OK, Microsoft laid bare their new console through Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry. That’s a link, so follow it and catch up on the story if you haven’t checked it because I copy and paste for no man.
We knew the tech reveal was coming, and the gameondaily team were abuzz with excitement and typing errors yesterday when discussing just what they expected to see from Microsoft. Those guys are still processing the information (I think Gaz is laying out loads of gloves so he can count the fingers to see if “1172MHz” is a big number…. Gaz, just stick with 6Tflops man!), so it falls to me to give a guttural, emotional reaction in the heat of the moment. *I reserve the right to change my opinion after I’ve spent some more time considering the facts.
Microsoft have essentially been shopping at the same store as Sony, but they have seemingly thoroughly out-engineered their console rival.
As it turns out Microsoft have been pretty honest from the get-go regarding Scorpio. The hardware has been shrouded in mystery, but actually all the headline numbers and specs that were revealed way back at E3 last year were totally on point. From the Teraflops and memory bandwidth, right through to their native 4k target.
The central thing that jumps out at me in this reveal is that all of the core hardware is already familiar. The CPU uses further customised Jaguar cores, the GPU component is based on AMD’s Polaris, the memory modules are GDDR5, and the ZPU is…. not a real thing. Just checking you’re still with me. So there is no Vega, no Ryzen, no HBM, or any other terms you’ll hear the PC building crowd enthusing about these days.
More poignantly, the hardware inside the Scorpio is fundamentally of the same generation and family as the innards that make up the Playstation 4 Pro, which released at the tail end of last year. Like Microsoft’s latest creation (abomination? Pick your flavour), the Pro also features Jaguar cores, Polaris based GPU tech, and GDDR5 memory. In one sense that information made the reveal fairly anti-climatic, but at the same time it opens some very interesting points for comparison.
For one thing, Microsoft have essentially been shopping at the same store as Sony, but they have seemingly thoroughly out-engineered their console rival. On paper, the Scorpio goes harder, faster, and stronger, and with a cheeky swagger as it goes.
The ever-raging question of “Why buy an Xbox if you have a good PC?” still doesn’t have a very convincing answer.
We expected the console to out-perform the Pro because Microsoft have been posturing and positioning the console that way for a long time. However, achieving it with the same generation and range of components is no trivial achievement. Perhaps even more important than bragging rights over their engineering peers, is the fact that the hardware in the Scorpio shouldn’t be priced astronomically highly. Sure, it’ll be more expensive than the PS4 Pro. The additional 4GB GDDR modules, UHD Blu-ray player, and customised chips don’t come free after-all. But they aren’t likely to add more than £50-80 quid to the cost, which could mean a fairly conservative price increase for the enthusiast market.
It does raise further questions of just why the Scorpio is releasing around a year later than the PS4 Pro though. It doesn’t seem to be down to the availability of the components, but then it is unlikely we’ll ever know what is going on behind the scenes at Microsoft, AMD, or TMNT (yes, I mean the turtles. I don’t particularly want to know what goes on at the far more relevant TMSC).
As the resident PC nerd round these parts, I’m both impressed and unimpressed with the Scorpio. The hardware won’t turn my head away from the pages of overclockers.co.uk, and the ever-raging question of “Why buy an Xbox if you have a good PC?” still doesn’t have a very convincing answer. However, I have never really felt that question needed an answer. For me the Scorpio is a console for people that love playing games on consoles, and I am impressed by the package Microsoft are delivering, as I believe they can offer tremendous value to that crowd with the hardware shown today.
Of course Microsoft still have a long way to go to prove the true worth of the Scorpio and achieve any kind of commercial success. The price isn’t settled, and the closest thing to a game we’ve seen is a cop-out port of Forza 6 that will never see the light of day. We haven’t even been given a name yet, so it is clearly early days. Sony also still hold a massive trump card in their deck with their exclusive games library, and they have done a sterling job of building up that reputation this year.
Still… Welcome back, Xbox.