Microsoft has just revealed the specs for their next Xbox, known as Project Scorpio, and they're very impressive. Yes, the console wars are starting again; we've just experienced the release of the Nintendo Switch (along with the score-busting Zelda: Breath of the Wind) and after the release of the upgraded PS4 Pro last year rumor suggests Sony is prepping a PlayStation 5 for 2018. Now it's time for Microsoft to get the hype.
Project Scorpio was first announced ahead of E3 2016, although beyond the name, its 4K capabilities and that it will be the most powerful console produced so far, not much specifically has been known about the new tech. 343 Industries head Frank O’Connor did hint earlier this year that the machine was more powerful than the Halo team expected, though, raising expectations for something truly groundbreaking. Finally we have official word.
Central processor (CPU): Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz
Graphics processor (GPU): 40 customised compute units at 1172MHz
Memory: 12GB GDDR5 (326GB/s bandwidth)
Hard Drive: 1TB 2.5-inch
Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Other key details include an integrated power supply and HDMI Out (no Kinect port, like the Xbox One S).
Based on these specs, those "most powerful console ever" claims aren't far wrong. Practically, the CPU is 30% faster, the GPU 460% more powerful and memory 3GB larger than the Xbox One. It also tops the PS4 Pro across the board (apart from hard drive which it matches), although the PS5 rumors suggest it will outstrip Scorpio when it's released a year later. This will, of course, lead to a higher price tag; EuroGamer predicts it will launch at around $499, comparable to the Xbox One on release (which came bundled with the now defunct Kinect). That's a steep price, but based on Digital Foundry's account of seeing a Forza Motorsport demo on the tech it'll lead to a vastly improved experience.
One of the biggest talking points of Scorpio on an everyday gamer level is its backward compatibility; it not only plays current gen Xbox One games but also Xbox 360 discs too (both of which will be upscaled). The lack of proper backward compatibility for the past couple of generations has been a major sticking point for console manufacturers (including initially Microsoft with the Xbox One) and marks this new piece of kit out from the comparatively restrictive PS4 Pro and Switch. People who've amassed a giant gaming library over the past decade (the Xbox 360 was released all the way back in 2006) can play anything from their collection if they upgrade, something impossible with the competition.
Overall, the announcement handling of Scorpio is much more gamer-oriented than that of the Xbox One, which was initially marketed primarily on its wider entertainment system capabilities. The focus on the specs and the overall premium approach to the product show a reversal and have Microsoft steering into the lucrative high-end of the industry.
Non-tech specifics - the console's official name, design, release date or (most importantly) the new games it will boast - are still a closely-guarded secret and are likely being held back for E3 in June. Based on what we've just learned, though, Microsoft's panel at the event won't be one to miss.