Getting more than one monitor for your X-plane setup, greatly enhances your flight experience. It enhances that real-world experience when getting a wider view angle.
Of course, you can get one monitor to display a wider angle, but it’s just not the same. Let’s have a look at the differences.
X-plane with a single monitor
Having a single monitor can be a pretty good setup. Depending on your expectations and budget. I started out with a 46″ 4K tv, which looked pretty amazing.
Going into SETTINGS, GRAPHICS, MONITOR CONFIGURATION you can set your field of view (FOV). The Field of view determines the angle visible on your monitor. This is default 60 degrees, but setting it higher allows more visual information of the planes surrounding on your monitor.
Changing it to 120 gives a pretty good full view of the cockpit, but does not give a real-life feeling if you ask me.
X-plane with 3 monitors
I missed that side-view, which isn’t possible in a one-monitor setup. But I was torn in deciding how many monitors to use for my X-plane simulator. I had some major concerns:
- would I have enough monitors to simulate looking out of a real cockpit window?
- how could I get the best viewing angle?
- would my hardware be able to drive all the monitors?
What would be the best setup for my X-plane with multiple monitors?
As I am building a Boeing 737 cockpit, the first solution that came to my mind was a 4 monitor setup. Because on the Boeing airplane, you will find two major windows in the front, and two minor on each side. So using widescreen monitors looked like an easy choice with four monitors, two at the front and one on each side.
I started out by purchasing the first two of the four monitors. But there was one thing I didn’t anticipate. If you look at the cockpit there is a bezel in the middle of the two front windows. As the pilot is sitting to the left in the cockpit, the center of his vision will be around the middle of the left window when looking in the forward direction. But in the X-plane the center of the pilot’s view (your view) will be where the bezel is, as X-plane treats the center as the monitors combined.
There are some ways to move that center point, but it’s far from perfect.
After a while I got irritated with that setup, often starring at that bezel, so I changed it into a 3 monitor setup instead, purchasing one extra monitor. I am using 21:9 UltraWide monitors, giving it a more narrow and wide view – as expected in a cockpit. The monitor has a native resolution of 3440×1440. Making the complete resolution 10320×1440. Quite a lot of GPU handling for the X-plane graphical engine. And that’s a real challenge, which I was soon to learn.
X-plane graphic hardware requirement
X-plane takes ALOT of resources, especially in a multi-monitor environment. As said above, 3 monitors in the UW monitors native resolution comes out to 10320×1440, which all have to be calculated by the same computer. Yes, you can use a multi-computer setup, but for my part, I wanted to try my best to stick with a one PC solution for my cockpit setup.
There are many opinions about what a good framerate is in a flight simulator. As a rule of thumb, I would say 30 fps (frames per second). I am using the RTX3080 graphics adapter, which I expected would kick ass. And it did – in a one monitor setup. Having 3 monitors rapidly reduced the frames per second.
X-plane monitor settings
When using multiple monitors, they are each gonna cover an area of the selected cockpit view. So the first thing you should decide is how big an angle you want to cover with all the monitors. The optimal setup would be 180 degrees, this way you would be able to look from straight left all the way to straight right. In my setup that would require 5 monitors, which was a bit of a hardware spend I didn’t wanna take. So I opted for 135°, using 3 monitors, where the side monitors are angled 45°, as seen below. This gives me a good cost/benefit between hardware and viewing angle.
In the perfect world, the 3 monitors would be combined into one large screen, but unfortunately, the bezel around each screen creates some extra space between the monitors. The black plastic. This creates an unwanted scene where X-plane sees the rightmost pixel on the left monitor right next to the leftmost pixel on the center monitor. But from the viewer’s perspective, there is some dark space – the bezel – in between. In my setup around 26mm in width. This creates distortions when passing objects from one screen to the other inside X-plane.
Luckily we can compensate for that in the X-plane configuration. There are several ways of doing it, and it all comes down to your visual acceptance. But here is how I did it, to get the best visible outcome:
The Lateral field of view was set to 45°, as that is the physical angle of the side monitor. And the Lateral rotation offset was set to -46.40 for the left screen and 46.40 for the right screen. To compensates for the bezel area.
Flying for a while now, I am really satisfied with the outcome. I am running one PC with 5 monitors. 3 monitors as described above, and two monitors for the MIP screens. I am able to maintain 30 fps in a payware airport. When I take off this increases all the way up to 50+.