When Microsoft announced the Project Scorpio at E3 event last year, it didn’t have any hardware or gameplay footage to show off. All it had was some developer endorsements. Now folks at Digital Foundry who spoke to Microsoft engineers in great detail and tested the console first-hand have revealed all the specs of Project Scorpio. Turns out, Microsoft has achieved everything it claimed at E3 2016.
Project Scorpio GPU offers ‘unprecedented’ clock speed
Digital Foundry’s detailed report has confirmed many of the rumored specs. Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro is going to have some serious competition this holiday shopping season. Scorpio is an incredible combination of “sheer horsepower” and “smart design.” It boasts six teraflops of graphics power, thanks to a custom GPU that runs “at an unprecedented high clock speed.”
The system features a CPU with eight custom x86 cores with a clock speed of 2.3GHz. Microsoft engineers told Digital Foundry that the new x86 cores used in Project Scorpio are 31% faster than those in Xbox One. The new cores have been customized to reduce latency so that the processor could be occupied more fully.
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Project Scorpio features a custom GPU with 40 Radeon compute units clocked at a remarkable 1172MHz. That’s an “unprecedented high clock speed” for a console, said Digital Foundry. By comparison, the Xbox One clocks at 853MHz and Sony’s ultra-powerful PlayStation 4 Pro clocks at 911MHz. What makes it even more impressive is the fact that the GPU is barely 94MHz behind the maximum clock speed of AMD’s RX 480 graphics card.
12GB RAM, 326GB/s memory bandwidth
The console features 12GB of GDDR5 RAM, of which 4GB is dedicated to the system. It means the developers have 8GB RAM at their disposal. Microsoft had reserved only 3GB for the system on Xbox One. The additional 1GB of system reservation is required to run the dashboard at native 4K, writes Digital Foundry.
The GDDR5 modules run across a 384-bit interface that uses 12 channels of 32-bit each. At 6.84GHz clock speed, the modules offer a memory bandwidth of 326GB/s. Microsoft engineers were looking at a bandwidth of more than 300GB/s for native 4K assets. Project Scorpio will ship with 1TB, 2.5-inch hard drive. It also features 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, which is similar to the one on Xbox One S.
Project Scorpio’s audio processor is similar to the Xbox One, though Microsoft has added a new functionality called “spatial surround” that adds a “height” component to the existing setup. Since Scorpio’s audio processor block is almost identical to that of Xbox One, the existing consoles will also get the spatial surround feature update. The next-gen console will also get Dolby Atmos support for gaming.
A unique cooling system
Leo Del Castillo, the Xbox hardware design manager, told Digital Foundry they were able to enhance the system’s efficiency by fine-tuning the “voltages for each of the chips.” As a result, the chips get only what they require to get the job done. Improving the energy efficiency reduces power waste that might otherwise come out as heat.
A console as powerful as Project Scorpio would generate a lot of heat. Microsoft uses a vapor chamber heat sink to keep the system cool. What’s more, Project Scorpio features an internal power supply unit similar to the Xbox One S. The next-gen console packs a 245W power supply unit.
Final design to be unveiled at E3
Experts at Digital Foundry got a chance to play Forza Motorsport at 4K resolution and 60fps. The publication said Project Scorpio would offer native 4K gameplay and streaming across a range of content. Even after that, there will be plenty of power left for other visual enhancements. During the Forza Motorsport demo, Scorpio’s GPU utilization was pretty low at around 60-70%.
Digital Foundry said Microsoft would unveil the final design of the console at E3 event in June. Microsoft hasn’t revealed its pricing. Xbox chief Phil Spencer has claimed that Project Scorpio would be for premium customers, which means it would have a premium price tag. Digital Foundry speculates that the console could be priced at $499, though a few other experts estimate its price to be between $500-$700.
With Project Scorpio, Microsoft is targeting not just gamers, but also developers. A large number of developers have focused more on Sony’s PlayStation consoles than Microsoft’s Xbox because of the latter’s not-so-great sales. Microsoft hopes a superior console would help it regain the developer interest.