Xbox Takes Technological Leadership Over PlayStation with Project Scorpio

Posted on April 6, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox One with 79 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 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.


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Comments (79)

79 responses to “Xbox Takes Technological Leadership Over PlayStation with Project Scorpio”

  1. 2ilent8cho

    Makes no difference to me if the Xbox is more powerful, it still has the horrible tile interface which ruined the Xbox 360 for me and those stupid Avatars. I will stick with my PS4 where the interface is better and i also get the amazing VR.

    • JustinMSalvato

      In reply to 2ilent8cho:

      Avatars aside, you wrote "...horrible tile interface which ruined the Xbox 360 for me..." Are you for real? I can't speak on the PS4 as I never used it, but the interface on the Xbox 360 blows away the interface on the PS3. I wish Microsoft would have stuck with that on the Xbox One. That said, tiles aren't a problem, they're quite nice actually, visually appealing, and easy to navigate.

      You seem like a command-line kind of user... :)

    • Narg

      In reply to 2ilent8cho:

      Sony has never had a good interface IMHO. So what's the argument again?

  2. Waethorn

    4GB for the OS just shows that Microsoft doesn't understand the game console market.

  3. JC

    Paul... What makes you think that Sony hasn't got something to compete with Microsoft in the Console market this summer. We'll have to wait for E3.

    • BoItmanLives

      In reply to JC:

      Sony will drop the price of the PS4 Pro to $349 or even $299 and cut the $500 Scorpio off at the knees. I'll laugh my butt off!

    • Ukumio

      In reply to JC:

      If they do have something this year (a big if) all that does is screw over early adopters of the PS4 Pro, which I bet Sony is not willing to do. The likelier option is Sony sticks with PS4 Pro as its premium option and just concentrate on PS5 for a 2020ish release which will be a big step up over Scorpio, then the question becomes, will Microsoft have a Scorpio 2 ready by then.

  4. Atoqir

    One major point for me is not on the list: games

    My favorite games from the past 5 years are: Uncharted, Last Of Us, Beyond Two Souls, God Of War series, Last Guardian, Horizon Zero Dawn

    They are all exclusives.

    I am curious how this will work seeing the titles in my list broke sales records everytime. Also Horizon was the fastest and best selling new IP in Playstation history. Sony is creating news reasons and franchises all the time to keep gamers tied to them.

    What does MS make: Halo, Gears, Forza and bribe studios like Crystal Dynamics for temporary exclusives like Tomb Raider because they are inept of creating many games themselves like Sony does.

    • Chris Lindloff

      In reply to Atoqir:

      I have both the PS4 and Xbox One. I did not buy any of those that you listed. I did buy Last of Us on the PS3 but I was not going to play it again.

      All of those games were outsold by non-exclusive titles that are on both the PS4 and Xbox One. Take something like the latest Ghost Recon, it would run best on the Scorpio hands down. Especially if a user has a 1080p monitor/tv because Sony is gimping games running on the PS4 Pro if there is a only a 1080p monitor which is probably 98% of PS4/Xbox One customers today.

    • Darmok N Jalad

      In reply to Atoqir:

      Yeah, Forza is nice (and there's only so much you can do for a storyline there), but the other titles are getting tired.

      Uncharted 4 was simply amazing to look at, even at 1080P.

  5. PhilipVasta

    I'm a little perplexed that people think Scorpio will be so expensive. To my mind they would be dumb not to price it almost identically to the PS4 Pro. Scorpio will be more powerful, sure, but it's also coming out an entire year later, I would hope it would be more powerful. On top of that, do they really want to repeat the issue they had at launch: an Xbox at least $100 more expensive than their competitor? And now they're not even on equal footing - the PlayStation already has the mindshare, so Microsoft needs to work extra hard. Scorpio should be no more than $430.

  6. Tony Barrett

    Sounds like it will be fast, but a lot of that sounds like PR gumpf too. It'll likely be way more expensive that the PS4 Pro as well, which won't work in MS's favour. Really not sure here. MS just seem to want to stick one to Sony, but this is just turning into a p*ssing contest to see who can go higher. MS can still royally screw things up though, and this still doesn't mean they'll get the AAA titles they are so short of at the moment.

    Honestly, other than XB fanboys buying it, I can't see this changing the landscape that much. PS has an unassailable lead now.

  7. glenn8878

    They should market it as a living room PC that's able to run Universal apps and Win32 applications and have DVR customization. Sure, it'll undercut their PC OEMs, but this is long overdue.

    • redstar92

      In reply to glenn8878: yeah they will not... They will try to do anything possible to not look like they are catering to the home entertainment crowd after the original xbox fiasco :( Its kind of sad actually...

  8. toukale

    I am reading a lot of chest bumping with this announcement. I have a very basic and simple question, how does that change the current landscape? Right now, Microsoft is getting owned by Sony in the sales department, that was happening even before the ps4 pro launched. Is this console going to reverse that? because if not, then all Microsoft is doing is trying to win/reverse a pr narrative with not much sales benefits.

  9. evancox10

    Just for reference, a GTX 1070 costs $370 alone. My guess is pricing north of $600

  10. scd147

    What are these "Eight Custom x86" in the CPU description? I see that all over the place, but it's gotta be x86-64, right? After all, we're talking about 12GB of RAM.

  11. dave0

    If the price is right it comes close to bringing a "PC" like experience to the living room.

  12. Angusmatheson

    I still do not understand the logic in releasing so much about a future product this much in advance. Are they trying to convince people from holding off on buying a PS 4 pro? It seems more likely buyers will hold off on buying an X-box 1 waiting for this. Anyone can put more powerful components in. The hard part of finding the balance of power and cost and features that will convince users to buy it. I can't find what percentage of homes have 4K TVs, but I suspect even in the US it is small. Why is that their only selling point? I think it needs a more convincing story for the rest of us without 4K TVs. Old games faster. Cortana will be better? This looks like awesome specs. Why are we hearing about specs 6 months before the release? What are they trying to do with these announcements now?

    • Jeffrey Tschiltsch

      In reply to Angusmatheson:

      So E3 will all be about the games. By releasing specs now they don't have to go into all that detail during the keynote, they can just announce the name, show the pretty new design, and then launch right into "and here's what you can play with it...".

  13. Brandonlpierce

    Was hoping for more storage but otherwise I'm liking what I see.

    Edit: Price pending, of course.

  14. Mark from CO


    Hopefully, the developers will follow...

    Mark from CO

  15. chaad_losan

    Let the games BEGIN!

  16. Chris_Kez

    I hope Microsoft makes hay while the sun shines. I expect Sony to respond with a console revision in 2018 that will at least match Scorpio.

  17. Hifihedgehog

    @Paul Thurrott: Correction: Scorpio is at least 4.6 times as fast as the Xbox One but likely much, much more. Besides the GPU compute units being greater in number and higher in clock frequency, it is very likely Scorpio is on a later generation AMD graphics architecture (Polaris or Vega) which is more powerful and efficient (greater performance per clock cycle, or increased IPC) as well.

    Thought they got to see limited demos, this independent firm appears to have only been handed the same spec sheet we see here and evaluated performance based on the specifications they received for the most part, multiplying the number of cores by the clock frequency to get their performance delta projections, like so:

    Graphical performance improvement = New system / Old system

    = (40 compute units * 1172 MHz) / (12 compute units * 853 MHz)

    = 4.58 times greater performance

    In reality, also taking into account its far more powerful, efficient architecture (i.e. higher performance throughout at the same unit count and clock frequency versus the older architecture) could see 5 to 10 times as much of graphical performance when these architectural improvements are also taken into account.

    The qualitative comparisons purporting performance exceeding the GTX 1070 seem to point to this being the case.

  18. wshwe

    We'll see if MS can get the Scorpio out on time and in sufficient numbers to enable it to catch up to Sony.

    • Jeffrey Tschiltsch

      In reply to wshwe:

      They're not going to be able to "catch Sony" this generation - the PS4 has way to big a lead. But Scorpio will make Xbox relevant again with the crowd that jumped ship this generation, pull a large number back into the fold and set them up for the next gen. This is more about mindshare. Don't get me wrong, they're gonna sell a lot of Scorpios, but no where near the numbers it would take to close the gap between the PS4 and Xbox. Personally I can't wait to pre order mine :)

  19. Waethorn

    Let's talk about ecosystems for a moment. Bar none, Sony has far better console exclusives and customer loyalty.

    It's the same scenario as the iPad vs. all of the technologically-superior NVIDIA Tegra Android tablets on the market. Yeah, I don't expect that you've heard of them either.

    Microsoft wants to artificially inflate the software ecosystem by getting you to run Windows apps on Xbox. Let's see what the ad landscape looks like in a year's time too - probably another mess like Windows 10.

    • JudaZuk

      In reply to Waethorn:

      Well considering you can play PS4 games on a PC, (not that many yet but more are coming) what exclusives does really PS4 have? Sony has basically no ecosystem ..and customer loyalty? Well not when it comes to buying games thats for sure. Microsoft makes almost as much money on Xbox as Sony does on Playstation .. how is that even possible when there is such a big difference in how many consoles that are sold?

    • Atoqir

      In reply to Waethorn:

      When it comes to ecosystem; customer and developer support Microsoft always loses everywhere except desktop thanks to the wild west that is wind32. And even their "windows 10 store ecosystem" is a huge failure so far.

      Microsoft always gets beaten by Apple, Google, Sony or some other competitor...Except office addins or something :p

    • Chris Lindloff

      In reply to Waethorn:

      What "ecosystem" does the PS4 have?????

      Exclusives are good if you are into them. I have both the PS4 and Xbox One. 99% of my games are non-exclusives. So for me the Scorpio will be the best console hardware to play on.

    • Darmok N Jalad

      In reply to Waethorn:

      Technologically superior? My iPad has fantastic battery life, and when in sleep mode, the battery drain is virtually zero. Two experiences I've never had on any Android tablet (I won't even go into app disparity). I don't care if Tegra is faster if the A9 chip does everything I ask it to. It's not a gaming machine.

      Maybe that's the lesson here, too. PS4 presents itself as a game console and meets that expectation. Every time I change discs on my XboxOne, I usually have to eject and reload the new disc at least once to get the console to recognize that it's there. It's done that to me since launch, on two separate consoles. Seems like a key feature to get right, no?

    • chaad_losan

      In reply to Waethorn:

      The troll is strong with this one.

  20. Waethorn

    "true 4K performance could pose a challenge to the likes of Nvidia’s GTX 1070 and AMD’s Fury X-class hardware"

    Um, no. Someone needs to really check their specs. Scorpio has a 6 TFLOP GPU, which is dwarfed by BOTH of those cards.

  21. ecumenical

    "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...)"

    Sorry but this is exactly wrong. There's a reason the PS2 killed the Xbox and GameCube despite being technically inferior to both (and more expensive than the Cube). It's the same reason the PS4 is killing the Xbox 1. And until they show a vast improvement in the software lineup, nothing has changed. A $500 console won't do anything to shift marketshare in MS's favor unless they give people compelling titles.

    • jamiet

      In reply to ecumenical:

      No, YOU are wrong. PS4 got a massive boost to it's success by being slightly more powerful than Xbox One, and at a lower price. When it was released, PS4 didn't have a distinct advantage over Xbox because of the games. It was because of more power and lower price. You are using the games example because right now that's the only advantage PS4 has. When Scorpio is released, it will make PS4 Pro look like a family PC.

      • Daniel D

        In reply to jamiet:

        The XBox team also did some excellent home goals, that helped Sony enormously too..

      • Rycott

        In reply to jamiet:

        I'll have to grab an Xbox Scorpio to play all the great games that game out this year like Nier: Automata, Nioh, Persona 4, Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn... oh... wait a sec.

        There are no Xbox exclusives at the moment that would make me turn on my Xbox let alone upgrade it.

      • Atoqir

        In reply to jamiet:

        I hope you know that 97% of the people gaming on console are people looking for a simple casual gaming machine. People heavily into graphics do PC gaming.

        So we will see but I don't think Scorpio will change the general outcome of the story.

  22. BoItmanLives

    Elephant in the room: Scorpio will have no exclusive IP games. With a W10 PC and a PS4 Pro you've got all bases covered as far as exclusives. The umpteenth yawner Forza rehash, and a few multiplatform titles also on PS4 (RDR2, Battlefront 2, really?). GoW and Halo are stale franchises, no longer system sellers of the mid 2000's.

    Switch has Zelda

    PS4 has Horizon

    Scorpio has.. a racer and another Madden?

    • chaad_losan

      In reply to BoItmanLives:

      Sorry don't feel like running around trying to shoot robot dinosaurs with a bow and arrow.

    • Narg

      In reply to BoItmanLives:

      First, Scorpio is not even out yet. Chill.

      Second, who cares anyway, it'll play everything far better.

      Gees guy, calm down.

    • JudaZuk

      In reply to BoItmanLives:

      PS4 has Horizon Zero dawn... now .. in a few months no one cares.. and now you are suppose to be able to play PS4 games on your PC, so eventually when more games are added, what exclusives will Sony have really? And then they have many others of course, but just like HW2 mostly niece titles

      Horizon Zero Dawn is not a big seller by the way, only 2.6 million in first 2 weeks... sounds impressive until you start taking account over 55 million sold PS4's . so only 4% of PS4 owners felt it was a "first day" buy? Is that it? It will of course sell many more copies ..but not at the same rate as the first initial push... Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands beat it in UK sales in March for example

      Nintendo Switch has Zelda.. and that is about it .. and are not really battling for the same type of customers anyways.

      Scorpio has (Or Xbox One X that it most likely will be called) Has Halo Wars 2, Forza Motorsports 7 , Sea of thieves , Crackdown 3 State of Decay 2 that we know about..

      And of course there a lot of great games coming to both consoles. .and of course PC for those that like to play on that.. but its not really relevant as that is a different customer base as well.

      Exclusives did not make a difference when both PS4 and Xbox One was first launched... power was, and price.

      Because if exclusives was such a big impact on sales, why have not Xbox One outsold the Playstation 4 from the start?

      Lets face it .. Xbox had a lot of exclusives since 2013 and until recently.. for a long long time PS4 did not .

      There is a reason even Sony fans started to complain more and more of the lack of games, and huge delays. Just look at the bigger announcements at E3 2016 from Sony for games for 2017 and beyond

      Horizon: Zero Dawn – February 28, 2017

      Days Gone – In Development

      God of War – In Development

      Spider-Man – In Development

      Detroit Become Human – in Development

      Death Stranding – In Development

      Many still have no release dates

      In my opinion, a big reason PS4 outsold Xbox One .. almost directly comes down to power, and some times only perception of power.

      PS4 had more power then Xbox One .. not by much, and many times you could hardly tell the difference except when comparing still images .. but there is no way around it .. PS4 had more power and could many times produces better graphics .

      If you are a "normal person" mostly interested in games that come to multiple platforms, and you want a console .. and you don't care what brand it is will of course buy the console that gives you most bang for your buck .. if it then is also cheaper... like the PS4 was at launch because they decided last minute to drop the camera/sensor that was intended to be forced bundled with it just like the Kinect ...the choices is not that hard.

      And then the more people you know owning a PS4 because of power and price, and you want to buy a console , the more likely you will buy a PS4

      I seriously doubt many people bought a PS4 because of for instance Nioh or Horizon only ..

    • jamiet

      In reply to BoItmanLives:

      You need more than just a Windows 10 PC. You need damn good hardware to run 4k games on PC. Or you could just buy a Scorpio. You won't get a better 4k home console than Scorpio.  

  23. wolters

    I am curious if the Kinect will still work via the adapter or if it will have a microphone. I do use voice input often on my XBOX One and would be nice to continue this. You would think it would since so much effort has been put into Cortana. And I won't digress into why I still think the Kinect is an amazing piece of technology. If I could only get KINECT PATY on the XBOX One, I'll be happy.

  24. Waethorn

    The 8th reason you "need" one: Microsoft is still trying to cover the Xbox 360 RROD write-down.