It seems like an age ago that Microsoft first revealed the ‘Xbox Scorpio’ as it was known back at E3 2016 and in gaming terms it probably was, but what is this new Xbox One X and what more do we know about Microsoft’s 4K console?
Here you’ll find the facts that we currently know and speculation about anything we don’t, carefully separated.
EDIT 12th July 17: Details of the Xbox One X have been updated with the latest version
What is Xbox One X?
‘Scorpio’ was the code name for Microsoft’s forthcoming console, which they’ve announced will hit stores near the end of 2017. It was revealed to be called Xbox One X at E3 2017, alongside the date and price.
The console is marketed, at the moment, as being able to run games at 4K and 60fps with HDR, so is considered to be aimed at those who want to get the best results from a 4K TV or monitor.
Xbox One X was properly revealed in its true form at the 2017 Xbox E3 presentation. It’s an all-black affair which happens to also be the smallest Xbox so far, despite packing a lot of expensive and powerful hardware.
From first impressions it looks very much like the Xbox One S, same sort of styling but with a hidden Blu-ray drive (with 4K HD playback, naturally) under the main body. It’s an interesting design which doesn’t immediately stand out as being more powerful but at least it looks like it belongs as part of the Xbox One family.
The Xbox One X will be available from November 7th 2017 at £449/$499
Even within Microsoft, it’s not clear how they will market Xbox One X eventually. Some interviews have cited Microsoft developers as saying the console is the pre-cursor to doing away with generations (where consoles have unique operating systems and game libraries) altogether, while others, including Phil Spencer, have been more conservative with their explanations, positioning it as ‘part of the Xbox One Family’ without saying much more.
Some outside of Microsoft suggest that this is a mid-generation console, designed to fill a gap where the power of PC hardware has overtaken that of consoles by a significant margin. A new console was needed but it was too soon to create a whole new generation of consoles. We won’t know for sure which view is correct or whether there’s some sort of middle ground, until E3 2017.
Another rumour, now debunked, created after Spencer’s E3 comments, suggests that Scorpio might be a modular console (ie: all or most of the console can be changed for different parts to make it more powerful) but careful examination of his speech suggests that he was talking about a possible future console rather than the then announced Scorpio. The fact that this is not a modular console has now been confirmed.
How Powerful is Xbox One X?
Microsoft have announced that they expect the device to be able to run some games at native 4K resolutions and 60fps, though they will leave third party developers to decide how best to use the hardware in their own games, meaning that some games may favour better consistent frame rates over full 4K resolution where they can’t achieve both.
However, it does look as if all first party Xbox One games going forward should be able to run at 60fps and 4K resolution, if Digital Foundry’s reports are accurate.
There are a lot of rumours over how games actually run, including some offhand comments from developers. The problem is that the comments so far have come from those developing exclusive games for Microsoft, so it’s difficult to separate fact from marketing speech, especially in comparison to Sony’s Playstation Pro console, which was marketed in much the same way as the Xbox One X, but should be less powerful in comparison (we’ll only know just how much difference there is in performance when third party titles launch on both platforms, though).
Will Xbox One X be the ‘most powerful console ever’?
Simply put; yes, and Microsoft are marketing it as such. That is, obviously, until the next set of consoles come along to supersede it.
Of course all we really know at the moment is that the graphics card will have 6 TerraFlops (TFLOPs), which is a measure of power that doesn’t always translate directly in to how good a game will look as there are many different factors involved including CPU speed and memory bandwidth.
What Hardware will Xbox One X Use?
Now we know what lurks inside of Xbox One X, thanks to a reveal by Digital Foundry.
The CPU uses Eight custom x86 2.3GHz cores, that’s the same number of cores as the Xbox One and PS4 Pro but, importantly, with a faster clock speed. It’s not Ryzen but it’s certainly far more advanced than the original Jaguar chip found in the Xbox One, PS4 and PS4 Pro.
The GPU is more impressive. It may only have 4 more compute units than the PS4 Pro (40 in all) but they run at a pretty impressive 1172MHz. This is significant in that it can bring the Scorpio up to RX480 levels and drives the console to its 4K 60fps goal.
Xbox have finally used DDR5 RAM, as well, but they’ve bumped it up to 12GB at 326GB/S as well, that seems like more than enough for current games and looks like more of a forward planning move. Most games will not really utilise 12GB at this stage but it’s there if developers want to use it.
Finally, the 4K UHD Blu-ray drive that made its debut on the Xbox One S also makes an appearance as another one-up on the PS4 Pro, which only sports a standard Bluray.
While the Xbox One, PS4 and PS4 Pro use the Jaguar CPU from AMD, rumours of the CPU on the Scorpio being the new AMD Ryzen chip are yet to be clarified with any proof. One of the more recent examples of this was the picture of the AMD booth at the recent CES 2017 trade show which had an Xbox Scorpio advert between several Ryzen ones. However, one thing that may prevent this being true is that Scorpio units are potentially with developers now and Ryzen may not be new enough, as well as the potential cost of the chip pushing the price of Scorpio up. Couple this with the issues around compatibility from using a new CPU with a new instruction set and it would be surprising to see Ryzen being used.
The graphics card in the PS4 Pro uses the Polaris 10 architecture, which was new at the time the console was released. However, if Microsoft’s 6 TFLOPs are correct, this points towards the Scorpio using the newer Vega chipset for its graphics, which would give it a potentially larger increase in power over the Polaris.
Will the Xbox One X have exclusive games?
Microsoft have confirmed that there will be no exclusive games for the console, short of potential VR games when a headset is eventually released (see the section on VR below).
Although Microsoft’s statement is pretty clear, some are hoping that within time, the Xbox One X’s power could be put to better use with titles written specifically for the console. At the moment, though, the Xbox team don’t want to risk alienating the Xbox One platform and their vision is very much of a unified platform between Xbox One, Xbox One S and Scorpio, all using the same software and hardware (bar VR).
Will it have Virtual Reality?
Playstation 4’s PSVR headset has really taken off, thanks to its lower price point and ease of use, as well as software support. Xbox One X is being sold as being ‘VR ready’ so VR is obviously in the back of Microsoft’s mind, but Phil Spencer is adamant that they will not release a VR headset until the team feel that games will be improved by it.
With Xbox working closely with Oculus on the controller support for Rift and the Rift being able to support theatre mode from Xbox One, through a PC, there are obviously rumours circulating that the Rift itself could be used with Xbox One X. The hardware is out there and developers already know how to use it but, from Spencer’s previous comments, Rift may not be what they’re looking for as it’s first generation VR and too expensive. The Xbox team would likely look at working with either Oculus or another company to create a specific headset that meets their requirements for a deeper VR experience.