PC

DCS – Best PC Setup/ Build/ (2020)

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
Intel Core i9-9900K Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 5.0 GHz Turbo...
  • 8 Cores / 16 Threads
  • 3.60 GHz up to 5.00 GHz / 16 MB Cache

The 9900K is the best CPU for DCS right now. This is because DCS still mostly relies on a single core and the 9900K has the highest single core performance amongst consumer grade CPUs. The Ryzens perform better for multi-core but you don’t need that here.

The 9900K can overclock to 5 GHz and that’s the best you can get right now. Just make sure to provide ample cooling using a 240mm or 360mm radiator.

The performance difference between a 9900K or a cheaper 9700K is not going to be staggering so you can get either. For cheaper CPU options, use this guide.

2. Graphics Card

ASUS ROG STRIX GeForce RTX 2080TI-O11G Overclocked 11G GDDR6 HDMI DP...
  • Powered by NVIDIA Turing with 1665 MHz Boost Clock (OC Mode), 4352 CUDA cores and overclocked 11GB...
  • Supports up-to 4 monitors with DisplayPort 1. 4, HDMI 2. 0 and a VR headset via USB Type C ports

The 2080Ti is the only graphics card worthy of being paired with the 9900K. Nothing else comes close right now so this is a more straightforward choice. The only reason not to pick a 2080Ti is cost and in that case, there are some cheaper options that I have reviewed in this article.

3. RAM

Sale
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 and AMD DDR4 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 qual. The one I have recommended is the 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM which is the best available. There are 2133MHz and 2400 MHz options too so make sure you are selecting the right options before you buy!

4. SSD

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Samsung (MZ-V7E1T0BW) 970 EVO SSD 1TB - M.2 NVMe Interface Internal...
  • INNOVATIVE V NAND TECHNOLOGY: Powered by Samsung V NAND Technology, the 970 EVO SSD’s NVMe...
  • BREAKTHROUGH READ WRITE SPEEDS: Sequential read and write performance levels of up to 3,500MB/s and...
Sale
Samsung SSD 860 EVO 1TB 2.5 Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-76E1T0B/AM)
  • Innovative V-Nand Technology: Powered by Samsung V-Nand Technology, the 860 Evo SSD offers optimized...
  • Continuity tester/Wire tracer

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.

5. Joysticks/ Controllers

The Virpils and VKBs are pretty good but they have an availability issue. Most DCS users eventually end up with a mix and match kind of situation where they might have a Joystick from one company and the throttle from another.

Use this guide to find the one you want for DCS.

6. Rudder Pedals

Logitech G 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.

7. Monitor

Alienware 1900R 34.1", Curved Gaming Monitor LED-Lit, WQHD 3440 x...
  • The 34 inches curved monitor with 21: 9 ratio and 1900 radius maximizes your field of view. The new...
  • Fast 120 hertz refresh rate (overclocked) combined with 4 millisecond response time delivers buttery...
Asus ROG Swift PG349Q 34” Curved G-Sync Gaming Monitor 120Hz 3440 X...
  • 34 inch UWQHD (3440x1440) 1900R curved IPS panel with an overclocked refresh rate up to 120 Hertz...
  • Nvidia G SYNC technology features NVIDIA G SYNC Processor to ensure smooth game play by eliminating...

I have been using ultrawide monitors for a while now and the Alienware is my top recommendation followed by the Asus. They both have G-sync and an IPS panel which I consider essential for gaming. They also go up to 120 Hz which is the minimum I recommend.

They are both more or less the same on paper. In practice, the difference between them is so negligible that I was frankly unable to make a judgment. So pick the one which is cheaper or the brand you like better. I like both Asus and Alienware.

I have used triple monitors as well and I’d take a single ultrawide over a multimonitor setup any day.

TrackIR is essential if you are planning on using a monitor!

8. VR Headset

Sale
HP Reverb Virtual Reality Headset - Professional Edition
  • Field of view: 114°
  • Connectivity Technology: Wired

The HP Reverb 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 Index is a distant second to the Reverb when it comes to screen clarity. I actually sold my Index to a friend after getting the Reverb.

HeadsetResolution (per eye)Pixels (both eyes)
Reverb2160 x 21609,331,200
Index1440 x 16004,608,000
Vive Pro1440 x 16004,608,000
Cosmos Elite1440 x 17004,896,000
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.

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.