Laminar Research has released to the public their X-Plane 11.50 Beta Update. This major update features the native support of Vulkan and Metal API. Vulkan and Metal API target at replacing OpenGL in rendering engines in order to take a better advantage of the hardware technology currently available. This leads to a better rendition as well as better performance on the end-user computer.
Vulkan is an API primarily targeted at PC users, while Metal is an API developed by Apple. Respective X-Plane users will be able to see benefits of these APIs depending on the hardware they are running.
X-Plane 11 and Vulkan/Metal : what is it ?
What does Vulkan bring to X-Plane ? The developers have explained what they were aiming at achieving with the addition of the Vulkan API to the game.
- Better handling of plugin drawing. This means for example that weather addons have a better compability and possibilites, as explained here.
- Better handling of texture paging. This means that the use of Video RAM (or VRAM, the size of the memory of your graphic card) is much more optimized. Unused textures will be cleared from the memory with more efficiency. The display of the texture has also been revamped. In the end, the user will see better performance and better stability, with less risks of exceeding their GPU VRAM capacity. More detailed explanations can be found here.
As X-Plane developer Ben Supnik said “a flight simulator is more than its rendering engine”. The update also pushes new features for the desktop and mobile version of X-Plane, but the developers have said they would update us later on this subject.
While your X-Plane is updating, you can listen or read the script of the interview of Ben Supnik with FSElite in January 2020.
How to Update X-Plane to 11.50 Beta
If you are a non-Steam user : the X-Plane 11.50 is available by running the X-Plane installer, checking “Get Betas” and letting it do its job.
Steam users do not have access yet, but the beta have been pushed to Steam and should be available very soon. Users will need to enable it by selecting “Public Betas” in the application properties.
After the update is done, the first startup of X-Plane with Vulkan may take longer than usual, due to the shaders compilation.
Users who already own X-Plane 11 should be able to run X-Plane 11 with Vulkan without troubles. You need to make sure your GPU drivers are up to date. For users who want to take this release as an opportunity to try out X-Plane, the minimum requirements are as follows :
- Mac users need 10.13 or newer.
- Windows users need Windows 10—we do not support Vulkan on Windows 7.(1)
- Linux users need a distro that can run reasonably recent proprietary NVidia or AMD drivers.
GPU Hardware (Windows and Linux):
- NVidia: GeForce 600 seres or newer
- Any GCN or newer AMD card (E.g. HD7000 series or newer)
GPU Hardware (Mac):
- Any GPU that comes with a Mac that can run 10.13 or newer or
- Any eGPU supported by Apple
- Hackintoshes: we have heard anecdotally that GeForce 10 series on a Hackintosh does work, but we do not have this hardware in the company, so YMMV.
Drivers (Windows and Linux):
- NVidia: 440.26 or newer
- AMD: 19.12.3 or newer
Several add-ons will not be compatible out of the box with Vulkan.
These include :
- Aircraft using DreamEngine Sound
- Flight Factor A320
- JAR A320
- SkyMaxx Pro
- ToLiss A319 & A321
- XPRealistic Pro
This update also introduces many bug fixes, partially related to the Vulkan engine over the previously closed beta. The full list is available on the X-Plane development blog.
Stay tuned on FSElite for further information on the other improvements brough to X-Plane with the release of 11.50 and Vulkan/Metal.