Much of the technical detail behind Microsoft’s Project Scorpio, the iterative upgrade to the Xbox One, has been heavily speculated upon if not leaked by now. Nevertheless, as with most consoles, much of the fine detail remains to be shown. Yet with Project Scorpio now on schedule to launch in less than a year, it’s inevitable that those specifications will pop up in the public eye sooner or later. Today a new significant leak follows that trend, confirming some speculation and establishing new rumors in its wake.
A whitepaper – essentially an informative official document – provided by Microsoft to developers around the time of E3 2016 was sent to multiple sources in the past day. After confirming the document’s authenticity, a matter of verifying its maintained presence on the Xbox developer website, its contents were pored over. The results shouldn’t be too surprising to those who have been following news regarding Project Scorpio, but there are some interesting details nevertheless.
As previously reported and now confirmed again, the GPU within the Scorpio runs at 6 teraflops and that the overall computing power of the GPU is about 4.5x the Xbox One. The GPU is also confirmed to feature 4x the L2 cache of its predecessor, which points towards an AMD Polaris processing unit. However, Project Scorpio could utilize AMD’s more advanced Vega architecture which would require fewer computing units.
ESRAM, a feature of the Xbox One that sped up processing despite the inclusion of GDDR3 RAM, will be removed in the Scorpio. That means developers will need to continue optimizing for ESRAM on Xbox One despite it being absent on Project Scorpio. The final feature confirmation is the addition of Delta Color Compression within the GPU’s feature set, a lossless compressor adapted for 3D rendering that reduces required bandwidth.
Ultimately the newly revealed technical details don’t amount to much in terms of newly speculated conclusions. There’s still a lot left for Microsoft to reveal. However, there’s plenty more value in how Microsoft describes usage of Project Scorpio to developers. For instance, this statement which Eurogamer pulled from the whitepaper:
“We acknowledge that developers may not wish to spend all of the additional GPU resource of Project Scorpio on resolution, and this is not mandated. To make the best games possible, developers will inevitably spend GPU resource on other quality improvements such as higher fidelity shadows, reflections, texture filtering and lower draw distances. Another option developers might consider is frame-rate upscaling – running graphics at 60Hz but the CPU at 30Hz and interpolating animation.”
These recommendations, as well as speculation based on previously announced Project Scorpio details, indicate that the console will not be the “True 4K” machine that Microsoft has been indicating. Rather, that the extra GPU power should perhaps be spent in other areas. Microsoft even specifically notes that a first-party game running at 1080p on the Xbox One only received a 3.5x pixel increase, not the 4x required for 4K. In addition, many if not most Xbox One games run at 900p, not 1080p, which would require the entirety of the 4.5x additional GPU power to run at 4K.
The conclusion to these new details is, unfortunately, rather similar to those previously. Project Scorpio is indeed going to be the most impressive console on the market, even above the PlayStation 4 Pro. However, to reach 4K it will very likely need to upscale a game’s internal resolution to some degree, which runs contrary to some of Microsoft’s own claims. Without additional info from Microsoft to indicate improved CPU or GPU performance since 2016’s E3, it’s challenging to accept their claims of “true 4K.”