor a complex payware airport. The “Set to High” was in my opinion too much for my MBP. In this section I’ll switch back to “Set to Medium”, and make some manual changes in the rendering settings window. Which additional changes I made after I selected the “Set to Medium”, can be found below. And keep in mind that this is just an example what changes I made. By the way, the weather changes can also be found below. Although it’s not much, I changed the CAVOK to a visibility of 15NM, added some few cumulus clouds and at the high altitudes cirrus.

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Before I begin with my planned three FPS flight tests, I made the following changes to the preconditions:
– Departing Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport from MisterX
– Using pre-configured weather
– 12:00 local time on June 30rd.
– Flight Factor A350 XWB | Option I
– SSG 747-8i (no hi-resolution normal) | Option II
– Carenado C90 King Air | Option III

As you can read for yourself, I initially planned to use real weather but that could leave to no clouds at all. Therefore, I decided to create some environmental conditions with clouds together with SkyMAXX Pro 3. I also decided to use for my FPS flight tests three different types of aircraft well know by simmers. And yes, perhaps your favorite model isn’t tested by me, but the same is also applicable for the airport and what about the MBP specifications. Therefore, see this section as a guideline since it well never cover the same hardware and/or add-on software as you have at home.

Flight Factor A350 XWB |KPHX MisterX – Using pre-configured weather | Option I

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 preparations, I noticed that while taxiing to the runway 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, what can be seen below.

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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.

SSG 747-8i |KPHX MisterX – Using pre-configured weather | Option II
Making the comparison in respect to the frames the same as for the A350 XWB, I started from the same cargo apron; Cargo North R1. From here I taxi to runway 7R. The advantage is that there’s no passenger terminal only hangars, but lots of static aircraft. Either way, it will influence the frames. And the same for this SSG 747-8 however, scrolling around the model while taxing tells me that the frames a slightly higher. Not that you should expect 25 or more, 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 gives me 19.90, although 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. Externally, it’s not a problem at all which is more or less the same as seem with the A350 XWB.

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During the Phoenix approach, aiming for a landing on runway 7R, I have at a certain moment 19.90 FS in the 3D cockpit, but I can’t state 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 doesn’t say too much, in this 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. 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. But 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 MisterX – Using pre-configured weather | Option III
Although a 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, 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 frames 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.

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Summary

Not that it was my intention, but this article has become a bit longer then expected. Nevertheless, I hope that my experiences written down in this article and given examples will help you.

Although the article is longer then 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 on my desk?

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 for the Mac OSX it would be nice when something is left for this OS too. My iMac has 32GB of RAM and that never gives a problem of running out of memory.

The other issue to keep in mind is the NVidia GeForce GTX 750M versus the GTX 780M on my iMac. I’m not sure if there’s a huge performance between these mobile GPU’s, but I know that my iMac 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) 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 iMac although I must said 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!

 

 

With Greetings,
Angelique van Campen

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