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Project Scorpio: specs, games, VR, peripherals, backwards compatibility and everything we know about the new Xbox

How powerful Microsoft's next system will be, how it works with Xbox One, 4K gaming and more.

With Digital Foundry's huge deep dive into Project Scorpio's tech specs out in the wild, now is a good time to break down everything we know about Xbox's next major piece of hardware.

Here on this page, we'll give details on Project Scorpio specs, VR, games, backwards compatibility, peripherals, and what we know about a price and release date.

Microsoft is billing this as the most powerful console ever and, as Digital Foundry confirmed, it looks like it will be. With that in mind, let's dive in to what we know.

Project Scorpio specs: how powerful is the new Xbox and how much better will games look?

Unlike the Xbox One S - which is more along the lines of a traditional slim redesign - Project Scorpio is a mid-generation upgrade to the Xbox One. The hard specs have finally been released, which you can check out in full, with compoarisons to the PS4 Pro and original Xbox One, over in our exclusive Digital Foundry Project Scorpio reveal:

  • Eight custom CPU cores clocked at 2.3GHz
  • 326GB/s of memory bandwidth
  • 1172MHz GPU - with 40 customised compute units
  • 12GB GDDR5 memory
  • 1TB HDD
  • 4K UHD Blu-ray disc player
  • 4K gaming support
  • VR support

This is a machine with far more graphical prowess that the existing Xbox One, and how developers will take advantage of that 6TF of GPU power is up to them. (Digital Foundry has you covered if you're interested in knowing what a teraflop actually is, by the way.)

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Digital Foundry: 'Here are Scorpio's major components and how they stack into the final, compact system'

Initially, Xbox head Phil Spencer said users will only notice a difference with games running on Project Scorpio if they had a 4K television ("Scorpio is designed as a 4K console, and if you don't have a 4K TV, the benefit we've designed for, you're not going to see", he told Eurogamer in an interview during E3). However, Spencer later clarified that "some developers will take advantage of that 6 teraflops in different ways", meaning they won't have to use the extra processing power to necessarily hit 4K, and can channel it towards a better looking 1080p experience instead.

So while Sony's mid-generation upgrade PS4 Pro requires developers to support a 1080p resolution with its mandatory Pro mode from October, Project Scorpio could be a little looser in how developers used the more advanced specs. This could be a good thing, as our own Richard Leadbetter questions whether chasing a higher pixel-count is a better use of mid-generation consoles than higher frame-rates or richer gameplay experiences.

Project Scorpio vs PS4 Pro, existing PS4, Xbox One consoles

Digital Foundry originally created a suggested spec analysis on possible parts Project Scorpio could be using, back before their exclusive reveal.

Now, we know the complete details of what's in the box. To summarise, we can expect a much faster GPU than the PS4 Pro (4.2TF compared to Project Scorpio's 6TF - easily the system's biggest selling point), 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and eight custom GPU cores at a whopping 1172MHz.

PS4 PS4 Pro Xbox One Project Scorpio
CPU Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 1.6GHz Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 2.1GHz Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 1.75GHz Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz
GPU 18 Radeon GCN compute units at 800MHz 36 improved GCN compute units at 911MHz 12 GCN compute units at 853MHz 40 customised compute units at 1172MHz
Memory 8GB GDDR5 at 176GB/s 8GB GDDR5 at 218GB/s 8GB DDR3 at 68GB/s and 32MB ESRAM at max 218GB/s 12GB GDDR5 at 326GB/s

This means that while Xbox One has lagged behind PS4 performance, Project Scorpio is set to offer a sizable leap over both the PS4 and PS4 Pro, with much better graphical and memory capabilities, and support for native 4K gaming.

To quote Digital Foundry in the Xbox Project Scorpio spec analysis: "It's a remarkable turnabout. A good portion of PlayStation 4's success has been down to its spec advantage over Xbox One, combined with a focus on the hardcore player. Sony's technological advantage will be gone with the next wave of hardware."

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Digital Foundry: 'In what we think is a first for a mainstream consumer-level piece of tech, Scorpio features vapour-chamber cooling, similar to the set-up seen on the high-end GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti PC graphics cards.'

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Project Scorpio games, peripherals and VR

Project Scorpio is a mid-generation upgrade of the Xbox One, and so all games and peripherals that run on an Xbox One today will work on the new system, including controllers and Kinect, as well as initiatives such as Xbox 360 backwards compatibility and cross-buy with Windows 10 as well.

Additionally, Microsoft has said there won't be any Project Scorpio exclusives, despite initially contradictory messaging from Shannon Loftis shortly after the console's announcement that was swiftly corrected by Aaron Greenberg:

However, at gamescom 2016, Xbox marketing chief Aaron Greenberg confirmed there would be VR exclusive Project Scorpio games, since they view VR as separate to traditional console games.

This was somewhat hinted at during the announcement video for Project Scorpio with Bethesda's Todd Howard saying: "We're moving Fallout 4 to VR and to have a console that can support that at the resolution and speed that we really want, I think it's going to be magical."

The interview also didn't rule out permanent forward compatibility, however, with Greenberg hinting at a move away from traditional console generations to an iterative hardware model with permanent backward compatibility - similar to what Apple does on iOS.

Project Scorpio 4K gaming and VR support - how will it work?

Microsoft has said Project Scorpio's extra power will be particularly useful in two areas; delivering 4K gaming and "high fidelity" VR.

In Digital Foundry's opinion and spec analysis of Project Scorpio, the suggestion is that, if the software - by which we mean games - are optimised well enough, "there is some evidence that Scorpio's true 4K performance could pose a challenge to the likes of Nvidia's GTX 1070 and AMD's Fury X-class hardware.

Over in the deepdive on Scorpio tech, Digital Foundry detailed what they were shown of a special Forza Motorsport demo running in native 4K at 60fps - with power to spare. "Clearly this is just one game, but the point is that Scorpio doesn't just scale Xbox One engines to 4K. For the Forza engine at least, there's overhead, and plenty of it."

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As for 4K media, in Rich's words "Microsoft is confident in the quality of the scaler built into Scorpio's display processor", and is enhanced over the Xbox One S to "handle the bandwidth and quality requirements of 4K". That, of course, includes supporting Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and likely 4K streaming apps such as Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. (If you're interested in investing in a 4K TV ahead of Project Scorpio, here are some of the best television screens for HDR gaming.)

As for VR support, that's "no problem" with the proposed specs on offer, according to Digital Foundry, as "a 6TF Radeon GPU [a rough equivalent to Scorpio's power] comfortably outperforms the baseline R9 290 and GTX 970 suggested for VR ready PCs".

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The other question is how VR will work on Project Scorpio. Unlike Sony, Microsoft doesn't have a VR headset of its own, so will land on third parties to help. The obvious bet is with Oculus, with whom they currently have a partnership in providing Xbox One controllers with every device sold, as well as optimising the hardware to work more effectively with Windows, but neither Microsoft or Oculus has suggested anything along these lines just yet.

Project Scorpio backwards compatibility with Xbox One

Meanwhile, some existing Xbox One games "will look different" and may "run a little better" on Project Scorpio, using Halo 5's dynamic scaling as an example - in fact, Digital Foundry have also run an analysis on just how much better your Xbox One and 360 games will be on Scorpio.

This is something we've already seen in the Xbox One S; while the system is not a mid-generation upgrade like Project Scorpio or PS4 Pro, it offers an unadvertised slight performance boost of up to nine frames-per-second in certain games thanks to a GPU upgrade for 4K upscaling and HDR support.

In short, Scorpio will likely offer a range of benefits to your classic Xbox gaming, from smoother performance to higher resolutions and better texture filtering - but to quote Rich Leadbetter himself:

"What this means in practice is that games that cannot fully sustain their target frame-rate on Xbox One stand a really good chance of doing so on Scorpio. But to be clear: what we won't see will be 30fps games suddenly running at 60fps. The game itself still sets its frame-rate target, and there are no functions for removing performance limits."

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Forza Motorsport. 4K, 60fps, Xbox One quality settings with 4K assets. GPU utilisation is at 66.19 per cent, meaning there's a huge amount of overhead left over for improving visuals still further. Click on the thumbnail for a higher resolution image.

Project Scorpio release date and price - what do we know?

At E3 2016, Microsoft confirmed a holiday 2017 release date for Project Scorpio, placing a launch around one year after the November 2016 release of Sony's mid-generation upgrade, the PS4 Pro.

Microsoft has yet to discuss price or cost of Project Scorpio, but as part of its spec analysis of the system, Digital Foundry predicted a $100 difference between that and the PS4 Pro, which is set to retail for Ł350 for a 1TB model.

To quote Rich Leadbetter's thoughts on Scorpio's hardware one last time: "if I had to guess - and I'll stress that this isn't based on anything I might have heard on my visit - Project Scorpio is going to cost in the region of $499."

Additional writing by Matthew Reynolds.

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