2020 should be the year of the 8K games console as both Microsoft and Sony plan to launch new hardware towards the back end of the year.
Microsoft teased its new console at the E3 games conference in June 2019. Codenamed ‘Xbox Project Scarlett’, Microsoft showed us a video of various members of the Microsoft/Xbox team talking about the direction they wanted to go down with Xbox Project Scarlett specs and features. The words are complimented by a few teaser clips of what one assumes are some of the internals, including slightly blurred-out footage of a processor and the odd circuit board laid out in what appears to be some kind of engineering lab.
This page is designed to not only translate some of the key phrases in the video but also round-up all the console’s specs, features and all the latest news on the launch date and pricing. Stay tuned for more updates as we get closer to launch.
Will Xbox Project Scarlett support 8K video?
"8K" was mentioned during the film - more specifically Microsoft mentioned the phrase "8K capability". Now does this mean Xbox Project Scarlett will support native 8K gaming? This could be the case with more basic titles but bigger blockbusters might well have a slightly lower native resolution that's upgraded to 8K using something akin to the checkerboard upscaling tech currently employed by the PS4 Pro to improve the appearance of games on a 4K TV.
Microsoft did confirm Xbox Project Scarlett would support frame rates up to and including 120fps and would also support variable refresh rates (VRR), which should help with smoothness and motion handling.
Xbox Project Scarlett specs
Although Microsoft hasn't let anything slip regarding the look and exterior design of its next-gen console, at its heart lies a custom AMD Zen 2 processor. Xbox claims it will be four times more powerful than the one used in the current Xbox One X. Xbox is promising "more immersion, more exploration, and more detail" with a big emphasis on reduced load times.
Microsoft has confirmed that Project Scarlett will operate with GDDR6 RAM and use "a new generation of SSDs (Solid State Drives)", offering more than 40 times the performance of current-gen SSDs. The SSDs won't just be used for storage, though - they'll double as virtual RAM, thus bumping up the console's proccessing power even further.
We don't yet have a figure for how much storage you'll get with Project Scarlett, but we'd hope for 1TB as standard, given how much space some modern games can take up. Having said that, if the console majors on cloud gaming, perhaps Xbox Project Scarlett could get away with 500GB but also offer a 1TB variant.
Will Xbox Project Scarlett have a 4K Blu-ray drive?
Assuming Project Scarlett has an optical disc drive, will it play 4K Blu-rays? Given the current Xbox One S and One X both came to market with one it tow, you'd assume it would be a shoo-in for the new console. We think 4K streaming through the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video would be a given, but does Microsoft think there's still life in the 4K disc format - we hope so.
There’s some speculation Microsoft could release another version of the console without an optical disk drive, focused purely on its xCloud gaming platform. Would you prefer to see two different flavours of next-gen Xbox?
Will Xbox Project Scarlett support Dolby Atmos?
Again, we’d hope the next-gen Xbox follows in the footsteps of the Xbox S and X and includes this support, preferably out of the box. Current Xbox console owners need to download and pay an additional fee for the Dolby app if they want to experience Atmos in their home cinema systems and with headphones. Hopefully such support will come as standard with Project Scarlett.
Xbox Project Scarlett games
We're hoping to see a number of blockbuster games launch with Xbox Project Scarlett. Top of the list is the latest instalment of Microsoft’s Halo franchise: Halo Infinite, which will presumably be designed and engineered to showcase all of the new console’s abilities.
Following its reveal at E3 2019, there's also a good chance we'll see the appearance of CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077. It appears to be a futuristic action-packed title, and it stars none other than Keanu 'John Wick' Reeves. There's plenty of speculation on other titles, but we expect a full list will be unveiled closer to launch.
Will Xbox Project Scarlett be backwards compatible?
During the E3 reveal, one Xbox representative mentioned the new console will deliver "four generations of content, better than you've ever seen them before". So that would indicate the new console will accommodate older titles that launched for Xbox One, Xbox 360 and the original Xbox. Microsoft has already added backwards compatibility to over 600 Xbox and Xbos 360 games for its current consoles. Presumably, these titles will be supported by Project Scarlett, plus the ability to play older Xbox One games.
Microsoft has also mentioned PC and mobile in the same breath as Project Scarlett, so this would point to cross-device support for a wide range of games on Project Scarlett, presumably with the help of Xbox's upcoming xCloud cloud gaming platform.
Microsoft has also stated it wouldn't just be your games, achievements and progression that move on with Project Scarlett, but your accessories too. Being able to use older controllers with the new console would be a nice touch - after all, when Sony launched the PS4, you weren't (and still aren't) able to use PS3 controllers with it.
Xbox Project Scarlett price
That's the big question. There was no hint of pricing at the E3 reveal in June so at present we can only speculate, letting the price of the current consoles guide us.
Given the Xbox One X launched with a price tag of £450/$500 and currently costs around £350/$363, we wouldn't be surprised to see the new flagship creep over the £500/$550 price point. After all, it's promising to be the most powerful Xbox we've seen.
However Microsoft will also have the new Sony PS5 in the back of its mind. It wouldn't want to launch Project Scarlett just to be undercut by its main rival.
Xbox Project Scarlett release date
At E3, Microsoft said Xbox Project Scarlett would launch Holiday 2020. Microsoft will undoubtedly want to get the console on everyone's shopping list well ahead of the Christmas period. Rumour has it the Sony PS5 will launch around the same time, so there's a good chance we could see both consoles battling it our for festive supremacy.
We'll be sure to update this article with more news, specs and information, as the anticipation ramps up.