Microsoft has begun to share details of the Xbox Scorpio – its own ‘4K console’ offering – with developers, and a number of interesting new specs have leaked as a result.
A whitepaper was recently released on Microsoft’s development portal, called ‘Reaching 4K and GPU Scaling Across Multiple Xbox Devices’, which offers perhaps our most revealing look at the Scorpio hardware itself.
Starting with one of the more interesting bits of news (as reported by Eurogamer) is that Xbox One’s ESRAM is gone.
ESRAM is the high-bandwidth scratchpad designed to mitigate for the lower-speed DDR3 system RAM, but the only drawback is that there isn’t much of it.
The whitepaper completely rules out ESRAM for the Scorpio, but does stress that since the original Xbox One isn’t going anywhere, developers will still have to make games with it in mind. Still, it’s useful to know that Scorpio’s higher system memory bandwidth can outstrip ESRAM’s wide bandwidth capabilities.
Microsoft explains in the report:
ESRAM remains essential to achieving high performance on both Xbox One and Xbox One S. However, Project Scorpio and PC are not provided with ESRAM. Because developers are not allowed to ship a Project Scorpio-only SKU, optimising for ESRAM remains critical to performance on Microsoft platforms.
The six teraflop GPU is also confirmed again, with the GPU’s compute power noted to be around 4.5 times more powerful than your standard Xbox One. Good stuff.
Also confirmed was four times more L2 cache. This is a new revelation that has yet to tell us much about the console, but does suggest that the Scorpio’s GPU architecture is about as modern as AMD’s Polaris line.
Microsoft also notes that, as with the PS4 Pro, delta colour compression (DCC) is a part of the Scorpio GPU feature set, while further comments from the company suggest that the new console won’t feature more advanced Zen CPU cores, as was previously thought.
The whitepaper continues:
We acknowledge that developers may not wish to spend all of the additional GPU resource of Project Scorpio on resolution, and this is not mandated. To make the best games possible, developers will inevitably spend GPU resource on other quality improvements such as higher fidelity shadows, reflections, texture filtering and lower draw distances. Another option developers might consider is frame-rate upscaling – running graphics at 60Hz but the CPU at 30Hz and interpolating animation.
The idea of ‘running graphics at 60hz but the CPU at 30HZ and interpolating animation’ is a compromise that suggests that Scorpio titles – like the PS4 Pro – may struggle to consistently double performance from 30fps to 60fps.
This is just speculation, but if the Scorpio really did feature advanced Zen CPU cores, there’d probably be little reason for Microsoft to offer such a compromise in the first place.
In short then, it would seem that the Scorpio’s CPU technology hasn’t quite moved at the same pace as its GPU (something that Microsoft never promised, to be fair).
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
Finally, Eurogamer’s report seems to confirm that Microsoft seem to be pushing for the same Checkerboard 4K rendering and upscaling technique that Sony employs on the PS4.
This could mean that the Scorpio won’t render every game in native 4K, as previously thought, but there’s no way of knowing for sure just yet.
You can check out the full (and immensely detailed) Eurogamer report over here to learn more.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.