Xbox Takes Technological Leadership Over PlayStation with Project Scorpio

Posted on April 6, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox One with 81 Comments

In a stunning reveal, Microsoft’s new Xbox “Project Scorpio” was evaluated by an independent outside party and found to significantly out-perform Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro. It appears that Microsoft’s claims for its next-generation Xbox console are real.

You can find all of the original source material for this post over at Eurogamer.net. But here, I’ll break it down into more digestible—and understandable—bits.

“Xbox is back.” As Digital Foundry’s Richard Leadbetter notes, “with Xbox One, Microsoft lost technological leadership to Sony and PlayStation 4.” (And as a result, it also lost marketshare: PS4 outsells Xbox One by over 2-to-1 today.) But “Project Scorpio really is exactly the right reaction from the Xbox team in the face of Sony’s success: In many respects, this is console hardware design pushed to a new level, with a meticulous focus on appealing to the core gamer.”

Positioning. Yes, Xbox Project Scorpio will be marketed as a premium console, and will cost more than Xbox One S. But “Project Scorpio is aimed at a very different user to prospective Xbox One S owners, making this coverage potentially less impactful to sales of the existing device. Leadbetter believes that it will cost about $500. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a higher price. Regardless, “Microsoft still expects to sell more Xbox One consoles than Scorpio boxes.”

Name/brand. Today is not that day. “There [were] no hints from anyone at Microsoft, except to say that there’s lots of talk about Scorpio being a part of ‘the Xbox One family of products’, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the machine named appropriately.”

Core specs. Project Scorpio will be powered by 8 custom x86 processor cores running at 2.3 GHz, 40 customized GPU compute units running at 1.2 GHz, 12 GB of GDDR5 RAM, a “faster” 1 TB hard drive, and a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive. Here, you can see how these specs compare to the Xbox One and PS4 Pro.

Core specs, in plain English. “The CPU is about 30 percent faster than the Xbox One’s. The GPU is 4.6 times more powerful than Xbox One’s. What matters just as much, though, is the huge amount of very fast memory available. Even with 4 GB reserved for the system, games have a whole 8 GB to play with, up from 5 GB of much slower memory on Xbox One. That means fast streaming of very high-quality art assets, which will really help at the 4K Ultra HD resolutions that Microsoft is gunning for.”

So it’s more powerful than the PS4 Pro? Really? “Yes … Scorpio has PS4 Pro licked.” “The GPU is a beast. It’s very, very fast.”

What about other hardware details? It’s a lot like the Xbox One S, actually. “Like Xbox One S, it has an integrated power supply, so no external power brick. In terms of input/output ports, it is identical to Xbox One S (so, no Kinect port, but HDMI in is retained).”

Xbox One games on Scorpio. “there’s no reason why all titles that run at 1080p on Xbox One shouldn’t run at native 4K” on Scorpio. “But the 900p third-party games should hit native 4K too.”

Scorpio games vs. PS4 Pro games. “PS4 Pro has handed in a few too many straight 1440p releases while actual, barnstorming, first-party 2160p HDR showcases have been few and far between. At the very least, variance will be down to resolution and frame-rate only – a 4K re-run of the current-gen Xbox One/PS4 Face-Offs – but this time in Microsoft’s favor.”

How it compares to gaming PCs. With the PS Pro 4, Sony is able to achieve roughly the same performance as the “Radeon RX 470 or an underclocked RX 480.” But with Scorpio, “true 4K performance could pose a challenge to the likes of Nvidia’s GTX 1070 and AMD’s Fury X-class hardware.” This is a much beefier machine, in other words. “This is a seriously good result for a console.”

Scorpio on Full HD TVs/displays. “Part of Microsoft’s commitment to the 1080p user is that super-sampling is mandated – if a Scorpio title runs at a higher resolution, it must downsample for full HD screens. Similarly, in-game frame-rates must be the same or faster than standard Xbox One titles … With Scorpio, all game modes – resolution, performance or otherwise – must be available to all users regardless of the display the console is attached to.”

Why Project Scorpio? According to Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra, the firm realized it lost something in the transition to the Xbox One. “With Xbox 360 we had the absolute best platform for developers, [with Xbox One] we sort of lost that in a two-year time-frame, so we said how do we win the mind-share of those developers back? “We want the best games running on our box and there are tools, devkits and some arrows like that to win the developers back. So that was a big priority for us as we approached this product.” The PS4 ended up being more powerful than the Xbox One, but Microsoft is reversing that with Scorpio.

Hooray!

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