The Xbox One follow-up known as Project Scorpio hasn't been much more than a set of promises since its unveiling at last year's Electronics Entertainment Expo. Microsoft has been tight-lipped about Scorpio since that original announcement. Now, thanks to some whitepapers MS provided to developers and analyzed by the technomancers at Digital Foundry, we have a slightly better idea of what to expect from the system.
One of the biggest changes coming to Project Scorpio is the decision not to include ESRAM in the box. The Xbox One used an ESRAM cache to help bridge the gap between the systems's SoC and its slow DDR3 memory. Some developers say the ESRAM brought the Xbox One's memory speed close to that of the PlayStation 4, but it's an added complication to work with because it doesn't exist in any other consoles.
Project Scorpio is doing away with ESRAM altogether and expected to pack GDDR5 memory, a move that DigitalFoundry thinks could make Scorpio development easier. The one caveat is that every game developed for Scorpio has to be backwards compatible with the Xbox One. Developers still have to tangle with ESRAM, but only for the lower-end, Xbox-One-compatible configurations of their games.
The Microsoft documents confirm that the GPU inside Scorpio has four times the L2 cache and an expected 4.5x performance increase over the unit in the Xbox One. Digital Foundry's Richard Leadbetter notes that the Scorpio GPU has an expected six-teraflop throughput, which would at least theoretically put it in the ballpark of the Radeon RX 480.
In addition to detailing those bits of hardware, the documents also offer some advice to developers on how to get the most out of the system. Leadbetter notes that the document mentions techniques like checkerboard rendering and half-resolution effect rendering—methods already used on the PlayStation 4 Pro. A mention of frame-rate upscaling lead him to believe that the system is still using the same Jaguar CPU found in the original Xbox One, albeit a higher-clocked version.
Microsoft is aiming for what it's calling "true 4K" gaming, and Digital Foundry's analysis has the Scorpio pegged as a "highly capable 4K contender." The documents said that at least one first-party 1080p title is already running on Scorpio in native 4K with relative ease.