Xbox One Scorpio vs PS4 NEO Spec Analysis: The Power Difference Is Real But Does It Matter?

Scorpio or Neo, what’s right for you?

Posted By | On 21st, Jun. 2016 Under Article, Graphics Analysis

So, it’s Scorpio versus Neo versus…well, whatever it is exactly that Nintendo’s planning to offer (is it a console? A handheld? A flop in the making?)

Post-E3, there’s no need to step lightly around the positively ginormous elephant in the room anymore: The console gaming space has changed in fundamental, perhaps irreversible ways. Let’s leave Nintendo out of the discussion—whatever it is they’re up to with the NX isn’t likely to be about creating a competitive conventional gaming experience. But the Scorpio and PS4 Neo are different beasts entirely. Mid-cycle refresh. That’s the phrase that’s been going around. It best describes what the Neo and Scorpio are: Incremental products that, while offering categorically better performance than their immediate predecessors, are yet still not the kind of radical overhaul that an entirely new console generation entails.

The PS4 and Xbox One, while relatively weak systems for what they were, represented enough of a step over the seventh-gen platforms, that higher end rendering techniques like global illumination, physically-based rendering, and, of course, hi-res textures could be implemented. These were things entirely out of reach of last-gen platforms. On the other hand with the Scorpio and Neo, between the hardware limitation of CPU-bottlenecking, and a product positioning approach that projects the two consoles as “enhanced” versions of the originals, Neo and Scorpio lack the potential for producing categorically new experiences: This is an incremental update—games on Neo and Scorpio will likely run at higher resolutions and higher framerates, (though even that’s somewhat doubtful in every situation if you factor in the CPU deficit), but we may not see Neo-exclusive, or Scorpio-exclusive titles for years, if at all.

This is, of course, is in most part due to a need for retaining existing PS4 and Xbox One owners—the PS4 is Sony’s most successful platform since the PS2, and while the Xbox One hasn’t sold quite as well, 20 million units in three years is no laughing matter. But with all that being said, what are the PS4 Neo and Xbox Scorpio actually capable of? We’ll let the specs speak for themselves:

CPU: Nothing interesting here

xbox scorpio

The greatest disappointment we have with both the PS4 Neo and the Xbox Scorpio is the marked lack of CPU-side gains to offset the massive gains to GPU power. The PS4 Neo is set to feature an upclocked variant of the Jaguar cores in the PS4, running at 2.1 GHz instead of 1.6 GHz. Microsoft hasn’t yet disclosed the kind of cores the Scorpio will be using, but eight upclocked Jaguar cores is the most likely scenario here: AMD’s Zen architecture is huge—with a 40 percent gain to IPC, it’ll make Team Reds CPU parts performance competitive with Intel for the first time in years. If the Scorpio was going to feature Zen, it would have been a headline feature.

Jaguar wasn’t an architecture AMD built with gaming in mind: the low IPC, low clockspeeds, and conservative power/thermal profiles are much better-suited to bargain basement netbooks and Windows tablets. AI, physics, and streaming, all crucial aspects of world-building—the things that make a game environment a living, breathing space—are heavily dependent on CPU power. As Ubisoft admits, Assassin’s Creed: Unity’s atrocious performance on console could largely be attributed to inadequate CPU power—the consoles couldn’t handle the demands of simulating AI routines for thousands of onscreen NPCs at the same time, so they choked.

While games have certainly gotten prettier since the last generation, limited CPU-side gains have meant that the underlying gameplay hasn’t changed that much—2007’s Assassin’s Creed, with its sprawling, fully-traversable environments and hundreds of onscreen NPCs, was often cited as the first “true” next-gen experience. Bloom effects, dynamic shadows, and ragdoll physics were all possible on PS2 and Xbox hardware if you budgeted carefully, but it was the CPU-side gains with the 360 and PS3 that allowed Assassin’s Creed to have environmental scale like no game before.

With that in mind, we believe that gameplay experiences, unfortunately, will be more of the same with the PS4 Neo and the Xbox Scorpio; lacking the CPU power to flesh out deep, systems-based experiences, we’ll be left with prettier, higher-res versions of today’s games. GPGPU (General-purpose GPU) is a potential curveball here: GPUs are really just highly specialized, massively parallel processors.

GPGPU programming allows for GPUs to handle functions like AI and physics that were traditionally taken care of by the CPU—Nvidia’s PhysX is a particularly well-known example of GPGPU in practice. GPGPU could take the load off the Neo’s and Jaguar’s anaemic CPUs, when it comes to handling detailed physics and AI. But it’s certainly not free: diverting GPU resources to try to overcome CPU limitations can potentially blunt the gains the two have made in graphics power—this will be all the more pronounced with games that run at higher resolutions like 1440p and 4K.

GPU: A question of utilization

xbox scorpio

What the PS4 Neo and Xbox Scorpio don’t lack is oodles of GPU power. It goes without saying that the Scorpio and Neo are the most powerful consoles ever designed—and much of those gains stem from the all-new Polaris and Vega GPUs inside.

Performance-per-watt is the highlight with Polaris/Vega: The  move to the 14nm process means that AMD can extract a lot more performance from smaller, less power-hungry parts. With consoles, TDP-budgeting is crucial: You simply don’t have the luxury of slotting in a 600W power supply to feed a power-hungry GPU. But with parts like the RX 480 offering VR-ready levels of performance within a 150W TDP, Polaris/Vega is a natural choice for the consoles: AMD’s next generation of GPUs offers substantially more performance with lower power requirements that fit right into a console’s tight power budget.

While both the PS4 Neo and the Xbox Scorpio represent a substantial bump over their predecessors in graphics terms, the Scorpio wins out by a significant margin.

The PS4 is set to use a downclocked variant of the Polaris GPU found in the RX 480, with 36 CUs (Compute Units). With the RX 480, AMD is betting big on maximizing the price-performance ratio. At $199, the RX 480 offers unprecedented levels of GPU power in its price bracket. Crossfire is being promoted here as a price-friendly means of getting flagship levels of performance—an RX 480 Crossfire setup actually outguns the GTX 1080. The flip side to this is that the PS4 Neo’s GPU gains aren’t quite as spectacular as what we see with the Scorpio—the Neo offers roughly twice the GPU performance of the PS4—the downclocked Polaris GPU at its heart offers roughly 4.2 Teraflops of compute performance.

In contrast, the Xbox Scorpio is rumoured to use a variant of AMD’s upcoming Vega architecture, with roughly 50 percent more power on offer than the Neo. That 6 Teraflop number being bandied about needs to be taken with a bit of salt, as raw compute performance doesn’t always translate into in-game performance gains: After all, an HD 4870 from circa 2008 manages to hit 1.2 Teraflops, roughly the same as the Xbox One’s Bonaire-derived GPU. However, the R7 260X—the closest PC part to the Xbox One’s GPU, runs circles around the HD 4870, handing in nearly twice the framerate in most games. Nevertheless, the Xbox Scorpio’s GPU is serious business, even if you ignore that 6 Teraflop figure Microsoft’s all too happy to bandy around. The Scorpio’s GPU is likely to be a 56-60 CU part—again downclocked to stick within the power budget.

However, it should be within spitting distance of cards like the GTX 1070. While the PS4 Neo’s GPU upgrade is sufficient to take games from running at 1080p/30 to 1080p/60 (barring CPU bottlenecks), higher resolution gaming, especially at 4K, is out of reach for it. The Neo experience will likely be differentiated by having more advanced effects—higher resolution shadows, global illumination and the like—running on the Neo at 1080p. Microsoft’s been more focused in their approach to the Scorpio’s GPU gains—the Scorpio is apparently meant to offer Xbox One-quality experiences while running at 4K. The move to 4K is massive in terms of image quality (trust us, we game on a 55-inch 4K TV.)

However, it does require literally 4 times the GPU power to drive games at 1080p. 4K/60 FPS gaming is almost certainly out of reach for the Scorpio, barring sidescrollers and indie-titles. However, many AAA games may render natively at 4K, or upscale from a 3K/1440p framebuffer. Of course things can, and do change, and ultimately, it’s up to the developer to decide how to allocate resources—keeping Microsoft’s ambiguous stance on Scorpios in mind, we may even see a couple of near-CGI quality 1080p titles coming out for Scorpio in the years to come. Just looking at the numbers, though, there’s no contest. The Scorpio is far ahead of the PS4 Neo, with as much of a lead over the Neo as the PS4 enjoyed over the Xbox One.

Memory and Memory Bandwidth: About time we got more

xbox scorpio

Memory bandwidth is another area where the PS4 Neo/Xbox One divide is sharp—the Neo features the same 8GB of GDDR5 as the PS4, though with the memory modules running at 7GHz, offering modest 24 percent bump to memory bandwidth, up to 218 GB/S. The Xbox Scorpio on the other hand is likely to feature 12 GB of GDDR5 with a wider 384-bit bus, offering a staggering 320 GB/S of memory bandwidth. The additional 4GB of memory is significant—the high-res textures that shine at 4K eat up a lot of VRAM. Because the consoles feature a unified memory pool, the GPU will never have access to the full amount of onboard RAM. The PS4 only makes 5 GB of RAM available to developers, reserving the rest for OS functionality.

The GPU will have to share this 5 GB meaning that, in practice, as little as 3.5 GB of VRAM is available to the GPU—with the PS4 Neo also set to feature an 8 GB pool of RAM, this is likely to carry over. This is yet another indication that the Neo isn’t going to run games at 4K—it will not have enough VRAM to load ultra-high res textures. The Xbox Scorpio, on the other hand, is likely to feature 12 GB pool of memory—with an additional 4 GB of memory that’s utilizable by the GPU, the Scorpio has enough space to hit 4K without running out of VRAM.

The higher memory bandwidth is also a telling indicator of Microsoft’s 4K ambitions with the Scorpio: Memory bandwidth scales with resolution. This is why AMD parts like the Fury X, which lag behind their Nvidia counterparts at 1080p, typically close the gap at higher resolutions. The Scorpio’s significant leads in both memory bandwidth and available video memory make it much better suited than the PS4 Neo for handing in native 4K experiences.

Conclusion: To wait or not to wait

ps4 neo

When it comes to choosing between the Neo and the Scorpio, timing and availability are just as important. Rumours indicate that the Neo will launch later this year. This is much earlier than the sometime-in-2017 timeframe Microsoft has given us for the Scorpio. While the Scorpio definitely wins out in terms of hardware specs, the PS4 Neo is going to be available, out in the market, for much longer. Your decision is definitely going to be influenced by just how long you’re willing to wait. Another factor here is Microsoft seems to be positioning the Scorpio as an Xbox One that runs games at 4K, sans extra bells and whistles or better performance.

With that in mind, you may not see much of a difference at standard resolutions like 1080p. While 4K is definitely growing as a segment, the vast majority of gamers continue to be at 1080p, and this is where Sony’s PS4 Neo proposition becomes interesting: The Neo appears to be oriented more towards a better 1080p experience, with higher framerates and better special effects, as opposed to a compromised 4K experience.

If Microsoft is serious about the Scorpio just being a “4K Xbox One,” the Scorpio may, ironically offer a worse 1080p experience than the Neo: The Scorpio may output downsampled 4K, which would offer fantastic anti-aliasing, but at 30 FPS, while the Neo will breeze past it, with games running at a native 1080p/60.

You could, alternatively, just sidestep the entire debate and get yourself an RX 480 and a 400W-plus PSU for far less than what either console will likely retail for. Slot those into any existing system you may have and you’ll have the perfect…er…mid-cycle refresh killer!

What do you think about the Neo and Scorpio? Let us know!

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    I’ll stick with my PC and keep making smart choices/decisions when purchasing upgrades for that over purchasing a whole “new” system.

    Oh yeah…..and I’ll play at the frames and settings I choose instead of the subpar performance being given by these systems. Already released or soon to be systems will be the same story….unfortunately…

  • Raiden

    I already have a PS4 and PC so what’s the point in getting another system that’s somewhat more powerful and runs the same games? I just wish Nintendo would actually leak the specs of the NX cause I’m getting really annoyed by Sony and Microsoft just playing footsies with each other and wish the big N would just get with the times.

  • Captain N

    I think you under estimate the NX….it will probably be better then Neo spec wise….but not better then Scorpio.

    And at least Nintendo is calling it their next gen system, while the other two are just upgrades.

  • DarthDiggler

    Rumours indicate that the Neo will launch later this year.

    Sony didn’t announce it at E3, so likely its been pushed back. They really don’t have any opportunities to announce it this year.

  • Hvd

    yes it does and its funny watching sony and the ps4 gamers flip can be assured xbx gamers are laughing their as*es off…lmao

  • Jason Mounce

    The power difference is real for the vanilla PS4 vs X1 and it matters if marketing says so.

    Look at it from a launch perspective of what has already happened. PS4 $399. X1 $499. PS4 sold more because it was cheaper, because it was advertised better, and because word of mouth will tell the majority of the consumers “It is stronger and you get more for your buck”.

    The cycle will repeat if PS4 Neo is, cheaper than Scorpio ‘and’ stronger again. It will just repeat the cycle, nothing will change unless Xbox One gets some kind of software lineup boom that reverses the cycle like PS3 had slowly done later in its life during its generation.

  • Wontime

    Fuq 4k atm, it’s like chasing the dragon…

  • KashIsKlay

    It definitely matters. The multiplatform games and exclusives will all look and run better on the scorpio.

  • TPoppaPuff

    The Neo doesn’t have enough power to take current 1080/30 games and turn them into 1080/60 games. The hardware isn’t there. That is a wildly misleading statement, especially since Neo devs are not allowed by Sony to compromise image fidelity or anything else on Neo even to boost framerates. And all games have to run at least at 1080 so dynamic scaling is out too. And that means base PS4 version aren’t allowed to have better framerates according to Sony’s mandate, so using dynamic resolutions that would lead to a steady framerate that’s better than Neo’s is also not allowed, meaning PS4 games will have to make much more compromises. And none of that is factoring in the fact that optimization time for each console has been split in half.

    Also, what am I supposed to slot that RX480 and 400w PSU into? My tablet? My laptop? My old Core 2 machine? As wrongful as the information from that last paragraph was, that paragraph about buying a PC is just straight up trolling. What gives?

    As owner of both X1 and PS4, I feel that the Scorpio offers a vast improvement to enrich Xbox One games. The Neo’s quarter-step approach though feels like it is intended to force a purchase by making the PS4 experience substantially worse than what it is now. PS4 games will be relegated to launch PS4 status, where framerates and resolutions are far sketchier than what we’ve seen this past year.

    • Foster Hampton

      You have that all wrong

    • TPoppaPuff
    • Foster Hampton

      Yes you do. The neo has more then enough power to run games at 1080p and 60 fps however at any resolutions above that it’s going to struggle. Rumors stated the neo games are allowed to have higher framtates and resolutions and better graphics then the base ps4. It makes no sense why Sony wouldnt let developers do that. Also your argument that ps4 games would be reviceing worse and worse ports and preformance all applies to the Xbox one and Scorpio as well.

    • TPoppaPuff

      Nope. The Neo is incapable of running PS4 1080p/30 games at 1080p/60. You’re wrong. Partially because you don’t even understand the argument or just lack basic math. This is going to get boring because I have to explain basic math to you.

      A 30fps game means a frame refreshes every 33.33ms. That is the length of time the hardware has to process the next frame which means the CPU, memory, and GPU have all have to finish before that 33.33ms time frame. A 60fps game operates at 16.67ms intervals. Now assuming they’re running identical games, that means that the Neo needs to run twice as fast to produce those frames in half the regular time. The GPU is 2.3x as powerful as the base console. That’s good. The processor is only 1.3x as fast. That’s bad. Each game profile is different, but that’s not good enough. That will not double your framerate.

      Further, it wasn’t an argument of whether Sony should let developers use that extra power, it is a matter of their demands. The game must run as well or better. The game must run at at least 1080 or higher. It must have better visuals. That means that power discrepancy is eroded when your busy drawing more crap on screen.

      Doubling framerates is irrefutably taken off the table. Deal with it.

      The difference between the Xbox and the PS4 is that demands are put on developers by Sony. These same demands are not put on Xbox games. Unlike the Neo, the Scorpio has enough brute force to show vast improvements without sacrificing the base game in the process. Yes, Xbox One games will suffer somewhat from losing an amount of time to the Scorpio optimization, but the PS4 will suffer far greater because developers are forced to focus on Neo.

    • Foster Hampton

      The neo has twice the power of the why couldn’t it run games at 60 fps? Your main argument is that the cpu isn’t fast enough even though we don’t know the specs but whatever your apparently a genius. Most games, especially on console aren’t cpu intensive at all. You can’t lust look at tflops, although you k ow that being the genuis you are, you must consider ram, ram banwidth, ram amount and speed. Then you have cpu and hard drive. We only know the tflops of the gpu , not the cpu or ram. Hard drive will most likely be the same. Your argument about the gpu needing to be twice as powerful to run the same game at 60 is also flawed. The 980 ti is 5.6 tflops where as the 960 is 2.3 tflops but the 980 ti can runs games at a far higher resolution, fidelity, and frame rate then the 960. Also Scorpio will suffer more because it’s having to put out at 4K, but with the same frame rate and graphical fidelity. 4k is a huge leap. Then again you already know all of this because your a genius.

    • TPoppaPuff

      Nooooo, it doesn’t. If it had twice the CPU power, it would have… twice the CPU power. These are not highly improved, efficient cores running at a much higher rate. They are essentially the same cores running at 1.3x the base clock speed. Again, because your math skill are abysmal, let me make this perfectly clear: 1.3x IS LESS THAN TWICE (2x) the power.

      The machine has only doubled the GPU power, not doubled the power. Yes, each game utilization is different but that extra 30% GPU power above double is not enough to cover the 70% deficit needed to double the CPU. In truth the thing devs have complained about the most hasn’t been the GPU on both consoles; the complaints have been about the CPU as much as anything. Yeah the Xbox One also took crap for having a much lower power compared to the PS4, but the devs complaints about the consoles being underpowered weren’t solely about the GPUs.

      Your further argument about about PC graphics cards is rather idiotic as you’re comparing both games on PC that are using gaming caliber CPUs. Your comparison is intentionally nullified the CPU from the equation by using identical CPUs and making sure that it is so fast that it is not a bottleneck in the equation to comparison of graphics cards, thus defeating the purpose. You have completely flip flopped the wrong variable and constant. If you were to actually prove your point about CPUs being unimportant (your insanity sounds even crazier when I have to repeat it…) you would take a few graphics cards and then use them in conjunction with each pair of CPUs to be tested, one very strong and then on laptop equivalent and chart your results accordingly on each card.

      You don’t know anything about teraflops and probably didn’t even know what the T stood for. Here’s a link that might help you get up to speed:

      And I’ll go ahead and share this excerpt to help show you why you’re wrong again:

      “This is our primary concern with Neo and Scorpio: we are game-changing increases to graphics power with more powerful GPUs and some insane flop-counts, but it is not being matched by a similar boost to CPU power. This may explain why we are seeing a focus on 4K resolutions as opposed to significantly higher frame-rates – doubling performance from 30fps to 60fps (something we would much prefer) also requires asking much more from the CPU. And on Neo at least, where we know the spec, we aren’t seeing anything like the doubling of performance required.”

      I’m not a genius; I just use common sense. Try it some time.

      “Then again you already know all of this because your a genius.” The word you’re looking for is “you’re.”

  • Games matter to me more. Don’t really care about power.

  • wampdog29

    I think there is always one thing that is being missed on the whole Teraflop talk. These consoles are always being compared to GPUs on a Teraflop level, but when MS comes out and says the Scorpio will be 6 Teraflops of power, that includes the ENTIRE machine.

  • usherjerksoffsonyfanboys

    Still need the price point. However the Scorpio is definitely my future console, it’s open ability to use both the oculus rift and htc vive, has me sold, could care less about 4k gaming. The Neo if it stays closed off to sell its psvr, make it much less attractive, sorry to say after demo one, the psvr is gimped version of rift and vive. Looking foward to having a platform for vr in my living room, I hate having my pc in there.

  • Graeme Willy

    Exactly, Neo and Scorpio is only offset enough to produce the same visuals we see on the current consoles, but at 4K and/ or sub 4K and 60FPS

  • Joe Cimmarrusti

    What amazes me is all the hype…as of now, both consoles are technically vapor at this point with no real hardware mentioned. The article is clever, but full of speculation. Sony’s PS4 has sold well due to the announcement of more powerful hardware compared to Xbox One, but Xbox One’s low numbers are mostly due to a terrible launch and arrogance that Sony had when first launching their own PS3. True gamer’s ultimately will own both consoles at some point, but will purchase more titles for the console that they value the most. I played my 360 much more than my PS3, but owned a PS4 prior to an Xbox One. I also use my Xbox One more than my PS4, but ultimately use my PC more than both together this generation. Also, since both Xbox One and PS4 are really PCs in a box, the development of 4k textures and down scaling them to anti aliased 1080p will not happen(as mentioned in this article). The user will simply have stored on their console the correct texture pack for the resolution used. Additionally, I do enjoy the idea of bringing out some juicier systems, but look forward for actual specifications once they are announced. Finally, I would like to add that besides the few amazing Indie and AAA titles released this generation that’s over 2.5 years old already, I am very disappointed. Resolution never has made the game just as 3D does not make the a good movie…it’s the design, game genre, level of challenge, degree of challenge and story that determines the level of “flow” in a game, not resolution and graphics alone. I have seen students enjoying themselves with simple 2600 titles such as “hero” produced by Activision in the early 80s…they would repeatedly replay this game in the hope of improving their skills and achieving a higher level. In this generation so far, it appears that Indie developers are more successful at achieving high “flow’ with releases compared to hype has motivated high sales numbers for AAA titles that end up boring within an hour. Just look at the new Battlefront…it sounds great, looks great, but has the “been there” and “done that” feel within 1 hour. It sold in the millions, but I feel is a disappointment compared to the original game released on PC, PS2,Gamecube and original Xbox. I hope things improve soon and not just influence us to purchase peripherals and software to support the company. Trip Hawkins did this to 3DO owners in the mid 90s with big promises, but released mediocre product. So far, I feel that both Sony and Microsoft are at the same stage as the 3DO. It’s supposed to have vastly improved abilities, but simply does not inspire.

  • Brando Williams

    graphics are overrated some of the best games of all time look crappy. i am 29 and can’t remember anyone crying over graphics when playstation first came out we were just happy to play something

  • I won’t be getting this or the neo. We were promised 1080 p 60fps when the new next gen (current gen) consoles came out. Did we see that? No we did not. I think they wont be able to hold 4k 60fps on each console. Whats good about this is that xbox said to the devs that they cannot make exclusives on the Scorpio. So if you are getting the Scorpio i think the devs should just optimise the games really well and stick with 1080p 120fps or a higher res just not 4k. For now ill stick to PC because i can upgrade it when i want and you can get good deals if you build your own.

  • Andrew McDonald

    Ever notice how power only matters when Sony is the more powerful? I have both systems either way, but man Sony gets away with everything.

  • Michael Folk

    I think Xbox scorpio will be able to do 4k well enough. The GTX 1070 can do the Witcher 3 at 4k pretty well, a console with that type of power should be able to do it easier even if the CPU isn’t as good, but that will make a difference as well. Plus all these games will be DX12. By the end of Scorpio I bet they make some incredibly nice looking games. Just look at Halo 4 on xbox 360! (or destiny or halo 5 on xbox one).

    But yea, this gen has been sucking. So few games, cause they cost so much to make 1 game is a serious serious investment. Sucks creativity out. The good thing is the good games do have a lot of playability/are very big. Indie devs/games are good here and there but still you would think most could atleast be like DC/playstation 1 type games, like actual full real games…..I miss the arcadey type of games like crazy taxi and ready 2 rumble, (the first)ssx, NBA Street, etc.

    But anyways, I think its good they’re doing this, xboxone and ps4 have much to weak GPUs from the jump. The rest of the hardware is ok, especially the memory but the GPUs are too weak. When they announced the specs I was like what? they atleast need to get on like the (at the time) $200 GPU level (I think it was like R9 270X or something). They do suck and struggle to do 1080p at 60 (mostly). Its mostly still okay though, the games look fine imo.

  • X1 KILLA (John D)

    You have no clue what you’re talking about. 90% of this is wrong.

  • alex

    a great article it will be interesting to see where the pricing is at, im guessing xbox is going to partner with oculus which would explain why the scorpio is high end 4k tvs arent mainstream yet either, most tv chanels arent even 1080p so you understand why a 4k games console is next year launch playstation are taking the work with now approach instead but im guessing it will come down to pricing and timing, im not even sure these consoles are going to be selling to the same audience


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