PC

DCS – Best PC Setup/ Build (2022)

DCS is a demanding game, especially if you intend to play in VR. However, it is also one of the most rewarding experiences on PC. DCS especially appeals to mature audiences who have the patience to to study complex systems to fly these highly capable combat aircraft like the way they are meant to. 

In addition to time, you also need to invest in the necessary hardware. This can be quite confusing and frankly I too was baffled when I first started to build my DCS rig back in 2014. Since then, I have tried out dozens of hardware options including CPUs, GPUS, VR headsets, monitors, joysticks etc.

These are my top recommendations for a highly capable DCS rig based on my experiences over the years. This is the top-end for both VR and pancake (monitor) gaming.

1. CPU

Sale
AMD Ryzen™ 7 5800X3D 8-core, 16-Thread Desktop Processor with AMD 3D...
  • The world's fastest gaming desktop processor and first gaming processor with 3D stacking technology
  • 8 Cores and 16 processing threads with AMD 3D V-Cache technology
Intel Core i9-12900K Desktop Processor 16 (8P+8E) Cores up to 5.2 GHz...
  • The processor features Socket LGA-1700 socket for installation on the PCB
  • 30 MB of L3 cache memory provides excellent hit rate in short access time enabling improved system...

The 5800X3D is the best CPU for DCS right now. Usually, DCS requires the best single core performance and that usually belongs to Intel. But the 5800X3D is a bit of an outlier as AMD stacked some cache right on top of the core which somehow turned this chip into a beast even though it doesn’t clock as high as the other chips. Its an unexpected result but it has been verified by several tech channels as well as DCS players. So I got one too just to test it and it seems to be true.

However, if you really need to go with Intel then you can’t go wrong with the amazon link=”B09FXDLX95″ title=”Intel 12900K” link_icon=amazon] still. The effective difference in performance is in the single digitals. However, the reason the 5800X3D is the better choice is because you are not only getting better performance but you are getting it at a much cheaper price.

For midrange options, I recommend the Intel 9600K  or the Ryzen 5600X . For more options, check out the DCS CPU guide here.

2. Graphics Card

ASUS TUF Gaming NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Ti OC Edition Graphics Card...
  • NVIDIA Ampere Streaming Multiprocessors: The building blocks for the world’s fastest, most...
  • 2nd Generation RT Cores: Experience 2X the throughput of 1st gen RT Cores, plus concurrent RT and...

The Nvidia 3090 Ti or the base 3090  is the best option right now and the only graphic card worthy of being paired with your premium CPU. DCS is highly unoptimized and buggy and it eats VRAM like a hog. Normally, 10GB of RAM (like that on a 3080) is enough but not for DCS. It will happily utilize the 24 GB or RAM that the 3090 or 3090 Ti have. Which is why those are recommended cards.

AMD also has some decent options here. The Radeon 6950 XT  would be my second choice or mid-tier option since it has 16 GB VRAM which is a lot more than what the Nvidia 3080 has. The AMD card can actually go toe to toe with the nvidia top end in other games, but in DCS the extra VRAM of the Nvidia top of the line offerings just win out. It is what it is. Read my full DCS GPU guide here.

3. Monitor

Alienware 120Hz UltraWide Gaming Monitor 34 Inch Curved Monitor with...
  • Experience breathtaking views with a combination of immersive features
  • Aspect Ratio is 21:9; Viewing Angle is 178º (H) / 178º (V); Brightness is 350 cd/m²(typical)

I have been using ultrawide monitors for a while now and the Alienware is my top recommendation. It has G-sync and an IPS panel which I consider essential for gaming. It also goes up to 120 Hz which is the minimum I recommend.

I have tried a lot of monitors including the Alienware QD-OLED and its just not quite there yet. An IPS ultrawide is still your best bet. You can also go for a 4K option but a 1440p ultrawide is the sweet spot and what I recommend.

I have used triple monitors as well and I’d take a single ultrawide over a multi-monitor setup any day. Multi-monitors are too much of a hassle and dont look anywhere as good as a curved ultrawide.

TrackIR is essential if you are planning on using a monitor so make sure you grab it if you don’t want to go with VR.

4. VR Headset

Sale
HP Reverb G2 VR Headset with Controller, Adjustable Lenses & Speakers...
  • THE NO COMPROMISE VR HEADSET - Realistic visuals, soundscapes, and superb performance come together...
  • IT’S ALL INSIDE - Packaging includes HP VR Headset, 6m headset cable for desktop and mobile PCs, 2...

The HP Reverb G2 is clearly the best consumer grade VR headset for DCS and all other sims right now. It has a much clearer screen not just on paper, but in practice as well. The Quest 2 is a decent mid-range option if the Reverb is out of your budget or is not available in your country.

DCS requires exception clarity in VR lenses because you need to be able to read gauges and radar outputs quickly and effectively. The Reverb g2 is the closest you can get to that in a consumer headset. There are more expensive options that cost several times more but they have quirks of their own. That makes the Reverb my top pick.

HeadsetResolution (per eye)Total Pixels (both eyes)
Reverb2160 x 21609,331,200
Quest 21832 x 19207,034,880
Index1440 x 16004,608,000
Cosmos Elite1440 x 17004,896,000
Vive Pro1440 x 16004,608,000
Rift S1280 x 14403,686,400
Vive1080 x 12002,592,000

A VR Headset is a significant investment so take some time to and read my in-depth review for DCS here.

5. Joysticks/ HOTAS/ Controllers

Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Flight Stick (Windows)
  • Joystick replica of the U.S. Air Force A-10C attack aircraft flight stick
  • Stand-alone HOTAS Warthog joystick, from the creator of the original HOTAS concept and the worldwide...
Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Dual Throttles (Windows)
  • Dual replica throttles 3D magnetic sensors on the 2 throttles allow you to enjoy surgical precision...
  • Dual throttles, featuring a Metal hand rest, Locking system, Adjustable friction system, Realistic...

The Thrustmaster Warthog is my personal recommendation and I have been using it for 8+ years now. It shows no sign of quitting. If you are looking for mid-range or budget options, use this guide to find the one you want for DCS.

Your joystick pick is an important consideration for a flight sim like DCS and something that will really affect your experience. The good news is that whatever money you spend here will easily last you a decade if not more, unlike investments you make into GPUs and CPUs which get outdated fairly quickly. That is why its a good idea to get good peripherals right from the get go.

6. Rudder Pedals

logitech PRO Flight Rudder Pedals
  • Self-centering pedals with adjustable damping / Foot rests adjust to fit all sizes and include...
  • Precise rudder and braking control / Tension adjustment - choose resistance to suit the way you fly

I recommend the Logitech G PRO Flight Rudder Pedals. I feel it hits the sweet spot in terms of quality and price. There are other more expensive options available, but they are several times more expensive. You would honestly be better off putting that money towards a better CPU, graphics card or VR Headset really. Rudder pedals are nice to have, especially for helicopters but don’t overspend on this category. Its not as essential as your joystick.

7. SSD

Sale
Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD 2TB NVMe M.2 Internal Solid State Hard Drive...
  • ALWAYS EVOLVING SSD: Faster than the 970 EVO, the 970 EVO Plus is powered by the latest V-NAND...
  • LEVEL UP PERFORMANCE: The 970 EVO Plus reaches sequential read/write speeds up to 3,500/3,300 MB/s,*...

DCS easily uses upwards of 200 GB of space with all modules. Ideally, you want all your games on a separate SSD than your operating system because they both will try to access the disk simultaneously and this can affect gaming performance. Its not that big of a deal but it is best practice to put more demanding games on a secondary SSD.

As always, faster is better. The NVMe is a pretty good option but I personally have used over a half a dozen Samsung Pros/ Evos without issue. Some of them are 8 years old now and still kicking! Quality stuff.

8. RAM

Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB (2x16GB) 3200MHz C16 DDR4 DRAM Memory Kit...
  • Hand-sorted memory chips ensure high performance with generous overclocking headroom
  • VENGEANCE LPX is optimized for wide compatibility with the latest Intel motherboards

DCS does benefit from having 32 GB of RAM if you can provide it. This will really help with the loading times. It works with 16 GB as well but then some of the assets have to be loaded form the page file or form the SSD which can affect performance especially during loading.

It is very important to pick high speed/ low latency RAM though. Not all RAM are created equal. The one I have recommended is the 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM which is one of the best available. There are 2133MHz and 2400 MHz options too so make sure you are selecting the right options before you buy!

 

About the Author

Gary (Flanker)

Gary has been "hard landing" into runways and driving his Mitsubishi Evo off of cliffs since the early 2000s. These days, he spends most of his precious hobby time with his favorite flight, racing and space simulations in VR.He also has an Engineering Degree in Computer Science which helps a lot with his obsession with optimizing PC hardware like CPUs, Graphics Cards, VR Headsets, HOTAS, Racing Wheels etc. for high end sims.