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Lower-end Xbox Scarlett has less RAM, is “a pain in the ass”

Xbox One

Earlier this week we reported on statements supplied to Kotaku from various sources, which claimed that Microsoft is revising plans previously thought dead. That rumor was centered around a previously scrapped plan to ship to Xbox Scarlett SKUs— a powerful, top-of-the-line system (codenamed Anaconda) and a more affordable variant with lower specs(codenamed Lockhart)—as it appears that Microsoft has backpedaled, and now plans to ship both versions.

This plans has been met with some pushback apparently. Specifically, some developers feel as though the weaker console variant just isn’t worth the effort. He made the following statements during the latest episode of Kotaku’s Splitscreen podcast. During the podcast, Schreier said this while discussing the Lockhart model, revealing that there’s a pretty major discrepancy between the two Xbox Scarlett models in terms of RAM.

I’ve heard some skepticism from third-party developers, who are, like, “Hey, it’s a pain in the ass to ship on multiple hardware SKUs. Second of all, this is going to hamper us, because Microsoft is requiring us to ship on this lower-powered version, that has the equivalent graphical power of a PS4 Pro.” It’s worth noting, that is has a higher-end CPU and a solid-state drive, and other next-gen features, so it’s not safe to compare it directly to the PS4 Pro.

The way it’s been described to me…I think [Lockhart] is going to have significantly less RAM, but the CPU makes a big difference, especially when it comes to framerate. The SSD makes a huge difference when it comes to loading times. So, I think what [devs] can do a lot of the time is knock down the texture quality, take a hit on the resolution, but you don’t have to sacrifice framerate as much.

Now whether this is true is worth considering, but with a healthy dose of skepticism. The higher-end power requirements for the PS4 Pro are a similar jump compared to the Xbox One X. Both devices consume somewhere between 250-300 watts from the wall. This is almost double what their base respective models are. And the inclusion of internal power supplies, to do away with the bulky power bricks. This introduces a lot of challenges, but gives developers more room to work with when designing the visual and gameplay elements of their games.

Electrical engineering can only be scaled down so much in modern times. To efficiently deliver and modulate power to system components, a PSU has to do a lot of different tasks. Gaming laptops have often had to rely on supplemental power bricks, sometimes two of them in parallel, to deliver the extra 200+ watts they need to power more powerful components. Unless these consoles have pretty impressive power delivery systems for a console, how are they going to power all of these elements? And what corners will need to be cut in order to make the system work. As Schreier suggests, a loss in visual fidelity is all but certain, but when considering some of the the other marketing statements Microsoft has made surrounding Xbox Scarlett, it’s hard to separate fact from marketing spin.

The push for 4K 60 FPS will be a tough one if the cheaper of the two is still running equivalent to a PS4 Pro, even with minor upgrades like an SSD and more powerful CPU. And with there now being claims thrown around that the next generation consoles will have GPUs that rival top end desktop PC GPUs, things are about to heat up in more ways than one.

In short, this new wrinkle casts a fair bit of doubt on the veracity of some of the statements surrounding Scarlett. Schreier himself admits he’s not an expert, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

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