tech2 News StaffApr 10, 2017 13:49:34 IST
The lucky folk over at Digital Foundry have managed to get themselves an exclusive look at Microsoft’s upcoming console: Project Scorpio.
Much of Project Scorpio’s internals have already been leaked, and the expected performance numbers and features are exactly as rumoured. However, Digital Foundry’s brush with the device reveals a lot more about how Microsoft intends to harness all this power.
Without any further ado, here’s everything you need to know about Project Scorpio?
What is Project Scorpio?
The Xbox Project Scorpio is an as yet unreleased game console from Microsoft that intends to thrash the competition (read: Sony PlayStation 4 Pro). The new console targets 4K gaming, something its rival struggles to achieve, and does so by upgrading the hardware.
|Xbox Scorpio||Xbox One S||PS4 Pro||PS4|
|CPU||8 custom cores @ 2.3 GHz||8 Jaguar cores @ 1.75 GHz||8 Jaguar cores @ 2.1 GHz||8 Jaguar cores @ 1.6 GHz|
|GPU||40 custom compute units @ 1172 MHz||12 GCN compute units @ 914 MHz||36 AMD Radeon GCN compute units @ 911 Mhz||18 AMD Radeon GCN compute units @ 800 Mhz|
|Memory||12 GB GDDR5||8 GB DDR3 / 32 MB ESRAM||8 GB GDDR5 (plus 1 GB DDR3)||8 GB GDDR5|
|Memory Bandwidth||326 GB/s||68 GB/s, 219 GB/s||218 GB/s||176 GB/s|
|HDD||1 TB||1 TB / 500 GB||1 TB||500 GB|
As you can see, the hardware bump is indeed significant.
Let’s break it down.
CPU: This gets a bump in clock speed, going from 1.75 GHz on the Xbox One to 2.3 GHz on the Scorpio. Notably, the CPU cores aren’t “Jaguar” cores anymore. These are custom, x86 cores from AMD. Our guess is that the customisation was necessary to support the new graphics architecture and RAM.
RAM: The Xbox One came with 8 GB of DDR3 RAM and 32 MB of ESRAM. The former is really slow, but useful for CPU operations. The 32 MB of ESRAM is an ultra-high-speed cache designed to make up for the shortcomings of DDR3. The PS4, on the other hand, uses 8 GB of GDDR5.
Scorpio one-ups these systems by offering 12 GB of RAM at a much higher bandwidth than its rivals, it’s even faster than the ESRAM buffer (328 GB/s vs 219 GB/s).
Where developers used to get 5 GB of usable RAM on the Xbox One, they can now get 8 GB of usable RAM. Microsoft claims that Scorpio needs 4 GB for rendering the UI in 4K.
GPU: This is the star of the show. Microsoft has upped the GCN count from 12 to 40 and increased the clock speed from 853 MHz (914 MHz on the Xbox One S) to 1172 MHz. Both of these are huge bumps in hardware. Increasing the clock speeds by this much also means that Scorpio must be having enormous cooling chops. As Digital Foundry points out, the clock is just 94 MHz shy of the AMD RX480’s boost clock and offers four more GCN units than this desktop-class graphics card.
A GCN is a compute unit as defined by AMD. Think of it as a graphics-processing core analogous to a CPU core.
More significant than this is the fact that Microsoft moved the DirectX 12 pipeline to the command processor of the GPU. To avoid making this too technical, let’s just say that this one move frees up a lot of CPU time. As DF explains, the number of “draw calls” go from possibly hundreds of thousands to just nine. Of course, the Xbox One and One S already have this tech. The implementation on Scorpio is a little more advanced.
The more tech-savvy among you would have noted that the Scorpio’s GPU is potentially at par with the RX480 in terms of performance. The RX480 is a powerful desktop GPU, but it’s only capable of pushing high FPS Full HD gameplay. For 4K, you need two of them. How is Microsoft promising 4K with half the hardware a PC needs? We don’t know yet. The DirectX 12 pipeline should help significantly reduce CPU load, but that will only make up for the low-powered CPU (desktop CPUs easily cross 4 GHz). Developers are going to have to use their smarts to extract 4K performance from this console, but it’s certainly possible with the right graphical compromises.
As far as consoles are concerned, optimisation is the name of the game.
Overall, Microsoft is promising over 6 TFLOPS of computing power from Scorpio. The PS4 Pro manages a little over 4 TFLOPS and the Xbox One manages around 2 TFLOPS.
This, says Microsoft, is enough for 4K gaming.
So can it 4K?
Yes, it can. Microsoft showed Digital Foundry a demo of Forza Horizon 3 running at 4K and 60 FPS. The game apparently ran without a hitch and didn’t stress the GPU to more than 66 percent. This is impressive.
It must be noted that Forza Horizon 3 is an example designed and built by Microsoft. Think of it as a proof-of-concept. It’s also mostly a port of the Xbox One version with higher resolution textures. Whether developers will be able to push 4K 60 FPS gaming from their game engines remains to be seen.
There’s no official price available yet, but Digital Foundry expects prices to start at $499 (around Rs 32,200). The PS4 Pro sells for $399 (around Rs 26,000) and the Xbox One S for $299 (around Rs 19,300). Prices in India are much higher of course, so you can expect Scorpio to sell in the Rs 50,000 range. This puts it right up against mid-range gaming PCs. Stiff competition indeed.
What about games?
There are quite a few things to cover here.
New games will need to offer gamers two options: A high-performance 1080p mode or a 4K mode at a minimum of 30 FPS. This is to ensure that gamers always have a choice of resolution depending on their setup.
Unlike the PS4 Pro, older Xbox One games will have full access to Scorpio’s performance. This means that these games will not need a specific boost mode as on the PS4 Pro. This also doesn’t mean that Xbox One games will suddenly start running at 4K.
Full access to the hardware just means that these games will run to the best of their abilities on Scorpio and if they’re capped at 30 FPS, they’ll remain capped at 30 FPS. However, performance drops, and visual artefacts like screen-tearing should be a thing of the past. Older games can be updated to support higher resolutions of course.
The console supports features like texture filtering, anti-aliasing, dynamic resolution scaling and more. Games will also load faster.
Scorpio will support 4K video capture at 60 FPS using an in-built HEVC codec.
Again, what about the games?
When it comes to actual titles, there’s nothing new to report. The whole point of a games console is, well, games. The only reason Nintendo is still popular today is that it makes some of the most stunning games ever made. Ditto Sony with its PS4.
The Xbox doesn’t have games like Bloodborne or Zelda or The Last of Us or Horizon: Zero Dawn. It has few exclusives, and even these will be available on PC.
The Xbox Project Scorpio console’s hardware lives up to all the hype we’ve been hearing.
At the end of the day, however, it’s the games that really count, and Microsoft hasn’t revealed anything on that front.
The design and price of the console are likely to be unveiled at E3 2017 in June this year.
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