This is going to make some people happy, and a lot of people very unhappy. Microsoft has released information through its developer portal on how it plans to achieve 4K and GPU scaling across multiple Xbox devices. The "whitepaper" contains bits of information pertaining to what we assume to be Project Scorpio, and we're not the only ones. Eurogamer has run an extensive report and companion video through Digital Foundry analyzing that data, and what they found may surprise you.
Project Scorpio isn't shaping up to be quite the "native 4K" monster that many of you were hoping for. Indeed, it's sounding much more like the leap that Sony made from the PS4 to the PS4 Pro. We do hear confirmation of a 6 teraflop GPU, which would be 4.5 times more powerful that what we see in the Xbox One, but that brute force will be tempered somewhat by the same Jaguar CPU found in the original Xbox One and PS4.
We had hoped that we could see one of AMD's newer Ryzen CPUs inside of Project Scorpio, but a tip from Microsoft to developers seems to indicate that the CPU will still be a bit of a hangup: "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," the paper says.
"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."
Hence the assumption that Microsoft will be going Sony's route - opting to maintain the same Jaguar CPU, albeit upclocked considerably. This will indeed offer a huge increase in power, but Project Scorpio's beastly GPU will no doubt be held back by the bottleneck introduced by the now-dated CPU.
It's doubtful that we'll be seeing many games render at native 4K, which is a shame because Microsoft seemed eager to point out that the PS4 Pro doesn't offer gamers a "true 4K" gaming experience. The obvious implication was that Project Scorpio would in fact offer a true, native 4K gaming experience. On the contrary, it looks like Project Scorpio will be using the same "checkerboard rendering" technique utilized by Sony to upscale games to 4K for a fraction of the processing bill.
Microsoft is calling its rendering technique "sparse rendering," but it's basically the exact same thing as Sony's checkerboard technique. Microsoft even reportedly points to the same game - Rainbow Six Siege - as Sony's Mark Cerny when explaining the technique to developers. The technique works extremely well, and make no mistake: this will make Project Scorpio a viable 4K (or faux-K) gaming console. It won't be leagues ahead of what Sony's done with the PS4 Pro, however.
That said, we don't doubt that Microsoft's first-party studios will manage to get some of their games running at native 4K. The same whitepaper document suggests that Microsoft has already managed to get one of its 1080p titles running in 4K, and Eurogamer points to the Forza Motorsport engine as a likely candidate. We would love to see a game as gorgeous as Forza running at 4K, and if Microsoft really wants to show off Project Scorpio's prospective power this year at E3, that's one demo it needs to lead with.
So there you have it. It doesn't sound like we're dealing with the 4K, next-gen, expectation-crushing powerhouse we were all hoping for, but Project Scorpio is shaping up to be, technically, the most powerful console in the world when it releases. If you missed it, we reported that Phil Spencer played a few games on Project Scorpio today, and he's happy with the way things are shaping up. Everything we're hearing should point to a worthy PS4 Pro competitor come holiday season , and it should be reasonably priced as well, sitting somewhere around $400.
As soon as we learn more about Project Scorpio or get an official comment from Microsoft, we'll update you right away.