At the moment, Sony’s PS4 Pro is comfortably the most powerful games console on the market. However, it has competition fast approaching in the form of Microsoft’s upcoming Project Scorpio console which is scheduled for an E3 2017 reveal and a Holiday 2017 release.
We know what you’re thinking – why compare these consoles now? Why not wait until we know more about Project Scorpio, or wait until it’s released and then compare?
That makes sense, and it’s absolutely something we will do. However, for anyone wondering whether or not they should just buy a PlayStation 4 Pro now or hold out for Project Scorpio, it’s worth taking a look at the details we have now to help you make a decision between these 4K flagships.
Project Scorpio vs PS4 Pro graphics
The headline feature of both of these consoles is that they’ll both be capable of outputting 4K content either natively or through a process known as upscaling.
Though the PS4 Pro is capable of playing games in native 4K, at the moment the library of games which do so is fairly small, though growing. While you’ll be able to enjoy games like Skyrim in native 4K, at the moment the majority of Pro supported titles achieve their 4K resolutions by upscaling.
Though upscaling is inferior to native 4K content, the PS4 Pro has a couple of tricks up its sleeve.
Each game handles its upscaling slightly differently, but a general theme so far on the PS4 Pro has been that games will render at a resolution that’s between Full HD and 4K and then use a more advanced upscaling method called ‘checkerboard rendering’ to fill its 4K pixels.
When talking about checkerboard rendering things can get complicated very quickly, but the important takeaway from this is that the images the PS4 Pro is capable of displaying look very close in quality to native 4K content by using this method.
Since the console isn't out yet, we don't know the exact specifics of Project Scorpio's 4K output, but we can make a few educated guesses.
For Microsoft's part, they've said that the console will offer 'true' 4K gaming thanks to a massive 6 teraflops of graphics processing power, roughly equivalent to Nvidia's mid-range GTX 1070. This is compared to 4.12 teraflops for the PS4 Pro.
Additionally, Microsoft has said that in the future all of its first-party titles will run at native 4K. Microsoft Studios general manager Shannon Loftis "Any games we're making that we're launching in the Scorpio time frame, we're making sure they can natively render at 4K.”
Microsoft's last console, the Xbox One S, relied entirely on a very basic form of upscaling that generated a 4K signal without doing much to clean up the image in the process. However, a recently discovered whitepaper has suggested that Project Scorpio would also make use of upscaling, albeit through a more advanced PS4 Pro-style checkerboarding method.
So while Project Scorpio has the edge in terms of raw graphical horsepower, we don't yet know conclusively whether it will be completely free from upscaling.
However, if Microsoft is able to offer more games that run at native 4K than PlayStation it’ll have a much greater appeal to those who are looking for the best 4K gaming experience.
Even though both consoles will be great for owners of the latest 4K TVs, they’re both promising benefits to those with less powerful Full HD screens as they’ll be capable of optimizing frame rates and overall better performance.
This is something that was made possible via the PlayStation 4.5 firmware update recently, which introduced a Boost Mode to PS4 Pro consoles. With this mode activated, even games that hadn’t been patched to upscale will benefit from the increased power of the console with more stable framerates.
Xbox’s Phil Spencer said that Project Scorpio would also improve game performance but to make the most of both consoles you’re most likely going to want a 4K display.
When you directly compare the GPUs of both consoles, things are off to a good start for Project Scorpio.
The PS4 Pro is capable of 4.12 TFLOPS with a memory bandwidth of 218 GB/s, and 8GB GDDR5 memory. Though we don’t know the graphics memory for Project Scorpio, we do know it’s capable of 6 TFLOPS and has a memory bandwidth of 320 GB/s.
At 320 GB/s the memory bandwidth of Scorpio is on par with some of the best PC GPUs and it’d give the console an edge when it comes to running 4K and virtual reality. The higher TFLOP measurement also suggests that Project Scorpio will be more powerful than the PS4 Pro in terms of hardware.
However, though the numbers look good it’s hard to make any definite judgement without being able to see Project Scorpio in action since it will depend on how efficiently developers make use of that horsepower.
Project Scorpio vs PS4 Pro games
4K graphics and impressive hardware are only going to be useful if you want to play the console’s games in the first place. Fortunately, both PlayStation and Xbox have a number of excellent exclusives and there’s a good deal of overlap too.
Both Sony and Microsoft have promised that though Scorpio and the Pro will be more powerful than the Xbox One S and standard PS4, they won’t have exclusive titles so you don’t have to worry about being left behind by this new half-generation. Instead, they’ll share all release titles with some being capable of taking advantage of the greater power of the new consoles.
A point in Xbox’s favor is that its backwards compatibility is currently in a far better state than the PS4’s. Although you can’t play every Xbox 360 game that was ever released during the console's 10-year lifespan, there’s an ever-increasing list of 360 games that will work on the newer consoles and Xbox’s engineering lead Mike Ybarra confirmed that Xbox 360 and Xbox One titles will work on Project Scorpio.
Xbox has also said that with the Scorpio it also wants to “wipe out” the console upgrade cycle and allow games to work seamlessly across Xbox One, Windows 10 and the new Scorpio.
This process has already started with the Xbox Play Anywhere scheme making it possible for gamers to buy select games across the Xbox One and PC when they’re purchased digitally through the Microsoft store.
As its part of the same platform, this scheme will also be open to Scorpio.
The PS4 has a number of excellent exclusives of its own, though nowhere near the same backwards compatibility or cross platform capabilities. Its exclusives range from Uncharted 4, to Horizon: Zero Dawn, to excellent remakes of The Last of Us and the original Ratchet and Clank.
However, debating over specific releases aside, the vast majority of this generation’s biggest games have come to both Xbox and PlayStation. Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1, Overwatch and Hitman have all appeared on both the PS4 and Xbox One this year, and going forward most third-party publishers are expected to support each of the more powerful console iterations more or less equally (the occasional timed-exclusive or exclusive DLC notwithstanding).
Both systems will also support virtual reality experiences. While the PS4 Pro has the dedicated PlayStation VR headset, Microsoft doesn’t have any exclusive hardware. Instead, Microsoft will use an existing VR headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, though no specific headsets have been named as partners.
Microsoft has also said that Scorpio and Xbox One will support all Windows Mixed Reality headsets, which include models from Lenovo, Dell, Acer and HP in 2018.
This means that Scorpio will end up supporting mixed and virtual reality experiences. If this is done right, it could give Microsoft the edge in terms of breadth and perhaps depth.
Project Scorpio vs PS4 Pro films and media
Films and media is another area where the two consoles are likely to be similar in some respects, but very different in others.
The biggest difference is that Project Scorpio will have an Ultra HD Blu-ray player which will allow it to play Ultra HD Blu-rays in all their uncompressed 4K HDR glory.
The discs aren’t all that common at the moment, however when a movie or TV show is available in the format, it’s well worth opting for the 4K version. As time goes on it’s likely that the format is slowly going to overtake Blu-ray in the way that format overtook DVD. The Scorpio’s Ultra HD Blu-ray player is a good way of future proofing yourself in this instance.
When it comes to streaming, both consoles are likely to be on much more even footing. As the Xbox One S, like the PS4 Pro, is equipped to handle Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube in all of their 4K/HDR glory, we can assume Scorpio will too.
Both video streaming and Ultra HD Blu-rays have their drawbacks. You’ll need to have a pretty meaty internet connection to get a good quality 4K stream (Netflix, for example, recommends a connection speed of 25mbits or above), and 4K discs are expensive and not available for the vast majority of movies and TV shows.
However, while they both have their drawbacks, the Project Scorpio will give you the choice between them, whereas with the PS4 Pro your choice has been made for you by the lack of an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive.
Project Scorpio vs PS4 Pro price
Although we’d love for money to be no object when it comes to gaming, the reality is that for most people price is a significant factor in determining what to buy, and that’s especially true around the holiday season when Scorpio will be released.
At the moment you can pick up a PS4 Pro for around $399 (£349/ AU$559.95) and it’s likely that having a strong foothold in the market will allow Sony to offer good discounts when the holiday season rolls around.
We don’t, however, have a confirmed price for Project Scorpio just yet. Considering its specs, there's a chance that it will be slightly more expensive than the PS4 Pro.
Phil Spencer said that it will be at a “console price point” and not any more than we’ve seen a console cost before. However, this does mean it’s likely to cost between more than $500 (£400/ AU$650) when it’s released.
So which looks like it'll be better?
Well, naturally we can’t come to a conclusion at the moment as Project Scorpio hasn’t been fully revealed yet. From what we do know, however, Microsoft have a very powerful machine coming this holiday season.
From the specs released so far it's set to have the edge on the PS4 Pro in terms of raw graphical horsepower and it’ll be able to boast an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and fantastic backwards compatibility that will reduce the disruption you’d usually expect from mid-generational upgrades.
However, with no word yet on price it's difficult to draw exact conclusions. We'll have to wait for E3 this year to get a clearer picture of how the two machines stack up against one another.