A three-model generation has led to a lot of confusion from the public
Is 4K gaming for home consoles imminent?
The rumour mill has been working at full capacity the past few months as a number of leaks and speculations about the future of Sony and Microsoft’s console development cycle were confirmed at E3 2016.
But amidst the excitement of getting new consoles in the next 18 months, many were left confused by ambiguous communication from both Sony and Microsoft.
To help clear the confusion, DESIblitz has a rundown of what Microsoft and Sony have planned for the future.
Xbox One S and Project Scorpio
Much to the amusement of fans and detractors alike, Microsoft’s conference at E3 this year started with the announcement of an updated model of the Xbox One that was already made obsolete by the end of the same conference.
A three-model generation has led to a lot of confusion from the public. Here are the details for Microsoft’s future hardware:
- The Xbox One will continue to be supported throughout the current console cycle. All Xbox games will be required to run on the base model.
- The Xbox One S is an updated model of the same console, only this time it is about 40 percent smaller. It will ship with a bigger hard drive (1 or 2TB) and the ability to stream videos at 4K resolution.
- Project Scorpio is Microsoft’s rumoured secret project to produce a significantly more powerful console designed for better output and the ability to play games at 4K resolution. The ‘6 teraflops’ of CPU power suggests that the Scorpio will be about 50 percent more powerful than the average high end PC. And 4.5 times more powerful than the base Xbox One.
There have been some communication issues about Project Scorpio on Microsoft’s part.
Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s head of Xbox, elucidated that for Scorpio, games were not required to output at 4K resolution, and that developers could instead utilise Scorpio’s extra processing power for improved visual effects should they desire.
This comes into contrast with earlier comments from Spencer that ‘unless you have a 4K TV, you don’t need a Scorpio’.
There is also another unknown element. Scorpio’s relationship with the enigmatic Microsoft Hololens, an augmented reality headset that is supposedly going to be made compatible with the Xbox One.
It has been made clear, however, that Scorpio is being marketed as a luxury item for gamers who want a little extra oomph under the hood.
PS4 Neo and the impact of VR support
Whispers of an updated, more powerful version of the PS4, reportedly code-named NEO, have been circulating for several months. But no concrete information had been forthcoming from Sony.
Sony’s E3 press conference was focused exclusively on games, with no mention of the NEO. However, the company did acknowledge that it is in development a week before the conference.
Sony also added that all the games showcased at E3 were running on standard PS4 hardware.
There has been no concrete information on the PS4 NEO’s specifications. But many rumours have been corroborated by a number of sources:
- NEO will have 36 compute units, the console’s CPU architecture, compared to the PS4’s 18
- While it features the same 8GB of DDR3 memory, the NEO will run at a higher speed (218GB/s vs 176GB/s)
- The clock speed of the NEO will be around 50 percent faster than the PS4
What this all equates to is a console that is potentially twice as powerful as the PS4. Games will be able to run at a smoother frame rate and could be 4k-resolution compatible.
Like Scorpio, it is expected that there won’t be any games that are exclusive to NEO, to avoid dividing the user base.
Sony CEO Andrew House said that the NEO was being designed to: “Sit alongside and compliment the standard PS4.”
Sony’s big push at the end of this year will be for Playstation VR, a console exclusive virtual reality headset. NEO will inevitably feature VR compatibility.
Sony requires all PSVR games to run at a minimum of 90hz refresh rate at all times, to limit the risks of motion sickness for players. What this means is that even on NEO, these games are unlikely to hit 4k resolution.
The new console, however, could provide VR games with better visual effects while maintaining the required frame-rate stability.
Should you buy a new console?
2016’s expo season is coming to a close, and no official presentation from Sony suggests that the NEO is at least a year away. Microsoft’s Scorpio is very much at the design stage still, with at least 18 months until launch.
Choosing to adopt a smartphone-style iterative update schedule in place of traditional console upgrades could see the end of ‘new’ consoles in the future, in favour of modular updates.
But it also depends on how these updates are handled, and what incentives the two companies can offer potential customers. There is currently no information about price points for either console.
The Smartphone is dominated by provider contracts that split the cost up over several years. Consoles for the most part don’t have that luxury.
If you’re looking to buy a new console now and don’t have a 4K ready TV, the standard PS4 and XboxOne S are the best options. And, depending on how long you wait, you could benefit from some great deals in the lead up to Christmas.
If you already own a 4k resolution TV and don’t yet own a current-gen console, then the latest models will be a big draw. Offering the beautiful visuals currently found only on high end PCs with less hassle and a (hopefully) cheaper price point.
The downside is that you will have to wait a while to get your hands on one.
Alternatively, if you want something a bit more ludicrous, Nintendo’s impending, brain-meltingly innovative handheld/console hybrid, the Nx could be a welcome change from the norm.