Microsoft has spilled some rather juicy info about its upcoming 4K console, still dubbed 'Project Scorpio'.
With two months to go before this year's big gaming show - E3 2017 - and many more before its planned 'Holiday 2017' release date - Microsoft has nixed any chance of a major leak and revealed a whole host of new specs and details.
Could it be a PS4 Pro beater? What do those new specs actually mean? Is it really native 4K? Read on to find out...
So Project Scorpio - or whichever take on the 'Xbox' brand this will transform into come June - really is on the horizon. In fact, it's due to arrive at the end of the year, and with a proper reveal set for E3 2017, Microsoft has opened its doors to PC and console hardware test site Digital Foundry and finally confirmed some hard specs.
The Project Scorpio specs
According to that fresh Digital Foundry coverage, Project Scorpio will ship with an eight custom x86 core CPU, which has been clocked at a beefy 2.3GHz; a GPU with 40 customised compute units (clocked at 1172MHz), 12GB of GDDR5 RAM with a memory bandwidth of 326GB/s, a 1TB 2.5-inch hard drive and a UHD Blu-ray drive.
Microsoft says Project Scorpio has met the firm's 'six teraflops' performance goal - now that's an impressive figure to come out swinging with, and one that trounces PS4 Pro's power, but we're still taking it with a slight pinch of salt until Microsoft let us see this hardware in action.
How does it stack up against PS4 Pro?
Now here's the one of the big talking points for Project Scorpio - how well does those stats sound when compared to what Sony's conjured up with PS4 Pro? On paper, Project Scorpio is significantly more powerful than PS4 Pro, but considering PS4 Pro was in itself a mid-generation upgrade from PS4, Scorpio isn't quite the grand leap we're hoping for.
Still, Scorpio does one-up PS4 Pro in practically every area. PS4 Pro's eight x86-64 AMD 'Jaguar' CPU clocks in at 2.1GHz (that's 0.3GHz behind Scorpio), while its GPU (a 4.20 teraflops AMD Radeon setup) falls short of Scorpio's supposed 1172MHz with only 911MHz.
Memory bandwidth is another area that Scorpio will really shine, with its GDDR5 RAM hitting up to 326GB/s knocking PS4 Pro for six with its 218GB/s. Oh, and there's that Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, somthing PS4 Pro really lacks.
How much will it cost at launch?
Unsurprisingly, there's no solid figure when it comes to pricing (expect that as part of Microsoft's keynote at E3 in June), but that didn't stop the folks at Digital Foundry from putting together an educated guess with an expected price of £400/$499.
Personally, we think that price would be a deal-breaker for most potential adopters, but considering none of us have seen the hardware running games in real-time it's hard to write off that guess just yet. Plus, let's not forget that PS4 Pro launched with a £349 price tag so accounting for those upgraded specs isn't beyond the realm of possibility.
Will Project Scorpio have proper 4K?
When it comes to the world of closed-box consoles, we've yet to get a machine that offers proper, full-fat, native 4K. Xbox One S offered HDR and a 1080p output on some games, while PS4 Pro conjured an upscaled version that looks mightily impressive despite being a graphical case of smoke and mirrors.
Microsoft is staking its name, and what's left of its console credentials, on Project Scorpio being a machine that can play games such as (we assume) Middle-earth: Shadow of War at a native 4K resolution.
It's an incredibly lofty boast, and a dangerous one too considering how the Xbox brand has struggled to recover from the self-torpedo that was the Xbox One reveal in 2013, but if Microsoft can pull it off in real-time without some technical sleight of hand, Project Scorpio could be the Lazarus Pit the brand has been crying out for.
The T3 verdict
There's still plenty we don't know about the next Xbox (a proper price point, how well that increased memory bandwidth and larger GPU translate into actual performance upgrades and how it'll affect vanilla Xbox One/One S users), but we're still intrigued to see how it reveals itself in June at E3 2017.
It's certainly confidence-building to see Microsoft making this pre-E3 reveal through one of the few professional outlets capable of breaking down an insight based mostly around hardware specs and projected performance, but let's not forget that Digital Foundry didn't actually see the hardware in action and instead spoke to a number of key figures involved in the project.
Roll on the Xbox One briefing on 11 June at E3 2017...
- Why not check out... These are the best indie games coming to Nintendo Switch in 2017
All the older rumours and speculation we ran about Xbox Scorpio
At E3 last year Microsoft announced Project Scorpio, the successor to the Xbox One but also not at the same time. Scorpio is Microsoft's attempt to create an iterative console midway through a generation.
The hardware is still a long way off, but here at T3.com we wanted to clear up all the rumours we think we know about Project Scorpio - the next Xbox.
Xbox Scorpio design
In the announcement video for Scorpio, Microsoft showed off some of the interior parts of the console, but towards the end of the video there appears to be a couple shots of the outside too. It's safe to assume the hardware isn't in production yet and therefore the final design is subject to change. The company will have listened to the criticism people had of the Xbox One and its VCR style design. Expect to see a stylish looking console that doesn't compromise on its looks for all the power under the hood.
Xbox Scorpio performance
Microsoft keeps reiterating that Scorpio is going to be the "world's most powerful console" when it's released in the winter of next year. The announcement video talks about how Scorpio is the console developers wanted to achieve their visions.
The company hasn't been shy about detailing some of the specifications of the console by already stating it will have 6 teraflops of power, 8 CPU cores and over 320GB/s in memory bandwidth. Sources are predicting the console will come with 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and be about 40 percent faster than the PlayStation 4 Pro.
We also know that AMD will be providing the hardware that powers the Xbox Scorpio, with the company saying it's "proud" to be involved. HDR, 4K and high-fidelity VR are on the way, confirms AMD.
All of this means the console is going to be fast... very fast... and deliver 4K gaming at a smooth frame rate.
This release might also signal the end of console updates as we know them - big jumps in specs spaced out over several years. "For us, we think the future is without console generations," Microsoft's Aaron Greenberg told Engadget - but as for exactly what that means, we'll have to wait and see.
Xbox Scorpio price
Microsoft talked about the high specs of Scorpio at E3 this year and iterated it would be the most powerful console ever made, so what does this mean for price?
Not a lot actually.
Let's not forget the console is expected to be out in winter 2017. In the world of tech a year and a half is a lifetime, meaning the parts used in the console will be cheaper and economies of scale will be more beneficial for Microsoft when the console launches.
The new hardware shouldn't cost any more than £400 - Microsoft won't want history to repeat itself by pricing the system too high at launch, a bit like Sony did with the PlayStation 3.
In fact, Microsoft execs have confirmed that the upcoming machine will have a "console price-point", so adjust your spending plans accordingly. We're thinking somewhere in the region of a PS4 Pro price, about £350.
What's more, there could well be some attractive trade-in deals on the new console for you to take advantage of.
Xbox Scorpio software
The messaging for Scorpio seems to be clear: gamers won't be getting left behind. The head of Microsoft's Xbox division, Phil Spencer, has given interviews stating that all future games will work on the whole Xbox family of devices, including the original Xbox One, the Xbox One S and the Xbox Scorpio.
Spencer has also said that playing an Xbox One game on a Scorpio will "look different" and may "run a little better". Furthermore ,the head of Xbox also said that Scorpio won't do anything for anybody using a HD TV with the system, the console is designed with 4K in mind.
Based on a tweet sent out by engineering lead Mike Ybarra, the Scorpio will have backwards compatibility and support some Xbox 360 games too.
Developers have talked about the power Scorpio will let them harness, but it's still unclear whether exclusive games will be made for the system itself. Last month Microsoft's GM of Game Publishing Shannon Loftis hinted it's up to developers to decide if they want to make exclusive games for the system.
Loftis' comments resulted in negativity on Twitter about original owners being left behind, after which the Head of Xbox Games, Aaron Greenberg, claimed the confirmation of exclusives for the system wasn't true. It's hard to see developers not taking full advantage of all the power under the hood of Scorpio to make games that either look noticeably better on the system or are complete exclusives.
Xbox Scorpio VR capabilities
Microsoft claims that Scorpio will be VR-ready when it releases next year. In the announcement video for the console, the director and executive producer at Bethesda Game Studios, Todd Howard, announced the company was bringing Fallout 4 to VR. He said the new console would be able to deliver a resolution and speed to give the best VR experience. This is most likely one of many games being ported to VR in preparation for Scorpio's launch.
Although Microsoft hasn't announced a VR headset itself, it doesn't need to. Instead they have seemingly partnered with Oculus to bring the Rift to the Xbox family. This means at the launch of the Scorpio you'll have a headset capable of bringing you incredibly immersive experiences.
The Scorpio might also work with the cheaper, lighter headsets Microsoft's partners are developing for use with Windows 10 - like this Lenovo one. It's still early days for these headsets and Scorpio, but the VR add-ons might end up being cheaper than you think.