No AMD Zen Core for Project Scorpio; New Semi-custom SoCs Coming in 2018

Project Scorpio reveal and Amazon pre-orders

AMD could launch new semi-custom SoCs using Zen core in 2018, which means Microsoft’s upcoming Project Scorpio console won’t be powered by AMD’s next-gen architecture, but the existing Jaguar / Puma CPU.

Sony has just announced the next version of its PS4 console called the PS4 Pro. According to the official press release, the Pro sports an AMD Polaris based GPU, coupled with an overclocked 8-core CPU that is still using the low-power Jaguar x86-64 architecture.

This led many people to turn back and look again upon Xbox Project Scorpio. If nothing else, Microsoft’s next generation console has a great chance to debut at next year’s E3 game show. Previous reports suggest that Scorpio will overpower Sony’s Pro, with a more powerful SoC which combines not just a Polaris GPU, but also a CPU based on the Zen architecture. This is a significant upshift from using 8 smaller Jaguar CPU cores to the ones built on the 14nm process.

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Featuring a 6TF Radeon GPU and Zen based CPU, Project Scorpio is expected to deliver 4K Ultra HD, 1080p @ 60 Hz HDR, and decent VR solutions. But before you get your hopes up, AMD has reportedly announced that Zen-based semi-custom SoCs for game consoles will not arrive before 2018, that is to say, Scorpio is likely to still use the Jaguar / Puma CPU architecture.

At a recent press conference, AMD CEO Lisa Su is quoted saying they will work closely with Microsoft and Sony to jointly develop new custom-design SoCs that would be out in 2018. For now, the PS4 Pro and the upcoming Xbox Scorpio will use AMD’s latest 14nm graphics chip coupled with the existing CPU core.

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We know that the PS4 Pro leverages an AMD Radeon-based GPU capable of 4.20 TFLOPs, thereby offering double the GPU power as the original PS4. In comparison, if Scorpio is to deliver 6 TFLOPs of compute power, it seems unlikely that it will sport a Polaris 10 GPU. That would need a mighty overclock to hit 6TF, and based on the rendered imagery of Scorpio’s heating assembly, this isn’t going to happen–at least on paper.

With that in mind, the other option could be a downclocked version of AMD’s next-gen Vega technology. Some reports also suggest that the new 4K-focused Xbox will be built around a new scaled custom graphics solution that will likely sit between the mid-range Polaris and enthusiast-grade Vega GPU. But, these are all rumors until we get an official word from either Microsoft or AMD.

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On the CPU side of things, as mentioned above, we will likely see a Puma (or perhaps an updated version) inside the Project Scorpio, but we don’t know how it could meet the 6TF target of the graphics chip. That being said, we might see the real capacity of AMD Zen based CPU cores on the alleged Xbox Two that could be out sometime in 2019.