A version of this article originally appeared on TIME.com
Microsoft calls Project Scorpio – the company’s edgy codename for its revamped, boutique Xbox One due by holiday 2017 – the “most powerful console ever.” And on paper it certainly looks to be. Since it’s not a new console but a refresh of an existing one, designed to live squarely in the Xbox One-verse of current-gen content, it’s raison d’être can be summed as follows: graphics, graphics, graphics.
Xbox Scorpio is about delivering native or near-native 4K visuals, in other words, as well as the raw crunch power for whatever angle on virtual reality Microsoft’s got cooking. With a zippier central processor and buckets of pixel-chewing horsepower, it’s a gaming behemoth, in theory outclassing Sony’s own 4K-angled PlayStation 4 Pro by sizable margins. (Read more: PlayStation 4 Pro offers breathtaking graphics, so long as you have a 4K TV.)
Here’s everything we know about the new console so far.
Xbox Scorpio really will be the most powerful console ever
Assuming it delivers something like the following presumptive specs: an 8-core AMD processor (we don’t know which one yet, but Microsoft has hinted it’ll be newer than what’s under the PS4 Pro’s hood, possibly something based on AMD’s new Ryzen/Zen tech if rumors out of CES 2017 are credible); 320 gigabytes per second of memory bandwidth, a measure of how fast data can be moved around (contrast with the PS4 Pro’s 218 gigabytes per second); and a graphics processor capable of hitting 6 teraflops of performance (contrast with the PS4 Pro’s respectable but much lower 4.2 teraflops).
A quick word about graphical performance in view of PC gaming’s ongoing roost-ruling. Yes, Nvidia’s flagship GTX 1080 graphics cards range from 9 teraflops to 11 teraflops of graphical compute, but consoles by design are generally able to do more with less than PCs. And even the basic 9 teraflops version of the GTX 1080 starts in the $550-$650 range — higher, I’d wager, than Xbox Scorpio’s eventual tag. Assuming that’s right, 6 teraflops in a set-top console in 2017 is a big deal, at least to the extent buyers care about native (or nearly so) 4K graphics, as well as support for a compelling higher-end virtual reality part.
You can buy Xbox Scorpio by “holiday 2017”
The Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One all launched in November. I assume we’ll see either a Microsoft one-off event or June E3 games show unveiling, preorders at that time or shortly thereafter, then an early November launch window. Earlier wouldn’t be worse, but the Xbox One S is just out of the cradle, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft wants to give its slimline model plenty of 2017 breathing room.
In any event, the official word, for now, remains “holiday 2017.”
Xbox Scorpio won’t be cheap
In a manner of speaking, of course. What’s “pricey” or “cheap” or “just right” in a world where many of us happily sign years of our lives away to payments that fund $700-plus smartphones?
You can have an Xbox One S, the revamped slimline model Microsoft released last August, for $299. Microsoft says Xbox Scorpio will naturally cost more, though it hasn’t said by how much. Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro goes for $399, while a standard PlayStation 4 runs $299, so that’s the market narrative heading into 2017.
I’ll avoid the “clueless pundit presuming to know someone else’s business model absent contextual knowledge of the underlying costs” shtick, and just note that if Xbox Scorpio comes in at or near PS4 Pro level, Sony could be in trouble, though note “trouble” in this case refers to a fight that’s likely happening amongst a subset of the console demographic. An important water-carrying one when it comes to shaping a conversation that’s a form of guerrilla marketing, granted, but a subset nonetheless.
If it works with Xbox One, it works with Xbox Scorpio
This ostensibly includes both games and peripherals, aping Sony’s commitment to seamless interoperability of all PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro content and accessories.
That said, two caveats. One, it’s not safe to assume a virtual reality headset won’t require Xbox Scorpio since VR support has been part of the company’s public rationale for boosting the Xbox One’s performance footprint this substantially. And two, we’ve seen mixed messaging from Microsoft so far on whether Xbox Scorpio game (or peripheral) exclusivity is truly verboten.