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Microsoft rumored to be testing 'a variety' of Xbox prototypes with upgraded hardware

More rumors are popping up about Microsoft possibly launching a new Xbox console. The latest such report claims that the company has been testing many prototypes that could, or could not, be launched in the future.

According to The Verge:

Sources familiar with Microsoft's Xbox plans have revealed to The Verge that the company has been testing a variety of prototype Xbox devices. Some of the prototypes have been tested with upgraded components you'd use to improve the performance of a PC gaming rig. It's not clear if and when Microsoft intends to launch an upgraded Xbox One, but Phil Spencer has already hinted the company will "come out with new hardware capability during a generation" that supports existing and future titles. A new wireless chip could be just a small part of the optional hardware upgrades to the Xbox One that Microsoft is planning.

Recent FCC filings seem to hint that Microsoft might launch a slimmer version of the Xbox One, along with some kind of all-new device. These rumors come even as other reports claim Sony is planning to launch an upgraded version of its PlayStation 4 console. A story at Giant Bomb (opens in new tab) claims, via their own sources, that the "PS 4.5" has the code name Neo at Sony and that it will have upgraded CPUs, GPUs and memory inside compared to the current PlayStation 4.

Microsoft's Xbox head Phil Spencer seemed to hint earlier this year that the company could offer some kind of hardware upgrades for the Xbox One, but later seemed to backtrack. In a recent interview, he stated, "I'm not a big fan of Xbox One and a half."

  • I need an Xbox TV device.
  • I think a very cheap, even disc drive free Xbox one is coming. After all they are better media devices than the Ps4, and with universal apps coming this year, it could open up the full function of a PC into every living room.
  • I'd buy one.  Just give me Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Game Streaming(like you can do soon with XBox to PC streaming) and I'd be very happy. That would be the perfect companion piece for people with multiple TVs.
  • Add in Mic-Only version of the current Kinect and you have the perfect set top box for entertainment!
  • Yup, Microsoft's version of the Echo ;). Add the Connect app for continuum support as well as support for handover media casting (which they announced at Build) and I'm sold. Would be great to see game streaming from Xbox, PC as well as the cloud.
  • Yes! +1
  • I've wanted something like that for a long time. However, I think a nice solution is to add "Xbox Mode" to desktop version of Windows 10. That way you can grab a stick PC plug in to the TV, add an Xbox controller and away you go, essentially it would work the same as Tablet mode and just change the UI to match the Xbox experience. Would also be great for gaming PCs where UWP AAA titles are available but obviously can't run on a stick PC. I did post feedback for this idea but for one reason or another it didn't get many up votes. Either way, I want the Xbox experience for media consumption on my TV so I never have to look at that disgusting Samsung Smart TV OS again, but as I'm not a gamer I don't want to waste unnecessary cash on buying a full blown Xbox One that I'll never use for gaming, it's overkill. Posted from my Lumia 950
  • Im sure its better then lg tv upgrader stb
  • No thank you. I play on console so that I don't have to upgrade every few years. Screw Sony for initiating this and screw Microsoft if they follow suit.
  • If Sony does it, and it's a massive success, Microsoft won't have any choice but to follow suit if they want to remain competitive? Surely you realize that?
  • My hope is that Sony does it and it bombs harder than the Wii U. This is not the direction I want console gaming to head in, and, quite frankly, I don't understand Sony's motivation here. They're leading in sales. There is no rush to do this: it risks upsetting customers and developers (who now will have more work). And if they both do this, that makes PC gaming far more attractive than console gaming.
  • I completely agree. The reason I have stuff with consoles so long is because its easy plug and play. In 5 years ill upgrade easy. But ill tell you the motivation. Sonys see hoe ppl have no problem dropping $700 yearly for a new iPhone why not try consoles. That 6 year costumer becomes a 2 year customer. $$$$$$$
  • My theory is (assuming a PS4.5 or PS4K is released) is to push users to buy Sony 4K TV's and new UHD Blu-Rays that Sony gets licensing money from. Many consumers don't see a need for a new 4K TV when content isn't available, but a new console would make content available and drive adoption. Not sure why you'd want it to fail though. Even if you own an Xbox and wouldn't buy the PS4K, competition is always a good thing. Sony releasing an upgraded console would spur Microsoft to dedicate even more towards the Xbox One, and us consumers would win in the end.
  • @Tom Westrick, I think that's a good point. @coip, wouldn't that make it OK -- if any of the hardware upgrades affect gameplay (as opposed to non-game-impacts like slimmer or Wi-Fi AC) are limited to driving 4k (or higher) resolution, then it should be a fairly minimal impact to the devs. And if you're still using a standard 1080p TV, no need for an upgrade. This might just be a fantasy, because even a higher screen resolution does require additional testing by the publisher/dev. And I think that's part of coip's concern. The XBox360 backward compatibility is evidence that this kind of compatibility testing is not impossible. However, if it can be done in a way that requires very minimal work by developers, and the game-affecting upgrades were effectively TV-specific, this should be fine for both existing XBox One owners and allow MS to provide a system intended for the new 4K TV's.
  • The rumors on other sites about the PS4.5 Neo is that there will now be "two bases" that developers "must" develop for: the original PS4 specs and the new PS4.5 specs. That's more work for them, and I'd be annoyed as hell at Sony if I were them. That defeats the purpose of console gaming and creates fragmentation in the user base (those stuck on the 'old, outdated' version, and those on the 'new, better' version). I see nothing appealing about this. It is a trend I don't want to see happen to console gaming. If we're going to get that type of fragmentation, we might as well switch over to PC gaming where at least we're not locked into a sincle ecosystem.
  • It's not really fragmenting anything. The only real difference between the two is an upgraded GPU. You'll get the same games and still play them together. You don't want to upgrade your console every 3 years? Then don't. Why is this an issue if all of the games will be released for both models?
  • If you don't think it's fragmenting anything then you probably don't know the fiasco that is the "New 3DS vs. 3DS" and how some "newer" 3DS games run like crap on old 3DS. That is exactly what will happen here. Creating more work for developers in a world where phony gamers online and poseur journalists fetishize pixel-counting is only going to lead to a greater divide between the haves (new version) and have nots (old version).
  • Lol played ssb on original platform(unfortunately they over manufactered original xl for noa) was slow to start/end moved to n3ds that gap wasn't there.
  • The current consoles are already struggling with running games effectively, so they could probably use a kick up the backside.
  • Is it guaranteed that games get released on both systems? And 2 years later we get again an upgrade? So we need to rebuy every four years because then the difference is going to be more remarkable?
    Welcome back to the PC-world of graphic sliders!
  • "Not sure why you'd want it to fail though" I want it to fail because this is not the direction I want the console gaming industry to go in. If it succeeds, it will become the norm. That isn't what I want. I want 8-year console life cycles, not 3-year ones. That's why I game on consoles: price, convenience, and stability. If Sony does this, Microsoft will follow suit. That's not them 'dedicating more resources towards the Xbox One', that's them diverting resources from Xbox One to Xbox 1.5. No gracias.
  • I am in the very uncomfortable position of agreeing with Coip (I feel dirty) But your position is valid, and I agree. I don't want an arms race in consoles.
  • 8 years?.. Technology is simply moving too fast for the old strategy of 6+ year console cycles to continue to work.. In a few years time, Apple TVs will be able to rival the power of a PS4/XB1 for a potentially lower price.. Give that a couple more years and Apple TVs may eventually be more powerful.. The same ideal can be applied to tablets and smartphones.. A dedicated gaming console with a 8+ year life cycle will eventually get lapped by other consumer devices.. Consoles need to keep up with technology or they will get left behind.. Adopting a model where upgraded hardware options are launched every 2-3 years (with full backwards/forwards compatibility) is not only a logical step, it's a necessity.. Surely, you realize the games and apps on your phone don't all of a sudden stop working when the new, more powerful phone is released a year later.. And surely, you realize that you aren't forced to buy that new phone when it's released.. Consumers are used to having different tiers of hardware at this point in every other gaming related space (PC, tablets, smartphones, etc).. This is a natural transition.
  • What content becomes available from this? The highest of high-end PCs don't handle 4K especially well, let alone the hardware this new PS4.5 would have. It's likely to just be hitting 1080/60 with consistency, maybe 2K if it's on the high-dollar side. Maybe it upscales to 4K, but it's also been rumored to only do media playback in 4K. That would actually cost them sales of UHD players, as evidenced by how the early PS3s outsold the standalone Blu-Ray players. As for TVs, that makes abolutely no sense. Sony's TVs aren't the only 4K ones around. This might push folks to a Samsung or LG 4K TV before a Sony one, since Sony sets usually cost more without offering an advantage people buy into (they don't do curved displays, for example). This ultimately seems to be about the realization that these current consoles were released on the border of obsolete. They didn't bring out hardware to stand up against PCs, like the 360 and PS3 did. They were bare-minimum releases, and it showed from the start. As such, they simple cannot output visuals of the same quality as people would normally expect from a new console. Pair that with the increased scrutiny of these things (thanks heavily to the Digital Foundry testing and readily available media assessments), and you have weak hardware with a spotlight on it.
  • 4K movies Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Was that in reply to me? Because that's what "4K media playback" means, you know.
  • Actually didn't 4k-bd release a month ago
  • I hope it bombs, and I can guarantee that if MS alone announced it, then the backlash would be immense. They are gonna mop up the new adopters though. Gonna be real difficult for MS to gain the upper hand.
  • VR?
  • Current version probably is not enough for VR.
  • Sales <> Revenue
  • Sales are less than greater than Revenue? Wtf?
  • I think Sony will do it, it'll be successful and then they'll screw everyone with the old ps4 with subpar performance, and even exclusives for the new machine... I think they'll do it, because Sony always sabotage their own success!
  • sony is the one with no choice and forced to follow suit here, the xbox two is already here, its called w10 gaming pc :P and its not like any of them have a choice, you can clearly see apple tv and other hdmi sticks outperforming consoles in a few years
  • Consoles need to last at least 5 years.
  • Thats dumb, If we are not using cloud computing to compete with PC, than we have to do it the hard way with hardware!
  • Consoles aren't meant to compete with PCs. They're meant to offer something different: cheap, convenient, hassle-free gaming for years.
  • So if all of the games are still released for the console, how doesn't it last that long?
  • by moving existing xbox's to windows 10 you will still be able to play new games just in lower quality. This is where windows 10 becomes an advantage.
  • You're right it's not ideal but almost necaserry. The console are not strong enough right now. Shadow quality in Xbox are very low and im sure there are try to build a console which runs 1080P and 60fps. Most of the players want that they are try to doing the good thing. Give the players what they need. Have fate in Xbox. They doing so damn good job. Back in 03 we got a half console. Look at it now. So much evolve. But there are limits. Im happy but im a little sad because i need to buy new Tv and a new monitor and a now a new Xbox :D
  • ...and stay behind just like MS. There's a reason why Sony ps4 is successful. They did right what MS did wrong. And who's saying Sony is abandoning the original PS4?
  • Huh?  They were going to do EXACTLY the same always-on DRM crap that MS announced and quickly flipped when MS got crucified.
  • Then don't upgrade?
  • People are making a mountain out of a mole hill with the Sony thing. The device upgrade is to improve VR performance and to make the device compatible with 4K blurays/streaming.
  • First to market is key in this situation
  • If they want something out of the ordinary, they should just improve the XOne experience for the next couple of years and then release one with an improved Zen APU. If they want a true and seamless 4K experience they would need at least 7 TFLOPs of horsepower. Nowadays that's impossible in that pricerange.
  • The advantage MS has with DirectX 12 is that they can pack a multi gpu version quite easily. And upgradeability becomes easier as well. The tough part is how to make it modular in an easy to use way without sacrificing design.
  • How is this an advantage for MS? Sony uses DX12 too and can do the same thing.
  • To clarify, Sony can use DX12. They're currently using 11.2.
  • What the ****?  Are you insane or just an amazingly ill informed tool? DX is a windows API, sony CAN'T use it whether its version 12, 11.2 or anything earlier.  They use a Free BSB based OS called Orbis which is nothing to do with windows and CANNOT do anything DirectX.
  • Yep opengl is what it is
  • DX12 is exclusive to windows 10 and closed down. The one sony uses is their own modified version. Dx12 doesn't require any additional programming simply distributes processing among any dx12 compatible gpus. It can even use the integrated gpu on intel based chips as well. Anyways, the idea is that games will be optimized for the xbox one and then additional features will be added for more powerful consoles. You will still get your game as if it was an xbox one game but will be missing additional features which you would not have gotten anyways whether a new xbox exists or not.
  • Most people buy consoles just to get rid of the modularity and headaches it brings. You have to make it right and last at least 5 years, which both the PS4 and XOne failed to deliver from the get-go.
  • What more can MS add to make the experience that can compete with the ps4?
  • They could ditch the current NXOE UI and go back to the old one that worked faster and more easier.
  • Truth. The previous Xbox One UI was much better--faster, simpler, and more features (like Kinect gestures). Shame on Microsoft for forcing us to upgrade to the rubbish NXOE.
  • They need to add VR. If they could make a wireless VR headset for gaming and combine it with a Kinect plus some new controllers they'd have a pretty good offering. Now consider that the same headset could be used with the PC.. Or that VR headsets for the PC (Vive, OR) could also be used with the Xbox. Just need enough processing power. I think that if Microsoft is to do anything, they should add something way more powerful, like a GeForce 970 and then let the current Xbox One drop down and become the "low" tier, but without the disc drive and in a much smaller form factor, essentially becoming the Xbox TV but with the power to run all games.
  • Life is getting shorter, so does the consoles.
  • The mistake was made when X1 launched: Not powerful enough from the start in comparison to PS4.
    So MS has pretty much no other choice if Sony comes up with something even more powerful.
  • I agree with what you're saying... The Media has made it a pretty major sticking point since launch. Although, I chose the Microsoft Ecosystem and for the most part I enjoy it. The Media (and in turn certain groups of consumers) tend to try to make you feel like a second class citizen for using Windows Mobile or Xbox. I took the jump with the Original Xbox & I'm happy with the choice I made. Unfortunately, Xbox does have to compete. I actually am totally down for a smaller, discless Xbox One. I made the switch to digital games with this generation & have yet to play a single Bluray disc in the 2 years since I've had my One...
  • Not sure why this is a big news story. Any hardware company is constantly testing prototypes of its next devices.
  • PS4 Neo docs are reputedly out. Can't say I hope Xbox follows suit. Shame to see an upgrade part way through a cycle. Also, I'm not sure that the original Phil Spencer quote is being correctly interpreted, I thought he lent eeking out more from existing software, al la backwards compatibility, than new hardware.
  • That guy needs a media handler.  Spencer consistently says stuff, in and out of his official capacity, that seems designed to be misinterpreted. Perhaps its a very very stupid way to keep xbox in the headlines, but all it does is confuse ppl and diminish their likelihood of buying into the platform.
  • Blame Nintendo! If they drop a powerful console and get great 3rd party support, they will destroy what Sony and Microsoft have to offer now.
  • I would consider the upgrade to a new and improved console if MS was willing to take our old ones as some sort of trade up with cash program. 
  • Lol I wish but their more concerned about getting 360 users on the platform(im on both mainly because I really doubt half the games in my library will make the jump)
  • I don't necessarily have a problem with an upgrade part way through the cycle, but it has to be a smart upgrade. Basically if they upgrade performance I don't see a problem with it. I mean developers will not stop making games that are compatible with the non-upgraded hardware, at least for a while, as they don't want to lose that chunk of market I personally wouldn't mind it if rather than completely outdating my library every 5 years, it was just a gradual transition where eventually I would have to buy the current upgraded console because games became unplayable. Like say they do release an Xbox One upgrade, I don't have to buy it, games still play on the original. Then in a few more years they release another Xbox One upgrade, and probably a year or two into that one my original Xbox One has trouble playing games, so I can either buy and Xbox One upgrade or an Xbox One upgrade 2.
  • You are essentially talking about PC gaming, which defeats the purpose of having a console in the first place.
  • I wouldn't call it PC gaming, because in a PC everything is customizable where as here it just gets upgraded every now and then in terms of what's inside, within the strict guidance of MS or Sony.
    While not a perfect example of this, Nintendo's handhelds kind of do this, the Gameboy color could play Gameboy games and some color games could be played on the Gameboy. Everything through to the DS were somewhat backwards compatible but not quite what we're talking about. With the DS there was the DSi which were pretty much completely compatible (barring some features), though released in opposite order, the 3DS and 2DS are completely compatible, but the 2DS only supports 2D. Then there's the New 3DS which has upgraded hardware over the 3DS, but there's no forcing you to move to it as I think there's only been 1 game that can only be played on the New 3DS, some that only support 3D on the New 3DS, and playing old 3DS games on the New 3DS generally leads to better playability due to the better hardware.
  • OF COURSE devs will stop making game for the older variant, or at the very least they'll just say 'nah, we can't spend any time optimizing for the old hardware' and push out slow buggy games rather than investing time and effort to get their games working well with the older hardware.
  • It will depend on what the consumer does, but you do realize that they're still making 360 games 2+ years after the Xbox One was released... and that's on a completely different platform, not the same platform with incremental improvements in hardware.
    Like I said, as long MS/Sony do their upgrades smartly, you'll probably end up with things like, rather than trying to get as close to 1080p 60 FPS on the original Xbox One they'll be happy at 720p 60 FPS or 1080 30 FPS and the Xbox One Upgrade 1 will get the 1080p 60 FPS because it can handle it. Likewise when Upgrade 2 gets released it may try to push 4k or something.
    Assuming they go with 2.5 - 3 years between upgrades you're talking about 3 versions over the course of 7 to 9 years, the people that care about getting the very best will purchase every 2.5 to 3 years, a good portion of people that have current gen will probably wait till the year 5-6 version, and those that are still on the 360 today would wait for the 7-9 year upgrade or maybe they'll purchase the original or slim Xbox One when Upgrade 1 comes out...
    Either way if MS/Sony does it smart, the developers will make games for several versions of upgrade since they'll just be worrying about things like resolution of textures, resolution of the game, draw distances etc...
  • Lol bigger disc format here wii come
  • all i know is Microsoft better have something new hardware to show at thi year's E3, becuase it is almost a certainly that Sony will have some new hardware and if Microsot doesn't show anything they will be percieved as being behind the competetion and not moving fast enough with the industry.
  • Or, better yet, they can frame their entire E3 around how they're committed to the Xbox One and not going to screw over their current customers like Sony is.
  • How is forcing developers to support the PS4 not being committed to the PS4 and screwing over customers? This isn't like PC game development where you have so many different hardware variations and different operating systems to factor in. Developers would have only two hardware models to target that are very similar to each other.
  • If you want your answer, go buy Hyrule Warriors and play it on a non-"new" 3DS and then play it on a "new" 3DS and tell me how that works out for you. That is exactly what will happen with PS4-base and PS4-neo, and, if Microsoft is dumb enough to follow suit, it'll happen to XB1 and XB1.5 too, and tens of millions of customers will get the short end of the stick.
  • So, you're just making an assumption then? Unless I'm mistaken, the issue with Hyrule Warriors was it was the same exact game running on both models. Since this isn't a one off game, Sony can ensure a level of quality control. I mean most game developers are already targeting different platforms as is and you there isn't an issue with games running like crap on weaker hardware. Why do you think they would make the game run terribly on the device that has a higher market share?
  • One word.... 8K
  • My request would simply be to make sure any games designed for Xbox One will work on any Xbox One no matter which variant. It feels too new to be having to look at whether my system can run the newest games. If the new one is doing things like adding 4K, adding hard drive space, adding a HoloLens attachment, even boosting RAM so it doesn't crash as often when multi-tasking... great! Just don't create two tiers of games. It should be an improvement on the Xbox One, not a replacement for the Xbox One.
  • Excellent news! And to everyone complaining, relax. The first generation hardware will get plenty more years of support before games stop supporting it. 
  • So how is it news that a company is working on multiple iterations of next generation product? Seriously, Microsoft and every other company work it's salt is always testing, developing multiple variations of next gen product and the one after that
  • Neither of these would be necessary if Xbox One and PS4 hadn't been so rushed.  
  • +ONE
  • Wouldn't be surprised to see a new console 2 years from now. It will be 5 years from the launch, which used to be the typical cycle. It will be a good opportunity to really beef up the specs but keep 100% backwards compatability with the Xbox One. It will gel with what Spencer was hinting at (having your library come with you without any issue). Perhaps it will also increase performance of existing Xbone games for free? That's the path I see them taking.
  • I was thinking the same thing myself. I don't see MS getting left behind the next generation.
  • Of course they are working on future products. Everything else would be giving competition an advantage. When Surface Pro 4 was released I am sure next version designs were already starting to be worked on as well etc.
  • Guess I may get a new TV soon the other day my SE39UY04 sound was acting up(though I rarely use the speakers due to low quality) & the tuner keeps resetting. If it keeps up I may end up having to make another purchase again
  • I'm fine with x1 hardware. Kinect works great, controller works great and the game support is amazing so I think Sony will cause a mess by Introducing an upgrade for a console. Consoles are meant to simple and straight forward and X1 is that way now. Changing hardware makes devs have to take longer to relearn so please MS leave that side of the X1 alone
  • I truly think if Sony and Microsoft release upgraded systems, they will be giving the big middle finger to everyone who bought a console in the last 2 years.
  • He may not be a fan of one and half but there are some Xbox gamers that are. Also the Xbox would be the weakest out of the 3 consoles
  • Unless there's a trade in program IN EUROPE, I'm not buying a new XBone. I rather buy the PS4K. And if the trend continues, I'll rather go back to PC gaming. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • So, instead of buying an upgraded Xbox, which I believe would be a waste of money anyway, you would rather spend money on an upgraded PS4. What you're basically saying is if Microsoft released an updated system, you're betrayed. But if Sony does it, it's like the second coming. It's like no matter what Microsoft does, they're criticized and vilified. But their competition can't do wrong no matter what.
  • I think this might be the point at which Microsoft steals the momentum back from Sony. I think both companies will at least announce an upgraded system this year, but the strategy behind it and user base that has to accept it are very different. For Microsoft, they have been actively crushing the barrier between console and PC. I fully expect their new machine to be their gaming-centric desktop computer- a sort of ultimate evolution of Windows Steambox. While it would hurt their numbers somewhat, having a ‘console’ with access to every PC game basically in existence has the potential to crush Sony. Further, they actually have a need for new hardware that is at least significantly better than the PS4. They could conceivably go all the way, releasing a configurable ‘console’ in the mold of of an Alienware, allowing us to select CPU, GPU, RAM and HDD. If they really wanted to wreck things, they could even go so far as to offer financing for it, phone-contract style, through their Xbox Live plans… Pay $19.99 a month for Live on a 2-year contract, get your NEW Xbox One (i5, GTX970, 16GB RAM, 2TB HDD) for $200 or get an original Xbox One for free. Lastly, they could then also take the final step, in which they have already done a ton of the footwork for, and license all of their other vendors to make ‘Certified Xbox Compatible!’ laptops and desktops. Sony has so many more hurdles to jump before they could remotely hope to follow down such a path…
  • They are probably just developing the next Xbox, these consoles have already been out close to 3 years now. The 8 year life of the 360 was not the norm for a console, it was usually just 5 years. I just hope they think and really plan ahead for the next console and build a beast with power. It is really starting to show how underpowered the X1 is compared to the ps4.
  • Hmm, I wonder what's going to happen...
  • You know it would be cool if it was some sort of portable device like the vita that could run windows plus play all of xbox one games on the go. It would be called xbox one+.
  • Bloody hell, Microsoft, don't you dare! I want new exclusives, new IPs, not new hardware: that is where your money should go.
  • Every new xbox iteration will be backwards compatible with all iterations before it.
  • I think it should be powerful enough so I can plug an Oculus into it and the current one should go diskless. Posted via Spaceship One