Today is the day Xbox fans have been waiting for. Microsoft finally lifted the lid on Project Scorpio, their powerful new 4K- and VR-ready gaming console expected to release this year. First revealed during Xbox’s E3 2016 press conference, Project Scorpio is a premium console that Microsoft boasts is “the most powerful gaming console ever built.”
The new information on Scorpio comes courtesy of Digital Foundry, the website known for its deep dives into the tech that powers gaming. Not only did Microsoft reveal the entire tech specs of Scorpio to them, but also showed a live demo of Forza Motorsport running in 4K on the new machine. After learning Scorpio’s specs and reading Digital Foundry’s first-hand account of the games, the future of Xbox has never looked so bright.
Project Scorpio – Specs
Last year at E3, Microsoft promised Scorpio would have an astounding 6 Teraflops of computing power, and now we have confirmation. To get a sense of just how large of an upgrade that is, the original Xbox One only 1.3 Teraflops of processing power. With all that extra horsepower you can expect games on Scorpio to run at higher resolutions, play smoother, and overall look much nicer.
From a CPU perspective, Scorpio has eight custom cores clocked at 2.3GHz, a 31% increase over Xbox One’s 1.75GHz. There’s even a bigger boost when it comes to the GPU—Scorpio boast 40 compute units running at 1172MHz, which is 4.6x more powerful than Xbox One. The trend continues with the console’s memory, Scorpio possesses 12GB of GDDR5 RAM versus Xbox One’s 8GB of slower DDR3 RAM. Microsoft has stated that 8GB of this memory will be available for developers to use, a huge step from compared to the 5GB on Xbox One.
The good news doesn’t stop there. Scorpio’s memory bandwidth is a massive 326GBs per second, a more than 50% jump from Xbox One’s 204GB per second. Rounding out the specs are Scorpio’s large 1TB hard drive for saving games and media content, and a 4K UHD Blu-ray optical drive.
What else does Project Scorpio feature?
I’m glad you asked. To complement the exceptional computing specs, Scorpio offers cutting-edge Dolby Atmos compatibility. This exciting new audio technology add “height” sound to an existing 7.1 surround sound set-up. What this means is developers will now be able to add upward firing sounds to immerse you even more into your games. For example, if you’re playing Battlefield 1 and a plane flies overhead, you’d actually be able to hear it fly past if you had a Dolby Atmos system.
In terms of form factor, while Microsoft has yet to reveal the look at Scorpio, we do know it will have an internal power supply, like Xbox One S. Scorpio also features a high-tech vapour chamber cooling system—the first of its king to ever be used in a console—which is highly efficient at expelling heat. That means cooler components, and more consistent performance for your games.
Project Scorpio – How will it improve games?
For starters, Scorpio is capable of producing true 4K gaming. That’s full 2160p resolution when used on a 4K TV. It’s important to note too that all your existing Xbox One games, and Xbox 360 backward compatible titles, will work on Scorpio. In fact, 4K TV owners can expect that all games that run above 900p on Xbox One will upscale to 4K using Scorpio.
There are other ways Scorpio will benefits games as well:
- More consistent framerates – Scorpio won’t actually bump up a 30fps game to 60fps, but what it will do is ensure that target framerates are locked in. That means smoother gameplay across all your games.
- Locked resolutions – games that use dynamic resolution scaling, like Gears of War 4 and Halo 5, will have their resolutions locked to their highest resolution as supported on Xbox One. This means the graphics will look consistently great, with no impact on framerates.
- Better texture filtering – with current Xbox One games, the console sometimes muddies textures off in the distance in order to keep the gameplay running at a good click. With Scorpio, even distant textures will look crisp and clean.
- Improved Game DVR – Scorpio will let you capture full 4K, 60 frames per second gameplay clips. Not only that, a new “retroactive screen capture” features enables you to review these clips frame-by-frame and save photos of your perfect gameplay moments. For older games running at 1080p, you’ll also be able to capture screenshots at higher quality.
- Faster loading times – given Scorpio’s 50% extra memory bandwidth, games will load noticeably faster than they would on Xbox One.
All together, these gameplay improvements should make a significant positive impact on how your games run and perform. To get a sense of how powerful Scorpio really is, a Forza Motorsport demo shown to Digital Foundry ran at full 4K resolution, 60fps, and only used 60-70% of the console’s GPU power. That’s incredible.
Project Scorpio – How does it benefit 1080p TV owners?
While the improvements on a 4K TV are naturally more pronounced, 1080p owners will still see significant benefits when using Scorpio. For starters, you can expect a much more consistent framerate when playing your games. Secondly, all your Xbox One games will boot faster, getting you into your games with less loading screens. Next, Scorpio will be able to do super-sampling out of the box, meaning that images will look smoother and less jagged or pixelated. Lastly, art assets in-game will look rich with more details, and improved anti-aliasing will increase object sharpness.
In short, no matter if you’re using a 4K TV or a 1080p TV, there are major advantages to using Scorpio.
Project Scorpio – What we don’t know
For one thing, we’re still waiting to see what the console looks like. We’re also waiting to hear the release date, what the price will be, and what games will help showcase the new hardware. Hopefully we’ll get answers to these questions during this year’s E3 in June.
We also don’t know Microsoft’s VR plans, but Scorpio will be VR-ready. During the 2017 Game Developer Conference Microsoft announced that mixed reality devices (devices that merge the real world and virtual worlds, like HoloLens) will come to Xbox One family of devices, including Project Scorpio, in 2018. I’m looking forward to hearing more details soon.
No doubt about it, Project Scorpio is one exciting piece of gaming tech. I cannot wait for E3 to see more. I’ll be at the show this year, so stay tuned for more details coming soon!