Trainz is longest produced evolving series (or family) of railroad simulators, with no end in sight having released products for hand held devices and power computers in recent years. Every competitor to arise, but one faded in less than five years. The one survivor actually performs to a different niche and is but for one product unavailable outside of Japan. Another initially stole some market share by jumping in the high definition video, 64 bit processor technologies quicker, but have faded in sales because the simulator strictly constrains the creative side of the die hard railroad enthusiasts who still gather and build physical model railroads, but have bent more of their energies to club grade activity and creations on the Trainz series.
The following is an attempt at a realistic minimum set of hardware specifications for the various programs in the long series of Trainz simulators. It must be understood, that the system is extensible, and while newer versions have had improvements and better graphics, the series by and large can import assets from a previous earlier version into the newer software, albeit sometimes with minor patching. The Trainz database system using a coding system called 'kuid' tagging (a unique identifier for an object), not only allows one to select compatible extensions, but also to select and get a more recent version as the code contains version controls as well. With any of the fully capable products (A few driver only versions have been produced) a large subset of the 100,000 plus items (assets) on the manufacturers Download Station servers are available for free to extend the purchasers railroading experience. The server automatically blocks downloads of assets that are too evolved for compatibility with the users Trainz version.
TRS2012 with Speedtree technology and picture like realism is the first of the series to fully break backwards compatibility by additional graphics demands and requiring added graphical or data elements to be defined and the million strong Trainz user community has been busily upgrading old assets to the new more demanding graphical needs since the programs release in late 2011, rapidly uploading fixed '12 compatible assets. TRS2010 supported both the older technologies in compatibility mode, and was able to exploit a computer with 64 bit architecture, which is required to run both the next generations, TRS2012 and TRS2013 Trainz simulators.
In running simulator software, the aim is to display a high enough number of frames per second so the trains movement looks realistic. Normally 24 fps is used as a benchmark target for films so that can be used as a reference standard. Flicker is noticeable to the human visual senses at about 15-16 fps. The Trainz experience looks best with a monitor, video card and microprocessor architecture which can support frame rates towards the higher film end of the continuum. Context switching, or the execution speed to update to an entirely different part of the railway is a second concern, but a fast video system and processor capable of switching to a scene 20-60 miles away without noticeable pause is desirable.
The forum has some hardware benchmarking threads so different machines can be compared.`The results of these measures, performed by a critical audience we report below.
Trainz on Windows
Trainz utilizes millions of calculations and code which must produce a rotatable, angle changeable moving view presented as a three dimensional surrounding along a line of sight (not just a single picture) at a particular altitude and angle that looks as natural as possible and is unsurprisingly, also very dependent on the video card and the amount of memory on the machine. A 1.83 Ghz—2.4 GHz Pentium 4 cpu (produced in 2000) with 2 gigs of memory and an NVIDIA GeForce Go 7300 GT or GeForce Go 7600, or ATI 850 XT PE video card will give acceptable performance at the low end for versions prior to TRS2009. Long routes or medium sized layouts with a lot of activity will tax that into some hesitations and occasional jitter or slight delays when asked to change the frame of reference, but are overall still quite playable. Setting the default Resource cache size in the Options settings to 256 or 512 pages will ease many visual flickers in older systems. Auran has claimed running Trainz on a laptop is neither recommended nor supported, but it's (both TRS2004/2006) been run successfully for four years on 'this mid-range laptop' (7 years old) with a 1.83 gHz early dual core processor and its built in GeForce Go 7600 video), though this system is sometimes taxed into minor stuttering an flickering on very large routes (layouts) when passing trains or a large yard or many AI Drivers load up the session's graphical demands.
- Processor: With Windows XP 2.6GHz. With Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8, probably something roughly twice as powerful. There is considerable debate as to whether or not Trainz makes effective use of multiple cores in dual or quad core processors. One SLI benchmark saw a small increase in performance when a dual core processor had one core disabled, others claim multiple cores are used. Given the basic program was written some time ago and the general feeling amongst programmers that writing code that can make effective use of multiple cores for gaming is difficult it is unlikely that Trainz can make use of more than one core.
- RAM: With Windows XP at least 1GB. With Windows Vista at least 2GB. Adding RAM beyond these figures may or may not improve performance, depending on the layout. More complex layouts can make use of more memory. A major cause of stuttering is memory shortage, Trainz can make use of 2 gigs of memory, XP likes 512mb so 2.5 gigs of memory is the most that Trainz can make use of on a 32 bit version of XP. Running 64 bit Vista with 8 gigs of memory has given satisfactory performance for some users.
- Video board: The program was written using OpenGL on nVidia video cards but runs well on ATI usually running directX. At least an nVidia 7300GT 256MB or equivalent. The nVidia GeForce Go 7600 GT preferably, though by 2013 standards, these are now both very old video technology. The power of the video board's processor is of critical importance to the performance of Trainz.
- Hard disk: At least 10GB of free space. TRS2004 takes about 4GB to install. Other Hard Drive assets will be consumed by disk caching.
The program may run with a lower spec computer but only with likely stuttering. Even a much more powerful computer can struggle with a complex layout. Such effects are most evident in a complex yard where the graphics engine has to resolve complex track and scenery interactions.
Choice of content, both layout objects and variety of rolling stock, also affects performance; particularly when several variegated consists are within viewing distance. Some objects are significantly more visually complex than others. In addition a variety of different types of objects has far more effect on performance than multiple copies of the same type of object. For example, a train with fifteen identical coal wagons will have less impact on performance than a train with fifteen different types of wagons.
Trainz on MAC
Trainz appears to require Macs with nVidia or ATI graphics chipsets. The game launches on systems with Intel integrated graphics chipsets, e.g. Intel GMA X3100, but the simulator will crash, presumably due to lack of OpenGL features. (See PC graphics hardware requirements, above.)
Trainz Driver on iOS
Apples' iOS, formerly iPhone OS allows users to run applets that use a cut down version of Trainz without Surveyor, download manager and the like. It has been extended to support other Apple devices such as the iPad and Apple TV.
Trainz Driver on Android
Trainz driver on Android requires an Android Tablet with Tegra 2. It is not compatible with Android based smartphones, but has been reported to run fine on the original Kindle.