For the past few months, Laminar Research, the developer of X-Plane 11 have been busy releasing new beta versions of the X-Plane 11.50 patch. While the patch number may sound innocuous its actually one of the biggest updates for the X-Plane series in quite a while and with it comes some impressive performance changes to the sim. Let’s have a quick look at what they are doing, what beta 13 updates, and how long it might be before the 11.50 patch goes from beta to released.
Here comes Vulkan
You may have heard of Vulkan API before. It’s a graphics API (application programming interface) that, in essence, connects game world with your computer graphics hardware. It’s something that the developers of DCS World are actively working on using for their next generation rendering engine and its something that the developers of X-Plane 11, Laminar Research, also spent years perfecting so that their new X-Plane renderer would work faster and smoother than before.
For X-Plane 11, this is a seriously needed upgrade as their old OpenGL renderer is quite old and its showing its age with poor multi-core support and ultimately low performance. While IL-2 and DCS (sometimes) can give me a solid 60fps on my GTX 1070ti, X-Plane at best is able to give me about 25-30fps and then it frequently drops below that. Stuttering and low FPS are, as I’ve been told by many X-Plane groups, relatively normal as an X-Plane experience and 30fps is typically what you aim to get. I’ve tried a lot of performance tweaks to get better performance but ultimately… its stuck around 30fps.
Enter Vulkan with 11.50 beta 1. That was months ago and even then, those users opting into the open beta, reported huge and impressive performance increases. Since then the developers have worked hard to squash bugs and while the beta testing process does usually involve problems, this process has been longer from what I gather because Vulkan really is going to make a big splash when it finally emerges as the replacement rendering system for X-Plane.
It’s actually Vulkan and Metal support because X-Plane works cross platform and is supported on MacOS as well as on Windows PC.
The latest beta updates
We’re now on beta 13 for 11.50 for X-Plane which in their latest developer blog they are calling ‘lucky 13’. While many users reported that beta 9 has been the fastest they’ve seen X-Plane, it also looks like there were still problems and the developers have moved through a series of updates.
Along the way, everything from shaders to support for third party plugins to fixes for crashes have been solved. If you’re really interested in the patch notes for all of these beta updates, check the X-Plane 11 .50 release notes out here.
It’s clear that we’re not quite there yet. There are still crashes and problems and it’s unlikely that beta 13 will be the final version before we go to a stable release. It does appear that it may still be several weeks or even months before Laminar move X-Plane 11.50 out of the beta and into stable. And that’s not a bad thing either. The beta process is designed to get through these problems while those looking for a more steady experience are still on the 11.40 version. Laminar actually has a third release, a 11.50 unstable beta, which might crash all the time while 11.50 beta is intended to have been given a medium check for stability.
You can opt into the beta but unless you like to tweak and test things I recommend you wait for things to stabilize. However, what beta testers report does have me excited for a much smoother and higher performance X-Plane experience in the future.