With all the hype surrounding the Nintendo Switch lately, it’s been easy to forget that Microsoft is launching a new Xbox console later this year. Announced at last year’s E3, “Project Scorpio” is being trumped as the most powerful console ever built. With the many blunders Microsoft committed prior to and following the Xbox One’s launch in 2013, the company is betting big on Scorpio to give the Xbox brand a boost after years of trailing Sony’s PS4 in sales and mind share.
With the Scorpio still approximately six months away from release, there are still a lot of unknowns surrounding Microsoft’s next system. That being said, a fair amount of information has come out about the Scorpio’s specs and features, especially in the last few weeks. We’ll continue to update this list as more information is revealed, but until then, here’s everything we currently know about the next Xbox.
Updated April 6, 2017: Microsoft has revealed official Scorpio specs to Digital Foundry:
- CPU: Eight custom x86 cores
- GPU: 6 teraflops
- RAM: 12GB GDDR5
- Memory bandwidth: 326GB/s
- Vapour-chamber cooling
- 1TB Hard Drive
If you’re curious about the nitty-gritty details, I recommend reading through Digital Foundry’s article, which goes in-depth with what all these specs translate to in practical terms. But if you’re like me and aren’t really concerned with terms like ‘Hovis method’ and ‘PIX captures,’ all you really need to know is that Microsoft is hoping to have most, if not all games running in 4K at 60 frames per second on Scorpio and these specs seem to back that target up.
Integrated Power Supply
According to Digital Foundry’s recent profile on the Scorpio, the console will take after the Xbox One S by featuring an internal power supply. Not much else to say here, other than that this is a smart move on Microsoft’s part, as the original Xbox One console was plagued by an enormous power brick that only helped accentuate the console’s beefy overall appearance. It’s also pretty impressive that Microsoft was able to get away with an internal power supply given the Scorpio’s advanced specs, but it looks like it has something to do with the console’s internal cooling technology, which Digital Foundry describes as being “state of the art.”
It Won’t Replace The Xbox One
Further reinforcing the notion that today’s consoles are essentially dedicated gaming PCs, Microsoft is positioning the Scorpio not as the “next Xbox” but rather as a more powerful version of the current hardware that will still have all the same games and features. As Microsoft’s Phil Spencer told Wired last year, the goal with Xbox is to have different hardware options, rather than just a single unit, which has been the model for the console market from the beginning.
“We’re going to have versions of those games that will work on Xbox One and Xbox One S, as well as supporting Scorpio,” Spencer said. “The capability to build a game that actually takes advantage of different hardware capabilities is part of any third-party dev ecosystem, or anybody who’s targeting Windows and console at the same time.”
Unfortunately, maintaining support for the Xbox One is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, reassuring current Xbox One owners that they will still be able to play every new game that comes out is great news, as most people probably aren’t ready to be forced into buying a new console when their current one isn’t even that old. However, therein lies the dilemma, as it’s not only going to be difficult to convince current Xbox One owners to upgrade to the Scorpio, but also the even bigger audience that own PS4s and PS4 Pros. Microsoft will have to work to make sure consumers are aware of the tangible benefits that come along with upgrading to the Scorpio, or else risk having it sit on shelves while people opt for less expensive hardware that can still play all the same games anyway.
It Will Be Available By Holiday 2017
Although the release window could always change, Microsoft plans to have the Scorpio in stores before the end of the year. Of course, “holiday 2017” is a pretty broad window, but given that the Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One all originally launched in November, a November release would be most likely (plus, that Scorpio code name can’t be an accident). By releasing it in this month, Microsoft would be able to have the Scorpio available right in the heart of the holiday shopping season and also allow the Xbox One S, which was just released last summer, the chance to sell more units through most of 2017.
The downside is that this gives both Sony and Nintendo the opportunity to steal potential sales from Microsoft, as the PS4 Pro will be the most powerful console on the market for most of the year, while the Nintendo Switch will be the hot new console on the market. It will be interesting to see whether or not Microsoft’s gambit of having the “most powerful console ever” leads them to sales supremacy over the holidays, as they will encounter stiff competition from their competitors regardless.
It Will Be Expensive
Of course, all that power won’t come cheap, as the Scorpio’s price tag will be expensive, relatively speaking. While Microsoft has not revealed a price yet, it’s safe to assume that the Scorpio will cost more than the current Xbox One S model, which was released last August for $299. What isn’t clear is whether it will top Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro, which at $399 is currently the most expensive console on the market. Naturally, the ideal price point for the Scorpio from a consumer standpoint would be to match the PS4 Pro’s $399 because if Microsoft’s new box is significantly more powerful than the Pro, it will pose a serious threat to Sony at that price.
That being said, the Scorpio’s manufacturing costs will play a significant role in determining the console’s final cost and while it’s possible that Microsoft will be willing to sell it at a loss in order to stay competitive, it’s hard to know what the magic number is without knowing what these costs are. Still, the most Microsoft will likely be able to get away with is $50-100 more than the Pro; anything more than that, and they run a serious risk of driving away consumers put off by the high price.
Scorpio Isn’t The Final Name
In case it wasn’t clear already, Scorpio is just the code name for Microsoft’s new console and will almost certainly be changed something else once they’re ready to formally unveil the hardware. That being said, Microsoft is kind of in a tricky position when it comes to coming up with a final name for the device. We can probably rule out something like “Xbox One Pro” as this would align it too closely with Sony’s PS4 Pro and Microsoft needs to make it clear to consumers that the Scorpio is not only significantly more powerful than the original Xbox One, but the PS4 Pro as well.
Microsoft put themselves in an awkward position here by calling their current console the Xbox One, which is actually their third generation console, so even though something like “Xbox Two” would indicate that the Scorpio is a full step above the Xbox One, it would making things even more confusing since it would technically be the fourth Xbox console. Perhaps “Scorpio” isn’t such a bad name after all …
It’s Being Aimed At Gamers Who Don’t Own High-End PCs
Even though it’s just a little over three years old at this point, the Xbox One was long ago outclassed by high-end gaming PCs and the gap only continues to widen as time goes on. While consoles will always lag behind PCs when it comes to raw power given how quickly computer technology advances, the Scorpio is being positioned as Microsoft’s answer to hardware advancements over the last few years and a device that is being targeted at gamers who may not own an expensive gaming rig yet. With 4K and VR support right out of the gate, the Scorpio will at least rival most gaming PCs in terms of capability.
One of the biggest hurdles to VR penetration right now is that you need a pretty beefy PC to run an Oculus Rift or HTC Vice at optimal settings, so if the Scorpio is able to run one of these headsets proficiently and is priced significantly less than what a comparable PC would cost, it could lead to the Scorpio becoming a popular option for those looking to get in on the latest gaming trends without having to pony up the cash for PC upgrades. Whether or not the Scorpio will actually succeed in this objective is another matter entirely.
While the Xbox One S has 4K capabilities, it only supports 4K video playback and cannot output games at that resolution. The Scorpio will be able to run games in 4K, but it’s unclear whether it will be able to do so in native 4K. With the emergence of a Microsoft Whitepaper recently, which revealed the inclusion of effects like “half-resolution” and “sparse rendering,” it’s being speculated that the Scorpio is not actually powerful enough to render games in native 4K, but will instead do so in a way similar to the PS4 Pro, which upscales games to 4K. That being said, Phil Spencer has insisted that the Scorpio will indeed be able to run games in Native 4K, so unless he’s just lying, it would seem that the Scorpio will work as advertised when it comes to 4K gaming.
It Will Be More Powerful Than The PS4 Pro
Although Microsoft has revealed a few specs for the Scorpio, we don’t actually know all that much about the console’s capabilities other than its much-touted six teraflops (!) of graphical performance. What we do know is that the Scorpio will live up to the rather grandiose claim of being the “most powerful console ever made,” which also means that it will outclass the PS4 Pro. This is an important detail as it means that the power dynamic between the two competitors will effectively be flipped once the Scorpio is released.
The narrative of this console generation has been one of the PS4 being more powerful than the Xbox One and this was reinforced even further with the release of the PS4 Pro last fall. One assumes that Microsoft will lean hard on the fact that the Scorpio outclasses even the Pro once the console ships later this year, but given the immense sales lead the PS4 has over the Xbox One, it’s hard to see Microsoft catching up to Sony this generation. That is, unless they declare the Scorpio to be the next generation Xbox, in which case they will have effectively started a new console generation altogether; one in which they are the only horse in the race.
It Will Support VR, But Whose?
The Scorpio’s boost in performance will allow it to easily support virtual reality and indeed, this capability will be one of the console’s main selling points. What isn’t clear is how Microsoft is going to handle VR on the Scorpio. Unlike Sony, who have their own proprietary headset in PlayStation VR, Microsoft will use an existing headset such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, although the company has not announced which of these headsets it plans to partner with. Right now, the Oculus Rift appears to be the logical choice, as Microsoft has already partnered with the Facebook-backed company to launch their headsets with Xbox One controllers, but that doesn’t mean the Vive should be ruled out as a contender either.
Considering both the Vive and Oculus Rift are top-of-the-line VR headsets, Microsoft really can’t go wrong with either pick and the only real downside is that everything is still going to be really expensive on the Scorpio. Since there are no plans to bundle the Scorpio with the VR headset, consumers can expect to spend an additional $600-800 for the headset on top of whatever the Scorpio ends up costing. Of course, Microsoft also has Hololens in the pipeline, but it’s still likely a few years from release and is for augmented reality as opposed to virtual.