A two-generation jump in process technology is disrupting the gaming industry, PC gamers and console-first consumers alike.
Nvidia's GTX 1080 has usurped the Titan, and AMD's RX 480 has undercut every VR-ready graphics card, while Microsoft is preparing to break tradition with a pair of mid-generation console updates.
The technology was already there, but both AMD and Nvidia stayed back from migrating to 20nm process designs for their graphics chips. The 20nm process was found to be poorly suited for demanding graphics applications, but AMD and Nvidia have now found success with using the newer 14nm and 16nm schemes respectively.
There had been leaks and enterprise applications of the new tech, but its arrival was telegraphed through rumors about modular consoles.
Going into the E3 last week, there were expectations that Microsoft and Sony would both show off the PlayStation Neo and Project Scorpio. Neither one of the new consoles showed up during E3, but they were both officially confirmed — Microsoft, however, did show off Xbox One S.
What's Old Is Neo
With Sony set to launch the first console-powered VR headset this fall, few people may have been completely blown away when rumors emerged asserting that the company was preparing a higher-powered console to complement the PS4.
Sony hasn't confirmed any of the specs of Neo, though unconfirmed bits of information have offered a sketch of the upcoming console. Microsoft, on the other hand, filled in a few blanks on Project Scorpio's spec sheet.
Both Neo and Scorpio are expected to house eight-core processors, with Neo's expected to be clocked at 2.1 GHz and Scorpio's clock speed still unknown. But their differences are more pronounced in RAM and GPU.
Scorpio and Neo will likely have at least 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM, but Sony's next machine is expected to have a memory bandwidth of 218 GB/s and Microsoft's contender will shift temporary data at a speed of 320 GB/s.
In the crude measure of peak overall performance, called teraflops, Scorpio is expected to be significantly more powerful than Neo. At the front half of this new type of console generation, the Xbox One came out of the gates with 1.31 teraflops and the PS4 boasted 1.84 teraflops.
In the second half, Sony's Neo is expected to deliver 4.14 teraflops of power, while the Xbox One is supposed to deliver 6 teraflops.
Neither of the new consoles has been given a firm release date, but Microsoft has indicated that Project Scorpio won't come out until next year. Meanwhile, PlayStation Neo, despite missing E3, will launch later this year — at least, that's what Eurogamer's Richard Leadbetter has heard.
Move It Along
In the previous console generation, gamers only had to buy one console. And with luck, that console stayed healthy over that generation's eight-year lifespan. Now, just three years into this current generation, Sony and Microsoft are prepping consoles that will deliver significantly better experiences than the Xbox One and PS4.
Both Sony and Microsoft have asserted that no current gen gamers will get left behind as a result of the release of the upcoming hardware. While games will look prettier in 4K and HDR on Neo and Scorpio, those same titles will still work on PS4 and Xbox One.
Even when Project Scorpio is launched next year and given a proper name, gamers still have plenty of time left before the urge to update becomes a need to do so.
And it won't be until developers start to cut corners, with those corners being Xbox One and PS4, reserving new experiences to consoles capable of powering them. For now, the mainstream still has to catch up with the 4K revolution.