X-Plane 12 vs Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

— 8 minute read

Most of you will recognize Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 as the holy grail of Flight Simulation software. To some extent, we’d probably agree with you. MSFS 2020 has done wonders for the virtual aviation community. What began as a nerdy pastime now has millions of players around the globe thanks to Flight Sim’s amazing technical quirks (amongst many other factors as well). But some of you would know that MSFS 2020 isn’t the be-all end-all of Flight Simulation software. Indeed, Laminar Research have had a foot in this game for nearly three decades now. X-Plane is a highly regarded title in the virtual simulation world. In fact, both X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator ranked highly in our Top 7 Best Flight Simulators article.

X-Plane 12 vs Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Recently, they have released an early access version of their much-awaited sequel to XP11, X-Plane 12. So, what’s new in XP12? How does X-Plane 12 stack up against MSFS 2020? As a newcomer to virtual aviation, should you get XP12 or Flight Sim 20? Let all your questions be answered right here, stay tuned!

What’s New in X-Plane 12?

Keep in mind, first and foremost, that the game is still in Early Access. This means certain new features may be introduced as well as certain features possibly being removed. Nevertheless, there’s a generous number of new additions to the X-Plane series.

  • You get HDR lighting through their new photometric engine. This does a lot for the lighting as you might be able to tell, which is good because the lighting is one of our biggest gripes with its predecessors.
  • There are seven new aircrafts added to the fleet; The A330, Citation X, SR22, RV-10, F-14 Tomcat, PA-18, R-22, Lancair Evolution all fly into the scene in X-Plane 12.
  • For the first time ever, X-Plane fans will experience seasonal effects like snow, ice and rainfall.
  • There’s also brand-new forests, variable vegetation and water areas in XP12.

Heads up, if you get XP12 in Early Access you’ll also get access to X-Plane 11 so you can see everything new and improved for yourself.

Comparing X-Plane 12 and MSFS 2020

Laminar have clearly been hard at work developing their newest X-Plane game. A little competition is always healthy though, fans will want to see whether it’s able to go toe to toe with the king of Flight Sim software in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Let’s see if X-Plane can punch above its weight here.

MetricX-Plane 12Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
Hardware DemandsWinner!
Peripheral Availability/QualityWinner

Compatibility – X Plane 12 Wins this Round.

Flight Sim has the Xbox on its side and that’s certainly a BIG plus for MSFS 2020. Introducing console gamers to Virtual Aviation goes a long way indeed. But we’re of the opinion that Simulation Software is perhaps best experienced on a computer. For one, in laptop form a computer is far more portable. We already have an article on the best laptops for flight simulator you can visit. Secondly, you get a wide array of mods to tweak your game to your liking. Finally, there is simply a much larger virtual aviation community used to playing on their computers when compared to the console aviation community.

So, what gives X-Plane the win in this round? Easy, X-Plane is available not just for Windows, but also for MacOS with native ARM Support. For M1/M2 Mac users, this is a HUGE deal. They just got access to one of the industry’s leading simulations software without workarounds. That’s not all, X-Plane 12 also supports Linux having successfully been tested on Ubuntu 20.04 and newer versions. You’ll have to check if it will run on your specific Linux distro if it’s not Ubuntu 20.04+, but at least it’s possible!

Hardware Demands – XP12 goes 2-0!

We’re giving this round to XP12 because it’s simply a less demanding game for your system. Ideally, you’d want as powerful a PC as you can get, but even if you have to make some cuts here and there XP12 will deal with them a lot better than MSFS 2020. Following are some minimum and recommended specifications to run both games.

X-Plane 12 Hardware Requirements:

ComponentMinimum RequirementRecommended Requirement
Storage25 GB HDD Storage25 GB SSD Storage
CPUIntel Core i3/5/7/9 processor with 4+ cores, AMD Ryzen 3/5/7/9Intel Core i5 8600K, AMD Ryzen 5 3500 or better. Apple Silicon.
GPUNVIDIA – Vulkan 1.3 capable Card. AMD – 2 GB VRAM CardDirectX 12, 4GB VRAM card. Think GTX 1070 or better.
RAM8 GB16 – 24 GB or better

MSFS 2020 Hardware Requirements:

ComponentMinimum RequirementRecommended Requirement
Storage150 GB HDD Storage150 GB SSD Storage
CPUIntel i5-4460 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200Intel i7-9800X or Ryzen 7 Pro 2700X
GPURadeon RX 570 or Nvidia GTX 700, 2GB V RAMNvidia RTX 2080 or Radeon VII or better, 8 GB VRAM
RAM8 GB16GB or better

Visuals – Flight Simulator 2020 Pulls One Back.

Despite all its visual improvements, X-Plane remains no match for Flight Sim 2020 in terms of graphics. Compared to XP12, MSFS 2020 almost looks photorealistic at times. With incredible lighting, shadows, textures and attention to detail there is a lot to love. We wouldn’t even blame you for filling up a hard drive with just screenshots if we’re being honest.

Gameplay – Could Go Either Way, No Decision!

X-Plane is hailed in the enthusiast community as incredibly realistic in its physics and flight model. It is to the extent that people training to become real life pilots swear by X-Plane. So that should be it then, right? Not quite. More realistic does not necessarily mean more entertaining. MSFS 2020 might have X-Plane in a chokehold with its arcade style and easy learning curve paired with its amazing visuals. We’re going to call a tie here.

Fleet – MSFS 2020 Takes the Cake for this One.

Flight Sim 2020 currently has 29 aircraft compared to X-Plane 12’s 19. Variety is the spice of life, and we enjoy having such a diverse selection of planes in MSFS 2020 compared to XP12.

Peripherals & Accessories – Easy Round for MSFS.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is the more popular title by some measure. Inherently that gives it a market edge where manufacturers feel more incentivized to make accessories for MSFS 2020 vs XP12. With countless offerings in yokes, pedals, flight sticks, controllers etc., X-Plane cannot reliably measure up to Flight Sim in terms of purpose-built accessories. In fact, if you’re looking to fashion yourself a cockpit setup right at home, Microsoft Flight Sim provides enough compatible items to do that. At Simulator Hardware, we’ve already covered how you can do that at your own place, so do check it out if it interests you.

If you’re looking for some additional details, diverse insight and a video demonstration, head on over to VR Flight Sim Guy’s awesome Youtube upload comparing the two titles:

If You Could Only Buy One…

Games cost big money, and not everyone wants two flight simulators taking up precious storage on their devices. For your money, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 will be a better buy at the moment, especially considering X-Plane 12 is in early access right now. It’s a bigger budget title with a lot more attention given to its development both in terms of updates to the game and consumer accessories to elevate your experience. Not to mention it looks amazing and plays really well too. Especially if you’re a newcomer, it may be best that MSFS 2020 is your gateway to Virtual Aviation.


X-Plane 12 and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 are both awesome games. Ultimately, it comes down to your tastes, preferences and whether you can even run them or not. We think XP12 has the clear edge in terms of software and hardware compatibility, but MSFS 2020 wins in terms of visuals, aircraft offerings and a having lot of accessories on offer. Whether you choose MSFS 2020 or XP12 is up to you, but we hope we’ve made your decision that much easier. As always, have a safe flight home and we hope you’ll visit Simulator Hardware again!

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