Microsoft Avoided Adding an AMD Ryzen CPU to Scorpio in Order to Keep the 4K Console Cheap

Written by Jon Sutton on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 2:22 PM

Microsoft has explained why Project Scorpio doesn’t feature a custom Ryzen CPU, and the answer is surprisingly simple - AMD Ryzen is too expensive and gamers wouldn’t be prepared to buy a prohibitively pricey console.

A lot of the rumours surrounding Project Scorpio before the official specs unveiling centred around a potential 8-core Ryzen CPU. This would’ve absolutely flew, however Microsoft instead decided to opt for a custom 8-core Jaguar CPU clocked at 2.73 GHz. This is an incremental upgrade over the Xbox One, rather than a major evolution.

The end result is a console that, according to Microsoft, is more than capable of native 4K gaming. It demoed a custom-made version of Forza Motorsport 6: Apex running at Ultra settings and achieving a rock steady 60 frames per second, all at 4K resolution. The performance is undoubtedly there, however the big question mark hanging over the Xbox One, aside from the games, is the price.

In order to cut costs, Microsoft decided AMD Ryzen wasn’t needed in order to hit its target resolutions and frame rates. It could all be achieved using a modified version of the same Jaguar CPU. “On the CPU side of things, we could still meet our design goals with the custom changes we made. At the end of the day we are still a consumer product. We want to hit the price-points where consumers want to purchase this. It's about balancing the two," said Kevin Gammill, group program manager of the Xbox Core Platform.

It's looking increasingly likely Microsoft sees the $499 figure as the absolute maximum in can get with charging for a console in the current climate, regardless of the performance it achieve.

Whether this comes back to Microsoft at a later date remains to be seen, however the important part for Microsoft will be getting the console out there early with an affordable price tag. The CPU may eventually bottleneck future games, but that’s going to hardly matter if Xbox Scorpio is the lead console platform anyway, at least in terms of raw performance. Microsoft has also been keen to praise Project Scorpio’s hard-coded DirectX 12 implementation, allowing the CPU to offload tasks to the more capable GPU, freeing up system resources.

Was Microsoft right to drop Ryzen in order to make the Xbox Scorpio more affordable? Or can you see the Jaguar CPU eventually crippling performance of future games? Share your thoughts below!

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15:58 Apr-23-2017

It will still be holded back by the original Xbox One because all games need to run on both systems. Developers can't do much of an upgrade other than increasing resolution and just a little bit of Graphics maybe. It's just maid for getting 4K resolution, that's all.

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01:30 Apr-25-2017

Isn't that the whole point? How would it be held back when you described what happens with better hardware?

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17:48 Apr-26-2017

I'm just saying it won't be much of an upgrade, developers can't increase a lot of Graphics or anything (besides resolution) so it would look similar to the original Xbox. No reason to upgrade if the difference isn't high enough (most likely you won't tell the difference). It would be held back by Xbox One, so MS will loose Money on it if It's gonna be expensive Which I know It's gonna be.

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07:28 Apr-23-2017

I've never owned any Xbox, I have always owned Playstation's. Currently own PS4, but Scorpio is a XBox I would strongly consider buying. For a console, that's some significant power.

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10:01 Apr-23-2017

+Checryan
The xbox scropio will just have a resolution increase and some higher graphics details, otherwise the fps will be about the same, maybe UP TO 25% higher, due to the 25-30% higher clock speeds on the CPU, but yeah... Still that's awesome for base model users.

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15:37 Apr-23-2017

could you run most games on 1080p with 60fps. because most people including me dont have a 4k monitor/TV.

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20:16 Apr-23-2017

Scorpio's GPU has the horsepower to run most games at 60fps at 1080p or even 1440p in some. But the jaguar CPU will hold it back. The console has FreeSync 2 support, so certain games with variable frame-rate will be smooth, free of screen-tearing for owners who've hooked up their Scorpio to a FreeSync display.


Also, you still get the benefit of higher resolution even if you don't have a 4K display. The game will render at 4K and simply downsample the final image to your 1080p display, making the image quality look much more clean and sharper than rendering it at native 1080p. If this sounds familiar then yes, this is basically what nvidia's DSR (VSR by AMD) do on PC.

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16:49 Apr-24-2017

to get into perspective, Scorpio has the fuel to run 60 fps at 1080p, well, at least according to our perception... if you want to consider 60fps and 1080p just because the graphics settings says that, then yes, it can, but im pretty sure that with that weak CPU, there are some technical tricks behind that. SHORT ANSWER: probably yes.

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04:02 Apr-23-2017

from my reading this isn't exactly the case; Scorpio allegedly has been in development since the day Xbox One has been released so it is possible that cost saving is possible but it is more likely that Microsoft knew how much more powerful the CPU needed to be for 4k gaming and they kept in contact with AMD for improving Jaguar for it. And yes, Zen was in development since before the Bulldozer mess started but it is incredibly unlikely Microsoft got a prototype chip years ago

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20:38 Apr-22-2017

After milking the consumers wallet. M$ will release Scorpio pro or S or whatever ver2 name they want with an upgraded ryzen cpu.

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22:43 Apr-21-2017

Interesting.

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08:53 Apr-19-2017

reminds me of the 500 Dollar xbox one who can Play most games at 720p or 900p ... so you can shove your cheap console up far

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04:04 Apr-22-2017

yeah bro... after buying the crapboxone for $500 im not getting anything else ever again.

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22:13 Apr-18-2017

Jon, it's actually 2.3 GHz, not 2.73 GHz.

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21:46 Apr-18-2017

I still don't understand how they're going to hit 4k 60fps with essentially an rx 480

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22:07 Apr-18-2017

It's better than RX 480. And they're not hitting 4K60 in every game.
1080p/900p 30fps Xbox One titles will be 4K 30fps on Scorpio
1080p/900p 60fps Xbox One titles will be 4K 60fps
Few 720p 30/60fps titles on Xbox One will be checkerboard 4K 30/60fps.

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22:14 Apr-18-2017

spooky, I'm skeptical still but I suppose there really isn't a reason they shouldn't hit those marks. So when new games come out will the graphical fidelity be the same as it is now? Will graphics change because of the jump to 4k on console? Or is that something we can't predict


Edit: I mean the graphics on console games. Not the industry

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23:13 Apr-18-2017

There are some differences between: RX 480 and the GPU in Scorpio.
Scorpio has 11% more CUs/shaders than RX 480, 27% higher memory bandwidth (real-world diff would be 10-15%), 3% higher computational power. It's a custom chip, and MS says they have some Vega features in it as well.


When it comes to graphics - apart from resolution boost to 4K - Scorpio will get higher quality 4K textures which we're starting to see on PC (that require more than 4GB of VRAM). There will be refinements to effects quality like AO, reflections etc. over Xbox One version, if there's some headroom left in the GPU. It's up to devs.

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23:15 Apr-18-2017

Turn 10 studios (Forza devs) said, when running the game at 4K resolution and using 4K textures on Scorpio hardware, they were using only about 66% of the GPU in a busy scene with lots of cars on-screen. This was at Xbox One settings. When they increased the graphics quality to Ultra, they were hovering around 88% on the GPU and game was still running at 60fps in 4K on Scorpio.


At Xbox One settings, the same scene uses about 90-95% of the GPU on Xbox One at 1080p, according to Turn10. So there's clearly lots of GPU headroom available on Scorpio even after increasing the resolution to 4K. This is all without any Scorpio specific optimization and within 2 days of porting the game to Scorpio

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18:14 Jun-24-2017

dude as much as i love the idea of 4k ultra settings pc or console. will cost a fortune LOL!!! So i would wait till we have technology that can handle it properly... for the price personally :(

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17:54 Apr-18-2017

If the Scorpio is a mid cycle upgrade like the PS4 pro there would be little point in it having a much better cpu than the Xbox 1 because they both need to run the same games. Running 4k rather than 900/1080p is all on the gpu.

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17:32 Apr-18-2017

Depends how you look at it, but overall a good move imo.
They have to limit the cost, so opting for a less powerful cpu makes sense.
On a related note, this just ensures a pretty long gaming life for anyone who has at least an ivy bridge i5. CPU demands will not be increasing any time soon.

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19:50 Apr-18-2017

Maybe it's my specific CPU or how I have Windows set up, but I'm seeing my CPU run 100% quite often now. I've been considering upgrading to AMD's new hex-core CPU because games don't use more than four cores for the most part, so all my background tasks should (in theory) be able to use the last two cores, though I think they would have to be coded to do that and I'm not so sure they are... For now I'll wait and let my 4670 keep chugging along, but I don't know how much longer I'll wait before upgrading.

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16:37 Apr-18-2017

Basically the same conclusion sony came to as well revolving around 4k. Their update revolving around 'boost mode' will unlock more potential of the ps4 pros cpu to help in the same way xbox scorpios higher cpu clock will. Though ps4 pro's "overclock" if you can call it that, won't be of the same efficiency as what microsoft is doing, the logic behind the move is the same. Good move by microsoft.

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23:47 Apr-18-2017

Boost mode doesn't unlock any 'potential'. PS4 Pro GPU has 36 CUs (compute units) running at 911 MHz and CPU runs at 2.13GHz. In order to take full advantage of PS4 Pro hardware, games are required to be patched by devs. When running unpatched games on Pro, half of the CUs in the GPU are shut-down, and it runs at 800 MHz, CPU runs at 1.6 GHz to mimic OG PS4's hardware. Boost mode simply makes the GPU/CPU to run at their original clock speeds and is designed for unpatched games. When an unpatched game is running with boost mode enabled, 18 of the 36 CUs are still shut-down, but they now run at full 911 MHz, and CPU at full 2.13 GHz. Boost mode doesn't make any difference to patched games.

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15:55 Apr-18-2017

This is good news for the base Xbox One owners, because it's just like the PS4 Pro, with the same CPU albeit 56% higher clocked than the Xbox One CPU and 30% higher than the PS4 Pro CPU, it just means that the same games will run, just at a different resolution and graphics settings.

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22:22 Apr-18-2017

Wrong.
The difference is, Scorpio has 31% higher clocked CPU than Xbox One CPU.
And 9% higher than PS4 Pro CPU.
Scorpio's CPU runs at 2.3 GHz, not 2.73 GHz.

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11:46 Apr-19-2017

Well the article above said different. :D
So it's even better for base xbox one users. :3

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17:39 Apr-19-2017

Yeah, Jon made a mistake in the article.

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15:47 Apr-18-2017

at 2.73 it's still far more powerful than 2.1 of ps4 pro.

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15:58 Apr-18-2017

Well it's exactly 30% higher than the PS4 Pro, which is NOT "far", it's quite a bit for sure and I'm pretty sure that Sony could release a patch that clocks the CPU 100-200Mhz higher, but considering that the PS4 Pros GPU is supposed to be about 1.5-2x times weaker than the Scorpios, the CPU to GPU ratio lowers even more, thus the just like the PRO the Scorpio is an Xbox One that plays games at the a higher resolution with the same FPS albeit a bit better.

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18:50 Apr-18-2017

it depends on cooling, because else cpu will downclock (similarly as it happens with poorly cooled laptops)

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23:26 Apr-18-2017

*2.3GHz vs 2.13 GHz of PS4 Pro. That's a difference of just 9%.

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22:15 Apr-19-2017

yeah the title number is wrong!

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15:44 Apr-18-2017

This all look too similar to XboxOne scenerio. Remember when M$ announced XboxOne? The 1080p machine? Eventually it got bottleneck and become a 900p machine.

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15:11 Apr-18-2017

more likely, Ryzen with iGPU isn't ready yet

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15:52 Apr-18-2017

or just too expensive. I doubt that a custom APU with Ryzen and HBM2 would be cheap and who knows about power consumption, I mean the Jaguar consumes less than 30-40 Watts and it's 2x quad cores.

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