Microsoft launched Project Scorpio at E3 2016, but hard facts on the console are not yet known. Sure, we know it is a mid-term upgrade on the Xbox One and capable of 4K, but otherwise Microsoft has kept quiet on deep specifics. Now, a leaked PDF document found by Eurogamer shows some of the more detailed specs of the console.
In many ways, the purpose of Project Scorpio comes down to the pursuit of 4K gaming on a console. Sure, PC gamers who have been running 4K titles for years will scoff, but it is an important milestone for consoles. Sony has already released the 4K-capable PlayStation 4 Pro. While the PS4 Pro is a mid-cycle upgrade and its full 4K gaming capabilities questionable, Project Scorpio will be a full 4K running machine.
Microsoft has confirmed as much before. The company has already discussed such specs as 6TFLOPs for horsepower and an octa-core CPU. The new PDF was leaked from a Microsoft developer website and expands on the next-gen credentials of Project Scorpio.
One of the more interesting points is that the console will remove the ESRAM cache which is vital to the Xbox One. The current machine uses the cache to ensure frame rates run at an acceptable level. A 32MB ESRAM cache (split into four 8MB parts) works alongside the DDR3 RAM memory on the Xbox One.
While the cache will remain on current machines, Project Scorpio will not need it:
“ESRAM remains essential to achieving high performance on both Xbox One and Xbox One S,” the whitepaper explains. “However, Project Scorpio and PC are not provided with ESRAM. Because developers are not allowed to ship a Project Scorpio-only SKU, optimizing for ESRAM remains critical to performance on Microsoft platforms.”
The whitepaper confirms the six teraflop GPU, which gives Scorpio a compute power 4.5 times above the Xbox One. Unfortunately, the specs do not confirm which GPU architecture will be used, although delta colour compression (DDC) will make up part of the GPU package.
It has been speculated whether developers will have to create 4K specific games for Scorpio. Microsoft has said this is not the case as Xbox One games will be compatible with the device. This essentially means 1080p titles will be upscaled to 4K. The whitepaper suggests when this is achieved, there is a 3.5x pixel increase in the leap to 4K.
“Half-resolution rendering is typically used for transparencies and screen-space effects, SSAO, SSR, and perhaps even shadow accumulation, global illumination and non-important local lights,” the white paper reveals. “On Project Scorpio, a half-resolution effect rendered at 1080p and bilaterally up-sampled to 4K could look as good or better than the same effect rendered at full resolution on Xbox One. For example, on Xbox One, the effect is produced at full resolution, say 900p, but on Project Scorpio, the effect is produced at 1080p, which is half resolution.”
Is Project Scorpio Next Generation?
Microsoft has consistently said that it is uninterested in building what would be viewed as an incremental update for the Xbox One, even if that’s what the Xbox One S is. The PS4 Pro often rumoured to be a new frontier in gaming, but it arrived as the type of console Microsoft is eager to avoid.
The question is whether Project Scorpio can truly feel like a standalone product of just an Xbox One with extra trimmings? The specs certainly promise to introduce full 4K gaming and Microsoft has repeatedly said as much.
When we think of a next generation home console, it is typically deemed as such because it simply pushes technology to the next level. Project Scorpio promises to do this, and one Xbox developer says it truly is next-gen. Speaking recently to NeoGaf, Creator of Ori and the Blind Forest, Thomas Mahler said Scorpio is exactly what Microsoft says it is:
“Scorpio is a next-gen machine with the added benefit that all your old games will still be compatible. From this point on, similar to PCs, you’ll not lose your library when you buy a next-gen system. I guess since NeoGAF is confused, Microsoft will need to do a little work to make it clear to everyone that Scorpio isn’t just a half-assed upgrade (which the PS4 Pro kinda is…), but a full blown next-gen machine that’s just backwards-compatible to your current library.”
Great day, Scorpio update w/ team. Played my first games on early Scorpio unit. Games played great, console looked right, proud of the team
— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) January 24, 2017
Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer gave a brief update of Project Scorpio today. He took to Twitter and said he played his first games on the console and that it looked and played great. With the machine expected to launch at the end of the year, we expect to see more regular updates in the coming months.