Why we can’t wait for the Xbox Scorpio

Why we can’t wait for the Xbox Scorpio

Yesterday our colleagues over at DigitalFoundry released a few videos about the Xbox Scorpio. They had exclusive access to the final spec hardware from Microsoft’s latest console, and shared their view in their own technical way. We’re here to break it down for you. So let’s go!

07-04-2017  -  by Ferry Rovers

What is Xbox Scorpio?

Microsoft’s newest Xbox is their answer to Sony’s PS Pro, a mid-cycle upgrade of their Xbox One System. An official name isn’t known yet, so for now it remains Project Scorpio.

What does it do?

If we are to believe Microsoft’s PR and DigitalFoundry’s assessment, it will do everything an Xbox One does, but better in every way. Terms like Native 4K gaming, 4K video encoding, 60 fps and VR support are just a handful of terms thrown at us.

Can it still play Xbox One games?

Yes. Definitely. The console is (apart from hardware) completely identical to the Xbox One. They share the same dashboard, same games, same services. It is NOT a new console generation, but rather a mid-season refresh.

Will there be any Scorpio exclusive games?

No. This is not a new generation, and every Xbox Scorpio game will come to Xbox One too, and vice versa. The only difference lies in the way they run, performance-wise.

So what else is changing?

Kinect is gone. The connection port is gone (like the Xbox One S) and USB cables are no longer being delivered with Kinect, suggesting Kinect is being slowly bled to death.

Hardware

Time to talk hardware. Now that your concerns have been alleviated, we can delve a bit deeper into the actual news. We’ll try and provide a frame of view that makes is easy to understand and practical.

Let’s start with the raw specs for Xbox One, PS4 Pro and the Scorpio.

Hardware

Project Scorpio

PlayStation 4 Pro

Xbox One

 

 

 

 

CPU

Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz

Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 2.1 GHz

Eight custom Jaguar cores clocked at 1.75 GHz

GPU

40 customized compute units at 1172 MHz

36 improved GCN compute units at 911 MHz

12 GCN compute units at 853 MHz (Xbox One S: 914 MHz)

Memory

12 GB GDDR5

8 GB GDDR5

8 GB DDR3/32 MB ESRAM

Memory Bandwidth

326 GB/s

218 GB/s

DDR3: 68 GB/s, ESRAM at max 204 GB/s (Xbox One S: 219 GB/s)

Hard Drive

1 TB 2.5-inch

1 TB 2.5-inch

500 GB/1 TB/2 TB 2.5-inch

Optical Drive

4K UHD Blu-ray

Blu-ray

Blu-ray (Xbox One S: 4K UHD)

 

First thing that stands out is the CPU. The CPU is the heart of the console, and is used to process a lot of calculations at once. The amount of cores (more is generally better) determines how many simultaneous calculations can be done, and the Clock Speed determines how fast these can be processed. Clocked slightly higher than PS4, this is an early indication that this system will be a tad faster than its closest competitor. There is a bit more to that, but we’ll get back to that later.

Next up is the big kicker. The GPU is a part specifically designed to handle graphical requests. Drawing objects in-game, applying textures etc. Visual fidelity is largely connected to this part, although performance definitely also depends on it. For understanding purposes, the term Teraflop has been invented. This is basically a measurement of the capability of the GPU. Higher is better.

The Scorpio performs excellently on this front. For comparison, the Xbox One managed 1.3 TF, the PS Pro does about 4.2 TF. The new Xbox Scorpio will do 6 TF, making the GPU about 40% faster than the PS4, and 360% faster than the Xbox One. That is absolutely amazing.

Further on we see some extra RAM, as well as the faster DDR5 RAM. Don’t worry about the details here. Memory bandwidth has also been improved, which means the system can handle and transfer data faster.

What else is interesting?

Well, glad you asked. Time to get back to the CPU. Another interesting thing is that DirectX 12 has been added on a hardware level. But let me make a comparison to make that easier to understand.

A CPU is a general purpose machine. It does almost anything you can think of, but can take a relatively long time to do something. Hardware decoders (like the DX12 on the Scorpio) is designed for one purpose only, and for that specific purpose, it can do it way faster than a CPU ever could.

An example of this is decoding 4K video. Somehow, that tiny phone in your hand can do this flawlessly and effortlessly, while your laptop is overheating trying to do that. THAT is the difference. So even though the CPU upgrade might look small at first glance, the hardware-level DX12 integration could mean a world of difference. How much exactly? That remains to be seen, but it will be substantial.

Forza Horizon Tech Demo (4K resolution, 60 fps. Still utilizing only 66% of resources)

PS Pro vs Xbox Scorpio

So let’s make the inevitable comparison. Xbox Scorpio vs PS Pro. Even though the comparison isn’t fair, since both machines were built with a different purpose, we’ll do it anyway, for comparison’s sake. The Xbox Scorpio blows the PS Pro out of the water when it comes to the Specs. There is only one thing: price.

Right now the PS Pro is available for about 400 euro. The Xbox Scorpio will be higher than that. Rumours tell us that 500 seems to be the most likely, but looking at the claims they make regarding the targeted performance, we’d be surprised if it will be 500. We suspect something more along the lines of 550-600.

Microsoft has repeatedly told everyone that “This is a premium machine” and “it’s not for everyone”. They did this again last night, after several forums had speculated on the 500 euro price point, so it seems they are preparing their audience for a price a bit higher than that.

What’s next?

Well, a couple of factors remain unknown. The price, the actual name of the console, and how it looks. Our best guess is that they will show this all at E3 in June 2017, along with a line-up of games to support their systems.

Our hope however, is that they get all the hardware mumbo-jumbo out of the way before E3, and focus their entire E3 presence on games, and nothing but games.

The release of the console is expected to be around Holiday 2017. Stay with us for all the Xbox Scorpio news!

 

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