Project Scorpio: True 4K Gaming?

Project Scorpio: True 4K Gaming? - Article

by Dan Carreras , posted on 16 June 2016 / 6,678 Views

It's weird to think that, despite consoles barely being able to manage 1080p gaming, manufacturers are already looking past 1080p and on towards bigger and better endeavours. With Microsoft's announcement on Monday of a 4K gaming machine being released within the next 18 months, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at whether this is a credible goal, and guess at whether or not this monstrosity of a console will be affordable for most gamers. 

xbox stuffs

What is a Teraflop?

Before we go into more detail, let's first look at an easier way of determining a console's relative power: the humble flop. FLOPS stands for Floating-Point Operations Per Second, and is a measurement used for determining the prowess of a piece of hardware. Whilst a higher Flops number doesn’t always translate to better gaming performance, it’s still a good marker for calculating the theoretical peak performance of a given piece of hardware. 

We usually determine a graphics card’s power in teraflops these days, as they’re able to calculate an extremely dense amount of flops with ease. Tera is used in this way to denote the multitude of flops being performed. In the same way that a Terabyte is 1024 GigaBytes of data, a Teraflop is 1024 Gigaflops.

OK, but why do I need to know this?

Knowing what flops are allows you to estimate the performance of a machine with a high amount of accuracy. There’s a reason the PS4 out-performs the Xbox One in every cross platform game; it’s able to produce 1.84 Teraflops, whereas the Xbox One is only able to muster 1.32. 

This disparity in performance is why the PS4 is able to render most games at 1080p, whereas the Xbox One has to render them at a lower resolution and then upscale them. It’s also why the Xbox One struggles to maintain a steady framerate in many games when compared to the PS4. 

4KHow hard is 4K to render?

4K is extremely hard to render. 

Just like 1080p is short hand for 1920 x 1080 (where each number is a pixel on a screen), 4K stands for 3840 x 2160. Due to it being 4 times the amount of pixels 1080p delivers, you can see why many industry pundits are questioning Microsoft's statement that it will make and release a true 4K machine in the near future.

Even the latest graphics card on the market for PCs - the 1080 GTX - struggles to properly render games at 4K, and that’s a £650 graphics card.

And with current consoles barely able to render 1080p properly, you can see why the gaming media and industry at large has doubts - pushing 4 times as many pixels to a screen is hard work, even for customers where money is no obstacle. So with this in mind, will Microsoft be able to deliver on its promise?

Absolutely.

One key piece of information Phil Spencer made sure to drive home on stage repeatedly was that “no matter which console you buy, all games will work on all consoles”. This is a huge giveaway as to how Microsoft is planning to achieve its 4K machine. 

Remember how the Xbox One has 1.32 teraflops of computing power? It’s no coincidence that Project Scorpio is going to have 6. 

4K Gaming

Games on Project Scorpio will look no different to their counterparts on Xbox One; the only difference will be the resolution at which the game is rendered. In doing this, no customer will miss out: should you have a Project Scorpio under your TV, with a 4K TV, the only difference with your game will be the amount of pixels rendered on your screen. Reflections, textures, shadow quality; everything within the game itself will be exactly the same no matter which console you play on. 

Despite many claiming this can’t be true given the power of the console, it’s a fact even confirmed today by Phil Spencer in an interview with Eurogamer, where Phil asked the interviewer what TV they had: 

Phil Spencer: What TV do you have?

Eurogamer: A standard 1080p TV.

Phil Spencer: Then you should buy this box, because Scorpio is not going to do anything for you. 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. Clearly, you can buy Scorpio, and if and when you decide you want to buy a 4K television to take advantage of the increased performance, obviously the console will be ready for you.

Pil Spencer

This is a far cry from things we’ve heard about the alleged Playstation Neo, which is rumoured to have around 4 teraflops of power and will allow developers to increase fidelity on PlayStation Neo games (e.g. higher resolution textures, higher shadow quality, etc.). Sony’s tactic fractures the market, creating haves and have-nots within its own playerbase - Microsoft, on the other hand, looks set to try and ensure everyone, no matter which Xbox One console they own, has the exact same experience. 

This method of just rendering the exact same game at a higher resolution would also explain why Microsoft is confident this will happen within 18 months. PCs only struggle to render at 4K at the moment because PC gamers turn every setting within a game up to max, resulting in more strain on the graphics card in other areas of graphical fidelity than resolution alone.

Consoles currently employ the PC’s “medium” settings, meaning should this trend continue over the next 18 months, it’s absolutely possible medium setting games would be able to be rendered at 4K (heck, that’s easily possible today for PCs, should gamers turn their settings down). 

This is all fine and good, but will Project Scorpio be affordable?

Theoretically, yes. 

Radeon Graphics Card

Given how technology gets cheaper with further process enhancements (graphics cards tend to get 20-30% more powerful once every 12 months), I can’t help but think Project Scorpio will employ a more efficient version of AMD’s recently-announced RX480 Graphics card - a card with more than 5 teraflops of power for less than $200 (£149). Give it another 12 months, and the fact Microsoft will get discounts for manufacturing millions of consoles, and you can easily predict Project Scorpio will retail for no more than the original RRP of the Xbox One when it was first released back in 2013 ($499/£429). 

Of course, everything I’ve said here is pure conjecture on over 15 years of PC building and hardware investigating, so I may be wrong with some of my predictions. One thing's for sure about this E3: I’m excited for the future of games, and the hardware we play them on.


Dan

A graduate in Computing which was centered around Gaming, Dan is a games developer and writer. His first game, Twixel, was released for iOS, Android, PC and Mac in 2015, with a second game in the pipeline. A lover of all things games, Dan has been writing for VGChartz.com for over 2 years, attending conferences and interviewing developers to get the best content for VGChartz readers. His favourite games include Asura's Wrath, S.T.A.L.K.E.R and the Halo Series. Dan can be followed on Twitter at: @Caesoose

 


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13 Comments

iron_megalith (on 16 June 2016)

Skeptical. This generation has been a god damn miss. 1080p 60fps games were promised but majority of multiplat games barely ran at that. Even great exclusives like Uncharted which managed to run at full 1080p had frame drops to the mid 20s. Not to mention a lot of compromises were made to make the game less taxing. Now we're being told that we're gonna have native 4k gaming on a console? I call bullshit. The only way I can see this happening is when multiplat games are put on a low to medium settings, less particles or effect, crappy shadows, and what not. Exclusives, probably 30fps since optimization is a great factor for improving performance.


DanCarreras (on 17 June 2016)

Exactly as I said. They're literally taking a medium to low quality Xbox One title, and upping the resolution to 4K. Phil has even come out and said as much in his latest interview with Giant Bomb: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf-waCLegOo . It may change in the next 12-18 months, as guidelines haven't been given to developers just yet, but with the restriction that EVERY game must work on EVERY console, it restricts Project Scorpio from offering better graphical quality.


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malistix1985 (on 16 June 2016)

You need 4 times the power to render 4 times the resolution, so its 4.5 times more powerfull then Xbox One so there is a good chance a lot of games will be capable of 4K, It will be exciting to see. Overall it will be good for multiplatform games on PC also!


shikamaru317 (on 16 June 2016)

I really hope that alot of devs choose to PC-like graphics options in their games on Xbox, it would be nice to be able to choose between 4K with normal graphics and a lower resolution with enhanced graphics.


hush404 (on 16 June 2016)

Is anyone else skeptical that the updates to our current gen machines will actually usher in a 4K baseline? I mean, I remember games having the hardest time meeting 1080p with the PS3/360 gen (often times very sub HD resolutions were used) and it seems like the current PS4/XBO games are just now achieving 1080p without terrible variance. I highly predict a lot of games struggling to meet 4K resolutions.


GaoGaiGarV (on 17 June 2016)

Actually the games of the PS360 generation struggled to achieve 720p and often times had sub HD-ready resolutions.

I am pretty certain that a console with the power of the Scorpio is able to produce real 4k images but i don't see the point if the rest of the game scales at medium PC settings.


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Mr Puggsly (on 16 June 2016)

Not every game will achieve 4K, some games will likely run 2 or 3 times higher than 1080p. Which will still be a much more crisp picture than current consoles can offer. Also, I disagree with Phil. The Scorpio can benefit people using 1080p TVs as well. Many X1 games are not 1080p, so Scorpio will take advantage of 1080p better than the current one does. Also, good chance games will perform better on Scorpio. I think he's trting to tell people the cheaper S model is staying around as a budget option.


Random_Matt (on 17 June 2016)

4K @ 30 FPS at best for AAA games, bet developers won't even do 4K. Also Scorpio could be the next AMD Vega line, so you never know.


Ruler (on 16 June 2016)

i doubt it will do 4K, most of the 4K benchmark with 6TF graphicscards were done with an Overclocked core i7 not an APU


Random_Matt (on 17 June 2016)

Some non-PC gamers down voting you, they don't have a clue.


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r3tr0gam3r1337 (on 18 June 2016)

some had downvoted but my comment seems to have a ton of console gamers who can't handle the truth, if a £619 graphics card with 8.2 Tflops cant according to daniel handle 4k gaming then there is no chance in hell this new xbox will do 4k


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AsGryffynn (on 17 June 2016)

People also forget that while it is intended as a 4K console, it will also allow devs to develop games with better graphical fidelity, as Spencer did clarify they could use it that way. If the console is powerful enough, it could become both a 4K Xbox One and the next Xbox console at the same time.


HoloDust (on 17 June 2016)

There's a general misconception that 4x amounts of pixels needs 4x amount of GPU power...in RL benchmarks, that's more about 3x or less (for skeptics, Anandtech bench is a great place to check the stats)...so in theory at least, Scorpio should be able to run games both in 4k res and with slightly better settings than XOne.


binary solo (on 16 June 2016)

Nice bit of snark against Sony, as well as a completely illogical statement: "Sony's tactic fractures the market, creating haves and have-nots within its own playerbase - Microsoft, on the other hand, looks set to try and ensure everyone, no matter which Xbox One console they own, has the exact same experience." What would be the point in buying Scorpio if you are going to get "the exact same experience"? Why buy a more expensive product for no gain. That's ludicrous. Clearly MS is intending to promote Scorpio as the definitive way to experience games on Xbox...as long as you have a 4K screen. Also MS is fracturing its market by only supporting VR on Scorpio. How can Sony possibly fracture its market when all PS4 games past and future will be playable on all PS4 skus, including VR games? That's the opposite of fracturing the market. And Neo owners will only get a benefit if the developer includes "neo settings" in a game. If they only design the game to the original PS4 specs Neo won't give a better experience. Also, I can;t understand this if you only have a 1080p TV the Scorpio will be of no benefit, since aside from resolution everything else will be exactly the same. Does that mean of a game has shitty framerate dips on Xb one, it will have exactly the same shitty framerate dips on Scoprio? If the ONLY thing you are getting from Scorpio is 4K then where's the value really? To me it sounds like a complete sham for a 4x more powerful machine to only deliver 4K output and nothing else. Which is essentially what Spencer is saying with his "if you have a 1080p TV then Scoprio is of no benefit." I don't want to call Spencer a liar, but I am very suspicious that he's misleading people about the added visual benefits of Scorpio in order to not detract from Slim sales over the next year.


Azzanation (on 16 June 2016)

4k requires 4times the power from 1080p. The Scorpio is 4x the power of the X1.


Mr Puggsly (on 17 June 2016)

True, but a lot X1 games arent 4K. There are also those 720p games. Scorpio will definitely have 4K games, but not all.


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r3tr0gam3r1337 (on 17 June 2016)

Did no one notice the statement about the GTX 1080 costing £650, Daniel did not describe whether it's the founders edition or the non reference and even then the founders edition starts from £619 and non reference from £529 not £650 and later in the article he mentions the RX 480, a card designed for affordable VR not for 4k, according to AMD two RX 480's in crossfire can outperform a GTX 1080 but even then only by a little, just one more thing to add, the RX 480 as quoted by AMD is the US price not the UK price, after import, shipping and stores have added costs to the $199 price tag you' will probably see the RX 480 in the UK costing around £220. I just found the entire article extremely tedious to read through as looking on the steam survey shows the real reason why PC gamers struggle to run games at 4k, the biggest percentage of PC gamers lack the hardware required to push 4k in the first place, saying the only reason PC gamers struggle is cause they set the games to max settings is just absurd and untrue. How many Tflips does a GTX 1080 have, around 9 Tflops, how many Tflops did the GTX Titan Z have, around 8.5 Tflops, how many Tflops does an R9 295x2 have, around 11.5Tflops, what's the one thing you notice about all the cards mentioned here, they are/were all top end cards, Tflops is not the only important number concerning 4k gaming, has anyone taken into account the increased demands on Vram usage!, 8gb of ram on the PC might be ok but Vram anything less than 4gb forget about 4k but the consoles currently only have 8gb which is shared system/vram, guess this will probably be addressed but another thing that hasn't been asked beings as it is AMD's hardware that will be powering both the XB and PS consoles is will they be using HBM and will the XB use GDDR5x or HBM?


r3tr0gam3r1337 (on 18 June 2016)

no surprise and the idiotic and ignorant console fans would down vote my comment, guess they cant handle the truth that no matter how much they dream about 4k gaming their consoles will not have enough grunt to run 4k native games


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Random_Matt (on 17 June 2016)

"This is a far cry from things we've heard about the alleged Playstation Neo, which is rumoured to have around 4 teraflops of power and will allow developers to increase fidelity on PlayStation Neo games (e.g. higher resolution textures, higher shadow quality, etc.). Sony's tactic fractures the market, creating haves and have-nots within its own playerbase - Microsoft, on the other hand, looks set to try and ensure everyone, no matter which Xbox One console they own, has the exact same experience. " What? Xbox entry level and Xbox premium level. PS4 entry level and PS4 premium level. Exactly the same, what a Fanboy comment, jeez.


DanCarreras (on 17 June 2016)

Loveeeee being called a fanboy ;) Regardless of the fact I had a PS4 for over a year before I got my Xbox One and play most games on PC and advised all friends not to get a Xbox One until Microsoft sorted their shit out.

I think you're confusing the issue. Sony's playstation Neo is meant to not only improve framerates, but also textures, lighting and other graphical enhancements.

The Project Scorpio is going to merely up the resolution of Xbox One games to 4K. No new textures, framerates or lighting.

Sony creates a situation where some players have all the bells and whistles, whilst others have a basic looking game (comparatively). Microsoft's Project Scorpio on the other hand gives every player the same base game, albeit with a higher resolution. That of course comes with it's inherent advantages (sharper images, no need for AA), but still gives players the same quality game.


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