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The Scorpio details are here

The specs have been revealed, and we know more about Microsoft's machine.

  • Text: Sam Bishop

In today's Scorpio spec reveal we found out way more about Microsoft's powerful machine, and about the Scorpio Engine, the SOC that the Xbox Scorpio uses, including that the latter contains pretty much all of the core hardware, including GPU, CPU, and processors.

We also got technical specs on this Engine too, as its a 16 nanometre FinFET process node, measuring at about 360 square mm, with seven billion transistors in it, all of which is manufactured by TSMC.

In terms of CPU, the Scorpio does used an evolved version of the Jaguar Core processor that the Xbox One had, with two quad core clusters again like the Xbox One, with 4MB of L2 cache. These Custom x86 processors in the Scorpio also have an upgraded frequency of 2.3GHz, a 31% increase. According to Digital Foundry, Microsoft's aim has been to improve coherency between CPU and GPU, also targeting lower latency as well.

What Microsoft has also done is to essentially make a hardware implementation of DirectX 12, integrated straight into the GPU command processor. What this means is that raw instructions from the CPU that would usually require thousands of instructions have been significantly streamlined to just 11, with state changes also cut down to nine, and Microsoft claims this hardware change should cut CPU rendering workload by 50% on games built with DirectX 12 renderers, including Battlefield 1 and Gears of War 4, for example.

What's more is that audio rendering, which can often be CPU-intensive, can also be offloaded to the dedicated silicon on the engine as well, even though the APB (Audio Processing Block) has the same core hardware as the Xbox One. On this note, spatial audio with Dolby Atmos and Atmos for headphones is also supported for Scorpio, essentially adding a height level for 7.1 surround, and all owners (whether that be the One, One S, or Scorpio) will benefit from the upgrade.

In terms of GPU, there is indeed the six teraflops we were promised back at E3 last year, broken down into 40 compute units, compared to the Xbox One's 12 and the PS4 Pro's 36, each of these clocking at 1172MHz, compared to Xbox One's 853 and PS4 Pro's 911, meaning the Scorpio has a 43% compute advantage.

In terms of memory, there's 6.8GHz GDDR5 modules on a 384-bit memory bus, with 12 of those modules, adding up to a bandwidth of 326 GB/s total. 8GB of the 12GB GDDR5 total will be available to game creators, as opposed to five on the original Xbox One and PS4 Pro, but system reservation has also gone up, however, from 1GB to 4GB, so Scorpio's dashboard can render at native 4K, for instance (the Xbox One S couldn't do that).

All this customised hardware was achieved by Microsoft looking at existing games to see where bottlenecks were on the hardware, using hardware emulators to see how game code performed, balancing the hardware with those results to get optimal performance. This also allowed the GPU specifically to try and diminish engine and game specific bottlenecks, with about 60 specific customisations on the GPU.

According to Digital Foundry, using an early prototype Scorpio, Forza Motorsport 6's engine was ported to the console in two days, and a screenshot was taken (which we've included below). With maximum cars, the game hit 4K and 60 FPS, with the GPU using 66.19%, dropping to around 55% with fewer cars, and increasing to around 70% too. It was emphasised that this was a port, and the only Scorpio enhancements made were 4K art assets and resolution, so it seems we may well see 1080p Xbox One games running at native 4K. There was some texture filtering in the distance, but improving shouldn't be an issue, and Microsoft are also aiming to get 900p games running at native 4K too. 1080p users, don't fret though, as all Scorpio games will supersample down to 1080p from full 4K, and all game modes will be available to all users regardless of display. Game DVR is also getting a 4K/60 HEVC video upgrade on the Scorpio as well.

The GPU for Scorpio has features derived from AMD's Polaris technology, and Digital Foundry also compared the Scorpio to the Radeon RX 480, with 40 compute units compared to Radeon's 36, a core clock of 1172MHz to Radeon's 1266 (on max boost), a die size of 360 square mm compared to Radeon's 232, and 6 teraflops compared to Radeon's 5.8 (again on max boost).

Digital Foundry also talked about the Hovis method, where every Scorpio Engine processor that is made has its own power characteristics, and every Scorpio motherboard is balanced with its specific processor in order to keep heat low and maximise efficiency. A vapour champer cooling assembly is also used in this regard, similar to high end coolers for GTX 1080 graphics cards. Heat is pushed out through the back of the machine via a large fan too, and there are no vents on the console.

So, now you have a bit more information about the Scorpio, are you impressed?