Why You Should (and Shouldn’t) Get Xbox Project Scorpio

Microsoft’s new Xbox One console, Project Scorpio, seems to have everything a 4K HDR aficionado could ask for: gaming, streaming and Blu-ray playback. But is it for you?

Digital Foundry, in an exclusive reveal of the system’s specs, theorizes that the device might cost about $500; not cheap, but not beyond the realm of reason for a game console, particularly one with such impressive specs.

Microsoft's new console has Hank Scorpio power. Credit: 20th Century Fox

(Image credit: Microsoft's new console has Hank Scorpio power. Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Still, most people don’t go around buying expensive hardware on a whim. If you’re a console gamer, “Should I buy Project Scorpio?” has probably crossed your mind at least once, especially since the device will likely be out before the end of the year. As with any gadget, the answer is “maybe.” This decision will come down to what kind of 4K hardware you own (or plan to own by then), and how else you could invest $500 in the gaming sphere.

The Argument For Scorpio

There are three main reasons why you’d want to buy Project Scorpio (assuming that it’s as good as it sounds, and it launches without major issues, naturally). The system boasts incredible specs, plays all sorts of media in 4K and looks primed to offer virtual reality functionality.

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First and foremost, Project Scorpio looks like the most powerful game console ever made. Between eight 2.3 GHz cores, a powerful GPU and 12 GB RAM, the system will have no problem running extremely demanding games at high frame rates. As anyone who’s lived through multiple console generations can attest, specs aren’t just about providing good graphics; they can also influence gameplay.A more powerful system means more characters on screen, doing more complex things. It’s the difference between a huge city that feels empty (Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines on PSP) and a huge city that feels alive (Assassin’s Creed Syndicate on Xbox One).

The biggest draw of the new Xbox One system is its ability to run both games and video in 4K resolution with HDR color. A 4K HDR TV can make a huge difference in your living room, and the prospect of a system that can run 4K HDR content at a full 60 frames per second is exciting. Since Project Scorpio has access to more than 60 streaming channels and a 4K Blu-ray player, you’ll be able to consume content in movie-theater quality, whether you prefer games, movies or TV.

Finally, while virtual reality isn’t for everyone, there’s no denying that we’re stuck with it for the foreseeable future. While PCs that support virtual reality usually cost at least $1,000, Microsoft has confirmed that the (potentially) $500 Scorpio will support a VR headset at some point in the future. Whether it will be Oculus (with which Microsoft already has a working relationship) or something else, if you want fully immersive, headset-based gaming, the Scorpio may be one of your cheaper options.

For now, though, the PlayStation VR is a pretty affordable option, too, and it works with both the PS4 and PS4 Pro.

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The Argument Against Scorpio

Just as there are three big reasons why you might want Project Scorpio, there are also three big reasons why you may want to avoid it. The game selection looks very similar to what you’d find on other systems, you could build a better gaming PC for a similar price, and it doesn’t offer any content you couldn’t get on an existing Xbox One.

While the Xbox One has a great selection of games, its selection of exclusive games is another story. Even Microsoft itself has been reluctant to talk up Project Scorpio’s game selection, focusing instead on the machine’s raw power. Halo 5, Sunset Overdrive and Dead Rising 4 are all fine games, but generally speaking, the best titles on Xbox One are multiplatform hits, like Destiny, Dark Souls III and Resident Evil 7. You could get a PS4 Pro for $400, which has access to a bigger selection of exclusive titles, like Bloodborne and Persona 5. Or, you could build a gaming PC.

While pre-built gaming PCs can cost a pretty penny, putting one together yourself is not only relatively inexpensive, but much easier than it used to be. While you can’t build something considerably better than Project Scorpio for $500, you can for about $600, and you could easily make up that price difference in Steam sales alone. Between wireless controllers, lapboards for keyboards and mice, and Steam’s Big Picture mode, living room PC gaming is more inviting than it’s ever been, and the PC is still the most versatile gaming system out there.

Finally, if you already have an Xbox One, Project Scorpio is not going to deliver much that you don’t already have. Sure, you can play in 4K and HDR (if you’re willing to drop another thousand bucks or so on a compatible TV), but Xbox One games will still come out for the original Xbox One, the Xbox One S and Project Scorpio alike. In fact, the Xbox One S already supports 4K streaming media, so you’d be dishing out $500 for better-looking games alone.

If you’re really obsessed with how your games look, that might be worth the price of admission — but if it’s really that much of a concern, you can still get better textures and higher framerates on a PC.

Bottom line

Project Scorpio is an exciting system, but it seems like a sensible upgrade to an already-competent system rather than an absolute necessity. When Microsoft reveals a solid price and release date, we’ll have a better idea of how valuable the console might really be. In the meantime, start saving your pennies if you’re looking to buy one, but be open to the possibility of putting that money toward a new PC or a PS4 Pro instead.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.