With the specs for the Project Scorpio being revealed to the public for the first time, gamers were able to get an idea of what to expect when the new Xbox console launches this fall. Of course, the console may have featured a lot of standard hardware one would expect from a new gen system, but there were also some surprising things about the Scorpio as well.
No. 5 - Scorpio Features A 4K Dashboard
While this isn't something you would expect to be a big selling point for the Scorpio, I was genuinely surprised to learn in the Digital Foundry piece that the new Xbox system will run its dashboard in native 4K resolutions. Due to this particular feature, the Scorpio's 12GB of RAM has had 4GB specifically set aside for dashboard operations. The 1TB hard drive included in the system has also had its memory bandwidth increased to accommodate the new upgrade and expectancy of running games at native 4K, and handling dashboard operations at nearly 8.2 million pixels per frame.
Now I know what you're thinking, a dashboard for the OS running at 4K doesn't really do much for improving the game. Yes, this is true. In fact, a 4K dashboard actually saps resources from the game. However, Microsoft may improve and optimize this in the future. But for now, when you customize your dashboard for the Scorpio, you'll be able to load in your favorite 4K background and see everything in unbelievably high resolutions.
No. 4 - Scorpio Is Targeting 4K At 60fps
If the 4K dashboard didn't impress you much, maybe the fact that Microsoft is actually targeting 4K at 60fps is. The new system will not settle at sub-4K output. It was recently reported that third-party developers will be working on supporting the 4K output of the Scorpio for games like Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2. There have also been talks that the next Call of Duty due out later this year -- rumored to be Call of Duty: WW2 -- will also support the Scorpio's native 4K output.
What about people who just want some righteous looking native 1080p goodness in which to play their games on? Well, you're in luck because the Scorpio will utilize supersampling and adaptive resolution scaling for games and televisions to ensure that you're getting the best image possible provided by the software for your TV. However, based on what Digital Foundry have been shown, Microsoft is ultimately targeting the top end of 4K at 60fps, and they'll be using Forza Motorsport 7 as the benchmark. In fact, according to the tech demo, even at 4K and 60fps, the Scorpio's GPU was only 66% under load, so there's plenty of future proofing going on with the GPU.
No. 3 - First Console To Feature Vapor-Chamber Cooling
It's not quite liquid cooling with the complex tubing system you see set up in high-end gaming rigs, but the Scorpio does feature vapor chamber cooling, a first for home consoles. The Scorpio is able to distill heat through ionized water through a chamber underneath the heat sink columns. In simple English, this new generation Xbox console is using state of the art cooling technology customized and designed specifically for console gaming.
So what's the benefit of this for gaming? It means that the Scorpio can push higher-end graphics and rendering through the GPU at higher clocks without overheating. This means developers will be able to squeeze a lot more cycles out of the unit without it struggling under load or due to overheating. This could pave the way forward in how console tech deals with cooling solutions for GPUs/CPUs. This will ultimately give the hardware a longer lifespan, especially over extended periods of use.
No. 2 - Powerful GPU With Reduced CPU Overhead
Obviously, the heart and brains of the operation fall to the GPU and CPU. With the GPU handling all the heavy graphics load, Microsoft's new and improved custom setup for Project Scorpio is more than three times as powerful as the APU in the Xbox One. Meaning developers will be able to pump out some of the highest end visuals and effects known to gamers in the console space. A refined and optimized architecture for the GPU has made it where it can easily play current Xbox One titles at higher resolutions and stable performance, as well as handle newer games at 4K resolutions as well.
The CPU helps the GPU out by allowing developers more access to execute smaller instruction sets on more efficient pipelines. In fact, they've been able to limit draw calls to just 11 instructions per operation, as opposed to requiring thousands of instruction sets being sent to the CPU. This means there's a lot more room for the CPU to perform other operations instead of getting bogged down in just trying to render high-end graphics. Theoretically, this would free up the CPU for more intensive AI in games, more complex multiplayer features, and more moving parts and interactivity taking place within a game world.
No. 1 - Scorpio Could Only Cost $499
One of the most shocking things to come out of the Digital Foundry info dump on the Scorpio is that they've estimated in one of their pieces that based on the tech under the hood, they expect the Scorpio to be priced around $499.99. This would be a huge benefit for Microsoft because it keeps the system priced comparatively close to the PS4 Pro, which is currently available on the market for only $399.99. Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer mentioned before that it would be premium priced, but $499 isn't too bad.
If they go above $499, though, it could spell certain doom since you can already purchase a high-end VR-ready AMD gaming PC for only $499 from CyberPower PC. So the market has definitely shifted these days, especially in regards to gaming PCs being more competitively priced to help push more VR hardware. Microsoft has to be careful not to price themselves out of competition. $499 would be right there at the sweet spot of the high-end consumer bracket for console gaming. If they can nail that price down for the holiday release, then the PS4 Pro could face some seriously stiff competition throughout the rest of the generation.