Scorpio Spec Leaks Suggest Non-Native 4K

Eurogamer has received a leaked white paper from the development portal of Project Scorpio that contains a few clues on the console’s tech specs. The document is titled “Reaching 4K and GPU Scaling Across Multiple Xbox Devices” and the two main highlights of it are the lack of ESRAM and the suggestion that the Scorpio might not be native 4K.

There is a lot to tackle here and if you’re more tech-savvy, I highly suggest reading or watching Digital Foundry’s original report. According to the white paper, “ESRAM remains essential to achieving high performance on both Xbox One and Xbox One S. However, Project Scorpio and PC are not provided with ESRAM. Because developers are not allowed to ship a Project Scorpio-only SKU, optimizing for ESRAM remains critical to performance on Microsoft platforms.”

This is good news for those who believed there wasn’t enough ESRAM in the Xbox One and Xbox 360. However, it seems that developers will have to continue to support ESRAM to ensure a strong performance on other Xbox One hardware. To compensate, the document according to Eurogamer “suggests that the process of render target ‘aliasing’ – which suits Xbox One and achieves considerable memory saving – continues, but on PC, those targets can now exceed the older hardware’s 32MB limit, as you would expect in moving from 900p or 1080p to ultra HD buffers. Adopting strategies that favor ESRAM are good for other platforms too – Microsoft says it saves memory, favours lower-end PC cards with limited VRAM and makes it easier to hit 4K and ‘boost visual quality settings’… The Microsoft whitepaper mentions nothing about ESRAM’s latency advantages – simply stating that Scorpio’s far higher system memory bandwidth outstrips ESRAM’s wide bandwidth capabilities.”

The Scorpio also still has that six teraflop GPU, and the “four times more L2 cache” which catches the Scorpio up the AMD’s Polaris line and potentially the upcoming Vega as well. So the Scorpio is definitely going to be more powerful than the PS4 Pro in some ways, but we can’t say for sure how it will work together in the end.

You might have picked up on this already, but Microsoft is also implying that it will be using the same “checkerboard” effect that the PS4 Pro does. In fact, the company goes so far as to suggest that “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. 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.”

Basically, the “Scorpio’s CPU technology has not moved on in step with its GPU”. Which is fine, it could still run 4K and HDR and Microsoft never said otherwise about the CPU. However, this is also implying that Scorpio isn’t running native 4K, that it’s walking around it like the PS4 Pro does, “on Project Scorpio, a half-resolution effect rendered at 1080p and bilaterally up-sampled to 4K could look as good or better than the same effect rendered at full resolution on Xbox One. For example, on Xbox One, the effect is produced at full resolution, say 900p, but on Project Scorpio, the effect is produced at 1080p, which is half resolution.” Which directly contradicts what Microsoft has been saying about Project Scorpio, even if the native 1080p is something to write home about in itself.

In other words, the Scorpio is probably more powerful than the PS4 Pro. Though it might not run native 4K, it will be still be a decent step towards it. I wouldn’t say this is a bad thing, because the tech so far is almost enough to call the Scorpio a next-gen console, instead of mid-gen one.

What are you thoughts on this leaked document? Let us know in the comments below!

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