We've already take the first step into the mid-generation console upgrade with Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro. The Pro is a hefty bump on the original PlayStation 4's specs, letting developers tap into that additional power for improved resolutions, better framerates, high dynamic range color support, and other graphical improvements. The PS4 Pro isn't a necessary upgrade for everyone, but for the bleeding edge of console owners, it's the box to have.
Microsoft is close behind though. The company announced the upgraded Xbox One, Project Scorpio, at E3 last year. While the original Xbox One fell just behind the PlayStation 4, that gap was enough for the PS4 to take the multi-platform crown in many cases. For Project Scorpio, Microsoft wants to close that gap and pull ahead. The company promised the most-powerful home console on the market, with Xbox boss Phil Spencer calling it a true 4K gaming machine.
Now, thanks to an exclusive deep dive with our colleagues over at Digital Foundry, we know exactly how powerful Xbox Scorpio is. Given Digital Foundry's focus on the guts of our gaming machines, that's all Microsoft offered: no official name, no final form factor, no price, no launch window games, and no release date. Pure numbers. Without further ado, here's the nitty gritty.
|Xbox One||Project Scorpio||PS4||NEO|
|CPU||8 Jaguar Cores at 1.75 GHz||8 custom x86 Cores at 2.3 GHz||8 Jaguar Cores at 1.6 GHz||8 Jaguar Cores at 2.1 GHz|
|GPU||AMD GCN, 12 Compute Units at 853 MHz||AMD custom, 40 CUs at 1172 MHz||AMD GCN, 18 CUs at 800 MHz||Improved AMD GCN, 36 CUs at 911 MHz|
|Memory||8GB DDR3 at 68GB/s and 32MB ESRAM at max 218GB/s||12 GB GDDR5, 326 GB/s||8 GB GDDR5, 176 GB/s||8 GB GDDR5, 218 GB/s|
Project Scorpio will also include a 1TB hard drive and 4K Blu-Ray drive.
While some of this new information is close to previous speculation by Digital Foundry, Microsoft actually surprised in some places. DF's previous guesses pointed to eight AMD Jaguar cores on the CPU side, upclocked from the Xbox One's current speeds, 12GB of GDDR5 memory with 320GB/s bandwidth, and anywhere between 56 and 60 compute units clocks at around 850 Mhz. All told, those estimates would've put Scorpio at 6 TFLOPs, around 40 percent ahead of the PlayStation 4 Pro's 4.2 TFLOPs.
According to Digital Foundry, the backbone of Scorpio is a new custom AMD system-on-a-chip called the Scorpio Engine, an undisclosed 16nm chip backed by 40 custom Radeon compute units. The CPU cores are 30 percent faster than the original Xbox One. On the GPU side, Microsoft has delivered with much higher clock speeds making the Scorpio GPU at 4.6 times faster than the original, above even DF's previous estimates. Those estimates would've put the Scorpio well-ahead of the PS4 Pro, so the final numbers increase the gap even more. To handle the beefy CPU and GPU, Scorpio has an improved cooling system based on a vapor chamber heat sink.
Microsoft has left behind the unique ESRAM of the original Xbox One for a more traditional layout, with 12GB of GDDR5 memory (4GB reserved for the system) and a 384-bit interface. The additional memory will be a huge boon to developers. While the PlayStation 4 Pro increased its memory bandwidth, Scorpio leapfrogs that with 4 more GB of GDDR5 memory and more than 100GB/s more bandwidth. This gives developers more room for high-resolution textures; what good is resolution if your textures are lagging behind? To help with streaming all those improved textures, Microsoft has given the Scorpio's 1TB hard drive around 50 percent more bandwidth.
And Microsoft told Digital Foundry that the system downsamples all content to 1080p natively if you don't have a 4K display.
All told, Microsoft is building a monster box that is built for 4K gaming, just like they promised. Unfortunately, these are just the internal numbers. Power isn't the only thing that makes a system successful and if Microsoft wants to retake the lead with Scorpio, it needs to offer a compelling lineup of games, a great price, and the right release window. We'll have to wait until E3 to see if Microsoft is up to task.