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Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020: Now supports VR headsets

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
(Image credit: Xbox)

At long last, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 has finally taken off. The latest version of this hyper-realistic sim is available to download. But before you do, here's everything you need to know, from the price to the airplanes you'll be able to fly, to the equipment you'll need to run the game. 

Microsoft Flight Simulator was also named the best PC game of the year in the Tom's Guide 2021 Awards

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 release date

Since the first version was released in 1982, Microsoft's Flight Simulator has been known for its realism, from the aircraft to the flight performance to the geographical world around it.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is available for PCs, and Xbox Game Pass subscribers. 

As of July 27, Microsoft Flight Simulator has been made available for the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S

Microsoft Flight Simulator price

Microsoft Flight Simulator is available in three versions: The Standard Edition costs $59.99, and will let you fly 20 different planes. The Deluxe Edition ($89.99)  includes 25 aircraft, and the Premium Deluxe Edition ($119.99) includes 35 aircraft. 

While all versions let you land and take off from 37,000 airports around the world, each edition has have "handcrafted" airports with additional details. The Standard Edition has 30 such airports, the Deluxe 35, and the Premium Deluxe 40 airports.

The Standard Edition is also available as part of Xbox Game Pass for PC and the Xbox.

In Europe, would-be pilots can also purchase Microsoft Flight Simulator as a 10 double-layer DVD box set via Aerosoft

All versions are currently available for download.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 system requirements

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

(Image credit: Xbox)

This is not a game for wimpy PCs. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 requires, at minimum, a Windows 10 PC with either an Intel i5-4460 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200 processor, an Nvidia GTX 770 or AMD Radeon RX 570 GPU, 8 GB RAM, 2 GB VRAM, 150GB of hard drive space, and support for DirectX 11. Below are the minimum,  recommended, and ideal specs, according to Asobo.

Minimum specs
AMDNvidia
CPURyzen 3 1200Intel i5-4460
GPURadeon RX 570Nvidia GTX 770
VRAM2GB2GB
RAM8GB8GB
Storage150GB150GB
Bandwidth5 Mbps5 Mbps

Recommended Specs
AMDNvidia
CPURyzen 5 1500XIntel i5-8400
GPURadeon RX 590Nvidia GTX 970
VRAM4GB4GB
RAM16GB16GB
Storage150GB150GB
Bandwidth20 Mbps20 Mbps

Ideal Specs
AMDNvidia
CPURyzen 7 Pro 2700XIntel i7-9800X
GPURadeon VIINvidia RTX 2080
VRAM8GB8GB
RAM32GB32GB
Storage150GB SSD150GB SSD
Bandwidth50 Mbps50 Mbps

You're also going to need a decent Internet connection, as map updates from Bing are sizeable. The game can also pull in live weather data to add an even more realistic aspect, which also can put a strain on limited connections.

Game developer Asobo released an update on July 27 that has drastically increased the performance of the game, allowing for greater framerates and lower memory usage.

 In addition, there are more Discovery Flight options, new and improved tutorials, and more flight assist features.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 release notes

June 17: Release 1.17.3.0 (World Update V): The Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden are getting their due, and five airport landing challenges have been added.

May 25: Release 1.16.2.0 (Sim Update IV): A number of adjustments, including reducing the bandwidth required for weather data, improved tools for turboprop airplanes

April 13: Release 1.15.7.0 (World Update IV): France/Benelux includes details in the region, including a number of cathedrals such as Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. In addition, liveries for the S7 Airbus A320neo and the KLM Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner have been added.

March 9: Release 1.14.5.0 (Sim Update III) is now available. The biggest change is that contrails have been added to aircraft. Other upgrades include liveries for Kenmore, Emerald Gold, Global Freightways, Orbit, Pacifica and World Travel.

Feb. 16 2021: Release 1.13.16.0 (World Update III): Additional details and visual enhancements have been added to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Dec. 22: Release 1.12.13.0 (Sim Update 2) is now available. This update enables VR play using supported headsets, as well as new features for the Airbus A320neo.

Nov. 24: Release 1.11.6.0 (World Update II): This update includes a number of updates to the U.S., specifically to major landmarks such as Washington, D.C, Yosemite, the Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 VR headset compatibility

Microsoft Flight Simulator supports OpenXR-compatible headsets, such as  Valve Index, Oculus Rift S, the HP Reverb G2, and Oculus Quest with Link.

Previously, you could sign up for a closed VR beta program—in which it looks like you can use any VR headset—but you'll need at least an Intel Core i5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 5 1500X processor, an Nvidia GTX 1080 or equivalent GPU, and at least 16GB of RAM. 

However, this latest update opens the flight simulator to a number of other VR headsets.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 aircraft

The following aircraft are available in Microsoft Flight Simulator:

Aircraft available in Microsoft Flight Simulator
Standard EditionDeluxe EditionPremium Deluxe Edition
Airbus A320neoXXX
Aviat Pitts Special S2SXXX
Boeing 747-8 IntercontinentalXXX
CubCrafters XCubXXX
Daher TBM 930XXX
Diamond DA62XXX
Diamond DA40 NGXXX
EXTRA 330LTXXX
Flight Design CTLSXXX
ICON A5XXX
JMB VL-3XXX
Robin CAP 10XXX
Robin DR400-100 CadetXXX
Beechcraft Bonanza G36XXX
Beechcraft King Air 350iXXX
Cessna 152XXX
Cessna 172 Skyhawk (G1000)XXX
Cessna 208 B Grand Caravan EXXXX
Cessna Citation CJ4XXX
Zlin Savage CubXXX
Diamond DA40-TDIXX
Diamond DV20XX
Beechcraft Baron G58XX
Cessna 152 AerobatXX
Cessna 172 SkyhawkXX
Boeing 787-10 DreamlinerX
Cirrus SR22X
Pipistrel Virus SW 121X
Cessna Citation LongitudeX
Zlin Shock UltraX

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 airports

According to Microsoft, players can land and take off from around 37,000 airports around the world. However, 40 of these airports have "hand-crafted" elements, offering more detail and other features. So, for instance, all players will be able to fly into San Francisco's airport, but only those who have the Premium Deluxe version will be able to see these hand-crafted items. Microsoft has not specified what the exact differences are between hand-crafted and non-handcrafted versions.  

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

(Image credit: Xbox)

Standard EditionDeluxe EditionPremium Deluxe Edition
Aspen/Pikin County (USA)XXX
Bugalaga Airstrip (Indonesia)XXX
Chagual Airport (Peru)XXX
Courchevel Altiport (France)XXX
Donegal Airport (Ireland)XXX
Entebbe Int'l Airport (Uganda)XXX
Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira Int'l Airport (Portugal)XXX
Gibraltar Int'l Airport (UK)XXX
Innsbruck Airport (Austria)XXX
Los Angeles Int'l Airport (USA)XXX
Tenzing-Hillary Airport (Nepal)XXX
Nanwalek Airport (USA)XXX
John F. Kennedy Int'l Airport (USA)XXX
Orlando Int'l Airport (USA)XXX
Paris Charles de Gaulle Int'l Airport (France)XXX
Paro Int'l Airport (Bhutan)XXX
Queenstown Airport (New Zealand)XXX
Mariscal Sucre Int'l Airport (Ecuador)XXX
Rio de Janeiro-Antonio Carlos Jobim Int'l Airport (Brazil)XXX
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (Dutch Saba)XXX
Gustaf III Airport (France)XXX
Seattle-Tacoma Int'l Airport (USA)XXX
Sedona Airport (USA)XXX
Sirena Aerodrome (Costa Rica)XXX
Stewart Airport (Canada)XXX
Sydney Airport (Australia)XXX
Telluride Regional Airport (USA)XXX
Haneda Airport (Japan)XXX
Toncontin Int'l Airport (Honduras)XXX
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (Canada)XXX
Schiphol Airport (Netherlands)XX
Cairo Int'l Airport (Egypt)XX
Cape Town Int'l Airport (South Africa)XX
O'Hare Int'l Airport (USA)XX
Adolfo Suarez Madrid Barajas (Spain)XX
Denver Int'l Airport (USA)X
Frankfurt Airport (Germany)X
Heathrow Airport (UK)X
San Francisco Int'l Airport (USA)X

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 map

As impressive as its aircraft modeling is, Microsoft Flight Simulator is also known for its highly accurate rendering of the Earth. The simulator relies on Microsoft's Bing Maps, and uses Microsoft's Azure AI to incorporate terrain data, foliage, as well as real-time weather for photorealistic graphics.

For those who plan to purchase Microsoft Flight Simulator, the company recommends the following peripherals, which include a variety of flight controls:

Honeycomb
Honeycomb Aeronautical

Logitech:
Extreme 3D Pro
Flight Rudder Pedals
Flight Throttle Quadrant
Flight Yoke System
X52
X52 Pro
X56

Thrustmaster
F/A-18 Grip
Warthog HOTAS (stick + throttle)
MFD Cougar
Pendular Rudder
T.Flight Stick X
T.16000M (stick only)
T.16000M FCS (stick + throttle + rudder)
T.Flight HOTAS 4
T.Flight HOTAS One
T.Flight HOTAS X
T-Flight Rudder Pedals
TWCS Throttle

Virtual Fly
Ruddo+
TQ3+
TQ6+
V3rnio TPM
Yoko+

Microsoft
Xbox Controller
Xbox Adaptive Controller

Mike Prospero

Michael A. Prospero is the deputy editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing the smart home, drones, and fitness/wearables categories. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine or some other cooking gadget.

  • Mixonk
    “The Standard Edition will cost $59.99, and will let you fly 20 different planes, and land (and takeoff) from 30 different airports. The Deluxe Edition ($89.99) will include 25 aircraft and 35 airports, and the Premium Deluxe Edition ($119.99) will include 35 aircraft and 35 airports.
    You can actually fly to every single airport in the world, (takeoff and land). There are even 37,000 of the world airports that have been manually edited so that they are more detailed/realistic. These 30 (standard), 35 (deluxe), and 40 (premium edition) airports are just handcrafted international airports that are even more detailed than all of the others. The standard edition will still have these same 15 airports as the premium edition does, but they just won’t be the more detailed/realistic versions .
    Reply
  • A.C. Ratone
    The new 'sensitivity' setting in the last 2 MSFS updates which allow cutting off the ends of extreme controller position allows better control of the Deluxe and Premium aircraft.

    This was an issue because while the Standard planes had flight_model.cfg files that you could modify the 'effectiveness' of your controllers. But the Deluxe and Premium planes had these files hidden (in code).

    But now the new sensitivity settings in MSFS itself (Controls window) allow controlling the effectiveness not just sensitivity, one place for all planes, much easier. And it works on all Standard, Deluxe, Premium, and all 3rd party planes.

    If you need more than one adjustment because a particular plane needs a different setting, just save a new profile with a name that reminds you it is for only a certain plane (or planes).

    This makes the Deluxe and Premium editions much more valuable now because those planes will be as easy to set to fly as are the Standard edition planes.
    Reply