Courtesy of Digital Foundry, we’ve been given the first real glimpse at Microsoft’s long-in-development Xbox One update, Project Scorpio. With hardware and chips built from the ground up, the 6 TFLOP monster console has its sights set squarely on real 4K gaming and 60FPS.
To do battle with Sony’s recently launched PS4 Pro, Scorpio is meant to be a hardware refresh of its current console, but with significant improvements. Microsoft is keen to point out this really is a refresh and not a new console, as it’s meant to be fully backwards compatible, and force the same restrictions as Sony to make sure current Xbox One consoles are forwards compatible.
Working with AMD, the new APU equivalent has had quite the overhaul in terms of performance, although most of the work was concentrated on the GPU and memory. The CPU appears to be largely the same, but clocked faster, but Microsoft is still calling it ‘custom’, rather than the same Jaguar cores shared by the original and even the PS4.
The modifications are likely due to a fundamental change to the memory, namely there is no DDR3 or ESRAM, but 12GB of GDDR5. This does increase the latency somewhat compared to DDR3, but the 326GB/s bandwidth should more than make up for it (as long as prefetch is adequately configured). You can see how the new Scorpio compares to the current range of consoles.
|Xbox Scorpio||Xbox One S||Xbox One||PS4 Pro||PS4|
|CPU||8 “custom” X86 cores @2.3GHz||8 Jaguar cores @1.75GHz||8 Jaguar cores @1.75GHz||8 Jaguar cores @2.1GHz||8 Jaguar cores @1.6GHz|
|GPU||40 “custom” compute units @1172MHz||12 GCN @914MHz||12 GCN @853MHz||36 AMD Radeon GCN @911Mhz||18 AMD Radeon GCN @800Mhz|
|Memory||12GB GDDR5||8GB DDR3/32MB ESRAM||8GB DDR3, 32MB ESRAM||8GB GDDR5 (plus 1GB DDR3)||8GB GDDR5|
|Memory Bandwidth||326GB/s||68GB/s, 219GB/s||68GB/s, 204GB/s||218GB/s||176GB/s|
|Hard Drive||1TB 2.5″ HDD||1TB/500GB 2.5″ HDD||1TB/500GB 2.5″ HDD||1TB 2.5″ HDD||500GB 2.5″ HDD|
|Optical Drive||4K UHD Blu-ray||4K UHD Blu-ray||Blu-ray||Blu-ray||Blu-ray|
The other major difference is of course, the GPU. With 4 more compute units clocked 200MHz faster compared to the PS4 Pro, or 28 more cores than the original Xbox, there is a fair bit more grunt in the system, especially when you take into account the extra 100GB/s bandwidth as well.
The bump to 12GB of RAM is not entirely surprising, given the larger asset sizes when dealing with 4K content. It should be noted that 4GB is reserved by the OS for background tasks, leaving 8GB for games. That is still a fair bump up since the original reserved 3GB out of 8GB for the OS.
While 4K is of great focus, Microsoft also wants to keep 1080p customers happy with 60FPS and supersampled graphics – rendering at a higher resolution and then downsampling. This results in not just smooth edges but also more detail, like its been through a sharpening filter. One other major change is from DX12 efficiency, by moving the draw call hardware over to the GPU, effectively offloading the work from the CPU.
While relatively minor, the Xbox GameDVR feature has been upgraded to use HEVC (h.265) so that it can record 4K 60FPS. On top of that, screenshots have now been tweaked to record a small clip where the user can pick a frame to save.
Beyond the specifics of the hardware, all else we know is that cooling solution will include a vapour chamber heatsink. No word on price either, and even the shell is unknown, although one hopes it’s better than the launch model which was a glorified 90s VCR. But considering the hardware that’s to be integrated into Project Scorpio, it’s safe to say that the price won’t be cheap. It’s unlikely that Microsoft will go with $600, as that was a death sentence for the PS3 way-back-when, but a $450-$500 range may not be too far off the mark. We’ll have to wait and see.