Details about Project Scorpio’s hardware leak out

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.

Comments closed
    • odizzido
    • 3 years ago

    Sticking with the old cat cores from 2013….the netbook cores…..that were already really slow in 2013…..for a 2017 system. And trying to do 4K on top of that. I can’t wait to see how cinematic it looks.

      • Hattig
      • 3 years ago

      I would assume that they would use Puma as a basis – that one went up to 2.5GHz IIRC, on 28nm.
      On 14/16nm I could see that hitting around 3GHz. So that’s a reasonable uplift (70%) over the 1.75GHz Jaguars, even if IPC doesn’t improve.

      OTOH they might do a Sony and keep on using Jaguar and maybe hit up to 2.4GHz. And that certainly won’t be raising 30fps games to 60fps.

      • ozzuneoj
      • 3 years ago

      Yeah, its amazing how little CPU power these consoles have. Imagine trying to run an 8 core 1.6Ghz Jaguar-based CPU in a modern gaming PC. No matter how many cores you have, when one chokes, the whole system has to wait. Doubling the clock speed would help, sure, but the IPC is so low that you’d still have something that would be way behind the per-thread performance of the slowest Bulldozer CPU.

      And yet, they still sell like crazy.

      Though the PC gaming market has been on the upswing… maybe people are finally starting to notice that games look and run better on a decent PC.

      • ptsant
      • 3 years ago

      Don’t understimate the importance of low-level optimization. Console titles are often more heavily optimized than their PC counterparts, because the performance envelope is a given.

      Back in the days, an experienced assembly programmer could extract 2x the performance vs a compiler, and I’m not talking about very high-level languages like Perl or Python. I’m sure the cat cores are put to very good use…

        • odizzido
        • 3 years ago

        just imagine what they could do with the half decent CPU.

    • Mat3
    • 3 years ago

    Can’t stand this idiotic “4K” obsession. Leave that for the high end gaming PCs, consoles can’t handle it. The vast majority of TVs out there are not 4K, nor will it be anytime soon. Target for 1080p and put whatever power your console has towards that. A console must do the most with limited resources and any game running at true 4K is just sacrificing in other graphic areas and only a tiny minority would get any the benefit. Even those with 4K TVs would be very hard pressed to tell the difference with a game rendered at 1080p upscaled.

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      Yeah, there’s still so much we can do with 1080p, it’s like they have enough jam for half a slice of toast but want to spread it on 4. Antialiasing still isn’t a constant on 8G consoles. AF is often bizarrely missing. Still meet noticeably downgraded textures here and there. Lighting, physics, and ffs, 60fps.

      Spending 4x the power on 4x the pixels seems foolhardy at this point. And the same CPU cores will keep things at 30fps.

      • odizzido
      • 3 years ago

      yeah. Not that I own a console but I’d much rather them focus on getting a consistent 60FPS…or even better 120 but I am not sure how many TVs can actually run 120.

      Low frame rates is one of the big reasons I don’t game on consoles BTW.

      • zqw
      • 3 years ago

      4k is an easier sell than “1080p, not lying this time.” In practice, these are 1080p consoles and 4k will render checkerboarded or scaled from an effectively 1080p backbuffer.

        • tipoo
        • 3 years ago

        ‘Member when the PS3 was billed to do not one, but /two/ separate 1080p game streams?

        I ‘member.

          • I.S.T.
          • 3 years ago

          Pepperudge Farm remembers.

    • ronch
    • 3 years ago

    Might as well prop that beefier GPU with stronger CPU coarz. Given how AMD probably wants to get rid of every trace of FX chips in its inventory to make room for Zen they can just give them all to Microsoft. Contra revenue, AMD style. Heh.

      • dodozoid
      • 3 years ago

      unfortunately you cant just stick an alredy built buldozer in there, it just wont fit

        • ronch
        • 3 years ago

        Oh yes it will. Microsoft has a way with things. Just watch.

          • dodozoid
          • 3 years ago

          Maybe they can (under)pay some chinese kids (like apple does) to cut all the cores from unsold FX chips and slap them on top of RX480 GPU with some superglue.
          The ultimate die stacking, wouldnt even need an interposer.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 3 years ago

    I’m really not happy with my xbone. I mean it works. But its way more obtuse than my 360 was in terms of interface. Apps crash all the time, games require 80 gb patches… the flagship titles are not very impressive, gears, halo, both have their worst entries to date. meanwhile PS4 has so many flagship gems…

    If they are keeping with the same CPU 4 years on… and only aiming for 4x the GPU improvement its another miss. Cause I think the PS4 will have another bigger better refresh on the horizon.

    Wonder how the switch plays into this.

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      Sounds like Sony still likes the idea of cut generations, so I’m not sure we’ll have another more powerful PS4. The more times they do that,the harder it would be to have a big uplift for the actual next generation, as they already used available shrinks to boost the GPU.

      “Wonder how the switch plays into this.”

      Sony and Microsoft are building fifth gen fighter jets while Nintendo built the Super Tucano, lol. How it will play into it is “probably not much”, not that it’ll flop, but it’s a different market.

      • nanoflower
      • 3 years ago

      Judging from the few PS4/PS4 Pro streams I’ve watched it seems that Sony is no better than Microsoft at avoiding crashes/patches. It makes me wonder how many people only get the new consoles because of the exclusives as there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the new consoles and a modern PC as far as the likelihood of a crash or a patch being encountered when you go to run a game.

        • EzioAs
        • 3 years ago

        This! Exactly this. You can find issues on both consoles. Microsoft actively engages user on changes and features though, that’s the major difference I can see on the software side.

          • Voldenuit
          • 3 years ago

          [quote<]Microsoft actively engages user on changes and features though, that's the major difference I can see on the software side.[/quote<] Like when they unilaterally decided to remove Snap? I'm not saying that wasn't the right choice, given the anemic CPU on both consoles. But it came from above like Moses descending from Mt Sinai. Mosessoft.

            • EzioAs
            • 3 years ago

            1. They’ve announced this back in November so at least people know it’s on its way out.
            2. It is being replaced by a different picture in picture dashboard that presumably, would be available to other UWP apps well.

          • tipoo
          • 3 years ago

          I don’t have enough experience with the XBO to say which one has more software bugs, but I do think FreeBSD is a wiser choice for a game console. Microsofts three OSs stacked on top of each other on already anemic boxes makes it sluggish getting around, though this update should help. It’s also nowhere close on how fast you can play a game, on the PS4 after inserting a new game I’m often struck by how fast you can be playing, while XBO installs can take 20 minutes. Opening an installed game, resuming, exiting, everything is faster on the very similar hardware of the PS4.

          Except for goddamn PSN downloads, Microsofts network is far better.

          I wonder what SteamOS could have been with FreeBSD as the focus instead. Though that’s not why it flopped.

      • VincentHanna
      • 3 years ago

      Well, it sounds like, and if Sony does cough up another refresh in the next two years, it will be absolutely confirmed, Sony and MSFT might be moving away from the more traditional loss-leader console wars thing that they’ve been doing for the past decade and entering a new era of incremental improvements and continuous development. MSFT certainly seems positioned for such a transition, at any rate.

      So given that there will always be [b<]yet another refresh[/b<] just off the horizon moving forward, how is "Sony might best it again in a couple of years" a realistic criticism of the Xbone scorpio? And realistically why do you care whether it's a 4x improvement vs a 6x improvement? The real pudding is going to come from whether or not the Xbone is capable of doing it's job (4k gameplay), not some theoretical benchmarks.

      • DoomGuy64
      • 3 years ago

      Welcome to modern PC gaming, where we have uncompressed audio to “save CPU cycles”.

      I don’t even blame QC anymore, because this stuff occurs too frequently to be an accident. Bloat, DLC, day one bugs and performance issues, all of these stem from business decisions made explicitly because publishers know they can get away with it.

      The problem lies with the consumer. Gamers as a whole aren’t being responsible enough to boycott garbage, so these bad practices get a free ride.

      Why is the PS4 so much better? Probably Japan. Their entire country has an obsession with quality, so stuff ends up being better as a result. If we want PC and Xbox quality to match Sony’s PS4, then American consumers have to start demanding the same level of quality. Simple as that. Stop prepurchasing unreviewed broken games, buying worthless DLC, and avoid games with uncompressed audio and 80 GB patches. It’s not impossible, because Japan does it. Our main issue is that nobody is telling the public what to avoid. We need a consumer report for gaming, and standards need to be strictly adhered to.

        • tipoo
        • 3 years ago

        So much yes about the audio. It’s what I resent most about the 8th gen consoles, it’s like as soon as they both had blu ray disk drives, everyone forgot that you might want compressed audio for a PC download so every game isn’t 80GB after patches. I don’t think textures and notable assets actually ballooned over 10x in the last 4 years.

        And obviously PCs don’t need to be scrounging for every CPU cycle with uncompressed audio when each core in a modest i3 is worth about 3-4 of the Jaguar cores in the consoles.

          • DoomGuy64
          • 3 years ago

          Compressed game audio existed with win 9x and pentium 2’s. There is no excuse for not using it. The reason IMO is blu-ray and console memory expansion allowed this practice, so it actually exists to discourage piracy and enable lazy developers. Of course, with all PC software being digitally distributed, file size does nothing but waste the nation’s bandwidth.

          As for the audio situation as a whole, I think Microsoft hurt every aspect of it with the changes done since Vista. Not only did 3d audio disappear, but they also set the direction of using uncompressed audio with their new audio API. PC controllers are the same, since Microsoft moved away from controller diversity towards strictly xbox. It’s all about the Xbox now, which pretty much sums everything that has happened to PC gaming.

            • Krogoth
            • 3 years ago

            3D Audio is very much alive. It is now purely software now and not tied to Creative’s IP portfolio.

            EAX is pretty much dead at this point. None of the AAA companies bother to use it anymore.

            • DoomGuy64
            • 3 years ago

            Get back to me when wavetracing is supported, until then software audio is shit.

            • Krogoth
            • 3 years ago

            3D hardware audio died because CPUs simply caught up. The overhead from audio processing is now trivial and there are plenty of cores/threads to spare. We aren’t running Pentium IIs and K6s anymore.

            The lack of wavetracing support has more do with Creative’s death-grip on Aureal’s IP then anything else. Creative doesn’t bother to take advantage of it either.

            Creative have been killing themselves through sheer incompetence. They got a goldmine of IPs and they doing nothing with it expect playing patent troll.

            I suspect Creative is going to be dead by the end of this decade. They have been going red in the last few years.

    • bfar
    • 3 years ago

    “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”

    With a cheap AMD CPU and an RX480? I don’t buy this at all. Even at 30 FPS these new consoles are wasting GPU capacity on a resolution target that’s too ambitious, especially considering most of us sit too far away from our TVs for our eyes to resolve even 1080p.

    Why not just call it a new gen console and let developers use the hardware as they please?

    I’m a big admirer of DF, but in this instance I fear they’re getting all caught up in the hype.

      • ImSpartacus
      • 3 years ago

      I think DF properly worked through all of the “cheats” that these consoles will use to get to 4K. It was a pretty balanced treatment if you asked me.

      • VincentHanna
      • 3 years ago

      I agree. The first wave of consoles were both failures, imo, because neither one can reliably be expected to game at 1080p 60fps. I would be much happier if MSFT intended to fix that mistake and target 1080p with scorpio, rather than maintaining a borked HD console that can’t do Full HD and a borked 4k console that can’t do 4k.

      A single 480 should be just about powerful enough to run any game at 1080p 60hz on ultra settings.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 3 years ago

    I am curious to know how they price this thing. When I bought my XBone on special it was among the best deals on the market for a 4K Blu-ray player with HDR and HDR 4K streaming. It’s going to be difficult to justify if they don’t price it right.

      • DPete27
      • 3 years ago

      Scorpio will be in the market alongside the XB1. Expect similar pricing to it’s competitor the PS4 Pro.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<] which would at least theoretically put it in the ballpark of the Radeon RX 480[/quote<] [quote<] Digital Foundry's analysis has the Scorpio pegged as a "highly capable 4K contender." [/quote<] If you're right about the first quote, the second one absolutely can't be true without cratering visual fidelity. An RX 480 is fine for 4K Diablo 3 at 60+ FPS, but I'd be truly surprised if the typical non-Blizzard AAA game runs at native 4K even at 30 FPS. 1440p upscaled, maybe? Sure.

      • chuckula
      • 3 years ago

      There’s “4K” then there’s “consolized 4K” which is basically a lower-resolution output upscaled to 4K just like how modern consoles claim to support full 1080p.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 3 years ago

        That’s what my edit was meant to imply.

        Some games really do support 1080p. Diablo 3 (which is why I mentioned it) is native 1080p on both systems. Other games are 1080p on PS4 but 900p on Xbone, like AC4 Black Flag and Tomb Raider Definitive Ed. If those 2013 games can’t do 1080p on the Xbone, then Scorpio’s 4.5x upgrade isn’t going to be enough for true 4K either.

        • ImSpartacus
        • 3 years ago

        Yeah, honestly, I’d say that Scorpio and PS4 are the first consoles to honestly support true 1080p.

        Obviously the previous consoles could technically accomplish 1080p, but from a practical perspective, it was still upscaled 720p-900p in many key games.

        But Scorpio and PS4 Pro can truly do 1080p60, no BS.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 3 years ago

          “True 1080p” is a hard target to nail down since games get more bogged down with graphical features. Scorpio might finally support 1080p60 in games that use advanced PC-first features like SSAO, but what’s next? Some other whiz-bang feature will come along and push performance back down.

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      From the dev docs also leaked, it’s doing the same sparse rendering/checkerboarding as the PS4 Pro. Wonder how much they’ll backtrack on their “TRUE 4K” fluff. It’ll get closer, but I’m guessing mostly not native either.

        • EzioAs
        • 3 years ago

        I’ve heard that they also plan to implement some sort of frame interpolation. I use interpolation everyday to watch my videos but I wonder how good it would be for games? If it’s good, hopefully they’re also planning on bringing it to PC.

          • tipoo
          • 3 years ago

          Sounds like the reverse of what some Halo games did. They ran graphics at 30hz, but updated the state of the world at 60hz for a faster response rate. This according to dev docs would be the opposite, game logic at 30hz, while guessing frames in between to run graphics at 60.

          I wonder if that will help the feel of the game without the faster update speed.

    • tipoo
    • 3 years ago

    Since it’ll likely hit the same Jaguar clock limits the Ps4 Pro did, it sounds like the situation is very similar to the PS4 and XBO base units in reverse. Nearly the same CPU, close to 50% more GPU execution power, more bandwidth. The dark horse is if that render video of the 12GB RAM is true to reality, that would be a substantial leg up.

    However, the same CPU cores ground them both very much in the same generation, despite some dev comments hyping it. And the install base of the PS4 and exclusives will probably keep it from being a complete swing in sales positions.

    • chuckula
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]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. [/quote<] RyZen..... not confirmed. 🙁

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      Gamers had gotten their hopes Ryzen too much, it was unlikely.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This