Microsoft has released a considerable amount of information on its next-gen console, Project Scorpio, through hardware experts Digital Foundry. The new console already had broad specs announced back at E3 2016 but today we can fill in some of the gaps.
Without going too deep into the nitty-gritty, the new Xbox looks to have less compute units than were expected, but each one is running at a faster clock speed than expected. In short, that means Microsoft is pushing its hardware harder, and looks to have implemented a pretty advanced cooling system (for a console anyway) in order to keep everything cool under the strain.
That clever engineering should mean Project Scorpio is going to be more affordable than previously expected, or at least more affordable for Microsoft to manufacture – though it may not be the quietest console made. In terms of putting that power down, Microsoft looks to be holding true to its claim of native 4K gaming, showing a demo of Forza Motorsport doing just that at its usual 60fps frame rate.
So what don’t we know?
Well, the name of the console will be crucial, whether Microsoft pitches it as an Xbox One Pro, or breaks completely away from the idea of console generations, will do a lot to shape consumer opinion of the device.
The design of the console is also key, though, we do now have some direction for that. Pictures of the motherboard and the Project Scorpio branding we’ve seen to date suggest something pretty conventional in terms of shape (rectangular box) and colour (black and silver). Though we may yet be surprised admittedly.
Price is the real key here. If it’s more powerful than the PS4 Pro, will it, therefore cost more than the PS4 Pro? A price north of 400 has always been presumed based on the hardware specs that Microsoft has been touting around. Today’s announcement tempers that high price expectation somewhat, but it still doesn’t look like a 350 machine.
Plus we have to factor in the terrible exchange rate, which is going to bite UK consumers hard when it comes to high-end hardware like this. I doubt we’ll see price drops on the PS4 Pro anytime soon either in the current climate.
Next, how different will games look comparing the PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio? The PS4 Pro’s checkerboarding tech works well, and how many gamers will see an obvious difference between native 4K and upscaled 4K? It all becomes even more muddled when you consider 1080p downscaling for those unwilling to upgrade their TVs.
For consumers who love their hardware specs and obsessover every pixel today’s announcement will undoubtedly be of great excitement. However, for most it simply remains a very powerful console, without a clear marketing plan or a price, and so we’re no closer to seeing how Microsoft is going to turn the silicon into a saleable product.