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Xbox Scorpio final hardware specs match Microsoft’s boasts

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The numbers don’t really cover it all

Microsoft has finally lifted the lid on Project Scorpio, its upcoming upgrade to the Xbox One, in an exclusive reveal with Digital Foundry. It all sounds very impressive, with the main takeaway being that Microsoft has met the targets it touted when it revealed the console at E3 2016.

Scorpio does that with a custom system-on-a-chip designed in conjunction with AMD, which Microsoft calls the Scorpio Engine. Every part of that hardware is a significant upgrade over the Xbox One, the Xbox One S and, yes, the PlayStation 4 Pro.

The GPU inside Scorpio contains 40 Radeon compute units running at 1172 MHz, compared to the PS4 Pro’s 911 MHz and the Xbox One’s 853 MHz. On the CPU side, there are eight custom x86 cores at 2.3 GHz, 31 percent faster than the original Xbox One; the PS4 Pro has eight Jaguar cores at 2.1 GHz, while the Xbox One has eight Jaguar cores at 1.75 GHz. Digital Foundry says this indeed meets Microsoft’s raw performance target of 6 teraflops of computing power.

Scorpio will offer 50 percent more memory than the PS4 Pro, going up to 12 GB of GDDR5 RAM — 8 GB of which is available to developers, and 4 GB of which is reserved for the system — with a total memory bandwidth of 326 GB/s. (The Xbox One reserves 3 GB of RAM, but Scorpio needs more so it can run its interface at 4K resolution.) The console contains an internal power supply, and uses the same power cable as the Xbox One S, so people who are upgrading can just swap the systems.

Xbox Scorpio hardware comparison

Hardware Project Scorpio PlayStation 4 Pro Xbox One
Hardware Project Scorpio PlayStation 4 Pro Xbox One
CPU Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 2.1 GHz Eight custom Jaguar cores clocked at 1.75 GHz
GPU 40 customized compute units at 1172 MHz 36 improved GCN compute units at 911 MHz 12 GCN compute units at 853 MHz (Xbox One S: 914 MHz)
Memory 12 GB GDDR5 8 GB GDDR5 8 GB DDR3/32 MB ESRAM
Memory Bandwidth 326 GB/s 218 GB/s DDR3: 68 GB/s, ESRAM at max 204 GB/s (Xbox One S: 219 GB/s)
Hard Drive 1 TB 2.5-inch 1 TB 2.5-inch 500 GB/1 TB/2 TB 2.5-inch
Optical Drive 4K UHD Blu-ray Blu-ray Blu-ray (Xbox One S: 4K UHD)
Digital Foundry

But Digital Foundry indicates that one of the most important aspects of the Scorpio Engine isn’t related to pure numbers. Microsoft built Direct3D 12 directly into the system’s GPU command processor, the element that processes instructions from the CPU and sends them to the GPU. “For the developers who’ve adopted [Direct3D 12] on Xbox, they’ve told us they've been able to cut their CPU rendering overhead by half,” said Andrew Goossen, graphics technical fellow at Microsoft, in an interview with Digital Foundry.

Component-wise, Scorpio will feature a 2.5-inch 1 TB hard drive that offers a “50 per cent increase in bandwidth,” reports Digital Foundry. And just like the Xbox One S, it will contain an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive — another advantage over the PS4 Pro. Digital Foundry reports that Scorpio’s port arrangement is “based on Xbox One S,” so the console will retain the original Xbox One’s HDMI input but will not offer a dedicated Kinect port. That means customers will need the (no longer free) Kinect Adapter to use Kinect with Scorpio.

If you’re wondering what all of this means for games, Microsoft’s stated goal with Scorpio was that “any 900p or better title would be able to easily run at frame-rate at 4K on Scorpio,” according to Kevin Gammill, group product director of the Xbox platform.

The company showed one live demonstration to Digital Foundry: a tech demo of ForzaTech, Turn 10 Studios’ Forza Motorsport engine, running in native 4K at 60 frames per second. Digital Foundry reports that Scorpio’s GPU utilization ran in the 60-70 percent range during the demo; even if the demo was running at a fidelity equivalent to the ultra settings of its Windows PC version, GPU use would hit 88 percent. In other words, there’s still a good amount of overhead even after scaling games to 4K resolution, at least for a well-optimized engine like ForzaTech.

This also means that Microsoft will be able to deliver significant improvements to existing Xbox One games and even some upgrades to backward-compatible Xbox 360 titles. Microsoft is itself ensuring that every Xbox One game will work with Scorpio. And unlike with the PS4 Pro’s Boost Mode, Scorpio “theoretically allows for the full power of the new console to be deployed on older games,” according to Digital Foundry — regardless of whether developers release PS4 Pro-like compatibility patches for those titles.

There’s still no indication of how much Scorpio will cost; that announcement will likely come at E3. But Digital Foundry, a group that understands these hardware specifications very well, also knows that this kind of power doesn’t come cheap: The site is estimating that Microsoft will set the price at $499.