Microsoft reveal Project Scorpio's official specifications
Published: 6th April 2017 | Source: Eurogamer - Digital Foundry |
Microsoft reveal Project Scorpio's official specifications
Microsoft has revealed Project Scorpio's official specifications, which include heavily customised CPU and GPU designs as well as some innovative new features for backwards compatibility.
This presents some interesting new technical challenges for Xbox One backwards compatibility but also delivers some huge benefits for Microsoft's new hardware, with design changes that have been made to best suit developers, in theory allowing developers to more easily achieve higher performance targets and eliminate hardware bottlenecks.
Below is a table detailing the differences between the original Xbox One, the Xbox One S and Project Scorpio, though a lot os significant changes have been made to both the console's CPU and GPU design to offer more performance gains that are immediately apparent given the listed changes.
|Xbox one||Xbox One S||Scorpio|
|CPU Archtecture||Jaguar||Jaguar||Enhanced/Custom Jaguar|
|CPU Clock Speeds||1.75GHz||1.75GHz||2.3GHz|
|Memory amount (Total)||8GB||8GB||12GB|
|Memory amount (for games)||5GB||5GB||8GB|
|Memory Bandwidth (ESRAM)||204GB/s||219GB/s||N/A|
|GPU Archtecture||GCN||GCN||Custom Polaris|
|GPU Clock Speeds||853MHz||914MHz||1172MHz|
|GPU Perf (TFlops)||1.31||1.4||6.0|
To start off with the Scorpio comes with 12GB of GDDR5 memory, allowing the Scorpio to offer vastly more memory bandwidth than the Xbox One, allowing Microsoft to remove ESRAM from their SoC design. This change will also allow the Scorpio to dedicated 8GB of RAM to gaming, rather than 5GB on the Xbox One, with the Scorpio also receiving an extra 1GB of RAM for OS and background operations.
These memory changes allow the Scorpio to handle 4K workloads much more easily, as well as a 4K start screen. This change will also allow high resolution are assets to be used in games, which is a must for 4K content. On top of this memory bandwidth increase, the Scorpio also benefits from AMD's new Delta Colour Compression (DCC) technology, providing a larger effective boost in memory bandwidth.
On the CPU side, the Scorpio comes with a 31% increase in clock speeds over the Xbox One, but also comes with a lot of customizations that are designed to reduce latency and better CPU/GPU coherency to provide a performance uplift.
Microsoft has also changed the way that the GPU received instructions from the CPU, changing the GPU's command processor to work perfectly in sync with DirectX 12 instructions to allow AP draw calls to be executed with much fewer CPU cycles, effectively freeing up the CPU to do more/different work. Below is a comment from Xbox' Andrew Goossen.
We essentially moved Direct3D 12,
We built that into the command processor of the GPU and what that means is that, for all the high frequency API invocations that the games do, they'll all natively implemented in the logic of the command processor - and what this means is that our communication from the game to the GPU is super-efficient.
It's a massive win for us and for the developers who've adopted D3D12 on Xbox, they've told us they've been able to cut their CPU rendering overhead by half, which is pretty amazing because now the driver portion of that is such a tiny fraction.
On the GPU side, Microsoft has also been making some significant changes to AMD's GPU designs, taking advantage of some of AMD's latest technologies while also making a lot of their own hardware changed based on their experience with Xbox One.
Microsoft did not just call AMD and ask them for a more powerful GPU, they worked alongside AMD to create a custom hardware platform that is designed to fit the common characteristics of exhibited by Xbox One titles. Data taken from Microsoft's PIX performance tuning tool was used to simulate a variety of hardware changes for the Scorpio and how it would effect 4K gaming performance, from the number of CUs to clock speeds, cache sizes and render back-ends.
Data taken from Microsoft's PIX performance tuning tool was used to simulate a variety of hardware changes for the Scorpio and how it would effect 4K gaming performance, from the number of CUs to clock speeds, cache sizes and the number of render back-ends. With data from several developers, Microsoft was able to create what they considered an optimal setup for Project Scorpio, eliminating any potential performance bottlenecks that they could find.
It will be very interesting to see if these design changes from Microsoft could be utilised by AMD in their future hardware, as it is likely that some of these changes could be used to improve the gaming performance of future AMD desktop GPUs, especially under DirectX 12. AMD and Microsoft both worked together on this design, so it will be interesting to see how AMD have benefited from the experience.
When designing the Scorpio, Microsoft has always kept backwards compatibility in mind, though they have a lot more room for potential issues than Sony's recently released PS4 Pro. The Xbox One's ESRAM is now mapped to the new console's pool of GDDR5 memory, which offers more bandwidth but more latency, though Microsoft says that will have a minimal effect on games.
The enhanced CPU and GPU clock speeds of the new console will allow Project Scorpio to have fewer framerate dips than the Xbox One, and potentially allow games with resolution scaling to scale to higher resolutions. IE some games with variable framerates will render at a higher resolution more often, perhaps turning some 900p games with variable resolutions to 1080p games. 30FPS games will not be upgraded to 60FPS, as game resolution/refresh rate locks will still apply, but it should be smoother using Microsoft's new hardware.
Scorpio will also come with a faster hard drive, which Microsoft say will offer better load times for Xbox One titles, which combined with CPU clocks speed increased will allow for faster load times in both CPU and HDD limited situations.
Xbox One games are also designed to use 5GB of system memory for games, while the Scorpio comes with 8GB for games, which means that the Scorpio has 3GB of extra memory that is going unused. Instead of letting this memory go to waste, Microsoft is allowing this memory to be used as storage cache, allowing the console to speed up load times by allowing repeated IOs to be delivered through the fast GDDR5 memory instead of an HDD.
The catch for Microsoft's design changes for Scorpio is that a minority of titles will have compatibility issues with Microsoft's new console. Microsoft will be working to minimise these issues, though some games will undoubtedly slip through the cracks.