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Microsoft Project Scorpio Release Date, Price and Specs

The shiny new Xbox One S was just a taste. Microsoft’s Project Scorpio — coming in the fourth quarter of 2017 — will be the true main meal. According to Microsoft, it’s both the future of Xbox and the most powerful game console ever made.

The catch: It doesn’t play any new games. Instead of trying to sell gamers on a brand-new generation of video game hardware, Project Scorpio is all about upgrades.

In April, Microsoft revealed some of the system specs:

  • CPU: Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz
  • GPU: 40 compute units at 1,172MHz
  • 12GB of DDR5 RAM running at 6.8GHz
  • Memory bandwidth: 326 GBps
  • Hard drive: 1 TB (2.5-inch)
  • Optical drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray
  • Price: approximately $500

What do you mean, upgrades?

According to Microsoft, Project Scorpio won’t have any exclusive games. Not one.

Instead, Scorpio will play the same games you can play on an Xbox One or Xbox One S — but some of them at much higher fidelity.

With 4.5 times the power of an original Xbox One, Microsoft claims Project Scorpio can run those same games at ultra-high-def 4K resolution at a butter-smooth 60 frames per second. Compare that to today’s Xbox One, which still struggles to output many games at 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution (1080p).

Scorpio is kind of like sticking a new PC video card into your game console.

So all my Xbox One games will run at 4K?

Not necessarily. Games will need to be designed to take advantage of the higher resolution, and Microsoft claims it won’t force developers to actually do that.

However, Microsoft says some new games are already being developed with Scorpio in mind, and Scorpio will also unlock the potential of a handful of existing titles.

Games like Halo 5, The Division, The Witcher 3 and Doom dynamically dial down their graphics whenever the Xbox One can’t handle the load. With Project Scorpio, there won’t be a need to throttle. Microsoft says games which use dynamic scaling will consistently look better than before.

Doesn’t the cute white Xbox One S already do 4K?

Yes and no. The Xbox One S can display 4K images to your TV, but that isn’t the same thing as rendering games at 4K.

Or, put more simply, you can watch 4K Blu-rays with an Xbox One S, but games won’t look much better.

Still, the One S does now support HDR (high dynamic range) with a handful of games, which should mean color saturation and contrast in those titles as long as you’ve got an HDR-compatible TV.

Why would developers bother supporting Scorpio instead of just the cheaper Xbox One?

Ah, but game developers already support a wide variety of Windows PCs, and Scorpio is just one more point on that continuum.

The same game that runs on an Xbox One (with an estimated 1.33 teraflops of graphical performance) needs to run on a 9-teraflop Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, and on a 6-teraflop AMD RX480 graphics card as well. (That last comparison might be particularly handy, since the Scorpio also has a 6-teraflop AMD GPU.)

And don’t forget that Microsoft is trying to merge the worlds of PC and console gaming — some games will be designed for both Xbox and Windows from the very beginning.

Enlarge Image

AMD’s Radeon RX 480 graphics card.


Sean Hollister/CNET

But all my existing Xbox One games will work?

Yep, even the earliest ones. “This thing will play Ryse: Son of Rome, a launch game for your Xbox One,” Microsoft’s Phil Spencer told Eurogamer.

What about my Xbox One accessories? Will I need to buy new controllers?

Microsoft says every single Xbox One accessory should work, too. “Our commitment is to make sure every single game and every single accessory works across all of those platforms,” Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra told The Guardian in July.

How about the 200+ older Xbox 360 games that were updated to work on the Xbox One?

Microsoft hasn’t said so for sure, but presumably the growing library of backwards-compatible Xbox 360 titles — including Alan Wake, Mass Effect and Red Dead Redemption — will work as well.

What if I don’t have a 4K TV?

You might be better off with an original Xbox One. “Scorpio is designed as a 4K console, and if you don’t have a 4K TV, the benefit we’ve designed for, you’re not going to see,” Microsoft’s Phil Spencer told Eurogamer.

But you might play your Scorpio games in VR instead.

Virtual reality?

Yes. Microsoft says one of the reasons it’s using such a powerful graphics chip — 6 teraflops of performance plus 12GB of GDDR5 memory — is so it can drive a VR headset. We’re not sure which headset, though.

Back in May, one rumor suggested Microsoft would partner with Facebook and support the Oculus Rift headset.

But when Project Scorpio was officially announced in June, Microsoft said it would be able to play Fallout 4 in VR — a title which has so far only been confirmed for the rival HTC Vive.

Enlarge Image

CNET’s Dan Ackerman plays Fallout 4 in VR.


Josh Miller/CNET

Or maybe the Scorpio will simply support any VR headset you plug in. After all, the Xbox One runs Windows 10, and Microsoft plans to make Windows 10 computers support VR headsets starting next year.

Either way, you shouldn’t expect VR experiences to be much better than an existing baseline VR-ready PC. In our review of the AMD RX480 graphics card (again, same 6-teraflop performance as Scorpio) we found it just barely good enough for today’s VR.

By the way, VR might be the exception to the “no-games-will-be-exclusive-to-Scorpio” rule. Since the original Xbox One and Xbox One S don’t support VR, any VR experiences could be exclusive to the console.

If the original Xbox One plays every game, and the Scorpio adds 4K and VR, why would I buy the intermediate Xbox One S at all?

It’s small and cute?

But seriously, if you don’t already have an Xbox One, and you can’t wait till 2017, the Xbox One S is great. It’s better than the original Xbox One in practically every way.

But if you already have an Xbox One, you’ll definitely want to wait.

The Xbox One and One S side by side comparison

Although not as dramatically smaller as we thought, the Xbox One S is an eye-catching slimmed down console that boasts HDR and an integrated power supply.

by Jeff Bakalar

Will the Scorpio be small and cute, too?

Unlikely. The only glimpse we’ve seen was of a jet-black monolith. And yet, Xbox operations boss Dave McCarthy told GameSpot that the “40 percent smaller” guiding principle behind the Xbox One S might “remain consistent when we move to Project Scorpio.”

Read what you will from that.

How much will Scorpio cost?

It’s pure conjecture at this point — Microsoft has not officially confirmed pricing — but given the hardware specs, it’s plausible that Scorpio could come in at around $500, making it considerably more expensive than the Xbox One S, which which starts at $300, £250 or AU$400 for the 500GB model and stretches up to $400, £350 or AU$549 for 2TB of storage.

Is it really going to be called “Project Scorpio”?

Nah, that’s probably just a codename.

Is this the end of game consoles as we know them?

Only if Scorpio is a success. Microsoft’s betting on a future where you never need to buy a new library of games, but the company’s Aaron Greenberg says it’s definitely a bet. ” We’re going to learn from this, we’re going to see how that goes,” he told Engadget.

What about Sony and Nintendo?

Last November, Sony launched its own 4K-ready system, the $399 PlayStation 4 Pro — an incremental upgrade that adds support for HDR play and which is compatible with nearly all existing games, apps, and accessories. And in March, Nintendo released the $300 Switch system. It’s a solid piece of hardware that combines impressive performance with a small chassis, but that’s hampered by a shallow roster of launch games.

When is Microsoft releasing Scorpio?

Sometime in the fourth quarter of 2017. Microsoft will reveal the new console in full at its E3 press conference in June.

This article was last updated on April 6, 2017. Got any other burning questions about Project Scorpio? Send ’em along to sean.hollister@cnet.com.

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