9 things we now know about Microsoft’s Project Scorpio

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There might be no pictures of it, yet, but Project Scorpio is definitely worth looking at.

Why? Well, judging by the news broken by Eurogamer (who also served up the original of the image above), Microsoft’s new gaming machine is going to be quite the behemoth.

And, while we already knew that the next Xbox was going to be the most powerful console ever made, we now have concrete confirmation from Microsoft of just how powerful that will be – and what it means for gaming.

Want to know more? Read on for a breakdown of the 9 most exciting things we now know about Project Scorpio. Sadly, we still don’t know what it’s called, though we can hazard a guess that it’ll be Xbox ‘something’ – perhaps Xbox One Pro…

1) IT’S AS POWERFUL AS EVERYONE HOPED

As expected, Scorpio is a real beast of a gaming machine: a total of eight 2.3GHz processor cores pair with a six-teraflop graphics processor (as promised by Microsoft), together with 12GB of GDDR5 RAM. Besides its volume, that memory is faster, too, than the 5GB found on the Xbox One.

Don’t know your teraflops from your flip-flops? All that power essentially means that Scorpio will be blisteringly quick. As an example, the unit shown to Eurogamer ran a Forza Motorsport 6 demo at native 4K resolution and a frame-rate of 60fps – and still had more than 30% of its processing power going spare.

2) IT’LL RUN FULL 4K GAMES

Unsurprisingly, with all of that power going spare the new Xbox iteration will be able to deliver full 4K content – including games. There’s a 4K UHD Blu-ray player on-board, too, but it’s the option to serve up 4K HDR games (rendered with a wide colour gamut) that’s properly exciting.

The PS4 Pro runs a few games in native 4K, but most titles instead utilise an extremely clever type of upscaling to get 4K-like images from games running at slightly lower resolutions. That shouldn’t be necessary for the vast majority of Xbox Scorpio games – it’s got more than enough power for native 4K.

3) IT’LL RUN XBOX ONE GAMES AT MORE CONSISTENT FPS – AND BETTER RESOLUTION

That’s not to say, though, that Scorpio won’t run legacy titles – but it’ll do so in a different way to the PS4 Pro. Where Sony’s top console switches half of its power off when running older games, Scorpio uses all of its power even on Xbox One and Xbox 360 games.

That should mean frame rates that never falter from their maximum (though they won’t go beyond that, due to in-game limitations), and dynamic drops in resolution shouldn’t ever be necessary. That’ll be a big bonus even for gamers without a 4K screen.

But this approach, unlike that of the PS4 Pro, means old games have to be checked and optimised for Scorpio – they won’t necessarily work by default. That could mean, as is the case with Xbox 360 games on Xbox One, that a small minority of games have compatibility issues.

4) IT’LL LOAD MORE, FASTER

Scorpio will pack a 1TB hard drive as standard, with a 50 per cent boost in bandwidth, which – alongside that faster RAM (3GB of which will be going spare and used as cache for Xbox One games) and huge CPU power increase – will see load times slashed.

In fact, while 4K game textures will sap a lot more space and bandwidth generally, load times should be no slower than on the Xbox One, despite the vastly improved graphics.

And if bandwidth has been improved right through the chain, it should be possible to achieve vastly faster results still by installing an SSD – assuming Microsoft supports such upgrades with Scorpio.

5) IT’LL DO GAME CAPTURE IN 4K60, HDR

A fan of capturing your gameplay to share online? Good news: Scorpio will do it at 4K60 – with HDR to boot.

AMD’s latest media block is on-board and it uses a next-gen codec to bring GameDVR into UltraHD territory. You’ll be able to scan back through those 4K frames, too, to pick out individual stills.

6) IT MIGHT BE SMALLER THAN YOU THINK

While we’ve not seen any snaps of the next Xbox, yet, Eurogamer reckons it’s not as massive as people feared.

Given its monstrous specs, there was every chance that Scorpio would sit at small PC size – but it now seems more likely that it’ll ship in a form factor closer to that of the original Xbox One. Not tiny, then, but for something so powerful that’s better than many expected.

7) IT’S GOT DOLBY ATMOS ON-BOARD

Worried how Scorpio will sound? Don’t be: it’s set to serve up spatial surround via Dolby Atmos and a proprietary Microsoft sound format called HRTF.

We don’t know much about HRTF, but Dolby Atmos is all about adding height to surround sound and pin-point placement of sound effects in a 3D soundscape.

Generally, you need to add ceiling or upward-firing speakers to an exisiting surround system to get Atmos going, which generally means a total of at least 7 speakers, but a mention of support for Dolby Atmos for Headphones suggests those of us who aren’t willing/able/allowed to fill our lounge with speakers should still be able to get in on the awesome Atmos action.

But it’s also worth pointing out that you don’t need to buy the Scorpio to get gaming in Atmos, because that’s a feature coming to the Xbox One and One S as well.

8) IT’LL BE COOLED BY A VAPOUR CHAMBER

All of these hardcore internals will take a fair bit of cooling – which is why Scorpio uses the closest thing to water cooling that you’ll see on a consumer console.

Usually the reserve of gaming PCs, Scorpio puts ionised water to work in a vacuum in order to disperse heat from its components via a heatsink. There’s still a fan (albeit a bespoke number), necessary to dispel heat from the fins, but it’s an incredibly efficient way to cool – and hopefully a lot quieter.

9) IT’LL COST ABOUT R9,000 (WE THINK)

All of the above points firmly towards a rather high price tag. That said, Microsoft still wants to ensure that Scorpio is accessible to your average (albeit dedicated) gamer – which is why we think it’ll probably cost R9,000. Give or take an exchange rate ‘modification’.

That squares the Scorpio off as a high-end console with a potentially narrow audience: too restrictive for PC gamers (with no firm word on VR support, yet) and too expensive for casual at-home gamers. Still, give it a few months, a big enough games catalogue and a price drop, and Scorpio could well trounce the PS4 Pro.

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