E3 2016: Everything You Need To Know About Xbox One Project Scorpio

In surprising fashion, Microsoft confirmed today during its E3 2016 Press Conference that it's working on an Xbox One console with upgraded components. It's long been rumored, and now we know it's real. But what is it exactly?

There's a lot to take in about the world's first full console hardware upgrade, titled Project Scorpio. Below, you will find all the information you need to know.

 


Hardware

Scorpio will have an impressive hardware profile. Below are the confirmed specs:

  • 8-Core AMD CPU
  • 6 Teraflop GPU
  • 320GB/S Memory Bandwidth

While we can't compare CPUs to the current generation, what we do have is the theoretical computational power of the GPU. At 6 teraflops it's well beyond what current consoles are equipped with. In contrast, the Xbox One's GPU has a pipeline for 1.31 teraflops, and the PS4 only at 1.84 teraflops. We're talking a leap in performance that the industry hasn't seen before.

The memory bandwidth is also a huge step up from the 176GB/s of the PS4. At 320GB/s it will allow for far greater transfer of data through the bus and into the frame buffer, which is absolutely critical for high resolution gaming such as 1440p and the proposed 4K/VR support.

Non-Invasive

Scorpio has produced some anxiety among Xbox One owners who feel like they have to upgrade, and far before they felt comfortable doing so. For the most part, this anxiety is ill-founded.

While such an upgrade will be enticing, Microsoft has made it abundantly clear that there will be no games exclusive to the hardware. Instead, developers will be required to create games that run on the original Xbox One, but will be encouraged to design benefits for Scorpio owners. Thus, gamers who enjoy being able to stick to one hardware SKU for many years without upgrading have little to worry about. Meanwhile, proper technological progression can occur to push the industry forward.

4K Revolution

Those who own a Scorpio will be able to unlock visual gains for games that support them, and many are expected to. The most immediate benefit will be the ability to crank up the resolution to the 4K UHD standards.​

4K is a term thrown around a lot without much context. Basically, it's four times the resolution of 1080p. Yes, there are four times as many pixels on screen resulting in a much more defined image. We're talking about a jump that's quantitatively larger than the jump from SD to HD. It's such a dense quantity of pixels that it effectively nullifies the need for anti-aliasing, a neat benefit for developers and gamers alike.

What you might not know is that even the most powerful PC hardware right now struggles with 4K. While my $699 GTX 1080 can run 4K games reliably, it simply can't do so at a consistent 60 FPS. Some of this comes down to horsepower, but most of it comes from optimization.

A 6 teraflop capable GPU is right around what mid-tier PCs are capable of right now, and these cards tend to offer highly fluctuating FPS at high cost. Judging by the specs listed and Microsoft's confidence I have no reason to believe that Scorpio won't be able to deliver 4K gaming at 30 FPS, especially when traditional console game optimization is applied. In the case of games that need to run at 60 FPS, 1440p QHD will be far more likely (if supported).

Thanks to Microsoft 4K gaming will finally be delivered to the mainstream, and that's something to be excited about.

Competition

It's no secret that the PS4 is more powerful than the Xbox One. As such, many are expecting the competing although rumored PS4 hardware upgrade to be significant, to a point where it'll trump the Scorpio.

Xbox Head Phil Spencer made it clear that he and the Xbox team are confident that they will have the more powerful console of the two once both are on the market. Based upon how his statement was worded, it sounds like Microsoft has a general idea of what hardware Sony has decided upon for its upgraded console, which is certain to similarly have major components manufactured by AMD.

This lines up with pre-reveal rumors. Microsoft learned its lesson to never be a step behind on hardware, and is going big this time around. Thus, if you're someone who prioritizes graphics, Microsoft should have your attention.

Cost

Many gamers were hoping to get a price point from Microsoft today. The truth is that there's a lot that will change within the next 18 months or so before the console hits mass production; we didn't get a price or anything to hint at what price of entry will be.

The greatest hint in this regard comes from the upcoming RX 480 graphics card. AMD's research and development for the Polaris architecture lines up with Scorpio; not only are their timelines congruent, but the computation power is remarkably similar at 6 teraflops and 5.5 teraflops respectively. It wouldn't be surprising if Scorpio's architecture is inherited from the work AMD has performed in its discrete GPU department. After all, consoles and mobile are the largest drivers of revenue for the company.

The RX 480 will debut at $199 in the next few weeks. This card, capable of outclassing a $340 GTX 970, is considerably cheaper than many anticipated, which suggests that while Scorpio may have impressive horsepower, it may not be all that expensive.

Remember, Microsoft knows the nature of business: a $599 console won't sell all that well given the expressed tastes of its console audience. With a goal to hit low cost of entry it will debut a $299 Xbox One S later this year and likely a $399 or $499 price point for its Scorpio. which of these two numbers it'll arrive at will depend largely on the quality of the CPU, memory, and non-volatile storage.

Release Date

Project Scorpio is planned to release in Holiday 2017. That provides gamers more than a year to plan what they want to do with their current console. If they don't have any interest in making the jump, they can stick to what they have already. Meanwhile, technology enthusiasts will be able to take advantage of trade-in options to experience a simplified hardware upgrade.

Once again, consoles become more like PCs. With all this in mind, are you interested? Let us know in the comments below.