Project Scorpio, Microsoft's upgraded Xbox, promises smooth 4K gaming

Microsoft released some of the technical specifications for the upcoming, upgraded Xbox console (codenamed Project Scorpio) on Thursday, answering some - but not all - questions about what to expect when it hits stores near the end of 2017.

Microsoft reveals next console's technical specifications to U.K. site Digital Foundry

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, discusses the newly unveiled Project Scorpio and Xbox One S at the E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles. (Casey Rodgers/Invision for Microsoft/Associated Press)

Microsoft released some of the technical specifications for the upcoming, upgraded Xbox console (codenamed Project Scorpio) on Thursday, answering some — but not all — questions about what to expect when it hits stores some time near the end of 2017.

Microsoft invited Digital Foundry, a U.K.-based gaming site that focuses on technical breakdowns of video game hardware and software, to its Redmond, Wash., headquarters to show off the new silicon at the heart of the Scorpio.

Xbox head Phil Spencer announced Project Scorpio, a souped-up version of its current Xbox One console, at last year's E3 industry show. It sports eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz, higher than the current Xbox One's 1.75 GHz, as well as a high-powered graphics processor and 12 GB of memory.

For the layperson, that makes it more powerful — on paper, at least — than any other home console currently on the market, including the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Nintendo Switch.

Digital Foundry's Richard Leadbetter was shown a demo of the racing game Forza Motorsport running at 4K resolution (a.k.a. Ultra HD) at a smooth 60 frames per second.

Gaming consoles have struggled to hit 4K resolution at a smooth frame rate since TV producers began heavily pushing it as the next standard for home theatres.

According to Digital Foundry, Microsoft promises that owners of standard 1080p resolution TVs should still see graphical improvements compared to the base Xbox One.

The Xbox One originally launched in 2013. A slimmer version, the Xbox One S, launched last August with modest performance increases. Project Scorpio, however, has been billed as a far more substantial upgrade.

All Xbox One games will be playable on the Project Scorpio model. Microsoft had earlier said it won't release games that can only be played on the forthcoming system.

Price, release date still unannounced

Still, Microsoft hasn't yet provided several key details about the new Xbox that gaming press and players have been seeking.

Crucially, the company haven't released the price, though Leadbetter guesses that the advanced technology in the new system will signal a higher price point than other consoles currently on the market.

The standard Xbox One S sells for between $350 and $450. The standard PlayStation 4 sells for $379, while the Pro version goes for $499. The Nintendo Switch costs $399, though it trades raw computing power for the ability to be played at home or on the go in handheld mode.

We also don't know what the machine will look like, what date it will hit store shelves or whether there are any partnerships in the works for virtual reality (and mixed reality) technology.

Microsoft told Digital Foundry that more info about Project Scorpio will be announced at this year's E3 industry event in June.