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Microsoft's newest project in their long-running Xbox experiment is a mid-generation refresh known as Project Scorpio. Some gamers are excited, some gamers are leery and some gamers are curious. Here, we'll break down everything that we know so far about the Xbox Project Scorpio.
This article will cover all the basics of the system regarding its functionality, its release date and its price. We'll also cover some of the more important aspects such as the game library and what you can expect performance wise from Microsoft's mysterious new device, and whether or not this is something you should take into consideration as a premium piece of hardware you might want to invest in when it launches later in the year.
Why Microsoft Launched Project Scorpio
So, why did Microsoft want to launch the Project Scorpio? According to an interview that the head of the Xbox division, Phil Spencer, had with Gamasutra he explained that the idea was to make a box that wasn't 2016-ready, but 2017-ready. The Xbox One and Xbox One S were designed with 1080p in mind (and they sometimes hit that standard... sometimes). During a roundtable meeting, those in the Xbox division decided to come up with something at the curve or ahead of the curve, and so they made a move to step out in front of tech by adopting 4K. They also wanted a console that didn't make the Xbox One and Xbox 360's libraries obsolete. This way, gamers who already racked up a sizable software smorgasbord from the previous two generations would still be able to use them on the Xbox Scorpio.
In the interview, Spencer also explains that the Xbox Scorpio is an alternative to what you can get from a high-end PC, which can currently play 4K games at 60fps (or higher) but costs quite a bit of money. The idea was to try to squeeze down the specs so that the Scorpio is as high-end as possible, but something affordable enough that consumers would actually want to pay for it. They buffed up the specs with 12GB of GDDR5 RAM, a 1TB HDD, a 4K Blu-ray and 326GB/s of memory bandwidth. The Scorpio was borne out of the idea of pushing the console industry forward by adopting the latest technological trend happening within the marketplace. Microsoft now wants to position themselves as having the most powerful home console on the market, which also manages to maintain its compatibility with the Xbox One and the Xbox One's backwards compatible library.
What Is The Release Date For Project Scorpio?
The newest Xbox game console doesn't have a release date... yet. What we do know is what the release window will be, and that window is scheduled for the holiday season of 2017. Microsoft's Phil Spencer took to the stage during the Microsoft press conference back in 2016 at E3 in Los Angeles, California, and explained that they would be launching the new mid-gen refresh during the holiday season of 2017. That usually pencils in a time-frame between the start of October and December. So far, Microsoft has not revealed any exact months or weeks as to when the Scorpio will launch, but we're expected to get the information soon enough.
So, what could the release date be for Project Scorpio? Well, you won't have to wait too long to find out because Microsoft will be announcing the actual release date for the console in June during their upcoming stage conference at E3. They're not only expected to announce the release date but the price as well. What would be an optimal release date for the console? There are a lot of theories running around that seem to suggest November, but, typically, a better positioned date might be October. That way, it gives Microsoft room to get some sales under their belt and make minor adjustments for whatever stock they release in November throughout the upsurge of the holiday shopping season. It also helps for when Black Friday comes along and a lot of people will be looking for high-end gifts to get for their loved ones and significant others.
What Is The Price For Project Scorpio?
The launch price for the Project Scorpio has not been revealed. The only thing that we know is that Phil Spencer revealed that the console will have a premium price. More specifically, he told NZ Gamer that gamers should not expect the price to be anything more than what they would typically pay for a premium home console. This, of course, doesn't really tell us exactly how much the Xbox Scorpio could potentially cost, but instead only tells us that it'll be priced between what home consoles have typically sold for in the past, which has usually been between $300 and $600 for premium consoles.
There was a sliver of hope about what the final pricing might be thanks to Eurogamer. During the Digital Foundry deep dive into the hardware of the Xbox Scorpio, they revealed that based on the materials present and the specs housed within, it's totally possible that the Scorpio might be priced around $499.99 according to their tech analysis, even with the custom vapor CPU cooler that they're using to keep the system's temperature down. A $499.99 price point would be just at the peak of what most consumers would find highly priced. So it's entirely possible that $499 might be the market cap for them. A lot of it will also depend on the design of the outer shell. It's reported that the power brick will be inside the system this time around, so that could also play a part in the total cost of the unit.
What Is Project Scorpio's CPU Power?
The CPU power for the Project Scorpio is one of the things that adds to the system's overall capabilities as a legitimate step up from the Xbox One. Previously, everyone assumed that Microsoft was going to go for the big gun: the AMD Ryzen. Since the original Xbox One is based on AMD's Jaguar octo-core CPU as part of their APU line-up, many assumed the next logical step would be the Ryzen... except it wasn't. It was revealed that Microsoft felt the Ryzen was too expensive and would negatively impact the price of the Scorpio, as reported by Game-Debate.
Instead, Microsoft opted for a custom built x86 CPU based on the Xbox One's Jaguar architecture. It's still an octo-core, but it's 31% faster than the Xbox One, and according to Digital Foundry each core is clocked at 2.3GHz. It's obviously not as highly clocked as the Xbox 360's 3.2GHz per core, but it's a big step up from the Xbox One's 1.75GHz per core setup. What's more is that they've managed to optimize the CPU to squeeze out all GPU draw operations within just 11 calculations. This frees up an innumerable amount of micro-calculations so the CPU can handle more AI on the screen, more physics, and more entities in a single play space. This level of efficiency will go a long way in designing true next-gen games.
What Is Project Scorpio's GPU Power?
As part of the tear down of the specs in the Digital Foundry deep dive, we learned a lot about the GPU... the graphics beast that would be working alongside the Scorpio's CPU in order to achieve peak performance. As noted in our previous coverage of the new Xbox device, the GPU inside the machine is more than three times stronger than the graphics processing capabilities of the original Xbox One. This is thanks to the Scorpio's use of 40 customized compute units to handle shaders, buffers, and more. The GPU was also designed to offload more of the weight from the CPU so that it frees it up to perform other calculations elsewhere. What we don't know is how well this GPU will handle physics-heavy projects, but we'll likely find out when finally get to see Crackdown 3 running in real-time on the Scorpio hardware.
As mentioned in the previous section, the GPU works hand-in-hand with the CPU to limit the amount of instructions required to output high-end graphics. The CUs are clocked at 1172MHz, which is nearly 22% more power output than the Xbox One S, which received a minor upgrade over the original Xbox One when it came to GPU clock speed. This gives gamers faster draw times, more objects on screen rendered at faster frames and higher resolutions. In connection with the memory bandwidth, this will give gamers high-fidelity output. With 6 teraflops of processing power under the hood, Microsoft really is intent on delivering the most powerful home console ever made in the history of video games.
How Project Scorpio Achieves True 4K At 60fps
Thanks to the CPU and GPU, working along with the memory bandwidth, the Scorpio is able to achieve native 4K at 60fps for some games. This was demonstrated to Digital Foundry with an example of Forza Motorsport 7 running at native 4K and 60 frames per second, which translates to the ability to move nearly one third of a terabyte worth of data within the span of a second. This is absolutely essential for being able to store, transfer and stream 4K assets into and out of memory, which is an extremely taxing task, something that even the PS4 Pro has a serious bit of trouble achieving with many games, which is why, oftentimes, they settle with 1800p with checkerboarding or upscaling in order to achieve 4K.
One of the more surprising things from what Microsoft demonstrated to Digital Foundry is that even running Forza Motorsport 7 at 4K and 60fps, the GPU in the Scorpio was not maxed out. This means that there is a measure of future-proofing for the console, and some room for the hardware to scale up to 4K in more taxing games than a racing title. But how much scaling does the GPU have? Well, in Forza 7 they had 34% GPU resources free even after the game was maxed out on the highest settings at 4K resolution and the new EQAA method for AMD GPUs, to bring a new kind of anti-aliasing to the picture quality. Disabling something like EQAA could free up even more resources, giving Microsoft just an extra bit of wiggle room to hit 4K in more demanding games.
What Is The Game Catalog Support For Project Scorpio?
Leading up to release the one hot topic that everyone across the spectrum has been talking about in regards to the Scorpio, is what the system's software library will be like. We do know that the Scorpio will be able to play all of the Xbox One's software library and that, by proxy, all of the Xbox 360 backwards compatible games that are available for the Xbox One will also be playable. This brings the Scorpio's software catalog up to a rather sizable margin. However, not every game will support native 4K, but they are utilizing a dynamic resolution scaler so that even older games from the Xbox One and Xbox 360 library will look crisper and sharper on the Scorpio.
However, simply being able to play games that are already available isn't really enough to convince a lot of people to make an investment into an all new piece of expensive hardware. The big issue is what sort of new games are in development for the Scorpio that take advantage of all that horsepower? Well, rumors suggest that there could be a re-release of Halo 3 in the works for the system, being used as part of a 10th anniversary edition. There's also talk that Crackdown 3 will be a launch title for the Scorpio as well. Both aforementioned titles could help convince people to make the leap to the Scorpio this fall, assuming that those titles are confirmed for release. Third party support reportedly includes Red Dead Redemption 2 and Star Wars: Battlefront 2, along with Sledgehammer Games' upcoming Call of Duty: WW2. Whether or not that's enough to convince gamers to throw in their lot with Microsoft remains to be seen, and we'll only get further details when Microsoft takes the stage at E3 this year.