Last week, Rich Leadbetter took a trip to Microsoft’s Redmond campus for an exclusive and comprehensive immersion in the technology on which the next Xbox console is based, codenamed Project Scorpio. You can find his detailed report here on SamaGame, along with his opinion and analysis of what he saw and heard, and an additional look at how Scorpio will handle backwards compatibility.
But if you’re not as tech-savvy as the average Digital Foundry reader, you might be wondering what all those abstruse technicalities mean. Read on, then: this article is just for you.
What’s your name? When does it come out? What does it look like? How much will it cost?
These things have not been said to us or we cannot tell you. We are sorry. This was a technical reveal. We assume these details will be kept in store for E3. There are interesting things, however. We assure you.
Come on, give us some clues!
The form factor of the console might pleasantly surprise you. And for the cost, Microsoft hasn’t told us absolutely anything but looking at what’s inside this console, it won’t be sold at a low price. Our prediction, and it’s just a prediction, is $ 499, the same introductory price as the first Xbox One.
So what did you find out?
Microsoft has provided us with all the technical specifications of the machine. The central processor unit (CPU) has eight custom x86 cores operating at a clock rate of 2.3GHz. The Graphic Processor Unit (GPU) has 40 compute units (CUs) operating at 1172MHz, a very high clock rate for a console, and provides the famous 6 teraflops Microsoft anticipated. We then find on board 12GB of GDDR5 RAM with passband equal to 326GB / s. And there is also a faster 1TB 2.5-inch hard drive, and a UHD Blu-Ray player. Like the Xbox One S, the console has a built-in power supply, so there’s no external power unit. As for the entry / exit ports, the situation is identical to Xbox One S (so no Kinect port but HDMI is maintained).
I didn’t understand anything.
OK, I try to speak in simpler terms. The CPU is about 30 percent faster than that of the Xbox One S. The GPU is 4.6 times more powerful than that of the Xbox One. What is really important, however, is the huge amount of memory available. Even with 4GB reserved for the system, games have a full 8GB available, versus the slowest 5GB of memory available on Xbox One. This implies the ability to stream very high-quality assets seamlessly, which helps enormously with the 4K ultra HD resolution that Microsoft is banking on.
So is it as powerful as they promised? As powerful as we all hoped for?
Enough, yes. Some hoped to find a next-gen CPU inside Scorpio but it was never a likely hypothesis, since Microsoft has strictly enforced compatibility with all existing Xbox One software. On the CPU side, what we have is a modest evolution of the processor present on Xbox One. But the GPU is a beast. It’s very, very fast.
More powerful than PlayStation 4 Pro?
Yes. Sony’s machine is truly brilliant and produces great results in the right hands, and as always the quality of the final results depends on how the software runs, not just numbers. But if we are to stick to them, Scorpio is superior to PS4 Pro. It will certainly be more expensive, though. This is a high-spec machine in every sense, starting with the optical drive that plays UHD Blu-Ray (not that anyone buys them at the moment!). Microsoft uses the word ?? premium ?? and you know what that means: money!
Have you seen a game turn?
Yes, a ForzaTech demo, which is a stress test based on the Forza Motorsport 6 game engine, running with the maximum number of cars on the track, dynamic weather enabled, and all available beauties and effects brought into play.
And how did it go?
Great. With the same graphics settings as the Xbox One, the demo shot at a fixed 4K and 60fps. To achieve such a result, but at 1080p, the Xbox One uses about 90 percent of the console’s power. Scorpio, on the other hand, only needs 60-70 percent of its resources to run this tech demo. The graphics settings were then pushed up to the equivalent of the ultra setting of the PC version of the game, Forza Motorsport Apex, and even in this situation Scorpio did not show the slightest uncertainty.
So this means that …
Scorpio potentially has enough power to not only run Xbox One games at 4K at the same frame-rate, but it also has excess power to improve their appearance at higher graphics settings, smoother and more.
Where is the catch?
Microsoft did not accidentally choose the Forza engine for the demonstration it gave us. It is one of the most optimized and best performing game engines available. The results on other engines can however be variable.
I don’t have a 4K TV and I doubt I’ll get one anytime soon. Why should I care about Scorpio?
Microsoft is committed to ensuring that (unlike PS4 Pro) all game enhancement modes offered by Scorpio must be available regardless of the type of display connected. So even with a standard 1080p TV you’ll be able to choose between the performance modes that make that game smoother, and the resolution modes that will apply the ?? supersample ?? 4K to the image and then scaling it to your 1080p display will ensure superb image quality. In practice, you will have exceptional image quality and it will be like having the ultimate anti-aliasing solution at your disposal.
Hmm, maybe maybe …
OK, how about this: Scorpio will run all Xbox One games better, whether they are patched for 4K / Scorpio enhancement modes, or not. Rather than running on an emulated Xbox One, they will run with the full power of Scorpio unlocked, which in many cases will mean: more stable frame-rates (hitting their target more frequently), no screen tearing, maximum possible resolution in each case. occasion, higher quality textures and shorter loading times thanks to the faster hard drive and the 3GB of free RAM that are used as cache.
Looks interesting. And what about backward compatible Xbox 360 games? Are there any advantages in those too?
Yes, all of those mentioned above. And it’s worth pointing out that none of this was easy for Microsoft to engineer. There’s an incredible commitment to making as many Xbox games run better than you’ve ever seen them on Scorpio.
So what do you think?
Reminding you that we only saw a demo running on the new machine (and for a not too long time) and that the software is everything, we are really impressed. The machine is beautifully designed, starting with the excellent vapor chamber heatsink that cools the graphics processor. A big step up from Xbox One, Kinect and the hit TV TV TV ??. It reminds us of the first Xbox and the Xbox 360: this is Microsoft employing all its enormous engineering resources to make the best possible machine to run games. The Xbox is finally back.