What The Xbox Scorpio Could Learn from PS4 Pro’s Boost Mode

If the Scorpio can run Xbox One games in 4K, it has more than enough headroom to hit 1080p/60 in most modern games, right “out of the box.”

Posted By | On 05th, Mar. 2017 Under Article, Graphics Analysis

The 1080 Ti and RX Vega have just been announced. Prices for the Radeon Fury line are at incredible lows. The PS4 Pro’s been out on the market for months now, and 4K TVs and monitors are now the mainstream option for an upgrade. There’s never been a better time for a console like Scorpio, with an emphasis on 4K experiences. But let’s take a step back here, though. 4K’s still not quite where it’s at for mainstream gaming experiences, and the hardware requirements for a AAA 4K experience are still a bit beyond the pale for existing consoles, PS4 Pro included. 4K is a very nice to have feature (we roll with a Fury/8370 rig hooked up to a 55 in 4K TV). But it’s not need to have. If the Scorpio is to be positioned as essentially an Xbox One that runs games at 4K, this makes it a much less compelling proposition.

Arguably, it’s the performance boost at 1080p that’s more interesting to many people. Sony’s recent decision to implement a Boost Mode on the PS4 Pro makes for an interesting case study. Both the PS4 and the Xbox One were rather anaemic little boxes, even at launch. CPU power, in particular, was appallingly low. The rather weak GPUs on board meant that many AAA titles ran at 900p on the PS4, and as low as 720p on the Xbox One. This’d have been acceptable if those titles outputted acceptable framerates. But here, severe CPU bottlenecking comes into the picture. Games like Fallout 4 were built on engines that tend to favour strong single-threaded performance, a holdover from the days when CPU core count wasn’t a checklist feature for consumers.

xbox scorpio

Both the Xbox One and PS4 run low-power AMD processors that are clocked extremely low, in line with what you’d see in netbooks or tablets (if they’d ever gotten around to making those APU-powered Windows tablets). The PS4 Pro features the same Jaguar cores, but clocked higher. Games like Fallout 4 and Assassin’s Creed: Unity need every bit of processing power available, and, remarkably, sometimes show linear CPU scaling on the new hardware. This is often enough to achieve that crucial 30 FPS hurdle.

However, it could also be argued that the Pro’s Boost Mode is excessively conservative. While developers have the option to leverage additional CPU and GPU power, the problem is just that: it’s optional. Newer titles like Nioh do feature enhanced performance mode, but Pro patches for older games are far from universal.

As it stands, developers have to explicitly take advantage of the Pro’s additional resources if they’re targeting extra performance. Under Pro mode, the CPU and GPU operate at the Pro’s nominal frequencies. However, in boost mode, half the GPU’s Compute Units are unused, limiting the potential for any performance increase solely to the 31 percent increase in CPU power, and the 14 percent increase in GPU power, owing to the higher core clock. Sony’s original reasoning for not having a Boost mode (that it could result in unexpected bugs), is a bit hard to accept. Leave aside utilization on a particular GPU: in the PC space, five generations of AMD cards, all the way back to the 5870, can run plenty of modern titles without issues. It’s possible that this was done in order to avoid facing flak from original PS4 owners: after all, what’s the point in having one of those if the Pro can run some games at 45-60 FPS (for games that are unpatched and had a target fps of 60fps), right out of the box?

This sets the stage for what the Scorpio can do in terms of handling Xbox One titles. The performance gulf between the Pro and the PS4 is arguably not that significant: you’re looking at roughly twice the graphics horsepower and 33 percent additional CPU grunt. But the Scorpio and Xbox One paint a completely different picture, more in line with a generational upgrade: you’re looking at a greater than 4x increase in GPU power alone. While it’s likely that the Scorpio will be a “top-heavy” design like the PS4 and Xbox One, we’re yet to hear about the CPU it’s set to use, apart from the fact that it’s an 8-core part. There are rumblings that it’ll utilize a newer architecture, borrowing features from Ryzen. If that’s the case, the Scorpio would have the resources to run any Xbox One game at 1080/60, right out of the box.

It’s important to note here, though, that parity is extremely important, going by Microsoft’s Xbox Anywhere philosophy. The idea behind Xbox Anywhere is to offer the same Xbox experience, regardless of the platform. As with the Pro, this limits the extent to which the Scorpio experience can exceed what’s on offer with the Xbox One: at least for the time being, Microsoft requires for games to run on both Xbox consoles.

While we might not be seeing Scorpio exclusives for the time being, Microsoft has a unique opportunity to position Scorpio as a 1080p/60 machine: if it can run Xbox One games at all in 4K, it has more than enough headroom to hit 1080p/60 in most modern games, right out of the box (just like what the PS4 Pro’s boost mode does for some games that are not patched for Pro support), assuming that the processor doesn’t hold the GPU back too much. While 4K’s what the marketing push is all about, it’s 1080p/60 that’d benefit the most people: even if the Scorpio is priced at $600-plus, this makes it a viable alternative to midrange RX 480/ GTX 1060 rigs for those not willing to get into PC gaming. Xbox One developers will be working with Xbox Anywhere in mind: compatibility is important, as every platform, including PC (and maybe even mobile, someday), has to run Xbox games. PC already runs Xbox games like Quantum Break and Gears of War 4 at higher resolutions and framerates than console: it’s not hard to see Scorpio doing the same.

Scorpio’s a year late to the market, but if it can deliver a compelling experience at both 1080p and 4K, it has the potential to turn into a real challenger, not just for the Pro, but for midrange PCs. Let’s wait and see how things pan out.

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  • Davey681

    He learned that Xbox architecture and software development is far superior to Sony’s and doesn’t need a “boost mode”. As we saw when Xbox one S launched and games saw improvements out of the box…no patch, no “boost” needed.

    • Mr Plinkus

      If Xbox architecture is ‘far superior’ to Sony’s , why is the Xbox One and Xbox One S the lesser machines? The basic PS 4 out performs the XB1 and the XB1s.
      Also only some games have seen performance increases using the S hardware and then only by 1-2 frames (although there are a few games with larger increases) many more games have seen NO performance increases at all.

    • The truth-ier

      some pro games have seen worst performance, and there is no superior hardware, because its up to the skill of the dev team… horizon type quality would be standard if it was just the system. the ps4 outperforms gpu, x1 outperfornce cpu…. its stupid to just say one console is better, when both have weaknesses

    • Mr Plinkus

      It’s not stupid to say one console outperforms another, while it is true both consoles have weaknesses, the Xbox One is the weaker machine. You only have to watch either Digital Foundry or NX gamer to see the vast majority of games run better on the PS 4.

    • Sean Comer

      Because mark cerny basically twisted Sony’s arm at the 11th hour and convinced them to increase gpu ram from 2gb ddr3 to 8gb gddr5. Thank you Mark cerny

    • ProAssassin84

      You’re a Idiot.

    • The truth-ier

      You sound dumb with that asinine comment.

    • John Sullivan

      calling anyone out to be an idiot doesn’t make you look or sound any better

    • Mr Xrat

      Tell me again about DirectX 12, retarded woodpecker.

    • kma99

      Tell us about that 720 boost mode on nioh

    • Mr Xrat

      I’ll tell you about locked 60fps and looks better than any joke on the Xbone, Xgimp. Stay mad.

    • kma99

      No you won’t. Like i said before u dont even own a pro. You settle for whatever you can muster.

    • Davey681

      Tell you what ? how it’s adopted and used massively more so than Vulcan. Pathetic 720p PS4 pro peasant !

    • Mr Xrat

      20% increase in power for the Bone LOL! And you fell for it LOL! Stay dumb, retarded woodpecker.

  • Eddie Battikha

    The problem is Scorpio will be a year late to the party and with the Exclusives Playstation has for the next 2 years it’s obvious Sony has full control and can release PS5 2019 or 2020, I think Fall 2019 is perfect for PS5.

    • The truth-ier

      most exclusives are niche titles, just because you have a exlusive means nothing, and ms has plenty of exclusives, they are just ignored…and ms doesnt announce exlusives like sony does 2 years in advance. And the scorpio is ms 3rd revision, the xbox one, the xbox one s(slight performance increase, then the scorpio, so how are they late when all the systems are apart of the same gen. And 2019 for the PS5, you sound stupid, just released a hardware upgrade and in just 2 years you think they are gonna release a new gen….when the ps4 came out not to long ago in 2014

    • Eddie Battikha

      Nice try Dumbo, Nothing Niche about Gran Turismo Sport, Knack 2, Spiderman, God of War 4 , Detroit Become Human, Days Gone, Death Stranding, Many
      more to list. PS4 came out Nov 2013, PS4 Pro Nov 2016 and PS5 Fall 2019. That would make PS4 6 years old and PS4 Pro 3 years old. Xbox never wanted to invest into expanding First Party Studios for New Triple AAA Exclusives and never will have fun with ur 6 teraflops.

    • Mark

      I don’t know Eddie, Sony releasing a PS5 in 2019 is kinda early imo. If u really think about it, PS4’s only 4 years old! And it’s selling like crazy, more-so than even PS2. For them to drop a PS5, while PS4’s only 6 yrs old in 2019, would kinda be dumb from a business viewpoint. Sony doesn’t care about stupid fanboy wars about who’s most powerful, just about who’s SELLING the most. Now if Scorpio somehow manages to outsell the PS4 (which it def won’t) consistently, then I’m with u. BUT I HIGHLY DOUBT THAT BRO

    • Eddie Battikha

      Sony is getting with the times and switching to 3 year Hardware Refresh Cycles and it’s gonna be perfect. Jaguar Cpu no more. 2020 would be the latest for PS5 I’ll stick to Fall 2019 I’ll get back to u when things leak out.

    • Mark

      Yeah I mean they actually could drop by 2019, but I think 2020 is the sweet spot, would give the PS4 some breathing room. And yeah no more Jaguar lol. They’ll move to ZEN Cpu, VEGA, and High bandwidth memory. Next gen will be 4K minimum

    • Eddie Battikha

      I don’t even know If they’ll stick with Amd, Vega is for Scorpio. Sony would go with Navi for sure and Zen+ or Zen 2.

    • Mark

      Well Zen for sure, but if Sony did drop in 2019, that means it’s under developement as we speak, and VEGA hasn’t even dropped yet. They could grab Navi, but we’re both just guessing lol. Either of us could be right, but I gotta do ma homework, peace bro

    • Mark

      I think we both agree that, we want both companies to always consider using the LATEST technology, from here on out. Since consoles are still selling strong, they need to start taking losses on their launch systems again. Anyway see u round

    • Eddie Battikha

      Awesome talk Man, we’re both just guessing and assuming things LOL But we do know that PS5 will be a beast. Good luck with ur homework and studys, I’ll get back to u when things pop up. Take Care Man.

    • Eddie Battikha

      But perhaps the biggest takeaway I had from the meeting with Mark Cerny was the insight into how Sony views the console generations. PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio have been seen as the beginning of the end of the jump to a new, more capable wave of hardware in favour of intermediate upgrades. What’s clear is that Sony isn’t buying into this. Cerny cites incompatibility problems, even moving between x86 CPU and AMD GPU architectures. I came away with the impression that PS5 will be a clean break, an actual generational leap as we know it. I do not feel the same about Project Scorpio, where all the indications are that Microsoft attempts to build its own Steam-like library around the Xbox brand, with games moving with you from one console to the next – and eventually, maybe even to the PC.


      More then likely it will be 2020 and support for the ps4 up to 2023. That’s how thay did it last gen. The ps3 came out in 2006 and the 4 7 years later with support for the 3 an additional 3 years.

  • The truth-ier

    a year late? its not a new gen console, just a refresh like the xbox s, so this is ms 3rd refresh. fyi the xbox s already improves performance, just a tiny bit, they just didnt name it something. boost mode is a gimmick,

    • Mark

      Yeah not a yr late, don’t know why he said that. 4K adoption should be getting even hotter now. It’s like saying, go and buy the new $2 stock….BEFORE it blows up

  • Mavericks

    The problem dealing with frames it’s that sometimes the dev designed a game with 30fps and if you force change that it’s going to be bad.

  • Grifter17

    “the Scorpio would have the resources to run any Xbox One game at 1080/60, right out of the box”

    The resolution is set by the developer not the hardware its on … meaning a game released at 900p isn’t magically going to 1080p unless the dev’s release a patch to do it. The only exception to this would be games that utilize Dynamic resolution to achieve 1080p

    • Mark

      Yup dynamic rez engine

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  • Mark

    Agreed Arjun. Playing on consoles usually meant having to deal with 30fps majority of the time. But now that Scorpio’s comin, the options for settings and frame-rates SHOULD change. I really want 1440p or 1080p with 60fps option! If not, then I still won’t be upset, but a bit let down. I hope Phil sees our wishes

  • d0x360

    2 things

    First the new Xbox won’t need to learn anything from Sonys boost mode. Aside from that granular control existing all the way back to the genesis, Microsoft isn’t going to be using underpowered Jaguar cores.

    Lastly and most importantly when they say parity they mean the same basic gameplay experience.

    Forza Horizon or Gears 4 running native 4k on a big 4ktv at 60fps is no parity with the console versions which run at a much lower resolution giving the console user a disadvantage and they also run at different frame rates, have different textures and effects and more complex geometry via tesselation and parallax occlusion mapping.

    Visually there is no parity and it’s easy to argue that parity doesn’t exist in gameplay either due to advantages a more powerful pc has

  • Mr Xrat

    They can learn that no exclusives, a $499 price tag and a year behind isn’t going to help anything.

  • Starman

    ha ha ha ha ha …..learn from Sony ….Learn WHAT ! … how to fake your way into 4k/1080p&60-fps…. with checkerboard crap-tech..
    And what is the “we hope and “IF” the Scorpio can do 1080p and 60 fps”

    that’s a walk in the park with that kind of power …
    The Scorpio is on par with high-end PC’s , would you question a pc ability to run at 1080p and 60 fps …No .. I rest my case ..almost forgot ..STFU…

    • Riggybro

      “The Scorpio is on par with high-end PC’s”… of 2014.

    • Starman

      You sound stupid…. If that is to be true , then PS4-pro is 1989 tech… facts.

    • Riggybro

      No, 2013.

      Your math is awful.

  • Luke Skywalker

    I don’t understand how this article didn’t mention Xbox one S

  • theduckofdeath

    MS has had plenty of time to consider and prepare for Scorpio at 1080p. What they should also have been doing is getting serious about incubating games. Time will tell.

  • Davey681

    They learned that they DO NOT want to launch something like the PS4 “pro” 720p. They also learned that Xbox architecture and software development is far superior to Sony’s and doesn’t need a “boost mode”. As we saw when Xbox one S launched and games saw improvements out of the box…no patch, no “boost” needed…..

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