With Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro now shipping, there’s a great deal of speculation around Microsoft’s upcoming Project Scorpio. Microsoft has implied it wants to leapfrog both the Xbox One and the PS4 Pro by a significant margin, but details on how these improvements would impact the existing Xbox One ecosystem have been few and far between.
While Scorpio will have extra bells and whistles for 4K players, the console’s advantages won’t be reserved for them, Windows Central reports. Existing Xbox One games with dynamic resolutions will hold their target resolutions and frame rates more often, even without patches and updates. Given the horsepower Scorpio is supposed to pack relative to the Xbox One, “more often” really ought to be “all the time,” since the new platform is supposedly so much more powerful than its 2013 predecessor, but we’ll have to see how that plays out.
The more intriguing rumor is that games designed for 4K will still render into 1080p when played on 1080p screens through the use of supersampling. Super-sampled antialiasing is the best (though also the most costly) method of antialiasing. Downsampling — the practice of rendering a game at a high resolution internally before outputting the final result at a lower resolution — and supersampling can be treated as more or less the same thing, at least for the purposes of this discussion.
This suggests that Microsoft may take a somewhat different tack from Sony when it comes to what knobs and dials developers get to fiddle. So far, we’ve seen game publishers target a variety of experiences and ideas with the PS4 Pro. Some games have offered higher frame rates at the same resolution, or stepped up to higher resolutions at the same frame rate, or offered better visual effects and capabilities but lower resolutions. Offering antialiasing as a blanket filter option would be a good way to improve game visuals while simplifying the developer’s life. AMD and Nvidia have offered global options for AA for years, though their efficacy varies depending on the game you play and the type of engine it uses.
As before, if you want the full advantages of Scorpio, you will need a 4K screen, but that’s not particularly surprising either. The new console will offer a 4K Blu-ray player, HDMI 2.0a, and HDR support. Windows Central is also claiming Scorpio will output “True 4K” (their capitalization), which is almost certainly more marketing blurb than fact. As with the PS4 Pro, the question isn’t whether the Xbox Scorpio will be able to output 4K, but whether it’ll be able to hold that resolution in modern AAA titles. Given that GPUs like the GTX 1080 Ti have only recently crossed the threshold of what we’d personally call a 4K GPU, it’s not practical to assume a console will carry an equivalent GPU less than nine months from now. No matter how ambitious the platform’s design goals were, power consumption is going to put a hard limit on how much firepower you can pack into Scorpio’s chassis.
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