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E3: Our hopes and fears after the Project Scarlett announcement

Xbox One is coming to the end of the road. And as our sadness at losing an old friend is balanced out by remembering the good times, we look forward to its successor, Project Scarlett. Obviously, that won’t be the final name but it’s all we have for now. Anyway, after the announcement of its development at last year’s Xbox E3 briefing, we learned some more details at the event yesterday. While we heard a lot of good stuff there were still some things that didn’t quite sit right. So, without further ado, here are our hopes and fears for Project Scarlett following the 2019 Xbox E3 briefing.

AMD Processors

In a move that won’t surprise anyone who knows about the tech in their consoles, Project Scarlett will use AMD processors. Both the CPU (central processing unit) and GPU (graphics processing unit) will be made by AMD. The American chip manufacturer already provides the ‘brains’ of the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and upcoming PlayStation 5. Sticking with the same supplier makes backwards compatibility a breeze. Both Scarlett and PlayStation 5 will be using 7nm Zen 2 architecture for their custom CPUs. This is the manufacturer’s latest chip design and is only launching for PCs later this year. It’s a similar story for the GPUs. Both systems will be using Navi-based custom GPUs.

All of this sounds great. However, without any actual specifications, it means almost nothing. During the Project Scarlett section of the briefing, they described the new system as the most powerful console they’ve ever built. This means one of two things. Either they already know that it won’t be more powerful than PlayStation 5 or they don’t know how it will match up. Since the launch of Xbox One X, they have been proudly touting it as the most powerful console ever released. I’m pretty sure that they would want to continue this marketing push. So, let’s hope that they just can’t prove that Scarlett is more powerful than PlayStation 5 rather than it being another inferior console.

Engineers attach components for Project Scarlett

RAM and storage

One of the biggest issues with the original design of the Xbox One was the use of DDR3 RAM. While both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 had 8GB of RAM, Sony’s machine used the far superior GDDR5 memory. Project Scarlett has been confirmed to us GDDR6 RAM. We have no idea how much RAM but at least we know it will be quick. They also confirmed that the system will be using an SSD hard drive which it will be able to use as virtual RAM. This makes sense as a traditional style hard drive wouldn’t be able to transfer data at a high enough rate for true next-generation games.

The biggest issue here is, once again, the lack of specifics. We don’t know what RAM the PlayStation 5 will be using, though, it’s a safe bet it will be GDDR6. When it comes to the SSD, it’s the only sensible choice but they are still quite pricey pieces of kit. If Microsoft doesn’t step up to the plate and put a quality unit in their console they could once again be left behind by Sony.

Engineers test the circuit board of Project Scarlett

Resolution and frame rate

If Xbox One X and the PlayStation Pro are the 4K consoles, then Scarlett and the PS5 will be the 8K consoles. Both systems have touted their ability to provide the higher resolution. 8K is a resolution of 7680 x 4320. This is 4 times that of 4K’s 3840 x 2160. This is all well and good but there are very few screens on the market that are capable of 8K. After a quick look on the Sony website, they only produce one 8K television at the moment and it’s more than 4.5 times the price of their next screen. These TVs aren’t just massively expensive but virtually useless as there is so little 8K content available. Movies are only just going 4K and a lot of them are flawed as the image was reduced to 2K in the original post-production process.

It’s even crazier when it comes to frame rates. Project Scarlett can apparently output 120 frames per second. There are screens that will accept a 120Hz input but it is only computers and these next-gen consoles that output at that level. I really hope that these figures are being touted because it shows how much horsepower these new consoles have rather than what we should expect of the games in the next generation.

Project Scarlett circuitboards being put through their paces

Overall impressions

Everything I have heard about Project Scarlett so far has impressed me. I liked that they said that it was a system focussed purely on gaming. A necessary distinction after that horrendous Xbox One launch event. The technology they’re putting in the system is definitely the right type but will it be powerful enough. After losing so much ground to Sony this generation, Microsoft has to come out swinging. Both Project Scarlett and PlayStation 5 will be backwards compatible in an attempt to keep hold of their user bases. If Xbox wants to bring back some of the fans they lost to PlayStation, Scarlett has to be more powerful than the PS5.

I’m cautiously optimistic and a lot of that comes down to Phil Spencer. Xbox One was spearheaded by Don Mattrick who was an executive in the videogames sector. Phil Spencer seems to be a gamer who is an executive. Since his introduction as head of Xbox, he has focussed on pleasing gamers. I’m sure he is fighting to make Scarlett the best it can be and I pray that the bean-counters at Microsoft see fit to back him. If Project Scarlett turns out to be the most powerful console of next generation, then once again it’s going to be game on in the console wars

Steve Clist
Joint Editor-in-Chief at our sister site XboxEnthusiast, Steve also has a serious love for Nintendo. His first console was an N64 and it was love at first sight. He may specialise in racing games but will give anything a shot. He's also a serious guitar player and musician. Basically, Steve rocks. Need we say more?

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