PS4 Pro vs Xbox One Scorpio comparison review

Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro is out now, and is currently the most powerful games console on the market by some way. It won’t hold that crown forever though, as Microsoft’s souped-up Xbox One Scorpio is set to arrive at some point in 2017.

Some gamers might already know they’re planning to own both consoles, but that’ll be too pricey for a lot us. So if you’re just looking for one, should you grab the PS4 Pro right now, or wait a few more months for Project Scorpio?

Pricing and availability

Comparing pricing and release dates for the two consoles is tough, because while we know everything that we need to about the PS4 Pro, there are a lot of question marks around the Scorpio.

Sony’s console arrived in the UK on 10 November 2016, and the 1TB edition can be found for £349. That’s only £100 or so more than the default PS4 model (a.k.a. the PS4 Slim), making it a reasonably compelling value proposition.

By contrast, we don’t know much about the Xbox One Scorpio, but what we do know puts it at a distinct disadvantage. The only release date Microsoft has confirmed so far is that it’ll be out by ‘Christmas 2017’, so it’s most likely still several months from release.

Whilst we're not yet sure of UK pricing, the ability to provide "true 4K gameplay" suggests to us that it may cost somewhere between £350 and £500 - already more expensive than the PS4 Pro, which could cost even less by then.

We do at least know when we'll find out more though. Microsoft has confirmed that it will be holding an E3 press conference on 11 June 2017 at 10 p.m. GMT, and we know the Scorpio will be the big focus. Expect to find out the price and release date and get a look at the device itself.

Specs and features

So Project Scorpio is likely to cost a bit more than the PS4 Pro, but will you get more for your money? If the specs are anything to go by, then yes.

The Scorpio boasts a custom-built eight-core CPU, with each core clocked at 2.3GHz. That's similar to the octa-core setup in the PS4 Pro, but that only runs at 2.1GHz, giving the Scorpio a slight edge.

That's needed to drive the biggest hardware change here: the GPU. The entirely custom AMD chip boasts 40 compute units each running at 1172MHz - dramatically faster than the 911MHz the PS4 Pro's 36 units run at. Microsoft has lived up to its promise to offer six teraflops of GPU power.

That's all with the aim of running smooth, consistent 4K, which requires plenty of bandwidth elsewhere. To that end, the Scorpio has 12GB of GDDR5 (versus 8GB in the PS4 Pro), with a total memory bandwidth of 326GB/s (218GB/s on the PS4 Pro).

In terms of how all those specs affect performance, the Scorpio should be capable of running games at 60 frames-per-second in 4K resolutions, or at least that's the aim. By contrast, the PS4 Pro offers upscaled 4K, and doesn't typically offer a smooth 60fps. Until we get our hands on the Scorpio to test it though, it's hard to know exactly how the specs play out in real life.

Both consoles come with a 1TB hard drive by default. The PS4 Pro lets you upgrade this (e.g. to an SSD or a larger drive) or use an external drive to expand storage. While the Scorpio will almost certainly let you use an external drive, we don't yet know if you'll be able to upgrade the internal drive. 

The Xbox One Scorpio will also play 4K Blu-rays, though the PS4 Pro doesn't. That’s probably not a big deal for most people, but if you know you’re going to want to watch films in the highest definition you can, you might want to wait for the Scorpio.

Both consoles are also capable of improving performance for other games, not just those with specific Pro/Scorpio support. Boost mode lets the PS4 Pro run at a higher GPU and CPU clock speed in order to improve gameplay on some PS4 games that were released before the Pro. It should provide higher frame rates for some games, and can reduce load times too.

However, Scorpio has the slight edge here, because Boost Mode won't work on every PS4 game, while Microsoft claims the Scorpio will offer native performance boosts for every prior Xbox One title. The company has emphasised that different games will see different benefits based on their software architecture, but that all should see some improvement, whether in resolution, graphics quality, or frame-rate.

Virtual reality support

Much of the hype around both consoles has been about one thing: VR. With increased processing power, both consoles promise serious performance upgrades for anyone looking to pick up a virtual reality headset, which both Microsoft and Sony are betting will be a big draw.

Sony has launched its own PlayStation VR, which comes with a variety of exclusive titles and retails at £349.99 -- pretty affordable by current VR standards. You don’t need the Pro to use PS VR -- a regular PS4 will work just fine -- but it will help make sure that VR games and experiences run as smoothly as possible.

Microsoft isn’t making its own virtual reality headset, and is instead expected to partner with the Oculus Rift. That would make sense, because the company has already teamed up with Oculus to provide an Xbox One controller for every headset, and Windows 10 was designed with the Rift in mind.

That should mean much more cross-compatibility with the PC when it comes to Xbox One VR. The big downside? Once again, price. The Rift is £549, and once you add that to Scorpio’s expected £350-500 price tag it begins to look like a very expensive choice.

Games

Last but not least, what about their game libraries? This is less of an important factor if you already own either console (or even both), but if you’re new to this generation then it might matter a lot more.

Obviously, to some extent it’s a matter of personal taste, and the main thing to look at is each console’s lineup of exclusives. The PS4 boasts the likes of Uncharted 4 and Bloodborne, and has major titles like Detroit: Beyond Human and Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding on the way. Thanks to the PlayStation Now streaming service, you can also play a whole range of older Sony titles for a small fee.

For the Xbox One, it's a similar story: Halo, Gears of War, Crackdown, ReCore and Forza are just a few of the exclusives that you can play on the platform. The more you care about those, the better the argument for sticking with Microsoft.

The Xbox One also offers backwards compatibility, offering the chance to play old Xbox 360 games (though not all are supported). Microsoft is also launching the Xbox Game Pass, a subscription service that lets you download (not stream) a variety of Xbox One and 360 games for a set monthly fee - and it's cheaper than PS Now.

Both consoles have a great selection of multi-platform titles to choose from as well, and the Scorpio's superior specs mean you'll likely get the best version of these games on Microsoft's platform. Though for our money the PS4 has a better library of exclusives, so if you don't own a PS4 yet, we'd probably recommend the Sony platform on games alone.

Sony PS4 Pro: Specs

  • x86-64 AMD Jaguar octa-core processor
  • 4.2TFlops, AMD Radeon based graphics engine
  • 8GB RAM GDDR5
  • 1TB storage
  • BD/DVD drive
  • 3x USB 3.1 Gen.1
  • Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)1
  • Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • HDMI
  • digital out
  • 327x295x55mm
  • 3.3kg
  • x86-64 AMD Jaguar octa-core processor
  • 4.2TFlops, AMD Radeon based graphics engine
  • 8GB RAM GDDR5
  • 1TB storage
  • BD/DVD drive
  • 3x USB 3.1 Gen.1
  • Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)1
  • Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • HDMI
  • digital out
  • 327x295x55mm
  • 3.3kg

OUR VERDICT

For now, picking up the PS4 Pro looks like a pretty safe bet. It will most likely be cheaper than Microsoft’s alternative, especially if you’re hoping to take up VR as well. It may lag slightly in performance and power, but probably not enough for the average player to notice. If you’re still not convinced though, wait until E3 for Microsoft to reveal more about what it’s planning.