Waiting for 4K gaming? The PS4 Neo and Xbox’s Project Scorpio are on the way. We round up the news and rumours, from prices to release dates, specification to features…
4K has well and truly arrived. Since it first launched, we’ve seen prices of 4K TVs drop to relatively affordable levels, availability of content increase thanks to streaming and Ultra HD Blu-rays, and the launch of 4K Blu-ray players from Panasonic and Samsung.
Now 4K games consoles are on the way. The Xbox One S will launch later this year, with the big update being the addition of support for 4K video. But it won’t support 4K games.
For gaming, we’ll be waiting for the next-generation consoles from Microsoft and Sony. But the good news is both a PS4 4K and an Xbox One 4K are on the way, each pencilled for release some time in 2017.
And after the E3 gaming convention this year, we’ve learned a few details about the capabilities of the PlayStation 4 Neo and Xbox’s Project Scorpio. So how will they compare when it comes to specification, features and performance, and which 4K console should you be looking forward to most? We run the rule over the rumours…
Will the PS4K look exactly the same or take the Microsoft approach and usher in a redesign?
Sony’s mid-generation refresh – codenamed ‘Neo’ – is not so much a new console, more a supercharged PS4. It’s intended to sit alongside the current PS4 as a high-end, 4K capable alternative.
The leaked PS4 Neo specs refer to an 8-core 64 bit AMD processor – the same as in the current PS4 – clocked at 2.1GHz instead of the PS4’s 1.6GHz.
It’s suggested the RAM configuration will be the same (8GB of GDDR5) but with a few improvements, in the form of 512MB more memory and 24 per cent more bandwidth (218GB/s to 176GB/s). This should mean that the PS4 Neo would be faster in the processing stakes.
The GPU performance looks likely to be doubled and in combination with the faster CPU, there should be a number of improvements to performance, including better textures, higher frame-rates and a smoother performance.
The Neo is not a new console but a supercharged PS4
We know less about Microsoft’s big Xbox update, Project Scorpio. At its E3 conference, Microsoft said it would be the most powerful console ever made and that the Xbox One Scorpio’s specifications would bear that out.
It’s expected to have eight CPU cores, with (possibly) 12GB DDR5 of RAM and over 320GB/s of memory bandwidth, beating the Neo’s 218GB/s. Microsoft states that the GPU will boast 6 teraflops (yes, teraflops) of processing power.
What does that all mean? Well, on paper the Scorpio screams past the Neo but it’s wrong to assume this would automatically translate to superior gaming performance. The next Xbox is promising to be more powerful, but we’ll have to wait to see what Microsoft actually delivers (and whether Sony ups its efforts).
On paper the Scorpio’s specs scream past the Neo, but we don’t know how this would translate to gaming performance
4K and HDR
Both the Neo and the Scorpio have 4K as their raison d’être, but there’s another console on the way that harbours 4K ambitions – Microsoft’s Xbox One S.
Not to be confused with Project Scorpio, which is set for release in 2017, the Xbox One S features small upgrades, most notably a little more processing power and the addition of an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive. It will also support 4K video streaming services, though.
The upgrade to the processing power won’t affect games, which will play the same as they do on the original Xbox One, but will be used to deliver HDR and 4K upscaling. Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3 and Scalebound will be among the first titles to have 4K video and HDR-10 support.
But don’t be confused – the Xbox One S will not play games in native 4K.
That’s where Project Scorpio comes in. For Scorpio we’re expecting all the trimmings that come with a 4K device, including native 4K gaming.
It’s likely that the PS4 Neo will play some titles in native 4K, with the majority of games expected to be upscaled to Ultra HD. The leaks have not confirmed the existence of an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive or HDR support, however.
We suspect that, having opted out of joining the Ultra HD Alliance, Sony may come up with its own interpretation of HDR, as it has done with its TVs.
An Ultra HD Blu-ray drive is likely and 4K apps, whether it’s PlayStation Video or Netflix and Amazon, are expected to be on board too.
So yes, you can start to get ready for 4K gaming and video.
Gears of War 4 features 4K video and HDR support. Could it be a glimpse of future Scorpio 4K games?
The Scorpio is seen as an addition to the Xbox family. The Xbox One S (£349/$523), which is set to arrive in August, will occupy the lower end, while the Scorpio takes the premium spot when it comes out in late 2017.
There will be no exclusive Scorpio games and all Xbox One games will be compatible with the new system. Microsoft hasn’t clarified whether this extends to the Xbox 360 backwards compatibility program on the Xbox One (£250/$275).
Phil Spencer, head of the Xbox division, recently said that existing games may look different and run a little better on the Scorpio, but admitted that wouldn’t necessarily be applicable to all Xbox One games.
The Last Guardian is released in October and is a likely candidate for Neo compatibility
From September onwards, PS4 games are required to have a base mode and a ‘Neo’ mode. Games can run on both the PS4 and Neo, but the performance boost will only be unlocked on the new console.
Older games can be patched in to be Neo compatible, too. This upgrade will be available at no extra cost – Sony clearly doesn’t want to segregate its 40 million strong userbase.
It’s a similar idea with online gaming, with players on both systems able to play against each other.
Sony has indicated that no game content will be exclusive to PS4 Neo console.
Each Rift comes with a Xbox controller. Could that relationship be reciprocated for Project Scorpio?
Virtual reality is the ‘next big thing’ in gaming. The Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR have brought virtual reality into the mainstream conciousness, and Microsoft and Sony are looking to take advantage.
Sony’s PlayStation VR (£349/$523) arrives first. Many have alluded to the extra processing power in the Neo as the chief reason for introducing PS VR towards the tail end of 2016. The more power VR can draw upon, the better the experience.
Little is known about Microsoft’s VR plans. We know Microsoft has a relationship with Oculus as each Rift kit comes with an Xbox One controller. With a huge leap in power for Project Scorpio, could the Oculus VR experience arrive on the Xbox platform in 2017?
As a mid-generation refresh – a console Sony has said will be profitable from the off – we reckon the PS4 Neo won’t be any dearer than the PS4’s £350/$525 launch price, especially with the PS4 selling well under £300/$450.
If everything Microsoft says about the Scorpio is true, then it’ll be a 4K console with no expense spared. It’s been built for a premium game experience and that points towards a premium price.
We could be looking at something comparable with the launch Xbox’s £430/$645 price tag. Even £500/$750 isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.
Both the PS4 Neo and the Project Scorpio console are still being conceived, so while it’s far too early to draw a conclusion, at this point it looks like the new Xbox will outstrip the new PlayStation in terms of specs.
That’s not entirely surprising. Project Scorpio aims to herald a new gaming generation. By comparison the Neo is more of a mid-gen upgrade.
Neither console is truly competing with each other. The Neo’s release date – somewhere between October 2016 and March 2017 – ensures it will hit the market long before Project Scorpio. And let’s not forget that Microsoft is jumping into the relative unknown. Adoption of 4K is growing, but still a niche market.
The Xbox One S will give an idea as to whether there’s an appetite for gamers to buy a 4K TV, console and the more expensive 4K content. But it’s a slightly confusing approach, with a full-fat 4K Xbox, complete with 4K gaming, seemingly round the corner.
It’s fair to say Project Scorpio seems the more interesting proposition at this point, however it’s still some way off and will also undoubtedly be more expensive. The PlayStation Neo is more of a known quantity, and we expect it will supplement rather than upend the market – which is what Xbox’s Scorpio plans to do.
For many, it will always come down to the games, so we look forward to finding out more about what’s coming to the new consoles. Stay tuned as we’ll be updating this page as more information comes through.