Report: Leaked Xbox Scorpio documents reveal absence of ESRAM

Despite lacking ESRAM, Microsoft's Xbox Scorpio must be able to run Xbox One and Xbox One S titles.


Some hardware specifications for Xbox Scorpio, Microsoft's forthcoming upgraded Xbox One, have leaked according to a report published on hardware website Digital Foundry.

Reporters from Digital Foundry received white papers titled "Reaching 4K and Multiple GPU Scaling Across Multiple Xbox Devices," dated July 2016 shortly after Microsoft announced Scorpio at E3, from an anonymous source.

The report emphasized that ESRAM, a bank of dedicated memory with high bandwidth output, will be absent from Scorpio. However, Xbox One and Xbox One S both utilize ESRAM. Per Microsoft's mandate, all Xbox games must run on all incarnations of the hardware.

"ESRAM remains essential to achieving high performance on both Xbox One and Xbox One S," per the white papers. "However, Project Scorpio and PC are not provided with ESRAM. Because developers are not allowed to ship a Project Scorpio-only SKU, optimizing for ESRAM remains critical to performance on Microsoft platforms."

The crux of the report focuses on myriad ways that developers could opt to channel Scorpio's increased horsepower. "To make the best games possible, developers will inevitably spend GPU resource on other quality improvements such as higher fidelity shadows, reflections, texture filtering and lower draw distances. Another option developers might consider is frame-rate upscaling - running graphics at 60Hz but the CPU at 30Hz and interpolating animation."

The full report, including a video analysis, can be found on Digital Foundry.

Microsoft has made bold promises concerning Xbox Scorpio: that it will deliver true 4K, and that it will be the "most powerful console" yet seen.

[Source: Digital Foundry]

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at and @davidlcraddock.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 24, 2017 2:16 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, Report: Leaked Xbox Scorpio documents reveal absence of ESRAM

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      January 24, 2017 2:19 PM

      It'll be interesting to see how that effects compatibility and performance on Scorpio. Obviously it was taking up a ton of die space but it feels like that might have been a really important part of getting more demanding previous titles working properly.

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        January 24, 2017 3:02 PM

        the GDDR5 ram in Scorpio has more bandwidth now anyway. I don't think it will be an issue.

        ESRAM = 109GB/sec
        Scorpio Ram = 320GB/sec

        I'd imagine it would just reserve 32MB of the main memory to act as the old ESRAM if a game isn't updated to directly work with Scorpio.

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          January 24, 2017 4:13 PM

          I thought about. Wonder if there might be a latency hit by having to translate the memory address like that. Unless it's just a direct map if the os/controller detects that the game isn't running native Scorpio (I guess that's how it'd run?).

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            January 24, 2017 7:41 PM

            With almost triple the bandwidth the latency would have to be massive increase would have to be massive to be a net loss. There's a reason latency in ram hasn't been decreasing, the gains in clock and throughput eliminate the necessity for it. It only matters if everything else were equal.

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              January 24, 2017 8:14 PM

              I wasn't talking about ram latency, in the ram itself. I was talking about if the ram controller has to make a translation from a memory call that's targeting the ESRAM address space and translate it to the Scorpio's configuration. It may not be an issue, but if some kind of translation has to take place, there has to be some kind of cost. It could be insignificant, but if there was one it wouldn't be "free" if you get my meaning.

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              January 24, 2017 8:20 PM


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      January 24, 2017 9:50 PM

      Neogaf is losing their mind bcs this thing, I guess, is no longer MEGATON and is instead just an Xbox 1 Pro. but the good news, if true, means $399 which I view ss mandatory for any chance of success.

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      January 24, 2017 10:12 PM

      ESRAM is a developer complication like the SPUs were on the PS3. Theoretical power will always lose out to easy to use power when spread across enough developers.

      Both consoles are just rushing towards lowest common denominator at the highest GHz and GFlops, which is what PC gaming has been doing for years.

      Simple is the way to go.

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        January 25, 2017 4:40 PM

        ESRAM is a developer complication like the SPUs were on the PS3.

        I don't think you can argue that it did not significantly help the XBox 360.

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