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Xbox’s Less-Powerful Lockhart Shouldn’t Kill Your Next-Gen Hype

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:53 PM
Thomas Bardwell
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:53 PM
  • Grapevine rumblings suggest Microsoft is planning to unveil an affordable, less powerful next-gen console next month, code-named Lockhart.
  • There are concerns about whether it can offer a genuine next-gen experience without cutting corners to keep costs down.
  • The Verge’s senior editor claims that Lockhart won’t undermine next-generation games.

With rumors about the next-gen Lockhart Xbox gathering steam in recent days, there have naturally been concerns about how much of a generational leap the Series X’s less powerful little brother – if it does indeed exist – can offer.

In particular, news that Lockhart will house 4 Teraflops compared to the Xbox Series X’s strapping 12 Teraflops  is a point of contention.

The rumors suggest that Microsoft will carry over most of the next-gen features found in the Series X to the Lockhart – ray tracing, a fast SSD, Zen 2 CPU, and so on – while scaling back on the GPU with lower resolutions. And, possibly cutting out a disc drive for an all-digital experience, much like the Xbox One S  to limit costs.

With no official word from Microsoft, it’s near enough impossible to wager what type of impact this might have on next-gen titles and whether or not the Lockhart will hold these back.

Can Lockhart Offer the Same Next-Gen Experience as Xbox Series X?
Source: Xbox Lockhart concept/Reddit 

Lockhart Won’t Undermine the Next-Generation Experience

Yet, some positive news has emerged from the debate, courtesy of The Verge’s Senior Editor, Tom Warren. Warren points out that the next-gen consoles hinge on ultra-fast SSDs and the CPU rather than the GPU and Teraflops.

Would-be fans of both Microsoft and Sony’s next-gen consoles have looked to Teraflops as a gauge of the capabilities of next-gen consoles. While understandable given the slow wind-up to knowing everything about the consoles, it has proven unhelpful, serving only to fuel ever-trite console war feuds.

Warren explains on Twitter :

I’ve been saying for a year that CPU and SSD are key to next-gen consoles, not teraflops. Developers are saying the same thing. I’ve also been saying Lockhart won’t undermine next-gen games.

Source: Twitter 

Coupled with what we know so far, it isn’t unreasonable to expect Lockhart to mirror much of the experience of the Xbox Series X. Visual quality will vary between the two consoles with possible 1080p/1444p resolutions on Lockhart rather than the 4K of the Series X.

In the Shadow of COVID-19

This raises an important question: how can Microsoft engineer an affordable next-gen console by only substituting the GPU?  If the company aims to hit a price point sufficiently low to tempt those thrown off by the rumored $500-$550 of the Series X and PS5 , Microsoft will presumably need to cut corners elsewhere or risk selling Lockhart at a considerable loss.

Achieving such as feat would put Microsoft in an ideal position as we approach a next-gen launch very much in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. An affordable console that offers a slightly lesser but still genuine next-gen experience is likely to coincide perfectly with greatly depleted consumer purchasing power.

As stands, this all falls very much in the domain of speculation. Per recent rumors, it looks like we won’t have to wait long to hear more as Microsoft will reportedly unveil Lockhart next month.