Forget serious 4K gaming in the Scorpio and PlayStation 4 Pro

by on September 27, 2016

Stephan Jukic – September 27, 2016

While both Sony and Microsoft have announced or actually released new 4K gaming consoles which claim to offer full blown native 4K gaming on select optimized games. However, from what we’re seeing of both the PlayStation Pro’s and Microsoft Scorpio’s specs, the real power of these devices falls or will fall far short of native  4K gaming in full 3840 x 2160 resolution and instead apply much better to a superior level of high quality, high frame rate 1080p and 1440p gameplay.

We’ll shortly get into the details of why we say this the case but in simplest terms, in their efforts to achieve native 4K gameplay in Scorpio and PS 4 Pro, Microsoft and Sony have fallen far short but delivered enough to really nail 1080p and 1440p wonderfully.

That said, let’s start our analysis with the PlayStation 4 Pro.

This new and soon to be released console has been heavily touted by Sony as a true 4K gaming platform even though Sony and its partners have so far only released a meager handful of native 4K games for the device. The vast majority of current and upcoming games are in fact going to be designed with Full HD graphics and at best only playable in upscaled Full HD which simulated native 4K. These games include titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Days Gone and Infamous First Light. And yes, despite the fact that they’re only upscaled from native 1080p on a native 4K TV, they do indeed look fantastically better when played like this than would any upscaling-free Full HD game on an HDTV.

Call of Duty Infinite Warfare is coming to PS4 Pro in native 4K but at what frame rates?

Call of Duty Infinite Warfare is coming to PS4 Pro in native 4K but at what frame rates?

However, this is still not actual native 4K gaming we’re talking about and the specs of the PS4 Pro don’t quite bear out the feasibility of such gaming anyhow. It’s a powerful machine alright, with a revamped AMD Jaguar CPU that offers higher than normal clock speeds and a new AMD GPU with the graphic card maker’s latest Polaris chipset architecture for high efficiency data processing. The Polaris GPU of the PS4 Pro delivers a robust 4.2 teraflops of power and this is a big improvement over the original PS4 indeed since the earlier model managed no more than 1.84 teraflops at best.

The PlayStation 4 Pro

The PlayStation 4 Pro

But none of this is near enough for steady, reliable native 4K console gaming, not by fairly large margin in fact, since even some of the better PC GPUs on today’s market, such as the 2016 NVIDIA GTX 1070, which offers 6.5 TFLOPs of power, have a hard time achieving 50 frames per second ore more during native 4K gaming in a generally powerful 4K PC rig.

The PlayStation 4 Pro so far has only a couple of native 4K games coming for it at the time of this writing and even though these products were actually designed to play as smoothly as possible on the 4k console in native resolution, they still fall well short of the ideal for 4K gaming, which would be at least 40 to 50 fps and 60fps if you really want to talk about proper gameplay. One particular example, quoted recently by engadget, was Elder Scrolls Online and this far from graphically intensive game locks at a maximum of [email protected] graphics on the PS4 Pro. That’s decent but it’s far from ideal for serious ultra HD gaming.

We’ve yet to see any evidence of any other game that’s available now in native 4K for the PS4 Pro or any upcoming game reaching the 60 frame per second boundary in the console and even if some come close, we won’t be surprised if they offer at least some jag and tearing during intensive, graphics-rich gameplay.

This of course brings us back to the 1080p gaming aspect of the PS4 Pro “4K console”. These same upgrades described above which aren’t quite good enough for native Ultra HD gaming as we’ve ever understood its requirements to be in our reviews of numerous PC GPUs are also what make this console into one excellent piece of technology for 1080p gaming at high frame rates. The inclusion of upscaling makes this 1080p angle all the more interesting because it does indeed mean an enhanced Full HD experience on users’ 4K TVs, even if the pseudo-4K in question isn’t quite the real thing.

As for Microsoft and its 4K consoles, we don’t have a beef with any claims for the Xbox One S since Microsoft isn’t at all claiming it to be a native 4K gaming console, and in any case its specs are only slightly expanded from those of the original Xbox One, which is definitely no 4K game console. What the 4K aspect of the One S does promise and soundly deliver is upscaling like that of the PlayStation 4 Pro and 4K video playback from streaming media apps in the console’s interface and from UHD Blu-ray discs that it’s capable of handling. The One S also offers 4K upscaling of supported games from Microsoft gaming partners. This particular technology works fairly smoothly in the device but then again, it isn’t the real deal and thus requires much less processing than native 4K graphics would.


The real interesting device for 4K UHD gaming in true high frame rate native resolution is the upcoming Microsoft Scorpio, slated for release in “Holiday 2017” and which the company is promising to deliver as a true 4K game console that’s capable of serious graphics processing in native resolution and at high frame rates.

We can’t say anything concrete yet since the Scorpio is still many months away from arrival but we also have our doubts here, even with the details that have been released the device’s very robust specs. Microsoft is claiming an 8-core CPU with a 6 TFLOP GPU and a massive 320GB/s memory bandwidth. According to the manufacturer, these specs will allow for “True 4K” gameplay. If these are indeed the specs we see in the console upon its release, we indeed have our doubts with “true 4K” on the Scorpio as well.

Once again, the NVIDIA GTX 1070 we mentioned above as a comparison for the PS4 Pro delivers 6.5TFLOPS of power and offers a 256GB/s memory bandwidth, along with several other Pascal architecture specs designed for maximum graphics processing efficiency. Despite all of these characteristics, the GTX 1070 just barely manages to handle 4K graphics in moderately heavy UHD games at lower frame rates of 35fps or less. And for more serious detail levels in heavier games, the GTX 1070 falls much lower and is far more ideally suited for 1440p gameplay or high frame-rate 1080p gaming. Thus it’s hard to believe that the Scorpio will do better in any way, even if its memory bandwidth is quite robust.

In fact, for a look at what real smooth 4K gaming requires, we have to go higher up the performance ladder  to the GTX 1080, NVIDIA’s first ever GPU for honestly smooth 4K gaming. This card delivers high frame rates of 50fps or more at 3840 x 2160 pixels in high detail only because it offers a massive 9TFLOPs of power and a memory bandwidth of 320GB/s (the same as that of the Scorpio). Thus at least so far as we know from released specs expectations, the Scorpio “true 4K” gaming console only matches today’s first robust 4K PC GPU in terms of memory bandwidth.

Scorpio isn't likely to perform as well as PC GPUs like the Titan X at 4K gaming

Scorpio also isn’t likely to perform as well as PC GPUs like the GTX 1080 at 4K gaming

Ultimately, what we also think more likely even for the far more powerful Scorpio is that, like the PlayStation 4 Pro, it will be a stunning  console for 1080p gaming, upscaled 1080p gaming and possibly for 1440p gameplay at some great frame rates. Basically, it will excel in the same things as the PS4 Pro excels now but with even more kick inside it.

We could however be proven wrong about the Scorpio. Sony has already released the PS4 Pro and it’s severe 4K gaming limitations are pretty much established. Microsoft still has about a year to beef things up even further in its version of a real 4K console.

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  • Troy
    September 28, 2016 at 9:40 am

    It’s really early to cast a shadow of doubt on Project Scorpio, Microsoft (MS) has 100% control of the hardware and accompanying APIs. When you’re dealing with desktop graphics as referenced here (GTX 1070), there are a ton of additional variables that come into play and a lot of processing power lost in the overhead because there are other components the GPU has to content with to get the maximum efficiency. But the word is, the Scorpio platform will be ‘upgradable’ and or expandable so if the first gen doesn’t come quite close, the next iterations will. I have no doubt that Project Scorpio will be able to do 4K games off the bat, let’s see what next fall brings.


    • Matthias Strøm
      September 30, 2016 at 8:11 am

      But for each iteration you will need a new set of games and new technology compared to the use of Steam on PC. Furthermore PC too has some great options and when the price of GeForce GTX 1080 get’s low enough a 2-way SLI or even 3-way SLI will run at more than 3x the fps of any of these consoles on 4k which for me justifies the price being 3x higher for a gaming-pc with that setup if the graphic card get’s cheaper. Besides this will only run a select few games when the PC will run everything and not have to be replaced until something like 5k arrives


    • James
      October 1, 2016 at 7:33 am

      “But the word is, the Scorpio platform will be ‘upgradable’ and or expandable so if the first gen doesn’t come quite close,”

      That’s exactly what a desktop PC is.


  • Buggs1a
    September 29, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    You say the PS4 pro is already out. And 4K games are too. My gosh you are in another reality. The pro doesn’t come till November. And there are no 4K games. Sheesh.


    • Stephen
      September 30, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      You are correct that the PS4 Pro doesn’t come out until November and we have stated this before in other news pieces on the console. In this case it was a simple editing error which led to us implying otherwise. This has been corrected. As for the games for the Pro, yes they are coming out very soon and many already exist. There will be at least a couple native 4K games according to numerous reliable sources we’ve heard from and the following list of games will be available for the console with upscaling to 4K and HDR enabled:

      Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
      Days Gone
      Death Stranding
      Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
      Dishonored 2
      Final Fantasy 15
      For Honor
      Horizon: Zero Dawn
      Infamous Second Son/First Light
      Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
      Killing Floor 2
      Mass Effect: Andromeda
      Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
      Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
      PES 2017
      Resident Evil 7
      Rise of the Tomb Raider
      Spider-Man (Insomniac)
      The Last of Us
      Uncharted 4
      Watch Dogs 2


      • Aaron
        October 6, 2016 at 8:16 pm

        Actually ps4 pro has native 4k so far on 3 games that I know of. It will have more as time goes on and the games that are not native 4k are going to be 1440p to rlets say 1800p then using checkerboard rendering among possibly other tech that may be in the pro will upscale to 4k. I think even those games are going to look great compared to their ps4 regular or xbox conterpart.

        Native 4k games so far:

        Last of Us remastered.

        Skyrim Special Edition.

        Mantis burn racing


  • Ryan
    October 24, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    You said PS4 Pro upscales 1080p games to 4K. Not true. The games are rendered at 1440p or 1880p then upscaled with a new high quality upscaling called checker boarding


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